Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Butter Biscuits

My mom used to make these as tea time snacks and we (my brother and myself) would complain they were way too simple and boring and why she hadn't made tarts and cakes and brownies instead. Yea absolutely spoilt we were when we were in school and my husband would say I still am, but 4 years of marriage has taught you to ignore him at times (or maybe even most of the time).
I just cannot get them right whatsoever. Its never crunchy, the dough consistency doesn't turn out well and when it comes to icing it..I'm quite clumsy. So this is the first of my 'no recipe' series (see I wasn't joking about that!) and a ruined one at that. 
There are tonnes of recipes online so I'm not posting them here. In spite of the cookies being a mess, I still ate them wholeheartedly:)
There's yellow icing in case you are not able to figure:O
Boring design...I know!!!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Spring Onion Moong Dal

I tried my best to NOT have Indian food whole of last week and succeeded till Friday. And then we went for a Malaysian food festival, ended up having beef rendang with rice and wasn't too happy at all. I can go without having rice for as long as a month or maybe even more without missing it, but the moment I get a taste of it, I crave for it..quite a lot. Which is what happened on Saturday. So I decided to make some steamed rice, dal and tindora fry (I realized the frozen ones are so much easier since I don't have to chop them and just do a stir fry with some sambar powder, its just brilliant) and washed it all down with a mug of beer. I can have rice, dal, pickle and pappad any given time and day...seriously!!! And then today I wanted Hyderabadi biryani, nothing less, but ended up having Sushi..yes Sushi..a far cry from the incredibly awesome Dum biryani, but lets not go there, it makes me wanna cry. So to vent my frustration for not having biryani, I had left over rice and dal for dinner AGAIN!!

I'm not that great at making dal, but for the first time, this dal prep. came out extremely good. Monsoon Spice is a blog I stumbled upon recently and must say I love what I see. This Moong and spring onion dal recipe is more or less adapted from her space. Thank you Sia for the awesome recipe.

Moong dal- 1 cup
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Water- enough to cook the dal

Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Fenugreek powder- 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida- a pinch
Dry red chillies- 2, halved
Garlic cloves- 3, lightly chopped
Green chillies- 2, chopped
Ginger- 1 inch piece, peeled and roughly chopped
Spring onions- 2 large ones, sliced with the greens and whites separated
Tomatoes- 2 small, roughly chopped
Garam masala- 1 tsp
Chilli powder- 1/4 tsp (optional)
Coriander leaves- to garnish
Salt- to taste
Oil- 1 tbsp
Mix together the dal, turmeric powder salt and water in a pressure cooker and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or for about 3 to 4 whistles on medium to high heat. You can do the same on open fire as well..might just take ages.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed vessel and splutter the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek powder, asafoetida and the red chillies..say about a minute or two, stirring continuously
Add the Garlic and green chillies to the oil and sauté for a minute.
In goes the ginger and the white part of the spring onions. Sauté till the onions turn translucent.
Add the tomato garam masala and chilli powder and combine well. Cook till the oil separates. Add salt at  this stage, if required.
Pour the cooked dal into this mix and stir well to combine the masala with the dal.
Add a cup or so of water, if you want it diluted a bit. I did.
Add half of the greens and stir well. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Just before you serve, garnish with coriander leaves and remaining spring greens.
Serve hot with rice, pickle and pappad :)
(how incredibly cute is this serving bowl BTW???)

Notes: The original recipe had a few more ingredients which I didn't have at hand, do add them if you have it, but without that it still was super duper awesome.
I added that extra chilli powder because the green chillies i had didn't give out enough heat.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Shall we 'wrap it up?'

Oh don't panic, I'm not talking about wrapping up my blog, I'm talking about a chicken wrap which tasted so goddamn lovely and was so easy to prepare. See, being in London has its perks....there are so so many free festivals all over the place and if you are into cultural stuff, this is the place to be. I love London for all that and more...and now honestly I just cannot think of settling elsewhere...even a one month vacation to India makes me miss this place.

So whole of last year we did all the cultural stuff, the festivals, the food shows, the jazz concerts and everything London had to offer in Summer. This year, we did a selected few things only because we were super busy with guests and travelling- a weekend at home meant staying put and catching a movie or so. The last of the summer festivals here are the open air movies or 'Movies under the stars' as they call it..again free movie screenings and if you didn't go early enough, you'd be stuck in a very sad corner of the amphitheatre or park. We decided to catch three movies this time, since we'd seen all the others. Last week we saw 'The Kite Runner' and we loved, loved, loved it. Yesterday we saw 'North by Northwest,' an Alfred Hitchcock movie from the 1950's and next week we are catching 'Invictus.' I have always loved the old Hollywood movies, with Gone with the Wind topping the charts (after I had to do a presentation for my film studies class) and this one we loved for the hilarious one liners and of course the suspense thriller, Hitchcock was known for. 

A night out meant packing blankets, cushions (oh yes we did and we were the ones with the least obvious of them) and definitely food and wine. Last week we had sandwiches and so this time I decided to make some wraps with left over chicken roast. Smothered the wheat tortillas with some spicy yoghurt sauce, topped it with onion rings and shredded chicken, rolled it up and we were ready to go.
This chicken roast recipe is one that I learned just after coming to England. I was new to the whole blogging scene and this recipe was passed on by a friend and from then, its been a favourite of ours. It never fails and the flavours are just brilliant. I have posted the recipe here. It is definitely a meal on its own and I'm telling you, you'd love it if you try it once (now you gotta believe me, cos I very seldom say things like that about my dishes).

Yoghurt sauce (adapted from Sig)
Greek yoghurt- 3 tbsp
Red chilli flakes- 1/2 to 1 tsp (depending on your heat in take)
Garlic pods- 2, thinly sliced and crushed
Lime juice- 1/2 tsp
Salt- to taste

For the wraps:
Whole wheat tortillas- 6, small ones
Onion rings- as required
Lettuce or rocket - a few leaves (optional)
Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a ramekin and place in the refrigerator for the flavours to infuse..say for about 15 mins and shred the chicken in the mean time.

Warm the tortillas lightly and place on a chopping board.
Place about 1/2 a tbsp of the yoghurt sauce on to the centre of the tortilla and spread it out like how you'd make a dosa..ok that's irritatingly dramatic..just spread it out however you like, just make sure its goes out to the edges.
Place a few spoons full of shredded chicken on one side, followed by the lettuce (if using) and onion rings and roll it up tightly.
You can wrap it up with a foil paper or just leave as it is (I did) and for convenience, I sliced it in half.
Notes: You can use any filling, paneer and mushrooms would be a good option and you can use the exact same masala
If you have over done the sauce, it might ooze out which, if were having at home, would be awesome to lick, but since i was taking it out to a public place I made sure it wasn't a messy affair.
If I hadn't used the sauce, I would have gone for some shredded cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Butter chicken (Murgh Makhni)

OK, so I have good news and bad news...and since I'm highly pessimistic I'm going with the bad news first. For those of you who are familiar, I'd put up a poll a few days back and now I have the results. Can you believe that majority of votes were for 'the way I write about my experiences and adventures/ goof up's in the kitchen' and a close second the 'food photographs' (which I'm quite flattered about), but crickey, about 5 people said recipes. Now that doesn't really serve the purpose of a food blog eh? I wasn't depressed or anything, because in all honesty, I don't surf around food blogs only for a recipe either. In fact I'm a tad worse than you guys, I sometimes don't even read the entire recipe, but look at the picture, drool and then comment (sorry if I hurt any one's feelings, but that's reality). Now the bad news is, till I get my groove back, I might only just post a few pictures of things I whip up without elaborate and boring recipes...and since its the babbling you guys prefer, I'll throw in a bit of that too...what say???? (oh this is the good news BTW!). The truth is, I'm thoroughly enjoying the photography part of it and since you any way need to make meals at home (and in my case just a meal..yeah only dinner) what better subject to dress up and perfect than a bowl of food? I haven't decided from when I'm gonna start doing this...but when you suddenly see just some food photographs, don't get alarmed...its just a phase! And of course, since I started this blog for my own convenience, the occasional recipe shall make its appearance, especially if it is something that is bound to make its way through to the kitchen more than once. (Oh trust me...a whole lotta things Ive blogged about, is def not making a second come back)

Coming to the recipe, Tamarind is a Michelin starred restaurant here in London, and this is a recipe by one of the head chefs there. I am a big fan of butter chicken, but the mere tediousness and the richness of the dish kinda puts me off the whole thing. But recently I had a craving for some aloo paratha (which I didn't make, but discovered that the frozen ones by Pillsbury was stupendous) and butter chicken and even before I knew, I was surfing the net for a recipe that didn't involve deep frying the chicken. Landed on this recipe by video jug and I must say, its a keeper.

Chicken thighs- 500 gms, boneless and skinned

For the marinade:
Ginger paste- 2 tbsp
Garlic paste- 2 tbsp
Yoghurt- 65 ml
Kashmiri chilli powder- 1/2 tbsp
Garam masala- 1/2 tsp
Oil- 1/2 tbsp
Salt- to taste

For the sauce:
Ginger- 1 tbsp
Green chillies- 4
Cinnamon sticks- 4, half inch
Cardamom pods- 5
Cloves- 5
Bay leaves- 2
Water- 100 ml
Kashmiri chilli powder- 1/2 tsp
Single cream- 60 ml
Honey/ sugar- 1 tbsp 
Tinned tomatoes- 400 gms
Kasoori methi- 2 tsp
Butter- 50 gms
Cashew nuts- 50 gms
Oil- 2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients in the 'to marinate' section. Pour it on top of the clean and dry chicken thighs. Cover with cling film and keep aside for at least an hour.
After the marinating period, place the chicken pieces on a baking tray lined with paper or foil and grill under a grill pre heated at 175C for about 20 minutes on either side.

While that's cooking get the sauce ready. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and sauté the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaf till nice and fragrant.
Throw in the ginger and green chillies and sauté for a few minutes and then add the peeled tinned tomatoes. Stir well and keeping the heat on low, add about 100 ml water, close with a lid and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or till the tomatoes are more or less purée like.
Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for a while and then either using an immersion blender or in a mixer, purée the tomato and make it into a paste like consistency.
Place the mix back onto the hob top and on high heat, bring to a boil
Also blend the cashew nuts to a powder and with a wee bit of water make it into a paste like consistency and add to the boiling tomato purée. Mix well till combined.
Add the chilli powder and honey/ sugar and stir again.
After about 5 minutes, add the butter and sugar and stir till it melts. At this stage, throw in the kasoori methi as well. Leave it on to bubble on medium heat.
By this time the chicken would have grilled to perfection. Take it out and cut them into bite size pieces.
Throw them into the bubbling tomato gravy and stir till they are all covered in the masala.
Add the cream and check for salt spice etc. and add as needful.
Simmer the entire mix on medium heat for about 5 to 8 minutes and then take it off the flame.
Just before serving drizzle some cream on the top or garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with parathas, naan or even pulao.
Notes: Chicken breasts can be used, but I think thighs are more flavourful.
You can cut the chicken before you marinate it, so you don't have to mess your hands in between and slice them after they are grilled.
Canned tomatoes can be replaced with about 5 or 6 medium sized tomatoes.
I didn't have cashew nuts, so skipped that part.
It tasted even better the next day for some reason :)

Monday, 20 September 2010

Gordon Ramsay's Cottage Pie

Another autumn dish, the Cottage Pie is a British favourite. I love how easy conti cooking is compared to the elaborate Indian meal. A couple of my brothers friends called up last Friday and said they were coming over....imagine 4 boys, early twenties. I thought, OK I'll just make a veg. bake, grilled chicken and get garlic bread and dessert from the store, when they pleaded with me and said they were dying to have mallu grub, that too kappa (tapioca) and fish curry. Blimey...I freaked out! As you all might already know, I suck at making Kerala dishes, leave alone something as authentic as kappa (mashed tapioca). But I felt so sorry for the fellas and decided to go all out and make it any way. So I started at around 12 in the afternoon and was only able to sit down and have a drink at 8pm when they actually arrived. And you'd think I cooked up a storm??? Well all I made was...rice, a prawn curry, a thoran (veg dish), kappa and beef curry. Yes it took me 8 hrs to do all this, and the mess I made..oh god don't even make me start on that. The tapioca was such a mess, but the boys were so unbelievable happy that there was absolutely no left over. They would have thanked me at least a hundred times for the awesome dinner..which, in spite of all that hard work, did make me feel happy. Also, the fact that I made Ro clean up afterwards, massage my back because I was standing all day, and then eating out the entire weekend did make it worth it, Id say (evil laugh...)

But seriously, never again am I gonna make Indian food when I have people over..the chopping, stirring, simmering and seasoning just made it so unpleasant, I decided to stick to some bakes and grills for the coming week..and that's just what I did...kick started the week with this cottage pie.
(Interesting trivia.... using beef mince makes it a Cottage Pie and lamb mince makes it a Shepherds pie).

Adapted from a Gordon Ramsay recipe that came on Channel 4.
Beef mince- 500 gms
Onion- 1 medium, grated
Tomato- 1, grated
Frozen green peas- a handful
Garlic- 2 pods, grated
Pepper powder- 1 tsp (or to taste)
Chilli powder- 1 tsp (optional)
Dried Thyme- 1 tsp
Dried Rosemary- 1/2 tsp
Worcestershire sauce- 2 tbsp
Red wine- 250 ml
Chicken stock- 300 ml
Olive oil
Salt- to taste

For the potato mash
Large potatoes- 1/2 kg
Egg yolks- 2 (optional)
Butter- 50 gms
Cheddar cheese- 1/4 cup + enough to sprinkle on top
Olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a pressure cooker, grate the onions and garlic into it with a grater and sauté till they turn translucent.
Grate the tomatoes into the pan and cook till it becomes a bit mushy.
Add the beef mince to this and mix well.
Season with pepper and chilli powder and also add the Worcestershire sauce and herbs. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring continuously.
Add the frozen green peas and the red wine and cook till almost evaporated.
Add the chicken stock and put on the lid, followed by the weight when the steam comes.
Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes on medium- high flame, or for about 2 whistles.
Release the pressure, and open the lid. If there is way too much liquid, then boil again on high heat till they are more or less evaporated. It should be a thick gravy.

While that's taken care of, get the potatoes ready.
Boil the potatoes in salt water, till soft. 
Peel and mash them along with the cheese, salt and pepper and egg yolk if adding to a smooth consistency...not too runny or too thick.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Layer the bottom of an oven proof dish with the mince meat mix.
Spoon in large amounts of mashed potato on to the meat and carefully layer it, working from the outside, into the middle.
Generously grate some cheddar cheese on top of the potato, fluff it up with a fork if needed and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Serve with some bread or even better garlic bread...and feast on :)
Notes: You can use carrots, parsnips, leek or any veggie of your choice.
The good part of this recipe is that you can grate all this into the cooker and not use a chopping board..less things to wash ;)
If you want a very Indian flavour, feel free to use coriander powder, garam masala,meat masala etc.
Red wine is optional, just the chicken stock would do, but check the salt and only then add more..the stock can be really salty
I was lazy and so used store bought mashed potato instead of making my own. It was a tad too thick, so I loosened it up with some milk. Also, its not as thick as it should only formed a very thin layer which was fine by us..less carbs :)

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Spiced apple loaf

Is it apple time or what??? I can see them on trees and even worse, squashed on the road side and I think its now a hindrance more than a 'pretty sight'. Last year we went to an apple orchard, well it was actually a cider tasting trip, and honestly, I've never seen so many apples in my life!!! If you don't believe me, take a look at these...

We were done eating so many varieties of apples, not to mention the amount of cider we drank:)

I have never made an apple pie or strudel or galette or anything because we get so many yummliscious pies at the super market...pop it in the oven for 15 mins and there you have amazing hot pie, with custard and cream on the side. It was a fav of ours when we had just moved to UK...and Pub lunches are never ever complete without apple pie and custard. Also, I'm very wary when it comes to working with dough, which has actually put me off pies and tarts. The next best thing to make with apple was a cake and that, I'm always game to do. So a spiced apple cake it was and boy it came out super duper moist and majestic with bits of apple slices and the cinnamon-nutmeg-clove flavour nicely blended in. So here is another dessert or tea time snack to welcome Autumn.

All purpose flour- 200 gms
Baking powder- 1/2 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Salt- a pinch
Cinnamon powder- 1/2 tsp
Ground cloves- a pinch
Ground nutmeg- a pinch

Granulated Sugar- 100 gms
Brown sugar- 50 gms
Butter- 45 gms
Egg- 1 large
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp
Bramley apple- 1 cup, cored, peeled and diced
Apple sauce- 3/4 cup

In a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients. Keep aside.
In a mixing bowl cream the butter and sugars (brown and white) with a hand held electric mixer or using a whisk till light and fluffy.
Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix again till well combined.
Now fold in the dry ingredients, alternating with the apple sauce*..starting and ending with the flour mix.
Fold in the diced apples as well.
Get a loaf pan ready, do the buttering, lining and the works and pour the batter into it. Its not really runny, so you'd have to smoothen it out to the edges a bit.
Pop it into an oven pre heated at 180C and bake for about 1 hr or till a skewer comes out clean.
Take it out and after about 5 mins, insert on to a cooling rack. 
Serve with a dab of vanilla ice cream.
Notes: *Now I didn't have apple sauce and I wasn't really in the mood to make it, so used flavourless oil instead...super moist it turned out to be.
Bramley apples can be substituted with Granny Smith if you prefer that
I used self raising flour, so omitted the soda bicarb.
You can make the same in muffin cases as'd probably yield about 12.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Irish Coffee with Baileys and vanilla cream

This is such a drab post I'm so ashamed of even blogging it. But this drink brings back memories....and was once a sought after drink by us..and by us I mean the class of 2003- 2005 Madras Christian College, Dept. of Communication. A very close friend of mine J, had a baby today and I dedicate this post to her and the 18 freaks that turned the dept. upside down. 

See, as part of Film studies (or whatever it is... I don't even rem. the subject) we had to head to Trivandrum for the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) for about 10 days. After the first few days of intense movie watching, we kinda decided to do our own thing, one of which was hanging out at this place called Swiss Cafe. Everyone was in partying mode and Trivandrum being the not-so-exciting place it is when it comes to partying and night clubs and things like that, we had to make do with small hang outs like these. Now one of the items on their menu was the Irish Coffee and we had no clue what it was till one of us, and I think it was J, announced it has whiskey in it. Of course we all had to have it then and so ordered rounds and rounds of Irish coffee and we even pretended to be tipsy if I'm not mistaken. But in all honesty, I don't think they even added a drop of alcohol, leave alone serve expensive Irish whisky to a bunch of adrenaline charged, enthusiastic college students. We kept going back there again and again and one day after about two or three rounds, they told us they ran out of ingredients ;)

Everyone's grown up now (although I'm pretty sure we'd still be able to get gloriously drunk and stay up till the wee hours of the morning), most of us married and thanks to FB and group mails we are still in touch with each other. So J, here's to more sleepless nights, nappy changes, hug, kisses and toothless smiles and the rest of you...I miss you guys like crazy and lets all meet up soooooooon.

Serves 2. Original recipe here
Double cream- 70 ml
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp
Baileys Irish cream- 1 tbsp
Freshly made black coffee- enough for 2 
Irish whisky- 50 ml
Dark brown sugar- 2 tsp
Whip the cream, vanilla extract, Baileys and 1 tsp brown sugar together in a bowl until thick, but not stiff.
Pour some boiling water into the serving glass to make it warm. Leave it there for a while and make the black coffee in the mean time.
Throw away the water and pour the whisky into the glass. Stir in the remaining sugar.
Fill it 3/4th with black coffee and stir well.
Spoon in the cream over the back of another spoon slowly into the black coffee, so it forms a thick layer.
Serve at the end of a meal and your guests would be floored ;)
(and someone please tell me how to take a pic without the reflection)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Spicy okra stir fry and a poll if you please!

Mondays are so blah, right? Its the start of another boring week and you are still in that chilled out weekend mode that you don't want to do least that's how I feel. Friday's however are the most active of days, and I always want to make something special or do an extra hour work out session at the gym. Today when I woke up I had major plans...I was supposed to go watch this Brit movie Tamara Drewe (cos Ro thought it was a chick flick), hit the gym, head to the library and then come home and make a pie for dinner, in that order precisely! Didn't do any of those, but sit on the couch, chat with friends online, check the movie time every half hour saying id go for the next show and was on skype with my folks. By the time I decided to head for the 4.10 movie at 4.05 (the movie hall is a hop, skip and jump away btw!), it started raining, well drizzling actually, but obviously that made the decision for me and I stayed at home. I was even lazy to make dinner and lucky for me there were leftovers and some okra which I thought I'd work on at about 6.

Strangely this stir fry ended up to be an awesome one, considering I didn't really pay much attention to the process. So before I forgot, I had to write this one too. 

Okra- 175 gms, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
Besan flour- 2 tbsp
Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder- 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder- 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida- a pinch
Cumin powder- 1/4 tsp
Salt- to taste

Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- a sprig
Oil- 1 1/2 tbsp
In a large bowl stir together all the powders, add the cut okra, toss it around making sure it is coated well. Keep aside.
In a frying pan heat the oil and splutter mustard seeds. Add the curry leaves, stir for a few seconds.
Dump the entire okra mix into the oil and keep stir frying on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or till the sliminess has disappeared.
Reduce heat to medium and continue sauteing at intervals till it is cooked through.
The 'crunchy goodies' as Ro calls it, is the best
Serve hot with rice or rotis, as a side.
Now coming to the poll...I was just wondering what it is that attracted you to my blog and have created a poll on the top of the side bar. I would really appreciate it if you guys took a moment and marked the appropriate box, or if that's too much of a pain for you, just leave a comment will ya?
Call it mid blogging crisis or whatever, I am actually in two minds about this space and wanted to figure a few things which you guys might help me figure and hence the poll..hope I'm not bugging you too much. Thanks in advance.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Welcoming Autumn with Chicken pot pie

Autumn is definitely here, I can vouch for that. Restaurants have even started advertising Christmas lunches and I have started seeing meat pies and the like in supermarkets.

After a spectacular and busy summer, we are back to gloomy, windy and rainy days. As strange as it sounds, I must say, I LOVE IT. Its time for soups, stews and one pot meals which brings us to this brilliant British delicacy....Chicken pot pie. This is one of Nigella Lawson's super easy recipes and I'm completely in love with the outcome. One thing I like about her is how she makes the process so simple, yet the outcome is extraordinary. This is an awesome brunch dish especially if you have a roll of puff pastry at hand. If you serve them in individual ramekins, its a perfect one pot dish. Yummeeeee!

Chicken breasts/ thighs- 250gms, boneless, cut into bite size pieces
Plain flour- 2 1/2 tbsp
Dried thyme- 1/2 tsp
Bacon rashers- 3 to 4
Onion- 1, roughly chopped
Butter- 1 tsp
Chestnut mushrooms- 125 gms, washed and dried
Green peas- 100 gms
Chicken stock- 325 ml
Freshly ground pepper- to taste
Salt- to taste
Olive oil- 1 tsp
Puff pastry- 2 rectangular size sheets, rolled
Put the diced chicken breasts, flour and dried thyme together in a zip lock bag and coat the chicken as evenly as possible. Keep aside.
Meanwhile, slice the bacon rashers with a pair of scissors and fry them till well done. Reserve the oil, but drain the pieces on a kitchen towel if you are feeling a bit psyched about the excess oil.
In a heavy bottomed pan heat the olive oil and bacon oil and sauté the onions till light brown.
Use the same scissors and slice the mushrooms and drop them directly into the pan along with the onion. Let them sweat it out for a while in there.
Add the fried bacon to this and sauté for about a minute or so. Season with salt and pepper if required.
In goes the butter. Once that melts, add the chicken slices and green peas and stir around a bit so that the flour and the onion mix are all well combined.
Add the chicken stock and on medium heat let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add more thyme if required at this stage. I did!
Get the pastry ready by that time. If you need to roll it out do so. I used already rolled out puff pastry, cut it in half and used it.

Divide the chicken gravy between individual ramekins (or a big casserole dish) till about 3/4th full.
Wet the rims with water, cut a few thin strips off the pastry and crown the ramekins (as shown in the pic below).
Cut a rough circle from the remaining pastry and place them carefully over the ramekin, covering the top fully.
With a fork, make pretty designs around it just to let the pastry puff up and also, like Nigella says, it looks pretty.
Its ok if the puff pastry is uneven, the more rustic the better. It gives that homely look you know :)
Make sure you pierce a few holes to let off steam.
Place the ramekins on a baking tray and shove it into an oven pre-heated at 220C for about 30 minutes or till the pastries are nice and puffed.
Break the crunchy pastry into the hot chicken gravy, and dig in I say :)
You can of course add a few slices of garlic bread as well.
Notes: The veg. version would be to omit the chicken and probably add spinach or corn.
If you want it a wee bit spice, feel free to add some chilli powder :)

Thursday, 9 September 2010

French Yoghurt cupcakes with glazed icing

If someone said, 'bake me a cake as fast as you can,' then these lil darlings will save your day. It was all done in under half an hour, not to mention the use of very few cooking vessels making cleaning up easy as well. Soft and spongy and melt in your mouth, they taste delicious even the next day. These cakes also act as a great base for upside down cakes as get a very pudding like consistency which I love.
There was something to celebrate in our lives today and since I wanted to do something special, other thank popping open a bottle of bubbly, these cupcakes which took very lil time was the perfect end to a glorious meal.
Makes 6 large cupcakes
Granulated sugar- 1/2 cup
Eggs- 2 small
Vanilla extract- 1/4 tsp
Plain yoghurt- 1/4 cup

All purpose flour- 1/2 cup
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Salt- a pinch

Flavourless oil- 1/4 cup

In a mixing bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and yoghurt till well combined and a pale yellow..approx 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the dry ingredients and mix well to combine.
Add the oil and fold in lightly, don't have to whisk vigorously.
Arrange 6 muffin liners on to a muffin tray and pour the batter 3/4th full.
Place in a pre-heated oven (175C) and bake for 20 to 22 minutes.
Take them out and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack.
While the cake is baking, make the glaze
Icing sugar- 1/2 cup
Milk- 1 tbsp
Red food colour- a tiny drop

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and keep stirring over a water bath (boiling water) until smooth and the coats the back of your spoon.
Once the cakes have cooled down, pour the glaze over the cupcakes.
I used very little since i don't like it too sweet.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Steamed rice with chicken

Saturday night dinner out was sorta like a tradition when we were small and there is this hotel in Trivandrum (where I'm from) called Horizon which was our favourite joint at that time. We used to go there every other week and had this standard fare we'd order one of which was, 'Steamed rice with chicken.'

Then we grew up, went to college and was too embarrassed for family dinners. The Taj and the Leela's set their foot in Trivandrum and Horizon was long forgotten, well at least my brother and myself did. On our visits back to Trivandrum, we always chose Taj or the newer hang outs over Horizon and always complained about the food. Horizon had the yummiest Chinese grub and my dad, till today, would only agree for a dinner out if it was at Hotel Horizon. We used to always argue with him saying we needed variety and what was so great about Horizon, any way.

I got the answer yesterday when it was pouring outside and one of those Horizon dinners came to my mind. I had this weird craving for some steamed rice with chicken and immediately called up home, in spite of it being 11pm in India. My mom had tried to recreate it at home quite a few times and even though it wasn't exactly the same, we were all mighty pleased with the outcome. Mom gave me the recipe and procedure and I created the Horizon masterpiece yesterday at home. All through dinner I kept telling Ro that the next time we head to Trivandrum, we are definitely going to Horizon and gorge on their tasty Chinese food. Dad, if you are reading this, I will never question you about Horizon ever again :)
For the marinade:
Chicken breasts- 300gms, cleaned and cut into bite size cubes
Dark sauce sauce- a generous dash
Pepper powder- 1 tsp
Salt- to taste

Ginger- a fat 1 inch piece, julienned
Garlic- 4 big pods, roughly chopped
Carrot- 1 medium size, chopped in circles
Green chillies- 2, slit lengthwise
Chicken stock- 2 cups
Corn flour- 2 tsp
Spring onions- 3 medium size stalks, trimmed, greens and whites chopped lengthwise
Celery- 1 stick (optional)
Soy sauce- 1 tsp
Pepper powder- to taste
Salt- to taste
Oil- 1 tbsp

Basmati rice- 1 1/2 cups, cooked as per instructions, with enough salt
These chubby chillies are from my garden..well er, actually I now have a garden because I flicked a whole lotta plants from my cousin relocating to Aussie land ;)

Marinate the chicken pieces with soy sauce, salt and pepper and keep in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
In a wok, heat the oil and add the ginger, garlic and green chillies, sauté till they turn a light brown.
Add the soy sauce and let it lightly start to boil and at that stage add the sliced carrots and mix it all together.
Add the marinated chicken pieces and on high heat stir fry for 4 to 5 minutes till they become light brown.
Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook the chicken till well done.
Mix the corn flour with the stock and add to the wok.
Season with salt (check and then add) and pepper, stir well and cook on high.
Add half of the spring onions and celery (if adding) and continue cooking till the gravy thickens a bit.
Just before you take it off the flame, add the remaining spring onions, give one final stir and serve on top of the steamed rice.
Its a perfect Autumn meal I would say:)
Notes: Its OK if you don't have time to marinate the chicken for an hr...the 15 minute or so you take to prepare the previous steps is sufficient enough
I used 2 Maggi chicken cubes, diluted it in 2 cups warm water and used as stock. Veg stock is good enough
I didn't have so omitted it.
Be very careful while adding salt, because the stock and soy sauce may have enough and more. If its too much, reduce the salt that goes into the rice.
For a veg. option, use mushrooms and corn, but whatever it is add loads of spring onions which impart that particular flavour,

Monday, 6 September 2010

Cake Pops

Of course everyone knows Bakerella who introduced cake pops to the blog world. I love going through her website and just gawking at those numerous recipes and ideas and reading all the fun stuff. It was when I saw a video promo of her recipe book that I decided I had to try the pops. She made it look so goddamn easy that I would be a fool to not try out something so easy and incredibly cute. Boy was I wrong...the easy part still in tact, but the fool I am, decided to act all brave and try a few extra stunts, only to goof up big time, waste ingredients, time and energy and by the end of it something as easy as making pops turned out to be a time consuming, nail biting, husband torturing experience. The outcome was brilliant, but not one I enjoyed so much after the goof ups. 
Note to self: always stick to the recipe and don't ask the husband for help when the whole process involves melted chocolate.

For starters, I just couldn't find candy melts in any of the stores, second, I couldn't find lollipop sticks unless I decided to buy a packet of 50 lollipops, threw away the hard candy and preserved the stick (not a great idea..yes, but it did cross my mind you know) and third, no styrofoam to hold the pops. Whined about my 'issues' to Ro and obviously 'Mr. know it all' had all the answers and solutions. He asked me to use chocolate instead of the melt and so I decided to use white chocolate. For the sticks, he nicely cut out our left over bbq skewers into equal halves and for the styrofoam bit, he spent some half hour making holes on a cardboard piece which would then hold the pops. Yeah yeah he's brilliant, I know!
But the problem arose when I decided to act a lil smart and pour some double cream into the melted choc and frikking curdled. I almost cried. Threw away that entire set and rushed to the nearest grocery store, picked up a bar and hurried back. Again, the smart ass that I am, wanted a pink  pop and decided to add some red food colouring to the melted choc...this time a lil part of my brain was working and so I at least had the common sense to take a spoon full of melted choc and try it out first. Lucky I did that, cos that curdled too. So my idea for pink pops were down the drain. So white it was and I must say, it still looked so awesomely pretty.
Any flavour cake- 1/4 kg (250gms) (I used a golden syrup cake)
Philadelphia Cream Cheese- 100gms, at room temperature
White chocolate bar- 150 gms
Lollipop sticks- 16 (I used wooden skewers, cut in half)
Styrofoam- to stick the pops in for drying (used a cardboard with holes in them)

If you are baking a cake, wait for it to cool completely and then crumble it in a large mixing bowl (you can also wince a bit while doing this to a perfectly baked cake)
Add the cream cheese frosting to this and mix thoroughly with your hand (so you can lick it later), without leaving any specks of cream cheese.
Keep a baking tray with baking paper ready and roll the mix into small balls and place them on the tray. I got about 16 of them, but it would depend on what size you want really.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. I kept mine over night. Bakerella says you can even freeze it to speeden up this process
Break up the white chocolate and melt them in a bowl over boiling water or in a microwave as per instructions. 
Dip one end of the stick into the melted chocolate, shake off excess and insert it onto the rolled cake balls carefully, going a lil less than half way.
Holding the stick, dip the ball into the melted chocolate till it is fully covered, rotate to have an even coating, tap off the extra chocolate gently...not too hard because the cake can fall off (trust me, I know) and fix them on the styrofoam piece or onto a cardboard on anything that can hold it upright.
I chucked it immediately into the refrigerator for it to harden a bit.
If you want to add a few sprinklers do so after you have dipped it in the chocolate, because then, it will stick on easily. 
And like Bakerella, you can of course paint away ..anything you want. I definitely didn't have the patience after all that drama.
Notes: What you need to do is crumble an already made cake and then make balls out of it. Now who would want to painstakingly bake a cake only to crush it and crumble it? Not me for sure. So I used a store bought cake and continued with the steps involved. You are free to bake any flavour cake you like and then use the same. I just wasn't sure I'd go ahead with the crumbling bit once I made a pretty, fluffy cake. Didn't want to take any chances there. Also, I was lazy. I used a golden syrup cake for the pops and paired it with a white choc covering. Since the cake is your own choice, I decided not to pass on a recipe as such, but you can follow it from here if you are interested though.

Do check out Bakerella for more ideas and tips.
Since I'm pretty sure kids would love these pops I'm sending it to Srivalli's event 'Kids Delight- Finger food.'
Its can definitely be gorged down in one or two bites and so sending the same to 'Sugar High Fridays' event hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen where this months theme is 'Bite Size Desserts.' This long running successful even is the brain child of Jennifer.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Brinjal and spring onion bhajis

The weather sure has started changing this side of the world and I'm completely dreading winter. This morning we had a wee bit of sunshine and made use of it by having coffee on our balcony. About an hour after that it was super windy and started drizzling....ladies and gentlemen, that's the UK weather for you, turned out to be perfect weather for hot bhajji and chai.

Anyhoo, a cousin of mine was leaving London for good and I went over to her place to flick all her unwanted things and I found a cookbook she had kept aside to throw. I flicked it from her saying Id just keep it to fill the 3/4th empty bookshelf in our living room, knowing for a fact I'd never be cooking a single thing from the book. Well, well..surprised I was when I ended up flipping through it last night and stumbled upon this spring onion bhajji recipe and was a wee bit interested in finding out how it tasted. I am not a fan of bhajji at all, and was pretty sure I wouldn't really like it, but decided Ro might (he actually hates it too, kinda) and went about making it. I also suddenly decided it was 'finish everything in the fridge' day and so decided to use one brinjal which was crying out to me for attention. So I have basically adapted the recipe to use brinjal too. The outcome was pretty satisfying and a perfect accompaniment to an evening tea, especially if the rain is pitter pattering on your roof. Enjoy!

Recipe loosely adapted from River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Brinjal/ Eggplant- 1 large, washed, patted dry and sliced into rounds
Spring onions- 100gms, trimmed and diagonally chopped
Gram/ Besan flour- 60gms
Plain flour- 20
Chilli powder- 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder- 1/2 tsp
Fresh coriander leaves- 3 tbsp, finely chopped + enough to garnish
Water/ Beer- enough to make a thick batter
Salt- to taste
Pepper powder- to taste
OIl- to deep fry (I used about 3 tbsp to shallow fry)
In a big bowl sift together the flours, coriander powder, chilli powder, pepper powder and salt.
Mix in the spring onions and the coriander leaves and then add enough water or beer to until you get a smooth, thick batter. Not too loose though.
Add the brinjal slices to the batter and stir until well coated.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and keep it on medium heat. Getting the oil to the perfect temperature is a trick I suppose. The book says, drop a slice of bread and it should turn crisp in about a minute, no faster.
Scoop in about 4 to 5 slices of brinjal into the oil and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, till cooked through. Do not over crown the pan and cook in batches if required.
Drain on paper towels, sprinkle some coriander leaves and serve with raita or chilli sauce.
Notes: If you are not using brinjal, Its fine...just that instead of adding the spring onions along with the coriander leaves, do it only after you make the smooth batter and then drop heaped teaspoons into the oil and fry.
I would add about a half tsp cumin powder as well the next time.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Prawn Biryani

Making a biryani is such a tedious job for me....but eating it is something I'd like to do any given time or day. Unfortunately for me, there is no one to serve it on a platter and if I'm craving it, I need to get off my lazy ass and make it on my own. When we were in Chennai we had a tradition of having beer and biryani on Sunday afternoons. Didn't really have to slog it out because we had an awesome cook (Asha) whose speciality was chicken biryani. We used sit out on the balcony glugging down mugs of beer and then dive into the steaming biryani Asha used to make, without any qualms.

Here, the story is different. Sunday lunch is usually left overs from Saturday brunch or when we are so craving a biryani, we both split the job and make a rather biriyani-ish kinda dish while glugging beer or cider simultaneously and then sit down and eat it with half an appetite because you are already famished after all that cleaning, chopping and cooking. It somehow ends up tasting a 100 times better when and if we have it again for dinner :)

I have a standard chicken biryani recipe which I somehow managed to whip up from here and there, and religiously follow. In spite of noting down intricate details, I have still managed to screw it up- more like a biryani sadam a lot of times. Same has happened with prawn biryani too, but this time, even though it almost gave me a scare half way through, it turned out pretty decent. If i had been a bit more patient, I'm sure I could have hit the right spot. Nevertheless, the recipe is a keeper and I had to jot it down before I forgot.

We paired it with a glass of Chianti red wine and loved the outcome.
And before I forget, here's a biiiiiiiiiig thank you to all you guys who sent in those lovely comments about my blog header..I'm thrilled :)
For the rice:
Basmati rice- 1 1/4 cup
Cardamom pods- 3
Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
Cloves- 3
Bay leaf- 1
Lime juice
Ghee- 1 tbsp
Boiling water- 2 cups (approx)
Salt- to taste

To marinate:
Jumbo Prawns- 250 gms, deveined and cleaned
Chilli powder- 1/4 tsp
Garam masala- 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder- a pinch
Lime juice- 1/2 tsp
Salt- to taste

Onions- 3, medium size, finely chopped
Tomatoes- 2, finely chopped
Green chillies- 2, slit
Ginger paste- 1 tbsp
Garlic paste- 1 tbsp
Chilli powder- 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder- 1/4 tsp
Garam masala- 3/4 tsp
Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp
Coriander leaves- 1/4 cup + enough to garnish, cleaned and roughly chopped 
Mint leaves- 1/4 cup, cleaned and roughly chopped
Yogurt- 2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Oil- 2 tbsp
Marinate the prawns with all the ingredients under the 'to marinate' section and keep aside for at least 30 minutes.
Also wash and soak the basmati rice. Keep aside.
(In the mean time you can chop the onions, tomatoes, mint and coriander leaves)
In a heavy bottomed pan (with lid), heat the ghee and splutter the spices- cardamom, cinnamon and cloves and bay leaves till nice and fragrant.
Drain the rice and add to the ghee. Fry on medium heat till they start spluttering a bit.
Add the boiling water to this, add salt and lemon juice and close the lid.
Cook till about 3/4th done...about 8 minutes as per my timing.
Drain using a colander and set aside.

In the same deep pan, heat the oil and add the onions. Sauté till they are translucent..about 6 to 7 minutes.
Throw in the green chillies and the ginger and garlic paste. Mix well and sauté till the raw smell disappears.
Add the tomatoes and sauté again till it all becomes a mushy paste like consistency.
Add the powders- chilli, coriander, garam and pepper powders and salt and mix well. Saute on medium heat till the oil starts separating.
Throw in the marinated prawns at this time and mix well to coat the prawns with the masala.
Add the yogurt, coriander and mint leaves and little water and mix well till they are all combined well.
Close the lid and cook on medium heat till the prawn is cooked through...about 6 to 7 minutes max.
If there is too much gravy, then leave the lid open and cook on high heat for a few more minutes.
Now comes the assembling bit...tip in the entire cooked rice onto the top of the prawn gravy, spread it around well, throw in some coriander leaves on top and cover with a tight lid.
Keep the heat to very low and cook till you see steam rising from the top. I keep it this way for about 15 minutes.
When you are ready to serve, either mix well, or dig right to the bottom and serve a ladle full, garnished with coriander leaves.
Serve with pappad, raita and lime pickle.
Notes: You can do the same in an oven as well...keep it for about 30 minutes or so...
I don't do the proper dum method, because i find this much more convenient

Sending this to the Festive rice event over at Torviewtoronto