Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the tag “lemon”

Of coriander and winter

Yummy!

Yummy!

I love winter. The nip in the air, the warm jackets and feel of soft woolens, long long walks just before sunset, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, four-hour long brunches where you eat more than your stomach can hold really… there’s something about this season which makes me feel so nostalgic. Joyous that after long summers and drenched monsoons, the cold chill (in the good way of course) will make everything alright. It also helps that Christmas recipes, cards and decorations can be found everywhere.

I love food, especially in winters when jackets and over-sized, but sexy, sweaters hide the bloated stomach after long brunch sessions. And come 25th, I’ll be gorging on roasts but during the few months that Delhi succumbs to winter, my favourite meal is soup. Be it a light broth or heavy with cream, I can eat soup all day long. (I go with the traditional eat rather than drink, the intensity of the debate has gone beyond imagination really.)

Walking by the vegetable market recently, I came across a seller displaying only greens and gorgeous herbs. Of course I stopped because when fresh mint, coriander (cilantro, dhania), parsley and spinach call out your name, what other choice do you have? Anyway I bought a lot of coriander among many other things because I love the smell. The freshness it adds to dishes just takes them beyond the realm of ordinary. Sprinkle some over salads or lentils (dal), or give it a starring role, everything just tastes that much better.

So here I was with a LOT of coriander and winter engulfing me. The only sensible thing to do was to make soup! So, I made lemon-coriander soup to tickle my tastebuds with, but of course, a twist.

Lemon coriander soup (for those wonderful winter days)

Ingredients 

(Serves 6)

Handful of coriander (stalk et al, chopped)

1 Lemon

1 small onion (chopped)

2 cloves of garlic (crushed)

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

Salt

Stock cube (You can make your stock from scratch if you have the time)

1 litre water (heated)

The process

In a pot heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add onions and garlic and saute till translucent. Add the stock (handmade or stock cube mixed with hot water). Add salt and chilli flakes and bring the liquid to a boil. Throw in 3/4 of the chopped coriander and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon. Simmer for 1 minute and take the pot of the heat. Garnish each bowl with fresh coriander, pour the lemony liquid over and serve hot. A treat for the cold winter days or nights.

PS: Feel free to add vegetables like corn, mushrooms, capsicum or herbs such as oregano, basil and thyme. I often make this soup adding dried basil flakes with corn and extra lemon to make it more zingy.

Summer salads

There’s something about summer. Isn’t it? As a child, summer meant lots of ice creams, trips to the swimming pool, refreshing watermelons and holidays with the parents to the much much cooler mountains.Everyone has a favourite ice cream and mine was (still is) the orange popsicle. Forget the vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, there is something so appealing about the about the tangy after taste and the orange tongue! The evidence of the crime!

But, this post is not about ice creams so let me not digress. The one food which summer is always associated with is a salad. Salads of various kinds, each with a different dressing. It can range from creamy to lemony; from sweet honey mustard to a Vietnamese style salty-chilly. The good thing is, you don’t have to be a Michelin star chef to create a good salad. All that is needed is creativity, the desire to experiment and simple ingredients. (Though if you have the budget, add any expensive item you want! Lobsters, foie gras, cavier, the works!)

Summer lunches at home generally comprise of a salad served with iced tea (homemade of course). It’s filling, tasty and doesn’t need a whole lot of time to prepare. And if you make a large bowl, it takes care of dinner too. I love experimenting with dressings. My store cupboard is stocked with various spices, the fridge with various condiments, the deep freeze with roast chicken, salami, pork and vegetable drawer with, well, vegetables and fruits. So, as I always let my mind wander in the kitchen, my friends end up as guinea pigs!

Roast chicken salad with a lemon dressing

200g of roast chicken, 1 big fat lettuce (can be substituted for iceberg), 1 cucumber, 1 tomato, 3 gherkins, handful of capers, 1 bunch coriander.  For the dressing: 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 lemon (zest and juice), a pinch of chilly flakes, salt to taste.

Dice all ingredients and throw into a big bowl. In a glass jam jar, add the ingredients for the dressing and shake shake shake!

In 10 minutes, you have a fabulous lunch ready!

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Chicken salad with wasabi mayonnaise

Ingredients: 200g roast chicken, 1 big boiled potato, 1 boiled egg, 1 cucumber, 4 gherkins, 5-6 jalapeno slices, handful of olives, some coriander. For the dressing: 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, a good squirt of wasabi paste, half a lemon (zest and juice).

Dice all ingredients in a big salad bowl. Shake the dressing ingredients in a jam jar well. Pour it over the salad and enjoy!

PS: Instead of homemade iced tea, a pint of beer and a side of dumplings go just as well with the summer salads!

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Chicken salad served with nostalgia

Living alone is great fun. You are responsible for you, you’re the grown up. Bills are your responsibility, so is cooking and cleaning. You don’t look after yourself, you end up sick in bed.

I couldn’t wait to live alone during my teen years. My parents always tried to foster independence and they didn’t fail. I got a job straight out of school, worked my way through college and university to pay for tuition and of course the regular dose of indulgence in various forms. Sure, I could have asked my parents for help, but I chose not to. I wanted to be independent. To be able to learn to fend for myself. And my parents couldn’t be prouder today.

My dad has a favourite saying, ‘Always look at the pros and cons before you do anything.’ Living alone as great as it is, has little cons. Especially when you miss home-cooked food. Even if I try to recreate a classic dish by my mother, grandmother or father, it ends up lacking something. You can follow the recipe to the exact measurements but it never has THAT taste. It’s similar to Indo-Chinese food. No matter how hard you try, but home-cooked Chinese food always tastes different. Even if you try to recreate a recipe by a famous five-star chef with every ingredient recommended.

Yesterday I was craving my mother’s famous chicken salad. The recipe is from the 1970s  when Calcutta was waking up to continental cuisine and restaurants offered A la Kiev and Shepard’s Pie in generous portions. She always makes it the same exact way her mother, albeit my grandmother, taught her. I think she makes it so often because the smell invokes her childhood memories. When she puts a spoonful of the the creamy texture in her mouth, it takes her back to those days when she would help her mother as she potted about in the kitchen. She never has said it in those exact words but you can tell as her eyes light up every single time she cooks one of her mother’s recipes. My grandmother never left her a recipe book but instead, taught her every recipe practically, by making it together in the kitchen,

The chicken salad my mother makes is a basic one. You can have it plain, over a piece of toasted bread or even in a baby lettuce cup. It serves as a great starter, wonderful side with your main or even in-between a course. She uses minced chicken with diced apples, boiled potatoes, boiled macaroni and boiled eggs along with thinly sauteed mushrooms and chopped parsley. These ingredients are mixed with mayonnaise and cream and then seasoned well. Then, the salad is put in the fridge till it’s time to serve. She mixes in prawns and other ingredients like pineapples and cherries when she fancies but 95 per cent of the time, it’s always the basic salad.

Like I mentioned earlier, I had a craving for it yesterday. Unfortunately, my freezer was out of minced meat and the vegetable drawer out of mushrooms. Well, I improvised but it turned out fantastic. And when I spread it out on a piece of toast, the heat from the bread and the cold from the salad hit the right spot! Perfect harmony.

My version of the chicken salad:

Boil three baby potatoes and two eggs and chop them in small pieces. Chop in small pieces 3/4th of a big apple. Put the chopped items in a large bowl. Add about 50 grams of boiled Fusilli pasta. (I didn’t have macaroni). Next, add 150 grams of diced chicken salami. (If you prefer other meats, please feel free to experiment).

In a separate bowl, put five large tablespoons of mayonnaise. Grate the zest of one lemon and add 1/4th of the juice in the mayo. Add of dash of wasabi paste and whisk it all together.

Then, its all about combining the two. Once you have put in the treated mayo on the boiled items, add 50ml of cream. Mix all ingredients together and season well with salt and pepper to your liking. Refrigerate till you want to eat it. It’s a great item to make and store for midnight hunger pangs!

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