Monday, February 28, 2011
Once we get past the piping hot teas and hot chocolates of January and before the cool summer drinks kick in, my mother makes kanji. Spring is the time when purple carrots, the color of beets, come into season. Between February and March, a clay pot (called a ghada back home) is filled with kanji, the drink constantly replenished with a fresh batch as the previous one runs out. We drink it whenever we pass through the kitchen, even though the tangy kanji gives us a sore throat. It's that delicious!
I'm going to give you my mother's recipe, but please tweak it if it doesn't work for you. Mom never measures anything and these are simply best estimates.
First, find yourself a clay or ceramic pot with at least a 3 liter capacity. A glass jar will do in a pinch. Peel half a kilo of purple carrots and cut them into one inch long batons. Drop these into your jar with 2 liter water. Coarsely grind 2 tbsp of brown mustard seeds and add them to the mix alongwith 2 tbsp salt and 1/2 tsp red chilli powder. Mix well, then set it aside for 3-4 days, stirring up the mixture once a day. By the end of the 4 day resting period, the water will take the color from the carrots and the tang from the mustard. And the carrots are delicious enough to eat too.
Friday, February 25, 2011
You have lasagna sheets at home but you don't want anything drenched in sauce and drowning in cheese. Instead, you are craving cannelloni in butter sauce. So here's what you do.
You pick three lasagna sheets and set them to boil in plenty of water. In the 10-12 minutes they will take to boil (follow your package directions here), you make your spinach and ricotta filling. Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped spinach and 1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions (just the green bits). Cook, stirring constantly until all the moisture your spinach exuded evaporates. Add salt and black pepper, turn off the heat and mix in 2 tbsp crumbled paneer or ricotta cheese.
Now drain your lasagna sheets and cut them all in half to get even squares. Place a tablespoon of your filling along the side of one of the squares and roll to form a tube. Just repeat the process for the other five and that's your cannelloni.
I was in a no-sauce mood so I then heated 2 tbsp of butter in a pan. Once it melted and started to brown, I dropped in a handful of basil leaves. Arranged my cannelloni on top of this and as they started to sear, i topped them off with grated parmesan and some more basil.
And then, because it was just me, I ate them straight out of the pan. It might be a lovely effect even for company - just try it once!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
This isn't the best cake there is. But when you get that craving for chocolate cake in the middle of the night, or you want to eat cake in the next five minutes, a microwave is the way to go.
With microwave cakes, the texture tends to be denser than a regular cake, more like a pudding. But Stefani, of cupcake project fame, added some extra zing with her chocolate spice cupcakes.
Designed to make just two cupcakes, this is a recipe perfect for those sudden cravings. It's also got cinnamon and ginger and allspice to give your chocolate a kick.
Stefani dressed her cupcakes with whipped cream but since I'm not likely to have any around, I dipped mine in some melted chocolate and topped them with silver balls. Remember that this is not tempered chocolate so you should dip your cupcakes just before you are ready to eat them. But then, that's why you'd make these in the first place, right!
Sunday, February 13, 2011
My first brush with risotto of any kind was a red pepper risotto. That was many years ago; my boss took me and a colleague out for lunch. Can't quite remember what the occasion was, but it must have been a big deal because we didn't go to fancy places that often back in time. I'd read about risottos, had no idea what they looked like, so of course that's what I ordered.
Except what showed up was rice in tomato sauce with tons of chili. It was so spicy that no one could have eaten it. But I put a brave face on and kept on nibbling at it. I now wonder why (I was a big one for keeping up appearances back then). That was until a fellow diner asked to taste it and pronounced it inedible.
Soon thereafter, I discovered the creamy, mushroom and cheese laden risottos and the tomato version dropped off the radar. It resurfaced some 3 years back in Goa, when I ordered tomato and garlic risotto as my comfort meal after a day spent at the beaches and an evening at Goa's popular nightspots. It hit home with the right blend of flavors, and I've been craving the taste ever since.
So that's what this risotto is - recreated from the memories of that dinner in Goa. I couldn't find a recipe to fit what I was looking for so I created a variation on my pasta recipe.
First off, chop two tomatoes and half of a small red pepper. Put this in a blender with a tsp of dried oregano. Defrost 1 1/2 cup of mushroom stock sitting in your freezer and pour 1/4 cup into the blender. Blend everything to a smooth paste.
Separately, chop one small onion finely. Peel and mince 2-3 garlic cloves. Heat the stock and bring it to a simmer.
Pour a tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic, followed a few seconds later by onion. Stir for a minute, then add 1/2 cup arborio rice. Stir to coat the rice with oil. At this stage of risotto making, I usually add white wine. But I didn't have any in the fridge today, so I added 1/4 cup of red wine instead. Stir it around until it all evaporates, then add the tomato and pepper paste. Let it cook, stirring often. A few minutes later, add a ladleful of stock. Keep adding more stock, a little at a time as the previous additions get absorbed.
Start checking your rice after 15 minutes or so before you add any more stock. You are looking for rice to get cooked but still retain a little bite. When the rice is done, add a tbsp of butter, mix it in and take the risotto off the heat. Top with basil cut into thin strips and a sprinkle of parmesan, or any cheese you like.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Some time back, Harini and I decided to have a foodies day out - she came over to my place and we had fun talking and eating all day. Harini's post on the day just came out so you might want to head over and read all about it.