Monday, 31 October 2011

Foil-baked pomfret with Indian spices (meen pollichathu)

I didn't mean to stay away from the blog for 2 weeks, but things just got a wee bit crazy over at my end with guests one after the other and then the lethargy and laziness that caught on, leaving me drained and void of energy. I mean I have completely ignored my work for the past 2 weeks, stopped swimming classes and cooking has invariably taken a back seat.

So tomorrow being a new month altogether, I have decided to get my bearings right and get back on track with the whole routine life. September according to me was kept aside for time with friends and relatives, theatre shows and short breaks, loads of eating out and drinking (yes it has started to show, again!!!), and sometimes just doing nothing at all. As much as I enjoyed that phase, I feel much better when I'm swamped with work and under pressure. Its really strange, I know, but it makes a weekend or a mid week break much more enjoyable and worth it. 

So it was after a long time that we enjoyed a quiet weekend at home and strangely I was in the mood to cook, not simple unnerving things, but elaborate dishes that needed a lot of prep and time. Saturday I made a gorgeous Sri Lankan beef roast, which I thought I should take pics and blog but as usual after that long procedure, all I wanted to do was dig into it. A hungry Ro who kept asking, is it done yet? is it done yet? was not helping either. And then for dinner (which is usually leftover stuff or we go out) I made aloo parathas which were not really awesome, but after a movie we were so hungry that they actually tasted decent. 

Came Sunday and there was no stopping. I'd picked up a whole pomfret from the Chinese store nearby and decided to work with it. Well after Ro cleaned it up and did the needful that is. I must say, I have the awesomest husband ever when it comes to things like this. As mentioned before, I'm not a big fish fan and if it has bones, I don't even go near it, leave alone clean it. So if at all I buy fish, I pick up the cleaned fillets from the grocery store and masala-fy it so much, it hardly tastes like fish anymore. This preparation was no different, and if it wasn't for the whole cleaning and dealing with the stench, I would have made it a regular.
I'd taken it out of the freezer to thaw it and when it was about 3/4th thawed Ro cleaned the fins and peeled off the entire skin (which was a great idea) and then we marinated it over night. The fish is wrapped in banana leaves and then roasted, which is the traditional way of doing this preparation. But since I couldn't get hold of banana leaves, I had to make do with the foil. No worries, it still tasted amazing to me, the gravy/masala was the best and the next time I try it, it would be with a fish fillet and loads of gravy. This time, although the gravy had covered the fish well enough, I still preferred some more to quench my craving.

Also, here's a really late Halloween wish coming your way. We didn't do anything exciting, except I made these super cute 'Boo'tatoes which I'm rather proud of :)
Recipe adapted from here and appears in the book Flavours of the Spice Coast by Mrs K. M. Mathew
To marinate
Black Pomfret- 500 gms (any firm fish should be fine-King Fish, Tilapia, River Cobbler, Pearl Spot etc.)
Pepper powder- 1 tsp
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Salt- to taste

For the masala
Coriander powder- 1 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder- 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Pepper powder- 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek powder- a pinch
Ginger paste- 1/2 tbsp
Garlic paste- 1/2 tbsp
Shallots/ button onions- 1 cup, finely chopped
Garlic cloves- 8 to 10, peeled and roughly chopped
Green chilli- 1, chopped
Tomato paste- 1 tsp
Curry leaves- a sprig
Coconut milk- 1/3rd cup
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Oil- 1 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Clean the fish, and if using a large one with skin on, make gashes on both sides.
Mix together the marinade ingredients and generously rub it on to the fish. Keep aside for at least 1 hour. 
About an hour or so before you start preparation, bring the fish to room temperature.
Make a paste with coriander, chilli, turmeric, pepper and fenugreek powder along with the ginger and garlic paste and keep aside.
Heat about 1/2 tbsp of oil in a large non-stick frying pan, swirl it around and fry the fish till lightly brown on both sides. You don't need to cook the fish, just sear it on both sides, say about a minute or so on each side.
Remove and drain on a paper towel.
Into the remaining oil (or add some more if required) add the shallots, garlic, green chillies and curry leaves and sauté till the onions have wilted a bit. Remove and keep aside.
Add the remaining oil and splutter the mustard seeds.
Keeping heat to low add the previously prepared paste and cook, stirring continuously, till it is no longer raw. It might splutter vigorously, so be careful.
Tip in the cooked onion mix, followed by the tomato paste and salt and mix it all together.
Keep the heat to medium and cook this masala till you start noticing the oil surfacing.
Add the coconut milk at this point, bit by bit and stir it into the masala.
You would get a semi-gravy like consistency and at this point add the fried fish.
Carefully cover the fish with the masala as much as possible on both sides and turn off the heat. 
Leave the fish in the pan as it is, while you get your foil ready.
Preheat the oven to 175C at this point
Place a large sheet of silver foil on a baking tray and layer with some masala from the frying pan.
Carefully place the fish on top and cover with the remaining masala from the pan. Clean it out completely.
Place another large sheet of aluminium foil over the fish and crimp the sides to make a parcel. Make sure you seal the edges well so that no steam can escape.
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Take it out and check if the fish is done. If it flakes off easily, then you are good to go. Otherwise cook for a further 10 more minutes.
Serve hot with steamed rice.
Notes: This is not a spicy preparation. If you want it spicier, use normal chilli pwd instead of the Kashmiri one.
I marinated the fish over night and so placed it on a plate, covered with a cling film and then refrigerated.
The process might look elaborate, but it really is not that difficult :)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

My 'go to' tomato sauce and a chicken tikka pizza

Till recently I used to buy pizza sauce and marinara sauce for pasta and such and after using half of the bottle, the remaining used to stay in the fridge where it would grow other inedible stuff and finally make its way through to the bin. And then again, when I needed a couple of spoons of tomato sauce for a pizza, I'd go out and buy a bottle which would repeat the same cycle.

That's when a friend mentioned she made her own tomato sauce and it freezes really well. I shrugged off the idea saying I'd never really do it because it sounded like a tough job. What I didn't know was the number of easy peacy recipes on the internet that fetched me same results. So off I went on a fanatic search and came up with this easy to do recipe that suited my taste buds and more importantly, was easy to prepare. I now use this for any kinda dishes like in a lasagna, for spaghetti meatballs and of course as the pizza sauce. If not anything, it works well as a dip for those tortilla chips as well. 
So yesterday after a rather heavy dinner, the husband suddenly announces that he wants pizza. I had a doubt if I heard him right and asked him what he meant. He said he had a craving for pizza. Yes, craving is the exact word he used. I said if he was hungry, I could make a couple more rotis, but no he wanted pizza and only pizza.

Well too bad, I wasn't going to make pizza at 8 in the night nor was I gonna order pizza because I was too damn full to eat anything more. Fed him some grapes and promised I'd make pizza soon. Well little did I know it would be this soon, but I ended up making it today and even had the will power to take some pics in spite of the lighting being shitty and such.
I happened to have some sauce tucked away in my freezer and thought it was a good idea to blog it since I intend on making it again. I also had some leftover chicken tikka from a dinner party on Sunday and decided to go for an Indianised version, just for kicks. I'm mighty thrilled with the outcome, as I have evolved from the amoeba shaped pizza to a rather round-like one in about 6 months. I'm getting there people, I'm getting there :)

On a completely different note, a big thanks to my uber creative friend Arun for doing the header for me. He's such a genius, you should check out some of his work here. When he becomes an aspiring film maker, I'm not gonna have this privilege. But till then I'm definitely gonna harass him for random stuff like this. Thanks a bunch A.

Sending the tomato sauce and pizza to the 'Taste for Tomatoes' competition over at Love the Garden. Now I'm just crossing my fingers and waiting to see if I've won :)

Tomato sauce (loosely adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe)
Chopped tomatoes- 400 gms (canned)
Garlic- 5 cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Fresh basil leaves- a handful, cleaned and torn
Olive oil- 1 1/2 tbsp
Dried oregano- 1/2 tsp
Dried red chilli- 2, broken in half (optional)
Salt and pepper- to taste
Into a saucepan add the olive oil and once it becomes hot throw in the chopped garlic.
Swirl it around a bit and once it changes colour a bit, add the tomato followed by all other ingredients.
Stir well and bring to a boil.
Then reduce heat to low and let it simmer away for about 20 minutes, and remember to stir in between.
Once it becomes thick and saucy-like, remove from heat and let it cool for a while.
using an immersion blender, blend to a smoother consistency.
Store in sterilized glass jars and once completely cool, freeze.
When ready to use again, thaw at room temperature, gently heat at a really low temperature and use again.

Notes: I added a wee bit of home made garam masala to the tomato sauce because i was doing a chicken tikka pizza. 
The red chillies add a bit of spice, so omit if you dont want a spicier version.

Chicken tikka pizza (makes 2 8-inch pizzas)
For the base (recipe halved from here)
Plain flour- 250 gms
Olive oil- 2 tbsp
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Luke warm water- 150 ml
Active dry yeast- 1 tsp
Sugar- 1/4 tsp

For the topping:
Above mentioned tomato sauce- 1 cup 
Chicken tikka pieces- 2 cups (recipe from here, the first part only i.e, the marinade and then grill as per instructions)
Grated Mozzarella cheese- 1/4 cup (optional)
Fresh mozzarella balls- 2 medium, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
Cherry tomatoes- 1/2 cup, each of them sliced in half
Spinach leaves- 1/4 cup, pre cooked in the microwave for a couple of seconds
Grated Parmesan cheese- a couple of spoons (optional)
Olive oil- to drizzle
In a small bowl mix together the yeast and sugar and pour in 50ml lukewarm water. 
Mix well and leave aside for about 10 minutes by which time the yeast would bubble up.
In another large bowl whisk together the flour and salt and rub into it the olive oil, till slightly crumbly.
Once the yeast mix is ready, pour it into the flour mix along with 100ml lukewarm water, and using your hand mix till they all come together.
Lightly flour a work surface and knead till it is no longer sticky, say for about 4 to 5 minutes (yeah that's all it takes, trust me).
Place it back in the bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and keep aside to rise for about an hour.
When you are ready to make the pizza, punch down the dough, knead it a couple of times and roll it out into the desired shape and to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. I used my silicone mat for this purpose so didn't need any flour. If doing so on your work top, then lightly flour the surface.
Place in a lightly greased pizza pan and then using your fingers stretch it out further.
Generously douse with the tomato sauce, leaving about half an inch from the edges.
Top with grated mozzarella, if using, or else place the chicken tikka slices randomly. Don't crowd it too much though.
Next, arrange the chopped tomatoes followed by fresh mozzarella.
Finally top with the cooked spinach leaves, drizzle some olive oil and place in an oven preheated at 200C.
Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, by which time the cheese would have melted.
Once you take it out, you can sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, drizzle some more olive oil, slice and serve with a glass of wine...BLISS!
Notes: Add olives and mushrooms if you feel like and as a veg option, paneer tikka can be used. Just replace the chicken in the recipe with paneer.
The pizza is crisp around the edges and soft at the centre, just like we love it.
It is thin crust and not deep pan. For that you will have to keep the base thicker while rolling it out.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Passion fruit- two ways

K I admit it, I have a slight obsession for passion fruit going on :)
It all started when I discovered a brand of exotic fruit juices and there was no looking back. Passion fruit and mango are my current favs and once I was done with the mango obsession, I jumped to passion fruit. I'm sure the next is lychee, but till then I'm gonna over do the passion fruit juice a bit. Bear with me

I have been experimenting with a few cocktails and loving the outcome. Made passion fruit mojitos for the ladies when we had some family over last weekend, and it was a hit (If I may say so myself). And then this Indian Mojito which I came up with, after Ro taught me the only way to eat the fruit- slice it in half and onto it add some sliced green chillies, sprinkle loads of salt and using a spoon mix it all in and eat to your hearts content. Believe it or not, while I'm typing this, I'm drooling.
Apparently that's how he used to have it when he was younger..and one whole afternoon we spent eating passion fruits with salt and chillies. The combination is just so awesome, I wondered how it would be as a cocktail. Whipped it up one evening and I wasn't wrong. Its sooo good, I'm thinking I should patent it ;)

Indian Passion (Mojito with an Indian touch)- makes 1
Vodka- 50 ml
Lime wedges- 3
Mint- a few sprigs
Sugar- 3 tsp
Jal jeera mix- 1 tsp
Crushed ice
Passion fruit juice
Soda water
Green chilli- 1, half slit
Passion fruit- one half (optional)
Salt- for the glass rim (optional)
Take some salt in a saucer. Rub a lemon wedge lightly around the rim of a glass to moisten it and then turn it upside down and dip the rim in the salt. Slightly shake it, so all the excess falls off. You don't want it to be too salty.
Then into the glass add vodka, lime wedges, sugar and jal jeera mix along with about 4 or 5 sprigs of mint.
Muddle well to give out the lemon and mint flavours and then top with loads of crushed ice.
Pour enough passion fruit juice to fill about 3/4th of the glass and then top the remaining with soda water.
Using the slit chilli, slightly stir the contents and leave it in or take it out if you don't want it too spicy.
Spoon out the passion fruit pulp and seeds and add it to the drink, sprinkle some more jal jeera mix on top, garnish with mint and drink away.
Notes: Rimming the glass is purely optional. I have tried it both ways and it's really a personal choice.
Crushed ice is available to buy, but you can also make your own by putting some ice cubes in a freezer bag, wrapping it in a towel and then whacking the hell out of it using a mallet or rolling pin. Store it in the bag itself.
I ran out of crushed ice when I made the drink, so used ice cubes, which was absolutely perfect as well
The jal jeera mix also can be avoided if you are not that big a fan. In that case, rimming the glass is a must for that salt kick.
Go ahead and do a non alcoholic version without the vodka, and I'm sure it would be just as nice.

Passion fruit Iced tea
This was the outcome on one of those Saturdays the heat wave took over UK. Ro had somehow managed to sleep in spite of the dreadful heat and I was getting pretty agitated by that, and to keep myself sane, I whipped up this iced tea. It turned out pretty decent and although I may not really have to make them for the next 6 months, here I am adding it to the passion fruit madness.

Makes 3 to 4 tall glasses, recipe from here
Tea bags- 4
Boiling water- 1 litre
Caster sugar- 3 to 4 tbsp (adjust according to taste)
Lemon juice- 1/4 cup
Passion fruit juice- 3/4 cup
Lemon, 1 thinly sliced
Place the tea bags in a pitcher and pour in the boiling water.
Let it steep for about 3 minutes and then remove the tea bags.
Stir in the sugar till dissolved followed by lemon juice and passion fruit juice.
Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
When ready to serve, add the lime slices and pour into a glass filled with ice.
garnish with mint leaves and drink away.
Notes: Add some orange juice as well for more flavour.
I like it pretty sweet so I ended up adding more sugar. You can use honey as well.
Don't keep the tea bags in for long, it could turn out bitter

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

South Indian chicken curry

So here's a fact about me...I just cannot make a decent chicken curry. I mean one that you can whip up whenever you are stuck with some chicken and has no time to make anything fancy, one which you don't really need a recipe to follow and one which tastes great after that wee bit of effort. I have tried following umpteen recipes and procedures, but it just doesn't feel right. Of course, Ro thinks otherwise. He thinks I should just put the masalas and the chicken together in the pressure cooker and just make a curry. Although it is one of my easier methods (recipe here), it really doesn't taste awesome.

So the other day I made this 'authentic' chicken curry after a lot of trouble..and by trouble i mean dry roasting the spices, grinding, then marinating and cooking and the final outcome was just like any other boring chicken curry. I asked Ro how it was and he said 'tastes like usual' which was enough to trigger the emotions. I whined about how the chicken curries always taste so horrid and how I hate it when things don't work out fine, and of course my favourite, how I hate cooking altogether.
Ro's answer was to turn off 'Desperate Housewives' on the laptop and instead concentrate on the cooking procedure and everything would fall into place. Easy for him to say, this way at least while stirring the damn curry, I'd not be bored. So anyhoo, I also whined about it on FB and also to my mom who asked me to just follow the recipe given behind the chicken masala packets. Even Ria had mentioned the same and coincidentally, both of them mentioned the Eastern chicken masala brand. So on one of our recent visits to the Indian grocery store, I picked up one packet, and just 2 days back decided to try it out.

I must say its my favourite chicken curry so far. I mean taste wise its not out of this world or anything. But its damn easy to make and goes well with appams, rice, roti and even pulao. I have the habit of emptying the contents of the masala packets to glass containers (cos I personally hate those paper packs) and I was itching to do the same with this packet, but had to hold on till I wrote down the recipe. So pardon the horrid pictures (blaming the weather here) and the hurried post.

On a completely different note, I have started writing a food column for an expat magazine and I'm thrilled to say that the first edition is out. You can check it out here (Gorgeous Goa, pg. 18).
Chicken- 1 kg (skinned, cleaned and cut into medium size pieces- thigh, breast, legs, anything works)
Eastern chicken masala powder- 4 1/2 to 5 tbsp
Onion- 1 large, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
Ginger- 1 tbsp, peeled and roughly chopped
Garlic- 5 pods, roughly chopped
Green chillies- 2
Water- 2 cups
Slightly thick coconut milk- 1 cup
Potatoes- 2 medium, peeled and cut into cubes (optional)
Salt- to taste
Oil- 2 tbsp
Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Marinate the chicken with the masala powder and salt and keep aside for about 10 to 15 minutes or longer if you have the time.
Meanwhile grind together ginger, garlic and green chillies to a paste (it need not be really smooth). Keep aside.
When you are ready to cook, heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and splutter mustard seeds.
Add half of the curry leaves and onions and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Once the onions start sweating and becomes translucent, add the ground paste.
Continue sautéing on medium heat till the raw smell disappears, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Tip in the marinated chicken and fry for a couple of minutes, just to char the exterior (this step is optional)
Add the cubed potatoes and 2 cups of water, give a proper stir and cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or till the chicken is cooked through. Keep stirring in between.
Then open the lid and add the coconut milk and remaining curry leaves.
Check for salt and continue cooking without the lid for about 10 more minutes.
Once the gravy has thickened a bit, take it off the flame and serve hot with some steamed rice or appams.
Notes: Next time I would use ginger and garlic paste instead of grinding them, as I feel its an extra step. So perhaps 1 tbsp each of ginger and garlic paste and the chilli I will slit and add along with it.
The curry is spicy, but not in an overpowering way, it was just right for us. I used mild green chillies and  perhaps that was the reason. If using hot chillies, adjust according to taste or omit altogether.
The original recipe called for just 3 cups of water, I substituted 1 cup with coconut milk
Once the curry cooled down, I froze it in an air tight container. You just need to thaw it and then heat it on the hob top when ready to use.
You can use more or less any meat/chicken masala the same way or replace with about a tbsp of coriander powder, a 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp pepper powder, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (these measurements are approximate, so don't count on it entirely).