Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mumbai & Mango Cream Cake - Part I

I am sorry to be out of circulation for long but am back now... and I may have a story, recipe and pictures by the end of the post - so thats always a good sign!

I was away visiting family in Mumbai last week and had a wonderful and relaxing week - lots of eating happened - yummy food from Mahesh Lunch Home home delivered and sweet juicy alphonsos was the highlight for the foodie side of me. Catching up with family and friends was much needed!!!

Now that I am back in Delhi with two dozen alphonsos for the husband and myself I owe my blog at least a good mango recipe... I have been doing a lot of reading up on cakes and thougth about baking a Mango Cream for my son's half year b'day!

I am doing this post in parts coz I have a feeling I will forget the recipe or get involved in a million others things and won't end up finishing this post.

April 30th, 2009
10:30am
I decided to bake my son a Mango Cream Cake and I needed to get it ready by 30th night. I had an hour before my son woke up and not all the ingredients to bake a cake from scratch. Lucky me. I had a box of moist Vanilla Cake mix from Pillsbury's. I put all the ingredients together and popped the cake into the oven.

10:45am
I was all ready to have my son awake for his massage and bath routine and the cake would be ready in 30 minutes. Just as I was ready to pat my back and the lights went. Power cuts in Delhi is supposedly a regular feature but not having lived in Delhi long enough I just don't seem to take the situation in my stride as well as Delhites do and go about their routine as if nothing has happened. Anyways - the cake had baked for 5 mins. Waited 10 more mins and put the cake in the fridge - coz I didn't know when the power would be back and I didn't want to take a chance of running my oven on the invertor for fear of blowing the invertor. That would have left my son and me with no electricty at all.

12:00pm
Lights have come. Cake goes back in over. 30 minutes later I have a very very flat cake. Totally Expected.

12:30pm
My son's food is in the food processor and the very very flat cake is cooling on the rack.

1:45pm
I couldn't have slit the cake horizontally to make my original recipe so I have a couple of options. Make mango custard and do a regular sponge cake with custard topping. But have done a sponge and custard combo no. of times and nothing special about it.

3:25pm
Have tried to execute the brainwave I had. It will be out of the freezer at 7pm. If it's picture worthy and tastes good I shall have the recipe and pics up by the weekend! Please pray it comes out well...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fajitas - Indian Style



Aren't they days when you get up and feel like eating something yummy and cheezy for breakfast? And days when you are bored of eating eggs, pohas, upmas or what not for breakfast? Well this is for those days when you want to treat yourself without being too self-indulgent... and it's all put together in 5 mins with a few leftovers from last night's meal.
Since I am travelling to Mumbai in a couple of days I have been restraining myself from buying too many groceries since the weather in Delhi is not conducive to storing much even in the fridge (since the light goes all the time)! So when my husband said he wanted something 'light' and yummy for breakfast and was leaving in 15 mins and my son was in my lap demanding attention I asked my help if I had any veggies to make a veg chutney sandwich (Mumbai roadside food style...) but she said I didn't have anything much in the fridge. So, I rushed to the kitchen to see what I did have and saw some of last night roti's, left over salad, a few of my pasta sauces and cheeze and it suddenly all came together.
I took two rotis (indian flatbread) - on one side I spread some pasta sauce (Loyd Grossman's Tomato Chilli) and on the other one I spread a generous helping of pesto). I added a sprinkling of cheeze (my husband loves Amul cheeze but you can go with anything healthy or a bit of sharp cheddar), lemon squeezed diced tomatoes and onions from last night's salad and a dash of oregano and paprika. I then just closed them together like a sandwhich and toasted them on a non-stick pan in a bit of olive oil. And voila, my fajitas were ready!!!! They definitely tasted yummy coz before I could get a picture of my husband's fajita he had wolfed his down. I left mine on the gas too long since I was seeing him off and like you can see in the pics mine got a little burned.
This is such an easy to put together recipe that it can be used as appetizers or for brunch on a weekend if you want (and can add shreaded chicken, ham or salami bits to make it more sumptous). Instead of roti's you can use anything you favour naan, whole wheat fajita's etc. You can also experiment with the sauces and try anything you have at home - green chutney, chilli sauce, cheeze spread or what not. I used tomatoes and onions coz thats what I had - you can also add capsicum - red, green, yellow the more (color) the merrier! And this takes minutes to put together.
I have to end this post a little abrubtly since I can hear my son yelling for me in the background!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Oye Delhi! Delhi Oye! - The Kebab Story and Khan Market all mish-mashed

As promised I am back to give you an insider's view on the Delhi Food Scene. I Googled 'Best kebabs Delhi', 'Delhi kebabs' and a few more keywords around the same lines and it was very difficult to come up with a list of decent kebab places in South Delhi. The places I present to you are found out by word of mouth or chanced upon...Sure, these places have been covered in newspapers and magazines at some point of time but they aren't documented online - so unless you're in the habit of storing old papers and magazines, this guide may come in handy while visiting Delhi.


Dilliwala's may feel no visit to Delhi is complete without visiting Chandni Chowk, Bengali Market, Janpath, Sarojni Nagar et al but I feel no visit of mine to Delhi is complete without visiting Khan Market. Let me start by telling you a little about Khan Market - an upscale market in South Delhi where you see all the hoity-toity strutting their "stuff" (read: wearing designer shades (especially, in the night), dressed impeccably in starched cottons in the summer or crepes and silks in the winter, toting around their LV's, Gucci's, Fendi's or sporting their BMW's, Porche's - I think you get the picture). It is also always dotted by expats or people like you and me who land up there with a urge to satisfy their food pangs! Delhi is very brand conscious and generally people are always put together. You won't find the grungy look here except on campuses... Khan Market is full of expensive home stores, expensive designer & non-designer boutiques, jewellers, upscale grocers, gadget shops for the men, bookstores & imported magazines kiosks, kiddie stores and even a pet shop but most importantly it's a foodies delight!

It has not one but two outlets of the Big Chill Cafe (mentioned in an earlier blog of mine), a Barista or McDonald's for the less adventurous, Cafe Turtle and of course the ''best kebabs''. I think my kebab story got a little side-lined earlier but I am back on track and you cannot leave Delhi without visiting Khan Chacha's ("KC") or Salim's Kebabs ("SK")- I find them both equally good. The chicken tikka roll at KC's and malai tikka roll and mutton kakori roll at SK's are too die for. Mind you, you can go with just plate of kebab's also - but the rolls are just easier to eat and are perfect for people like me who cannot handle spices too well. The 'rolls' are actually kebab's, chutney and onions (perfect accompaniments for kebab's) wrapped in Indian bread. Also, please do not get put-off by the exteriors of KC's or SK's. Located in the middle lane of Khan Market, there is a stark difference between all the upscale places here and these kebab joints. They are both in a small garage like space with 6-8 men huddled inside wrapping, grilling and packing the kebabs. Since there is no sit down place outside (unless you consider the odd motorbike or cycle parked around a seat) people usually get rolls or kebabs to go but the smell of the food is so overwhelming that 90% of the time you will see them devouring into their food right outside the place! And yeah, do not expect less than a 15-20 minute wait at any of these places and if you reach around closing time you may not get your choice of kebab coz it's all gone by then!

I have to take a slight detour from Khan Market for a bit and mention that kebab's, especially the mutton kakori kebab at Al-Kauser (R.K. Puram) are really good and so are the mutton shammi's and chicken tandoori at the original Karim's branch in Vasant Kunj (now changed to Rahim's - the food is still great). Another place you should not pass the mutton shammi's at, is Wenger's - but again you should not miss any of the savouries at this pastry shop :)!

Back to Khan Market - there are a number of restaurants here to suit a variety of budgets and occasions and taste buds. There is Blanco for Italian, SideWok for Oriental (heard good things about this place), Chona's (all kinds of OK-ish food but good to hangout at), Chokola (have never liked this place personally or the service) but if you want to just chill and look at the world pass you by a must go place would be Cafe Turtle. This cafe is on the top flood of a bookstore and whether you are all alone and in the mood of a retrospective coffee and indulgent chocolate cake session or on a afternoon date with your husband / girlfriend's / boyfriend or in the mood of a healthy light lunch - this is the place to be! You can hide behind a book in their small cozy inside area or hang-out on the terrace outside and enjoy the view while sipping on your wheat grass cooler. I am not going to give you a food review here coz anything I've had off their menu is great. But this is an all veg eclectic cafe and not a let's hang-out and have a loud conversation over beers (no alcohol served here) kinda place.

I hope this will help anyone visiting Delhi or people who have lived here all their life and don't know about these joints. It's 7:00am and as I sign-off from of my article I realize - I am all energised from all the food talk to face another fun and working Sunday (my baby bottles are sterilized and my son is all ready to get up and play, I have my menu for the day planned and as usual I am running on under 6 hours of sleep...).

Monday, April 6, 2009

Strawberry & Mascarpone on the Sponge...

This was an impromptu dessert to celebrate my son's monthly birthday. We hadn't gotten around to cutting a cake or celebrating his monthly Birthday on the 1st and I wanted to do something special for him over the weekend! We had a late Friday night and was up with my alarm clock (read: my son) at 6:30am.

I wanted a quick dessert completed within an hour before my boys woke up and demanded my attention... Delhi has become really really hot suddenly and I wanted to do something light and fluffy and fruity! I dug out a box of ready cake mix - moist vanilla cake flavor (Pillsbury). I thought I will bake a cake and add some fresh fruit and cream to it and voila my dessert would be ready.

I baked the cake according to the instructions and being a novice baker made added some Mascarpone cheese to the batter and baked it too much and instead of a white fluffy cake I found a flat bread like looking thing in my cake tin.

Anyways here goes the recipe:

Bake cake according to instructions on the box and add one yolk less and 2-3 tbsp Mascarpone cheese to the batter. Bake for 5-7 minutes less than what is mentioned on the box and let cake cool.

I then took equal parts Mascarpone cheese and heavy cream and whipped it together till slightly stiff with 1 tbsp Castor sugar and left it in the fridge (since it was too hot to leave it outside...). While the cake was cooling I ran to my "fruitwalla" and got a box of the most luscious looking strawberries to add to my dessert because I couldn't think of anything better than the bright blood red berries to offset the whiteness of the cake and cream...

If your cake rises nicely unlike mine then slice it from the middle and add 1/4 of the cream mixture and strawberries (cut into small bite sized pieces) and sandwich the two cakes together. Then take the remaining cream mixture and coat the cake on the outside and decorate with strawberries cut into halves.

That was my original idea which didn't pan out quite well... so this is what I did with my dessert:



I tried to slice my cake but that didn't turn out quite well so I cut out small round cakes from my big cake (using a sharp edged bowl). I then pretty much stuck to my original idea and used the marcarpone and cream mixture to sandwich together the cake and strawberries (as seen in the picture and I put the remnants of the cake I put them in glasses - alternating layers of cake, cream and strawberry's and topped it with a dollop of cream.
Despite my disastrous cake the end result turned out to be great. the mascarpone cheese in the cake gave it a a very soft texture dipped in syrup kinda texture and noone can really go wrong with strawberry's and cream!!!!
The dessert won me rave reviews from my in-laws and husband and he actually proclaimed it my best dessert ever! I wish the pictures could do justice to the taste but you will just have to take my word for it.
Till next time....

Thursday, April 2, 2009

(Healthy) Butter Chicken

Indian cooking is done from the heart and I don't think measuring spices and quantities to the 't' can give you the perfect end result - so you can slack a bit on the measurements I have mentioned and keep tasting the gravy to make it your liking. Good indian gravies always smell as nice as they taste so if you start getting a wierd whiff of anything, stop and take a step back. Taste your gravy and see what's gone wrong with it. Also, I have never been able to stick to the original recipe of any cookbook coz the personal touch you add to the recipe will give it it's unique flavor.

Indian cooking as most people know also gives also a dense heady aroma of spices so I like to prepapre my dishes in advance so I don't smell like the dish. I remember my rommie in NY would get a bit annoyed when I cooked in our small apartment coz she felt her coats would smell of the dish I had cooked (as you can guess her coat stand was right next to our open kitchen)! You need a nice big ventilated kitchen to be able to cook gravy and curry dishes and always switch on your exhaust!

My recipe for the butter chicken follows. Feel free to email me for any clarifications... and pictures will follow soon. I don't think I should bother being apologetic about not getting pictures up soon enough because a baby at home keeps my hands rather full. It seems like a rather long list of ingredients but don't get daunted!

Ingredients:

500gm boneless & skinless chicken breasts – cut into bite sized pieces

Marinade

3-4 cups yogurt / curd (hang in muslin cloth for 30 mins) – Use 1 cup for marinade and 1 cup for gravy. Squeeze as much water out of yougurt as you can before removing from muslin cloth.
2tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2tbsp any tandoori chicken masala (Recommended: Roopak’s Chicken Mughlai Masala)
1 pinch turmeric powder
Pinch of salt

Chicken Makhani Gravy
2-3 tbsp oil, 1 bay leaf (tej patta), 1tsp dry fenugreek leaves (kassori methi), 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, 1 tbsp sauted onion paste*, 1-2 whole dried red chili (kashimir mirch)
5-6 medium sized tomatoes blanched, peeled and pureed
1/2 cup tomato puree (ready-made)
2 tbsp cashewnuts (soaked in hot water, drained and ground into a fine paste)
1 cup milk
1 tbsp cream for garnishing
1tsp garam masala, ½ tsp red chili powder and ½ tsp dried coriander powder (optional)
¼ tsp sugar
Salt as per taste
1tbsp tandoori chicken masala (same as marinade)

Method:

There is prepration required to make this dish but if you plan a bit in advance you can prepare this in 30 minutes. It tastes great and is always great to have on the menu when tertaining and it isn’t too heavy on the waist. This can be made with chicken on the bone too but I prefer this with boneless chicken breasts.

Wash the chicken. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a big bowl. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge. (The chicken can be marinated overnight also).

Take a heavy bottom non-stick pan or non-stick pressure cooker. Add the oil – let it heat. Add the bay leave and stir for a couple of seconds. Now, put the sauted onion paste, ginger-garlic paste and red chili into your utensil of choice and saute for a couple of minutes. At this point I also add all the dry spices - garam masala, tandoori chicken masala, coriander poweder and fenugreek leaves and saute this further for a couple of seconds.

Add all the pureed tomatoes (first fresh and then ready-made) and sugar and cook till the oil starts separating from this mixture and the color turns slightly brownish.

Now spoon in the prepared cashewnut paste and stir for a few minutes till it has completely mixed in the gravy. Add about ½ a cup of water or keep adding more till you get a slightly thich gravy / curry.

Add the marinated chicken, 1/2 of the remaining hung yogurt and simmer till the excess water given off by the yogurt has evapourated and the chicken is almost cooked. Add salt to taste. Give this a whistle if cooking in the pressure cooker or simmer and cover utensil till chicken is cooked if using a heavy bottom pan. Incase you feel the gravy is not creamy enough - add the remaining yogurt.

Add the milk and keep stirring slowly and bring to boil. At this point do taste your curry and see how it tastes and tinker with it a bit to refine it! Remember to not overcook the chicken since the chicken breasts can become a bit chewy if they are.

Garnish with swirls of cream and enjoy!

TIPS:

If it’s too spicy and thick – you can a couple of tsps of milk and simmer it.
If your gravy is not creamy enough or it’s too spicy – you can a tbsp of yogurt.
If the spice level is a bit on the lower side – you can add more of the tandoori masala.
* I always keep a paste of well sauted (browned) onions in my kitchen and use it in all my gravy dishes. Instead of the sauted onion paste you can use a small finely chopped onion. After sauteing it - do puree it otherwise there will be onion pieces floating in the gravy. You can also elimitae the onion paste - but I think it adds flavor, color and a nice earthy taste to the makhani gravy.
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