Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

Of Remy and Ratatouille

I enjoy watching animated films, I really do. I love the colours, the soundtrack, the plots; animation takes me back to my childhood days when my grandfather would bring video tapes of Disney films and the two of us would watch them in the evenings. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella…

Last weekend I re-watched Ratatouille. I love the film. It’s a film which leaves me salivating, eager to try new flavour combinations I could never even have imagined could work. The film just makes food so appealing that it makes you hungry watching Remy (the little rat) create magic in the kitchen thanks to Linguini’s hands.

The fresh veggies

The fresh veggies from the market

But what left me wide-eyed was at the end of the film. It was the mishmash of green, yellow and red — the Ratatouille — he created I couldn’t stop dreaming about. All perfectly sliced and standing tall in a baking dish. It just looked so ridiculously delicious that even a staunch non-vegetarian would drool over it. Just as Anton Engo’s (the food critic) cold heart melted tasting the simple flavours, I knew I had to try and make it.

Thus, I went to the market and picked up fresh veggies and tried to recreate the hearty French regional vegetable dish. (It’s not perfect and pretty but believe me, tasted heavenly!)

Standing tall before the remaining tomato sauce gets drizzled

Standing tall before the remaining tomato sauce gets drizzled

Ingredients
1 zucchini (thinly sliced)
1 eggplant (thinly sliced. I couldn’t get the small ones so used a bigger size and cut it in half)
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper (thinly sliced. Again, I couldn’t get smaller sized ones so I just cut it in half)
1 cup tomato puree or 2 fresh tomatoes pureed
4 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
1 small onion (thinly sliced)
3-4 tbp olive oil
1 tsp dried herbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degree C.

In a small sauce pan heat 1 tbp olive oil. Add the garlic and onions and saute. Add the tomato puree and season with salt and pepper. Keep aside.

In a baking dish, put 3/4 of the tomato sauce at the bottom. At this point, layer the thinly sliced vegetables on top of it. Drizzle over the rest of the olive oil, dried herbs, salt and pepper and the remaining tomato sauce.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Serve with freshly toasted bread, rice, cous cous or just plain with some good quality cheese. (I used the versatile Ricotta)

A good dollop of ricotta on top and buttered toast

A good dollop of ricotta on top and buttered toast

A better view!

A better view!

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Of Comfort Food and Nostalgia

What is comfort food? The phrase means different things to different people but to me it simply means the aroma of home cooked food. Simple and delicious, food I’ve grown up eating and crave from time to time. After a bad or good day, its the longing for something familiar, craving for something nostalgic.

I left home a while ago and though I go back at least twice in a year, the days I crave for comfort food most are when I’m ill. When I’m lying in bed sipping warm tea with honey, my mind searches for childhood memories, tastes I imbibed during my younger days, the tastes I long for…

The past week I had a long phone conversation with my mother. We discussed everything under the sun. From films to posters, music to theater, Bengali food to Kerala’s famous beef curry. I kept telling her how much I was missing home food. I guess it was one of those days when I wasn’t well and things weren’t going the way I had planned. So she told me, “Make something you like.” That’s when the idea struck.

So for the past few days I’ve been cooking my comfort food. I was surprised to find that though I love experimenting with every cuisine I can lay my hands on, what I end up cooking when I’m low is Indian food from various parts of the country but with a twist conceptualised by my mother.

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Bread Upma from school
A very close friend used to bring this concoction to school almost thrice a week for tiffin. The aroma of the spices mixed with bread pieces left us wanting more every time. I remember I asked my mother to ask T’s mother how to make it. And since that day in class 3, my mother makes it when I’m home and hungry! The flavour combination is so delicious that when its being cooked, you can smell it from the other room. Tangy and crisp, spicy and yet subtle the textures just leaves you wanting more. It’s so simple to recreate that the whole process barely takes 15 minutes!

Bread, spices and a whole lot of flavour

Bread, spices and a whole lot of flavour

A closer view!

A closer view!

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Chirer pulao, Bong style
In English we would call it fried flaked rice stirred in with vegetables and spices. Chire (poha) is eaten all over India but every region uses it differently. My mom makes it the way her mother used to. It has little pieces of potato and onion and tomato softened to perfection with whole spices (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom). It’s slightly sweet and you serve it hot with a good scattering of chopped coriander. I love this. It gives me a feeling of home every time I make it. It light, delicate and filling, a perfect breakfast dish.

Perfect with morning tea

Perfect with morning tea

Chire, potatoes, onions and tomatoes - delicious!

Chire, potatoes, onions and tomatoes – delicious!

The quintessential Bengali lunch
I’ve said before that we didn’t eat a lot of Bengali food on a regular basis growing up but on occasions just some fluffy rice, potato fry and yellow dal is all you needed to have a great day. I just added my version of an egg curry along with it made with tomatoes and yoghurt. On occasions when I really crave comfort food, I turn to this simple home-style lunch to get me through the day.

Yummy lunch! Lentils, potato fry and egg curry!

Yummy lunch! Lentils, potato fry and egg curry!

A plate of homemade Bengali food

A plate of homemade Bengali food


What do you eat when you crave something comforting?

The left over bake

I realised on Sunday that it’s been a while since I’ve written about what I’ve been cooking! Yes I’ve posted about the new things I’ve eaten but having cooked something new, no. Everyone has a grocery day and mine happens to be Saturdays. On Saturdays I go to the weekly vegetable market, where farmers set up little stalls filled to the brim with delicious and fresh veggies. However, thanks to pending deadlines I was unable purchase my weekly goods.

So Sunday morning, tummy rumbling, I opened the fridge to find some tomatoes, two bell peppers, two cucumbers and an eggplant. This is what happens when you forgo your weekly visit to the vegetable market! The only thing left to do was create something exciting (it’s Sunday after all). And thus my ‘left over bake’ is exactly what it sounds like. An attempt to finish off remaining vegetables but create something delicious at the same time.

Ingredients

100g pasta (I used macaroni)
2 bell peppers (I used one red and one yellow, diced)
1 tomato (diced)
1 onion (chopped fine)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped fine)
1 tsp chilly flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbp olive oil
2-3 cheese slices (I only had the processed kind)

Heat the olive oil and saute the garlic and chilly flakes first. Add the onions and bell peppers. Stir for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato, tomato sauce and oregano. Stir till about cooked through. Season according to taste. Keep aside.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Cook the macaroni till al dente in a pan of boiling salted water. (You can do this while preheating the oven)

In a baking dish mix the cooked vegetables and macaroni together. Layer the top with the cheese slices and bake for 15 minutes. (To get a crunchy cheese layer, change the oven nob to top heat for the last 5 minutes).

Serve with a side salad or garlic bread.

Just out of the oven... hot hot hot!

Just out of the oven… hot hot hot!

Just perfect with a glass of white!

Just perfect with a glass of white!

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