Sunday, July 24, 2011

French Toast

Another dish which holds fond memories of my childhood is of Dad making us breakfast on a Sunday. Dad still makes the best French toast - gently soaking the bread in a custard mixture of egg, milk and sugar and then shallow frying it on a griddle till is golden brown.

I now make it for myself and lately for my daughter who has come to enjoy it -especially when she heard the story of how her Thatha used to make it for me. Everytime she eats it though, she stoutly insists that "Your French Toast is the best, Amma!" And so the story continues.

There's really not much to actually warrant a recipe - one egg, about 1 cup of warm milk and 5 tbsp of sugar.

1.Dissolve the sugar in the milk and then lightly beat the egg into it. Pour the egg milk mixture onto a shallow dish.

2. Heat a heavy non stick skillet and melt some butter in it (about a tsp per slice of bread).

3.Dip a bread slice into the milk and soak for about 30-40 seconds before turning and soaking again. Gently moisten the edges as well and then cook on the hot skillet on a medium flame turning till each side is golden brown.

Masala French Toast

This was my adaptation of French Toast for hubby who can't abide by sweet things for breakfast - I myself don't like sweet stuff in the morning - French Toast is the exception.

Replace the sugar with a mixture of salt and green chilli-coriander paste. (Grind 2 green chillies with a a cup of cleaned coriander). Go through steps 2 and 3 as above.

Fried Cheese Sarnies

A recipe I found in a 2002 edition of Good Housekeeping magazine and have tried a couple of times as part of brunch.Very decadent, though savoury.

Bread - 8 slices - crust removed,
Eggs - 2
Mozarella cheese - 4 slices. (mozarella melts well, but you could use cheddar)
olive oil

1. Put a slice of cheese between 2 pieces of bread and cut diagonally into a sandwich.
2. Mix the eggs with salt and put into a large shallow bowl and beat. Add the sandwiches and leave them to soak for 30 minutes, turning them once over, halfway through.
3. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan, press the edges of the sandwich firmly together and fry till golden brown.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Mistress of Time - Of Chalks and Chopsticks

 Manisha, or Manu as she seemed to be called by everyone around her, was a fast worker. She prided herself on how efficient she was and how she was able to accomplish the working woman’s dream in Mumbai – wife, mother, ad executive, party hostess – superwoman. Wasn’t that what everyone wanted? To be appreciated for their skills in time management? Or so it seemed.
 Because that’s all it had come down to it– bundling her life into neat time slots that could be fitted around her busy schedule – there was the doting mother slot where she had to make sure there was enough space for PTMs, birthday party return gift shopping, THE birthday party planning, homework assignments, assembly day costume one upmanship, actual mother daughter and family bonding on weekends, crazy morning routines and evening end-of-the day winding down (which only seemed to wind everyone up).  Then there was the socializing pigeon hole – one for hospitals/condolences and another celebratory. The Ms Fix-It who seemed to have a laundry list of things to do around the house – which is not to say she actually did all of it, but even getting her husband off the couch and to the shops was a chore.
Not to say that Satish was a chauvinist – he most enthusiastically pitched in from shopping trips for upholstery to choosing the “correct” frame for pictures from the last holiday. His booming voice and strident opinion resonated around Fab India’s walls as he took one last look a the sofa material before declaring all of them too “dull” for their living room. 8 year old Kanya followed suit – ever her father’s daughter.
But the laundry list only churned through Manu’s brain – at 5am on a Sunday morning when there was no need for her to be awake. So, one compressed ones life into manageable parcels of time and tried to live from one to the other – which reminded her that the fish parcels for paturi needed to be marinated for lunch. She would tell Bharati her cook to do that when she came in – she actually felt like having patrani machhi but the Bengali steamed version paturi, was the recipe B was familiar with, having imported it from the previous household she worked in, and it wouldn’t do to have things changed around when she was expecting company.
She had to take care of other things – things that coukdn’t be outsourced - flowers, place settings, Hindi dictation practice, a belated birthday gift for one of the visiting couple’s children  since she knew she loved books and while she was at it, looking for the Jhumpa Lahiri book for Remya in her own library, because she had been meaning to send her that for sometime now – they had the most wonderful discussions after these shared book reads and she quite looked forward to them.

But suddenly she felt it gnawing away at her – she felt like eating patrani machhi – just the way it to used be made in the Khambatta home while growing up – a special occasion treat; not a bhonu but at least a "90 in English". It wasn’t even difficult to make as compared to the paturi – just a different marinade and to suit her liking she used to retain the mustard from the paturi and omit the coriander from the machhi. She decided then she wasn’t going to allow herself to be slotted like this, it was definitely taking over from her first love – cooking. She was doing things in the kitchen which could more and more be “delegated”. Not what she felt like cooking or eating. Like today; she decided then that she wouldn’t do that -  she was going to make Parsi food – Satish could give a Hindi dictation exercise as well as she could, if she could let go of  paturi then she could let go of dictation.

So she woke up that Sunday morning feeling refreshed at the internal decision she seemed to have reached and Satish wondered at the smile which played around her lips as she shook out her wet hair - well Sunday meant an oiling followed by a shampoo – now that was many years of conditioning, nothing to do with slotting, so she couldn’t possibly break that routine could she? When else would she get an hour for her to oil her hair and Satish’s and then wash it off with enough time to dry without having to go out in the interim? Sigh, what a time tyrant she had become!

Satish grumbled good naturedly but went out to buy mutton, pleased at the thought of them cooking dhansak together – another Parsi dish which was made from goat meat and lentils cooked down into a stew. It used to be his speciality when they were newly married but he had stopped making it since he was now supposed to spend quality time with the family. Now he hummed at the thought of all that unstructured time creating something which would feed their friends and bring cheer to the table. Some potato cutlets and cucumber salad on the side and they would be done.
Manu quickly turned the marinade around, wrapped the fish fillets in banana leaves and kept them ready for the steamer. These simple ingredients came together in such a flavourful preparation, they belied the time spent on them – just showcased her skill in the kitchen. And the little time she spent brought her that familiar sense of satisfaction which she had been missing.  No longer the time slave.

This is my first entry to Of Chalks and Chopsticks -the event started by Aqua and is being hosted by DesiSoccerMom this time.- in fact my first entry to any food fiction blogging event. I have been enjoying the tales being spun (now mostly by the trio of J,Sra and S). I spent about a couple of hours start to finish so not sure how polisehd this is - but thats all the time and energy I have while I recuperate. But I do have the creative energy now for a tale, so that may not be a bad thing.
And this is the recipe for Patrani Macchhi - get out there and do what you want, your umpteen chores will wait. They did while joined a friend in February on a trip to a jungle lodge in Madhya Pradesh and taught the local chefs out there some of our favourite recipes as well as some solid menu plans they could use with locally available produce. This is R's favourite recipe for steamed fish and we made it for lunch that day.

Pomfret fillets (deboned) - cleaned about 10-12
Coconut - 1 cup grated
Green chillies - 3-4
Mustard seeds - soaked in a little water - 2 tbsp
sugar - 1 tsp
salt to taste
lime juice - 1 tbsp
1/2 tbsp oil
(the original recipe does not have mustard which only paturi has, but this is changed to omit the coriander leaves in the original and substitute with mustard - so its different from Mrs Khambatta's home, but makes it all of an original.
1. Grind all marinade ingredients to a smooth paste and marinate the fish fillets in it for about 15 minutes or till ready to steam.
2. Oil individual banana leaf pieces and wrap the fish fillets in them, securing them with toothpicks.  Then steam for about 20 -25 minutes till the fish is cooked but still moist and just flaking.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kozhi Curry - Tamil Homestyle Chicken Curry

There seem to be so many ways to prepare a chicken curry - even in just one home. We generally like the South Indian style spicy curries - either tamarind or coconut based. Like this one here which has become a real favourite at home now - a real crowd pleaser. 

This one is similar in the sense it has khus khus (poppy) which imparts a slight creaminess, but there the similarity ends. It has saunf (fennel seeds) in it and that makes it taste quite different. Its actually more of a kozhambu style chicken curry and has the robustness of the whole spices which have been ground into it. It also makes it a little coarser in texture. It has coconut and tamarind and is a recipe I have grown comfortable with since I don't have to refer to any proportions - its how I makes these vegetarian kozhambus, for the most part, with coconut and khus khus in this one, added to temper it down - so its not as brown as a traditional kozhambu.

We like to have it with rice, but it goes well with rotis as well. Serve it with a stir fry of okra or a similar green vegetable.

Kozhi Curry - Tamil Homestyle Chicken Curry

500gm chicken cut into 8 pieces, marinated in
- 1/2 tsp turmeric (haldi)
- 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tbsp yoghurt

- Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
- Fenugreek seeds(methi) - 1/2 tsp
- Fennel seeds (saunf) - 1 tsp
- Curry leaves (karipatta) - a handful

Masala paste: Roast all ingredients together and grind to a paste with a little water.
- 6 dried red chillies
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds (dhania)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
- 1 tsp khus khus (poppy seeds)
- 3-4 fenugreek seeds (methis)
- 1/2 cup grated coconut

Tamarind Pulp - 1/2 cup
Onion - 1 sliced
Tomato - chopped into 6 pieces
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

1. Heat oil, add tempering ingredients (once the mustard pops, add the other ingredients)
2. Saute onions and then add marinated chicken and fry on high for 5 min browning on all sides.
3. Add the tomatoes, spice paste and salt and fry for another 3 minutes.
4. Add tamarind pulp, 2 cups of water and bring to boil. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or till the chicken is tender and cooked.
5. Check seasoning and add more water if required and simmer for another 5 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Insalata Caprese

This is a beautiful salad - Toninos on M G Road makes a lovely one - this is the first time I made it at home. Simple and delicious. Tomatoes, Mozarella Cheese, crushed pepper, salt, extra virgin olive oil and parsley (should have been basil leaves but didn't find any). Less than 5 ingredients to Nirvana

Basically, just slice and layer the tomatoes and the mozarella and then drizzle the olive oil, season and garnish with herbs. The important thing is to use really fresh and good quality ingredients - so the tomatoes should be nice and juicy, some nice mozarella and extra virgin olive oil.