Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the category “Recipes”

Picnic Pasta Bake with Mini Chicken Meatballs

The much-loved Delhi winters have come and gone but the weather hasn’t turned so warm that one can’t enjoy a picnic. If you ever visit Delhi, make sure Lodhi Gardens is on your go-to list. Green, gorgeous, tranquil and in the heart of the city, the gardens are a perfect picnic spot. I absolutely adore picnics. It’s a time to be silly, play badminton to your heart’s content (a great exercise for the indulge ahead), eat gorgeous food, doze under the shade of a tree, catch up on your reading, gossip with friends and feel like a child in the adult world. This bake is super easy but takes time. So, make sure you are not in a hurry. It is the perfect picnic food to consume on a lazy weekend in the midst of history and greenery with friends from back home.

The gorgeous greenery at Lodhi Gardens

The gorgeous greenery at Lodhi Gardens

Ingredients
For Meatballs (Makes 12-15 depending on size)
500g Minced chicken
1 small onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 tbs dried oregano
1 tbs chilly flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 egg
250g breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to season
2 tbs oil

For Sauce
2 large ripe tomatoes (diced)
1 onion (chopped)
1 carrot (peeled and chopped)
2 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 can tomato puree
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chilly flakes
1 tsp heaped smoked paprika
3 tbs butter (room temperature)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs olive oil

For Pasta
2 handful Penne
1 lt boiling water
1 tsp oil
Salt to season

For Bake
2 cubes of cheese (grated)
1 tsp butter (to grease baking tin)

The view from our picnic spot

The view from our picnic spot

– Boil the water with oil and salt. Cook the penne according to packet instructions.
– Drain penne and keep aside. But save the water.
– Place the minced chicken, chopped onion and garlic, dried oregano, chilly flakes, cumin, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
– Mix well and use your hands to form mini meatballs. Keep aside.
– Heat a pan and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and chilly flakes to sautee well.
– Add the chopped carrot and onion. Let them cook through.
– Add the tomatoes and the can of tomato puree.
– Add oregano, paprika, salt and pepper. Clamp on a lid and let the sauce cook.
– As the sauce cooks, heat another pan with oil.
– Once hot, add the meatballs in small batches and brown.
– Add the meatballs to the sauce and let them cook through. Be patient as this will take some time. You will notice the sauce reduce considerably in quantity. Take off the heat
– Grease a baking tin with butter. Pre-heat the oven to 250 C
– Take out the meatballs and place them in the tin.
– In the sauce, add 1 tbs butter and a ladel of the starch water. Mix well.
– Repeat this twice more untill you see a sheen on the sauce. It will become a thin sauce.
– Add more dried herbs (optional)
– Put the meatballs back in the saucepan along with the penne. Coat pasta and meatballs well.
– Place the mixture in the greased baking tin and cover generously with grated cheese. (I use processed for this)
– Put in oven for 20 minutes.
– Take out once the cheese has melted and cool
– Pack in foil and you’re ready for the picnic!

The pasta bake uncovered!

The pasta bake uncovered!

The view from the top - Pasta bake, biryani, chips and two types of cakes!

The view from the top – Pasta bake, biryani, chips and two types of cakes!

After a soul satisfying day, we saw the sun set at Lodhi Gardens

After a soul satisfying day, we saw the sun set at Lodhi Gardens

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Slowcooked Coriander Chicken

I will be called incorrect for the usage of the term slow cooking but I’m purely talking from a personal perspective. No I don’t use a slow cooker not do I cook for hours end which old Royal recipes call for. I’ve always favoured easy and jiffy cooking but when I get the luxury to relax, I make myself a cup of fragrant Darjeeling, bring out a book I’ve been trying to finish. I sip and read while I slow cook whatever I’ve put on the gas.
There’s nothing to beat the smell of fresh coriander and I love using the herb as a flavour base in cooking rather than just relegating it to garnishing. The combination of chicken and coriander is simply a way to greet winter. It sums up beautifully what a winter afternoon should be like.
This slow cooked chicken dish has the perfect combination of spice and fragrance. It’s not too hot neither too bland and is best served on the centre of the table with rice and raita as accompaniments!

Ingredients
For Marination
500g chicken
3 tbs yoghurt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
Pinch of salt

For Curry
Handful curry leaves
1 tbs black mustard seeds
Handful (or more) coriander (Chop the stalks and keep the leaves aside)
1 red chilly (deseeded, finely chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 tomato (chopped)
2 tbs tomato puree
Salt to taste
1 tbs vegetable oil

– Wash and clean the chicken pieces and add the ginger-garlic paste. Mix the spice powders with the yoghurt. Add to the chicken with a pinch of salt and let it marinade overnight.
– In a hot wok add the oil.
– Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once the seeds start to sputter add the chopped onion, garlic and red chilly. If you like it very hot, keep the chilly seeds in.
– Once this is well sauteed, add the coriander stalks.
– You’ll start to smell the frangrance of coriander in a bit. Add the tomato now and slowly let it become slightly mushy.
– Add the overnight marinaded chicken to this. Add the tomato puree and salt.
– Put the gas on low. Clamp on a lid and let it cook for about an hour.
– Halfway through, add some coriander leaves to the chicken and continue cooking.
– Garnish with more coriander leaves and eat hot with rotis/rice/bread.

A bowl of deliciousness!

A bowl of deliciousness! Top view!

Greens and chicken!

Greens and chicken!

Review: Cooking Up A Storm With ‘Chef In A Box’

How many of you, in the confines of your kitchen, have wanted to create restaurant style dishes. I personally believe that plating, even for dinner for one on a cold weekday night, elevates the food just that much. You want to eat something pretty. And trust me, it’s not tough. If I can, so can you.

I’ve been reading a lot about these new ventures whereby one can order restaurant dishes and eat them at the confines of their home. What’s impressed me about Chef In A Box is that you get to create restaurant style dishes in your kitchen in a matter of minutes (ok, not minutes but easily enough) and then eat them till your tummy fills up. At least, that’s what I did!

Well-packed ingredients

Well-packed ingredients

Gayatri Iyer is passionate about food and she decided to pursue this venture giving up her job. As a customer, I fully support her decision. Not only do you get variety to choose from the menu but I tried two dishes on the opposite ends of the spectrum — they were both delicious.

As a Bengali, the more I miss home, the more I want to eat food from my region. Hence, I chose the Potoler Dolma which for a layman is Pointed Gourd with a meat filling cooked in succulent tomato-based gravy. Then, I also ordered for Rich Dark Chocolate Pots for desert. I was not disappointed. Not only did they turn out exactly as the pictures on the recipe leaflets but tasted so delicious that I’ve decided to order other items from the menu when I’m in the mood to create dishes usually cooked by professionals.

Fresh stuff for the Potoler Dolma

Fresh stuff for the Potoler Dolma

Easy Ordering Process

Ordering is simple. Just log onto www.chefinabox.in and sign up. Once you do, the options are plenty. You have food items based on the time needed to cook, non-vegetarian and vegetarian options and cuisines. One gets a variety to choose from – Thai Green Curry to Burmese Khao Suey to Bengali delicacies. Choose what you want to order and pay online, the boxes with the freshest ingredients get delivered to your doorstep the next day from the restaurants associated with this venture.

Potoler Dolma turned out exactly like the picture on the leaflet!

Potoler Dolma turned out exactly like the picture on the leaflet!

The Cooking Bit

I love cooking and I find my time in the kitchen therapeutic. But if you don’t and yet want to create something restaurant quality, don’t worry, it’s easy. Every ingredient is boxed carefully so as to avoid spillage. Then, a recipe card with a step-by-step process tells you how to achieve the desired results. All you need to do is follow one step after another and voila, you have your dish on your plate.

What I Made

I tried the Potoler Dolma and Rich Dark Chocolate Pots. Both came in cardboard boxes with instructions. Every ingredient was fresh and what I liked about was it was a no fuss affair. The potol was cleaned ands scooped out, the mutton came in individual portions for each potol while the gravy which was so tasty was already made. All I needed was to put in a bit of effort to create something delicious. It barely took me time, maybe a maximum of half an hour. The chocolate shots were even easier. The chocolate, cream, liqueur and chopped nuts came in individual containers. I just had to melt the chocolate, add the cream and liqueur, freeze and then eat with a layer of chopped nuts as decoration!

I've had to fill two glass up to the brim because I broke the two! But it's perfect for 4, a lot for 2!

I’ve had to fill two glass up to the brim because I broke the two! But it’s perfect for 4, a lot for 2!

Value For Money

I feel what you spend on these recipes is full value for money. For example, the dolma was Rs 280 while the desert was Rs 455. The dolma, though for one person, can easily be had by two with a plate of steaming rice. The desert is decadent and serves four. The other items on the menu range from Rs 250 – Rs 1400 approx. The portions are perfect and I feel that you’d end up playing a lot more if you eat out than if you order in and make it yourself with just a tiny bit of effort.

Book and chocolate, the perfect way to indulge an evening

Book and chocolate, the perfect way to indulge an evening

Go check out  www.chefinabox.in or follow on Facebook and Instagram

Nostalgic Egg and Vegetable Noodles

Bengalis have their quaint idiosyncrasies. We often get ridiculed for the ‘monkey caps’ in October or our love for Boroline (it IS a magic ointment, I swear) and of course the abundant respect for fish. Among all things, there has to have been that one moment when a Bengali child brought homemade Chinese to school which would be shared during a lunch break.
I don’t know much about other places but in Calcutta, one could buy these ‘Classic’ noodles from any shop. The maida (flour) noodles came in red coloured pouches which were about Rs 10 for a packet. When the tiffin boxes would be opened, a smell of homemade Chinese would engulf the air. With lots of vegetables of course, the noodles would be tossed with a dash of soy and vinegar and we would be very happy with that. The boxes would be passed around so all could take a bite. The days we felt rich, we would buy heavenly greasy noodles from the school canteen and share among us.
Recently, I had this craving for homemade noodles. As I searched the stocked shelves, I came across this red packet which instantly reminded me of school days and tiffin boxes. There was no question of not making them. But just to compensate for all the empty carbs, my fridge foraging led me to find lots of greens!

Ingredients
1 packet noodles (Use any sort – glass/rice/wheat/flour/egg)
1 egg (whisked)
1 carrot (julienne)
1 onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 inch ginger (sliced)
1 capsicum (chopped fine)
1 bok choy (shredded)
3 button mushrooms (chopped)
1 small broccoli (chopped)
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs dark soy
1 tbs chilly vinegar
1 tbs oyster sauce
Salt to taste

Favourite from the school days in Calcutta. Pix credit: Barnik Bardhan

Favourite from the school days in Calcutta.
Pix credit: Barnik Bardhan

– Cook the noodles according to packet instructions. Drain and keep aside. Toss with a bit of oil to keep from sticking
– Heat 1 tsp sesame oil. Cook the egg tossing it about in the wok. When done, take out of wok and shred into small pieces
– Heat the remaining oil. Add the onion, ginger and garlic. Saute till fragrant
– Add the carrot, capsicum, mushrooms and bok choy.
– When the vegetables are slightly soft , coated well with the oil, add the vinegar, soy and oyster sauce.
– At last, add the shredded egg.
– Mix well and serve hot

A long view!

A long view!

Delicious dinner

Delicious dinner

PS: Best accompanied with a book, eating in bed!

Fish in Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

I love flicking through anything recipe related. Magazines, websites, books, you
name it and I do it when I’m not planning my next travel adventures. To be fair, I
do think of what local speciality I can try when I decide on where to go next. So,
travel is combined with food and vice versa.
But I digress. I’m currently taking a break from travel and staying in Delhi.
Winter is slowly setting in and all one wants is soul food. Something warm that
leaves you fuzzy but at the same time not hasslesome. Cleaning up can be such a
bother.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m on this South East Asian flavours spree. I’ve been
reading a lot on flavour combinations and what better to try out new things than
experiment, right?
I came up with this recipe on a whim and though it requires a longish list of
ingredients, believe you me, it’s simple and makes for a wholesome supper.
PS: I recently came across Jamie Oliver‘s Cauliflower Rice recipe and it’s
marvelous. It’s healthy, tasty and serves as a no-carb alternative to rice. It can
be consumed with curries and kebabs or just as it is with a smattering of herbs
and some butter!

Ingredients
Fish Curry
For Marinade
500g Rohu (type of Carp, cut into pieces)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
Salt

For Curry
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 inch ginger (chopped)
1 tomato (quartered)
1 can coconut milk
1 lemongrass (stalk bruised)
2 tbs lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 tbs vegetable oil

Cauliflower Rice
1 head cauliflower (blitzed in food processor)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
Pinch of red chilly flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp oil

– Marinate the fish with all the powders. Set aside for 15-20 minutes.
– Heat a wok and add the oil.
– Add the onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass. Saute till fragrant.
– Add the lemon juice and wait for the hot wok to sizzle.
– Empty a can of coconut milk into the wok with a pinch of salt and add the quartered tomato
– Bring the liquid to a boil and put on gentle simmer.
– Add the fish to the coconut curry and clamp a lid on the wok for 15 minutes.
– Discard the lemongrass when curry made.
– For rice, heat the oil in a pan.
– Add the garlic and chilly flakes
– When fragrant, add the cauliflower and cook through. Add seasoning
– Serve a helping of the rice with a side of fish and some curry!

Delicious and healthy supper!

Delicious and healthy supper!

Hot And Sour Chicken Soup with Brown Rice

I love soups. They are comforting and healthy (usually). I love those days when you want to stay in bed with a book and making soup to feed yourself hardly takes time. I love those snug winter evenings when only hot soups can warm you. This one time in Kathmandu, while winter was receeding and it wasn’t yet summer, only a homemade bowl of hot soup could uplift me! And those soups taste the best!
In the winters I prefer the thick continental ones which need to be pureed. In the summers I prefer more broth-based ones which are simple to make and easy on the stomach.
Most South East Asian broths call for handmade egg noodles in them. I prefer to add brown rice in mine because it’s healthier and makes a wholesome balanced meal. Devour a bowl and you’re left satisfied.
PS: Since I’ve been on this South-East Asian flavours swing for a couple of weeks now, making this over and over again is my excuse!
Ingredients
250g boiled chicken (shredded)
1 small carrot (chopped finely)
1 onion (chopped finely)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped finely)
2 tsp Tom Yum paste
1 cup button mushrooms (roughly chopped)
1 cup oyster mushrooms (shredded with hands)
1 litre chicken stock
1 lime (juiced)
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup brown rice
Salt to season
Handful bean sprouts
chives to decorate
1 tsp vegetable oil
– Heat the oil in a deep container which can hold a lot of liquid
– Sweat the carrots, onion and garlic till fragnant (about two minutes)
– Add the Tom Yum paste and saute till everything is a nice reddish colour
– Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil
– Then bring the stock to a gentle simmer. Add the mushrooms, salt, boiled chicken and brown rice.
– Clamp on a lid and let the soup be till the rice is cooked through. (about 10 minutes)
– Pour the lemon juice, fish sauce and give everything a good stir. Check for seasoning.
– Ladle a serving in a bowl, garnish with chives and bean sprouts!
A bowl of warmth in winter!

A bowl of warmth in winter!

Weekend Cupcakes – Orange with Chocolate and Coffee

Baking and I have never been THAT fond of each other . The reason – specific measurements. Unlike cooking, one can’t really wing it. (Who likes a cake that falls flat or lacks taste, right)
My grandmother loved to bake. She would bring out her many aluminum cake tins and make basic vanilla sponges or variations adding cocoa powder and/or essences. The kitchen would smell all buttery and vanilla-y, heaven really.
My younger sister has got that gene. She loves to bake. Though not often, when she gets into that zone, there’s no stopping her. It’s scary I tell you, especially when you’re dreaming of dancing with Patrick Swayze (when he picks you up as ‘Time of my Life’ plays all around) and instead get woken up rudely with the words “Cupcake time! You need to sift the flour.”
R tried two variations. Orange with chocolate and coffee with cocoa. Both with a gooey chocolate centre (dark and white) and dark chocolate icing. I can’t describe you how delicious they were as we gobbled them up with coffee. What are cheat days for after all!

Ingredients
For Cupcakes (Makes 12)
150g self-raising flour (half for each batch)
150g caster sugar (half for each batch)
150g butter (half for each batch)
2 eggs (1 for each batch)
2 tbs milk (1 for each batch)
3 tbs cocoa powder
Handful of milk and dark chocolate shards
1 tsp natural orange essence
2 tsp strong coffee

Icing
100g icing sugar
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tbs hot water

-Preheat oven to 190 C
-For each batch whisk together the butter, egg, milk and sugar. Sift in the flour.
-Add 1 tbs cocoa and orange essence in one. Add the 2 tbs cocoa and coffee in another. Whisk till you get a nice tasting mixture.
-Line the muffin tins with 12 cupcake wrappers. Carefully spoon in the mixture.
-Add shards of chocolate and then add another spoonful of mixture on top.
-Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Take out and cool.
-Make the icing in a bowl. Whisk all ingredients together and decorate the cupcakes.
-Enjoy with coffee, hot chocolate or just as it is!

Freshly baked and cooling

Freshly baked and cooling

All iced and ready to devour. My Jackson Pollock moment!

All iced and ready to devour. My Jackson Pollock moment!

Coffee and cupcakes!

Coffee and cupcakes!

Melt-in-your-mouth Asian Stir Fried Pork

My introduction to pork began at an early age via homemade spiced sausages, salamis, those gorgeous frankfurters that crackled over heat. I remember going to Goa when I was about 12 and polishing off a plate of spicy pork vindaloo with steaming white rice in a small shack on the beach. The sound of waves crashing, the feeling of cold sand touching my feet, the just-right weather – I can still visualise that day.
I was recently shopping at INA for fresh fruits and salad leaves when I crossed the meat section. On a whim I picked up this delicious lean cut of pork. With plenty of flavour combinations playing in my head, this basic South-East Asian style stir fry had to be the first.

Ingredients
250g lean pork (cut into bite sized pieces)
2 tsp oil
1 small onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 lime (juiced)
Handful of rocket leaves
Chives
For marinade:
3-4 Sichuan peppercorns (crushed)
1 star anise (crushed)
1 tsp demerara
2-3 tsp sesame oil
2-3 tsp oyster sauce
1-2 tsp dark soy
salt and black pepper to season
(I would suggest when making the marinade, start with the dry ingredients first and then add the wet ones)

Marinate the pork pieces overnight (half an hour minimum if you’re in a hurry)
Heat 1-2 tsp oil in a wok and add chopped onions and garlic. Once its sauteed, add the pork pieces. Cook till the pork has caramelised well on the outside and is tender on the inside. Add a bit of oyster sauce if need be.
Once cooked, take out the pieces to rest. Use lime juice to deglaze the pan and pour over the meat.
Serve with a side salad, steamed rice, stir fried veggies or a baguette!

Served on a bed of rocket leaves

Served on a bed of rocket leaves

Of Lamb Chops on a Weekday Afternoon

Lamb chops are an all-time favourite. Roasted, marinated, pan-fried, bread crumbed – you name it – I like them all. Though I love having them with mustard, it’s nice to try variations. And when I have limited vegetables in stock, I become too lazy to go grocery shopping and instead, try and salvage something delicious with whatever I find. This is such a story.

Lamb Chop with Veggies
1 lamb chop
1 small onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 small carrot (chopped)
1 tbs tomato paste/sauce
1 tbs English mustard
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chilly flakes
2 tbs oil
Salt to taste

– Heat the oil in a pan and once hot, sear the lamb chop till golden brown. About 2-3 minutes a side will suffice.

– Wrap the chop in foil. Keep aside.

– In the same pan which has the juices, add the chopped garlic and chilly flakes.

– Add the chopped onion and carrot and cook till softened.

– Add the oregano, mustard and tomato paste. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Season well. Add the juices from the foil in which the chop is kept.

– Plate everything and serve hot!

Simple pleasures

Simple pleasures

And healthy too!

And healthy too!

Decadent Weekend Breakfast on a Weekday!

So what if it’s a weekday? It doesn’t stop me from creating weekend breakfasts. In fact, I feel all the more happy because as I dig into delicious food, I feel a spring in my step. The day starts well and generally it ends on a rather happy note.
There are many variations of this North African dish – Eggs with bell
peppers or Shakshuka. Mexico celebrates eggs with tomatoes as Huevos Rancheros. I try to walk on an unconventional path and often make a mixture of the two. And I often eat it on Sundays with a large mug of coffee — it’s heaven in the pan!

Ingredients
2 Eggs
1 small bell pepper (chopped)
1 small carrot (chopped)
1 small onion (chopped)
4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 small tomato (chopped)
2 button mushrooms (chopped)
2 tbs tomato puree
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp chilly flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt to taste
Coriander to garnish

Method
– Heat the oil in a pan.
– Saute the onion, garlic and chilly flakes till the mixture is soft and has a lovely reddish tinge.
– Add the bell pepper, carrot and smoked paprika. Cook till soft.
– Add the mushrooms, tomato and salt to season.
– Add the tomato puree and oregano. Cook till everything is nice and squidgy.
– Make a small parting in the middle of the vegetable mixture and crack the eggs.
– If you like your eggs to be runny, cover the pan with a lid for about
a minute till it cooks. I cover it for about 3 minutes till the yolks
cook through. Garnish with coriander.
– Enjoy either with bread or as it is, straight off the pan!

Yes, that's what breakfast looks like!

Yes, that’s what breakfast looks like!

A close up! Enjoying the hot eggs!

A close up! Enjoying the hot eggs!

PS: I love making this for family or friends. It tastes much better if
you make it for about 4-5 people.

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