Tomato and Basil Garden Bake

Dear cousins!

Its been quite long that we all have written letters to each other through this blog…but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been in touch with each other. My recent visit to India and the numerous messages exchanged via chat portals filled the time between my last post and this.  So someone will ask us now, why continue the silsila of letters again?? To that I would happily answer, I MISS MY FOOD TALK!!! Its not that we have stopped cooking, eating or travelling in the last 1.5 month; we just couldn’t catch up with our food blog.  Now I feel that I must apologise to our food and travel Blog for abandoning it like an orphan…Niloy has been making me feel guilty for quite some time now about this, but when last night I received a mail from Facebook saying, ‘You haven’t visited your Curry Cousins Page for some time’ the guilt reached another level…(I actually freaked out considering how much these sites and search engines know about us!! It reminded me of a discussion that I used to have with my friends like Chandni, Smaran, Ali and Mubbashira that in today’s world, someone is always watching….).

Anyways, coming back to my topic, let me start the writing again with a delicious yet very simple garden bake. One cold evening, when Niloy was away for an office party,  I suddenly had a craving for cheese…I ended up making this with whatever was left in the fridge!!!

Tomato and Basil Garden Bake

Tomato and Basil Garden Bake

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Braised Bacon and Silverbeet with Gratin Dauphinoise

Hello loves!

Where are you guys? You both have been too silent lately…tremendously busy, eh? But I have again started my cooking spree 🙂 and the latest was Braised Bacon and Silverbeet with Gratin Dauphinoise.  I learned about Silverbeet first from my German family, the Oppolds – Erik, Alexa, Leo and Marta (an awesome bunch of foodies who not only adopted me in their love-filled household but also introduced me to the German Cuisine and many new vegetables/herbs).  With a taste somewhat similar to spinach,  it belongs to the beetroot family and has highly nutritious leaves.  Do you know about this leafy veggie? Do you think any of the saags that we get in India, resembles this?  The Gratin Dauphinoise is a French dish that uses the technique of baking or broiling ingredients topped with cheese, butter or breadcrumbs till a golden crust develops.  It was created in the French region of Dauphiné where thinly sliced potatoes were layered with milk, cream, cheese and herbs in a garlic rubbed dish. Now you would ask how is it different from a Potato Au Gratin.  The difference lies in the fact that the latter has breadcrumbs in it and is a bit softer/mushier than the former which is more crusty on the top due to the cheese.  Besides gratins are made in deep pie dishes or casseroles where as a Dauphinoise only has 2-3 layers and can be cut into pieces to be served as savory.

Without much ado, I will proceed with the recipes ample for 4 people.

Braised Bacon and Silverbeet with Gratin Dauphinoise

Braised Bacon and Silverbeet

250gms Bacon Rashers/cubes

500 gms Silverbeet or any green leafy vegetable that can be cooked like savoy cabbage

100 gms Sour Cream or 2 tbsp sour curd mixed with 2 tbsp cream

2-3 pinch of Nutmeg powder

1 large Onion

2 cloves of Garlic

Salt and black pepper to taste

First, wash and chop the silverbeet. In a pan, throw in the bacon and saute till crispy and golden brown.  You don’t need to put oil in the pan as the bacon itself releases a lot of fat.  Add in chopped onions and garlic. When the onions have softened, add the chopped silverbeet, 1 tsp of salt and cover to cook on  medium heat.  Please be careful while using the salt in this as the bacon is already salty.  Once the leaves are cooked till a point that some crunch is left, add the sour cream, black pepper and the nutmeg powder. Stir well for 2-3 minutes, check the seasoning and take off the flame.

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Gratin Dauphinoise

4 big Potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices

1 shallot or 1/2 red onion finely chopped

1 big clove of Garlic (bruised)

Few Thyme sprigs

1 cup milk

1 tbsp cream

3/4 cup Grated Cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, pour in the milk, the cream, thyme and onion/shallots.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Take a shallow baking tin/dish, brush it with the bruised garlic thoroughly and put a layer of the potato slices (retain the large and well cut slices for the top layer).  With a ladle, pour half of the milk mixture over the potatoes, enough to cover them.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper and half of the cheese. Top this with another layer of potato slices, and the milk mix.  Then bake at 160 degrees in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes or till a fork goes smoothly through the potato layers.  The milk would start curdling and you may think that you would be left with a mushy bake. But don’t worry, take the dish out, sprinkle it with rest of the cheese and bake for another 15 minutes or till the whole thing is set and the top looks crusty and golden brown!!

Arrange the Braised Bacon and Silverbeet on a plate, cut a piece of the dauphinoise (didi you can present it in a better way I think) and serve with bread or fresh salad.  It is not necessary to combine these two elements…so one can try new combinations..like Silverbeet/Gratin Dauphinoise with a lovely fish fillet or a chicken steak.  One can also cook a vegetarian version of Silverbeet by adding mushrooms or ricotta/cottage cheese, just like our Palak Paneer 🙂

Write back both of you, missing the chatter 😦

Love,

Dakhina

Shrimp and Salmon Bake with Asparagus – A Fishy Cassoulet!

Dear Daibi and Didi,

The three of us are known everywhere for being “avid fish lovers”..isn’t it? Just like other fellow Bengalis, the three of us drool at the mere mention of the word fish, right? Heheheee….our friends who read this would know for sure that am lying.  When it comes to fish, we are ‘Fraud Bengalis’ as the sight and smell of fish is enough for us to throw our hands up in the air and call for a hunger strike, saying, ‘Cholbe na cholbe na’ which in English means, it will not be tolerated (though that never worked with our parents as they would still stuff the large Rui or Katla fish pieces down our throats).  As a child I loved fish, Ma still tells me that I used to happily polish off a whole fish head back then…but I guess growing up with you two fish haters, I too switched over.  Then when I moved to Europe, I realised that genetically modified chicken tasted bad and it wasn’t the best way to complete my protein intake.  Being a student, limited my finances, hence I could’t afford the organic stuff either. This made me turn to fish and eggs (I hated both of them).  I began to eat cans of tuna or herrings or sardines and even smoked salmon, anchovies and caviar (a continental chef would sue me for saying this, but I would still say, by themselves these things STINK!!!!).  My all time high was when Baba, a true fish lover, could not eat raw fresh herring in Amsterdam whereas I ate it without any qualms! I even fell in love with the different forms of Sushi and finally came to the conclusion that ‘pheesh runs in my blaad too’ :).

Till now I have cooked with tuna and sardines (have even turned them into divine Indian curries and koftas), but never with salmon.  I am finally beginning to do so and Niloy, who is another fish lover, has complimented each of my experiments.  I must say that I got the general idea of this particular dish from the Masterchef Australia 4 series, and thought it was unique.  But then I read about Cassoulet – a traditional dish from south of France made with haricot beans and meat topped with crunchy bread cubes – and I knew where the influence came from 🙂  There are many ways of cooking this dish, but here is my version of a fishy cassoulet!

Shrimp and Salmon Bake with Asparagus

Ingredients: Serves 4

1 roughly chopped Onion

1 tsp of chopped Garlic

400 gms of Salmon steaks (or any other boneless fish)

1/2 cup cooked and peeled Shrimps

2 Carrots chopped in cubes

1/2 bulb of Fennel (you could use 1 tsp of Fennel Powder instead and add some other veggie)

15-20 green Asparagus sticks (you could replace with 1 Broccoli/French Beans for adding crunchy greens)

(optional) 1 Celery sticks, 5 inch leek piece, peas, corn

4-5 slices of stale White Bread

1 cup of White sauce (traditionally called roux) or 1/2 cup white sauce+1/2 cup sour-cream (for people concerned with health, thick sour yoghurt mixed with 1 tsp of white flour to stop it from getting curdled)

1/2 cup White Wine

1 Lime/Lemon

2 tbsp Olive Oil

A few sprigs of thyme and dill

Parmesan Cheese, Salt and Pepper to taste

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In a hot pan, sear the Salmon steaks til crispy brown on both sides.  Set aside.  In the same pan, to retain the fish oil and flavor, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and throw in the garlic and onion.  While the onions are getting cooked, cut the bread into cubes, place them in a baking tray, sprinkle some olive oil on them and roast for 12-15 mins till crispy – leave in the oven with the heat turned off.  Add the carrots, the fennel, some salt & pepper in the pan and saute till cooked.  Chop about 7-9 asparagus sticks into 1inch pieces and add in the pan with the other cooked veggies for 3-4 minutes or till nice and fresh green – transfer this into a baking dish.  Crumble the salmon steaks and put in the shrimps, white sauce, wine, herbs and lemon juice.   Mix and season well according to taste (you could add more lemon juice for a tangy flavor).  Coarsely crush the bread cubes and cover the fish mixture.  Finally sprinkle some Parmesan cheese (quantity as per liking) and bake in the oven at medium heat for 10-15 mins or till the crust turns brown.  In the meanwhile take a pan, add a tsp of olive oil and saute the rest of the asparagus or broccoli till crispy green. Season well and serve as a side dish with the bake.

Do make it some time and let me know how it tastes, coz Niloy and me loved it and finished it off in 12 mins flat 🙂

Take care, lots of love,

Rinki

Super Quick Oats and Multigrain Cupcake Breakfast for Kids

Dear Rinki,

A rain drenched good morning to you. Rizi has just left for school…and I’m taking a breather, writing to you. Today like a good mother I hoodwinked my son into eating a super healthy breakfast and he never realized it. He hates eating porridge or oats, and you tell me who wants to make tiffin and then come up with brilliant breakfast ideas everyday….so on most school days it is a bowl of cereal drenched in threats for his breakfast. I know I know,certainly not the sign of a good mommy, so shoot me! But today when I heard him inquire in a tiny voice whether he had to eat porridge again, my heart melted. And as I had already taken out the oats,raisins and milk I suddenly had a brilliant inspiration. I took out some nuts and some multi grain flour and used it to make cup cakes…Turned out brilliantly and Riz polished them off with glee….He he he !…he never knew what he was eating. It is quite tasty for us adults as well.

So here is the recipe piping hot from the oven. .. An ODE TO OATS…have fun making it.

Super quick Oats and Multi grain Cupcakes

Super quick Oats and Multi grain Cupcakes

Preparation time : 5 minutes

Cooking time         : 10 minutes

Ingredients

Oats                                                        1/2 cup

Multi grain flour                                1/2 cup

Baking powder                                     1 level tsp

Dried figs                                                2-3 nos

Raisins                                                     handful

Nuts (whatever you have)               a few chopped up into small pieces

Butter                                                      2 tsp

Vanilla essence                                     1/2 tsp

Egg                                                           1 (  you can make it without egg)

Honey/ Apricot jam/Sugar               2 tsp

Milk to make a batter                          1/2 cup ( or thereabout)

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Method

First thing even before you get your ingredients together just switch on your oven to 250 degree C on bake and let it pre-heat while you groggily (presuming its a school morning) get around to getting the ingredients together.

Second Step slap some oil on to your muffin tray and sprinkle with flour, I couldn’t find any cake flour today so I sprinkled multi grain and it worked just fine.

Finally just slap everything into a bowl, stir it around sleepily, spoon into the muffin tray and stick in the oven.

(  Do not make the batter too watery or put too much mix in the muffin trays, two teaspoon in each is fine I think. The aim is to get it done in as little time as possible, trust me I kept an eye on the Clock the whole time ! )

Ten minutes on high heat and it is done.

Serve it hot and say in your head VIVA LA OATS.. while your clueless child is gobbling it up!

Gotta go now, love ya

Didi