Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the tag “New Delhi”

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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Iftar at Jama Masjid

Delhi summers are humid. Getting out of the cool air-conditioned metro and up the escalator, the humid weather decides you are its long lost friend. It engulfs you, leaves you drenched and yet, no matter how hot it is, just the thought of iftar (the evening meal at sunset when Muslims break their fast during Ramzan) keeps your legs moving forward one step at a time.

The last rays of the sun

The last rays of the sun

Old Delhi is crowded like it usually is. I hop, skip and jump where I can see a relatively empty stretch of the pavement. But then again I’m forced to step on to the road in front of the million rickshaws jostling for space. The narrow street leads to Jama Masjid. I cross shops selling invitation cards and bathroom taps at wholesale rates, sellers shouting out their wares, old men trying to pack up after a day’s hard work. A little boy almost crashed into me trying to run as fast his legs would carry him towards Jama Masjid, to make it in time for the prayer call.

Crowded street in front of Jama Masjid

Crowded street in front of Jama Masjid

It’s not easy to navigate the streets of Old Delhi but once you make it to the front of the Masjid, the incredible smells from every nearby shop leaves you gloriously hungry. A chef frying pieces of potatoes coated with semolina, a fruit seller chopping up melons, bananas and apples to keep plates ready in time, the dipping of the raw samosas into piping hot oil in a gigantic wok…

Heaps and heaps of sewai

Heaps and heaps of sewai

Iftar was scheduled at 7.25pm. As I waited in front of the Masjid, I saw families and friends buying dried fruits and bottled sherbets and the fried goods in bulk. Some had water bottles in their hands just in case they couldn’t manage to eat anything on time to break their fast.

Dried fruit sellers breaking their fast

Dried fruit sellers breaking their fast

The sun’s rays slowly gave way to dusk. The sky changed colours… from a pale blue, the minarets stood out against a fiery red, then burnt orange and finally, fairy lights lit up in the black darkness. It was time to eat.

As the prayer calls rang out, I saw many scramble up the stairs into the mosque. Most mosques serve free iftaar in the form of fruits and savouries. My friend and I made our way to the opposite alley from where the delicious smells tantilised me as I waited for her arrival. There was so much to choose from. We sat at Al-Jawahar, a really great eating joint for Mughlai food, and dug into the little fried goods and fruit platters. A nice refreshing rose flavoured sherbet with lime followed.

Few steps from the eatery we came across a shop selling Shahi Tukra, a mouthwatering sweet dish of bread dipped in syrup and dried fruits. We washed that down with cold almond milk as perspiration dripped down our backs.

Delicious hot fried goodness and fruits to break the fast

Delicious hot fried goodness and fruits to break the fast

“You have to eat the mutton samosa,” said Zubina excitedly. “They are just so good.” Unfortunately after a good half hour after iftaar began and wolfing down sweets like there was no tomorrow, the mutton samosas remained elusive. We have to leave something for the next time we go back after all!

Shahi tukda. Deliciously sweet

Shahi tukra. Deliciously sweet

Fairy lights light up Jama Masjid

Fairy lights light up Jama Masjid

The Carbonara conflict

I love a good Carbonara. Which is really weird because I despise runny yolks. I cannot, simply cannot stand eggs sunny-side up or a soft boiled egg on a Nicoise salad because the yolk runs and coats everything on the plate. But a good Carbonara is always an exception to the rule.

Carbonara’s heritage is really concocted. All agree that the dish originated in Rome; the how, however, has various versions. Some believe it was during WWII when American GIs took their ration of ham and eggs to Roman cooks to be made into a meal. Another theory is that this dish was a favourite among the Carbonaro (charcoal burners) and later gained popularity among the masses. Origins aside, the dish came into prominence post 1945 and has gained a tremendous fan following world wide.

When I visit an Italian restaurant for the first time, I always order their version of the simple yet tasty dish of pasta, eggs, cheese, black pepper and pancetta (some recipes advertise cream or creme fraiche). Based on how good it is, (and of course the portion size) I decide whether to go back or not. 

The Colony Bistro

I recently visited this bistro with my sister. We both love Italian food and when I found out that they had received a bar license, well, you can’t really stop a determined person can you. It’s located in the Amar Colony Market in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. You can choose to walk it from the Moolchand or Kailash Colony metro station or take a rickshaw for Rs30.

The bistro can seat more than 30 people at a go and also has a cute two-seater outdoor table, perfect for the evening. The music combination is interesting with Florence and the Machines, jazz and house. The white walls and deep brown furniture gives the place a nice feel.

So far so good. The menu offers a variety of Chinese, Lebanese, Italian and north Indian so we order a plate of onion rings, a peach iced tea and a beer pint to begin with. The beer always lives up to its promise but unfortunately the rings and iced tea didn’t. The batter had no salt and was soggy while the iced tea served up a lot of ice. Then came the mains. Full marks to their portion size but the Carbonara was not the way I like it. It is good for someone who likes a cheesy white sauce engulfing their spaghetti with crispy bacon bits but not for someone who looks forward to the yolk proudly displayed on top. 

I always like a simple Carbonara. Fry the bacon and add the al dente spaghetti to the pan. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites, black pepper and a LOT of Parmesan cheese. Taking the spaghetti and bacon pan away from the heat, add the eggy mixture so it coats each strand without curdling. As the sauce thickens, add a bit of the salty pasta water to loosen the mixture. Serve with the egg yolk on top, fresh Parmesan shavings and a bit of parsley. It’s THAT simple. 

My sister ordered a creamy cheese chicken served with spaghetti which was far better and worth the money. This bistro is famous for deserts and especially the Banoffee pie. The taste was excellent but unfortunately, the base had completely melted. Thus the cream too had begun to make a mess.

Personally, I would go back a second time. Instead of the Carbonara, I would try another cuisine because I enjoyed the over all ambiance. The music was enjoyable, there was not much delay between courses and the staff were courteous. Plus, their portion size is a big draw and it’s easier on the pockets (pocket pinch for two is approximately Rs1400) than going to a place like Hauz Khas village. But I definitely would steer clear of the Italian items on the menu card.

 

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