Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Single Lady Pancake



I stole the title from Joy the Baker. For this title was what made me bookmark this recipe, then go back to look at it last few weeks and finally make a dinner of it tonight. Because even recipes with a single egg yield enough pancakes to feed crowds, Joy's recipe omits the egg and yet comes up with a fluffy pancake.

The best pancake I've ever eaten, in fact. I omitted bananas and chocolate chips in favor of the only fruit heaven made for pancakes - fresh blueberries. Then I topped my pancake with vanilla pastry cream and blackcurrant coulis. And now I am headed to a dream world. You head to Joy's for the recipe, and make this for breakfast tomorrow!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Green Vegetable Hakka



You know I love Indo-Chinese. But I have several complaints against the generic hakka noodles sold at all these places. I don't like cabbage, I can't stand capsicum and I wish they wouldn't put any carrots in my noodles. And while we are it, couldn't they cut the noodles a little shorter so I'm not twirling them on my fork forever.

I guess no one else's gonna make their noodles to suit my preference, so I ended up making my own. And for the first time, thanks to ecurry, I got noodles that are a pretty close approximation of the neighborhood Chinese joint. I, of course, skipped the vegetables in the original recipe and went for spinach, broccoli and asparagus. For everything else, look at the original version.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Bombay Grill



Bombay's street foods come in more shapes than one. In a hurry, buy a vada pao on your way out of the station. On the beach, stick to the pao bhaji or the icy gola. But when you need comfort food, something hot and buttery and filling, its the grilled sandwich.

Since all it takes is some bread and vegetables and a hand held grill, you will see grilled sandwich stalls at every corner. But I take you to the best there is : the sandwich wallah in Santacruz. This is college street, next to Mithibai and NM Colleges, the place where countless students come for succor.

Can't make it here and want to create your own Bombay Grill? Here's the lowdown on everyone's favorite sandwich. First, you need Wibs White Sandwich Bread. It can't be any other brand, they never ever use anything else. Unless you count that Britannia loaf, a concession to those health freaks looking for brown bread. But you want healthy, you should look elsewhere - this bread just got doused with a liberal layer of Amul butter.

The fillings are always the same. A generous dose of cilantro chutney, then layers of boiled potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and capsicum. Sprinkle of spicy, tangy chaat masala. Cheese is optional and carries an extra charge.

A small shack will then put everything in a small handheld toaster. This big swanky one has two actual grills to make you a perfect sandwich. A few minutes to get it browned, then your sandwich gets plonked on one of those paper plates up there. Finish it with a splash of ketchup on the side and a small pile of thin, greasy potato chips for the real Bombay experience.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Indigo Challenge : Gnocchi in Leek Cream

What's the deal : I am cooking my way through the dinner menu of Indigo restaurant. These are not Indigo recipes; I haven't eaten or even seen any of these dishes. This is my interpretation based only on the name of the dish.

Indigo menu says: Chive Gnocchi Leek Saffron Cream



Gnocchi, a name that terrifies most Italian cooks. Easy recipe that's extremely hard to get right, gnocchi has been the undoing of several good Italian restaurants for me. Traditionally made with potatoes, gnocchi should be light and flavorful. You wish! The ones I've had so far have been heavy and not worth it. But then, a few months back, the daring cooks did a ricotta gnocchi. Even first time gnocchi makers were all praises, so that's the one I decided to do.

If life was so easy...I've been unable to buy chives anywhere this past month. So, instead of going on looking, I decided to replace it with sage. Oh! and there's no saffron. Nor is there likely to be any saffron in any other dish calling for it. Call it blasphemy, but I just can't stand the smell of saffron.

I'm glad we got all these changes sorted so I can now tell you about one of the best dishes I've ever cooked.

First the gnocchi. You buy or make 110 grams of ricotta. I bought paneer and then wrapped it in cheesecloth overnight to drain away any excess moisture. A day later, I mashed this cheese until it was very smooth. Lightly beat a cold egg and add half of it to the cheese (that's the peril of doing 1/4th of a recipe; it invariably calls for half eggs!). Mix well. In a small saucepan, melt a tsp of butter. Finely chop 4-5 sage leaves, add to melted butter, then add the whole thing to the ricotta egg mixture. Now add 2 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt. Beat until everything's mixed together into a nice fluffy batter.

Make a bed of flour in a shallow bowl. Using a spoon, scoop out roughly 2 tsp of batter and drop it into the flour. Coat the gnocchi with flour, then gently roll it to make an oval. My batter gave me 10 gnocchi which went into the fridge for half an hour.

Right around this time, start making your leek cream sauce. First, wash and clean a leek. Chop the white and the light green parts finely. Heat a tbsp of butter, add the leeks and let them soften for a minute or two. Remove a tsp of these leeks for garnish and let others cook a little bit more. Add 1/4 cup wine and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then let the leeks simmer until the wine and water are almost all absorbed.

At this stage, boil a pot of water and salt it. Once it is simmering, drop in the gnocchi. They will sink, then pop back up. From this point, you cook them for 4-5 minutes until they are just firm. They will also get to about double the size from where they started. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon.

Back to the sauce. Add 2 tbsp cream to the leeks. Once it is heated through and about to come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Add salt, pepper and herbs de provence. Mix well and pour your sauce in your serving dish. Arrange the gnocchi and garnish with the reserved leeks.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

A couple of years back, my friend sent me a mail. "This woman dumped the guy a day before their wedding because he wanted to get rid of her books. You HAVE to read this!". That evening, I went to my neighborhood bookstore and made my first acquaintance with the residents of Guernsey Islands. And not just any residents, these were the people who had just been through several years of German occupation and were now just getting used to living their lives again. It's 1946, and one of these people gets writing to our heroine, author of several books and living in London.

From then on, the lives of Juliet and the people of Guernsey intertwine. What the book manages to do, in a series of letters (for that's how it's written from start to end), is bring the war closer to our lives. It talks of soldiers and the people of the captured island not as enemies, but as humans who each have been given a role to play.

I don't say this often, but as I read this book the third time for this month's edition of This Book Makes Me Cook, I had to say this : if you only read 5 books in your life, make this one of them.

Because the book talks so much of food shortage and rationing in World War II, I went back and looked for those recipes. No eggs, no butter, no sugar and very little meat - indeed the people had to adapt to cook with what they had. And what they had plenty of at the time was root vegetables. There are recipes galore using carrots, onions and potatoes instead of whatever the dish called for. Of these clever adaptations, I picked the eggless mayonnaise, made with a cooked potato instead.



To make this mayonnaise, boil a small potato. Peel it and mash half of it. You can save the rest for something else. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tbsp vinegar. Beat well with a fork; then start to add olive oil in a drizzle, beating it as you go. You would probably need 1/3 cup of oil by the time it reaches the consistency and flavor of mayonnaise.

Is it as good as the real thing? Well, no but if I were stuck with no eggs, I think this will come pretty close!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The One Ingredient Icecream

Do you routinely buy bananas and then leave them to brown on the counter. Then, not knowing what to do, someone like me would throw them away. But one day I was reading a food blog and it insisted I could convert these bananas into icecream. I know, I didn't believe it either.

But I had them up for slaughter anyway and it didn't seem like any effort. So I peeled a couple of bananas and sliced them thinly. Off these went to the freezer for a few hours. Once frozen, I put them in the blender and they went from being frozen bananas to a soft creamy icecream. The transformation is so unbelievable you have to do it yourself or you will think it will never happen.

No dairy, no added sugar - if you are in the game for guilt free icecreams, this is for you!