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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Masala Chai with Chili, Cumin and Basil Cookies

Dear Ramit

How have you been? I must tell you that your letter on Iftar was hugely enjoyed and enthused over…next time around you may find two extra gluttons on your hand! It reminded us both of the five hour food walk we took with you and Rinki, eating our way through the by-lanes of the historical Chandni Chowk, one winter evening some years back. This letter too may take you down another memory lane. Last Week a friend of Prasanta, from his Vadodara (or Baroda as it still remains in our minds) Art College days, came for a visit. This friend, a Gujarati, was visiting Bengal and wherever he went all he got was black Darjeeling tea, which wasn’t really his cup of tea…literally. So when he came here I made some flavored masala chai for him and a strong case of  nostalgia gripped us. Stories about the good old days flowed effortlessly into the night.( By that time obviously, it wasn’t chai that was keeping our spirits up!)   I recall almost a decade and a half ago, on a visit there, I found that Prasanta and his artist friends would spend hours drinking copious amounts of the thick milky sweet masala chai…what was it called…Ah yes, Golden Chai.  A half glass of the chai aptly named “cutting” was all that these perennially broke students could afford! Most of the “studying” was being accomplished at these road side tea stalls. Hot cups of spicy tea and heated discussions on art and aesthetics are synonymous with what Prasanta fondly terms his “Baroda Days”. You too spent a few years around the same time in Vadodara, and surprisingly our friend remembers you. It seems your enthusiasm for food is not easily forgotten.You would also remember the road opposite Kamati Baug in the evenings, lined by the “Lari” or food stalls on wheels that sold mouth watering snacks, pakoda or fritters and even fruit custard. It was the melting point of cheap gastronomic experience. How far back it seems…an era, before Facebook, when friendship still meant meeting up face to face and back slapping over greasy Chowmein or Pav Bhaji. When love affairs were conducted long distance, from vertical glass coffin like telephone booths and one didn’t break up with a line over Whatsapp and, ‘Moving On’ hadn’t become a youth anthem. Was life really less complicated or is this how every generation feels about their best years. And look at me talking like an old fogey….but I blame it on Food and its ability to turn even the best amongst us into sentimental mush. On an afterthought,the pace of the times change, but food, friends and fun remain same. So here is raising a toast of masala chai to carefree days and old friends!

Masala Chai with Chili,Cumin and Basil cookies

For The Chai Masala

25 gm Green Cardamom Pods

25gm Cinnamon

25gm Cloves

50gm Black Peppercorn

Dry Grind all the ingredients together to a fine powder. In this masala the spices are not dry roasted before grinding. Once ground this can be stored in an air tight container for up to six months. Use to flavor tea. A Tisane made by boiling a teaspoon of this spice mix in a large cup of plain water, piece of ginger and a few basil leaves and sweetened by adding a teaspoon of honey,is an excellent throat soother in case of cold and cough. There are numerous recipes of Chai Masala. In some dry ginger powder is added. You may also do so, but I feel that the fresh Ginger root adds a punch to the tea.

Making the Masala Chai

To Make the Chai (2 Cups)

2  tsp Assam Tea Leaves/1 tea bag (CTC/ground tea leaves NOT long leaf tea)

1 ½ Cups of full cream Milk

Sugar to taste

1 Inch Piece of fresh Ginger crushed

1/2 tsp Chai Masala

½ cup of water

Bring the milk and water to boil, add the crushed ginger piece, the tea leaves and the sugar and boil till the liquid turns a beautiful brown color. Add the chai masala and boil till aroma fills your senses. Tulsi or Indian Holy Basil may also be added for taste and its therapeutic qualities.

Enjoy a hot cuppa with my own recipe of savory cookies with an Indian twist.

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Chili, Cumin and Basil Savory Cookies (Makes about 25-30 bite sized cookies)

100gm plain Flour + little extra for rolling

100gm Butter/Margarine (at room temperature)

1-2 Dry Red Chili Deseeded and snipped into thin strips

Handful of Basil Leaves (oregano/Chives will also do)

1 tsp Cumin seeds

100gm Grated Cheese

3 tbsp Tomato Ketchup

Salt to taste

Mix the flour and the butter to a fine crumb. Add all other ingredients and knead softly. Everything will come together; there is no need to add any liquid like water/milk or egg. If using a food processor, just pulse the mixture. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour. Remove from fridge, lightly flour work surface and roll out to about 2 to 3mm thickness and cut into shapes. I use a peg measure to cut the rounds ! You can simply cut out squares in case you don’t have cutters. Prick each cookie with a fork to prevent puffing up. Lay them out on a greased baking tray about half an inch apart – it may take two lots of baking to use up the entire mixture. Bake in a pre heated oven at 200 degree centigrade for fifteen minutes or till a delicious aroma permeates your entire house. Remove and let cool on wire rack. Store in an air tight container. These cookies with their hot and tangy taste are a perfect foil to the sweet rich one of the masala chai.

Happy Tea Time

Didi

Juicy Honey-Sesame Chicken Drummettes, Fried Eggs with Tamarind Relish & Fish Tikkis

Woooooooow Daibi!!! What a walk!!! I sure miss Delhi on such days….when I visit next time, please, oh please take me there again..coz I see new things that I never tasted…me and Niloy together drooled over your Iftaar foods post and the other pictures on your DelhiByFoot Facebook page and took a pledge..WE HAVE TO GO TO DELHI 6 ON OUR NEXT VISIT!!

Didi, I too wish I was at one of Rizi’s B’day parties…managing kids or helping you clean afterwards would have been a cake-walk if I would have had the chance to fill myself with all the goodies you make for these parties…I still remember the pictures of the self-made burgers that you made last year…yuummmm!! But lemme not stray with old memories of food again (is there something about food & memories, good or bad, they tend to linger on, don’t they?)… So getting back to your last post, like you, some of my friends too have been asking me about a few starters that I keep making regularly..so here are some of my favorite recipes..please note that in this post the ingredients of the recipes are in italics.

Juicy Honey-Sesame Drummets with Grilled Butternut, Grilled Tomato and Avocado Salad

There are four amazing starters on this plate.  Grilled Butternut, which is basically half-inch slices of this buttery-textured pumpkin arranged on a grill pan and then sprinkled with olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Just when the butternut slices are cooked (you can poke a knife in it to check) and slightly browned, sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Second is that beautiful Grilled Tomato where I cut the tomato in to half, cleaned the innards (Beauty Tip: don’t throw them..the juice and seeds mixed with one tsp of olive or almond oil and 1 tbsp whole wheat flour or black chickpea flour makes an awesome face pack or body scrub to reduce dark spots), stuffed it with lots of cheddar cheese and chives and then grilled it for 10 mins.

The third is an Avocado Salad or dip which as you know is called a guacamole.

The fourth is the very Juicy Honey-Sesame Chicken Drummettes! It is a bit different from the normal recipes coz I add a few extra flavors in it.  For the two of us, I take 8-10 drummettes with skin (A whole chicken wing has three joints – one is the wingette which sort of rectangular in shape with the two skinny bones & meat in between. The drumette is the section that is attached to the body of the chicken and resembles a drumstick. The wing tip isn’t eaten normally). If someone doesn’t like the skin, they can peel it off by soaking the pieces in hot water.  Then I marinate these drummettes in 1tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp tomato ketchup, 1 tbsp honey, 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder, 2 tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp ginger and 1 tsp garlic.  I also add grated lime rind and finely chopped coriander root in this (according to my Thai friend Paruedee to get the maximum flavor of coriander leaves, one must use the part close to the roots.  She washes them thoroughly and adds the green parts to her curry pastes or simply throws them in a boiling soup).  After marinating for 5-6 hours, I pan fry them with very little oil on mostly high heat till they are partially charred and yummily cooked 🙂 In this way, all the juices remain intact and you have these flavorsome soft and amaazing drummettes….gosh I am drooling!!!!

Fried Eggs with a Tamarind Relish

Fried Eggs with a Tamarind Relish

This is again a recipe from Paruedee and she used to produce this simple but totally delicious starter/main dish from thin air in what the Germans say, an augenblick (a moment).  So you pan fry boiled eggs and set aside.  Make a table tennis sized ball of tamarind and soak it in hot water.  In a pan fry some chopped red chillis (depending on how hot you want it) and then add the tamarind water, sugar and salt according to taste and boil. I like it hot, sweet and very sour..but you can tweak accordingly.  Then slice the eggs into halves and plate them.  Pour the tamarind sauce liberally all over them, sprinkle chopped coriander, mint and basil, and throw in a generous dash of fried shallots on top (here you get them prepackaged in the market, but you can fry some onions till they are crispy brown).  I drizzle some more sauce to add an extra kick 🙂 And you can serve these with drinks or as a party snack for kiddies or if you have made a lot of sauce, you can serve it with rice too!!

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Fish Tikkis

I made these fish tikkis or kebabs for Niloy’s b’day party.  It was again very simple…I made some 35 tikkis by mashing 1kg boiled Basa fish fillets (any boneless fish would do), 4 medium sized boiled potatoes, 2 medium sized onions and 4 cloves of garlic chopped finely, 2 handfuls of mint leaves & coriander leaves, 5-6 chopped green chillis, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 2 tsp homemade garam masala, 4 tbsp lemon juice and salt to taste.   You can do the maths if you want small amounts 🙂 With a clean hand roll out table tennis sized balls and flatten them into a shape of a tikki.  Pan fry these with few drops of oil.  The sheer exhilaration of producing 35 tikkis made me forget my blog and I didn’t take any pictures!! 😛

Let me know if you guys try these..sending lots of love,

Dakhina

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Hey Rinks,

I still remember those half-spheres of eggs and were they addictive or what…the sauce was to-die-for. Actually I always thought that the eggs were simply boiled, now I know that u did saute them a bit…

This is really simple, i am making this very very sooooon 🙂

cheers & take care

Ramit.

Chicken Involtini aka Roulade/Galantine/Ballotine/Braciola with Basil & Nuts filling

Dear Daibi and Didi,

Hope you two are doing well. I too haven’t been able to write much lately as we attended an Indian wedding here..was awesome to see a traditional wedding in Australia where mostly all rituals were followed to the letter.  The wedding reception was very European with tables marked, set menus that were served by waiters, speeches from family and close friends and dancing to a live band!! I felt like a tourist there awestruck with everything coz I have seen such weddings only on TV!!  heheeeehe…Then there was Janmashtami.  We celebrated it with pooris, potato curry and 6 types of home-made mithais (sweets)…I also learned how to make narkol nadu (coconut laddoo) with packaged dry desiccated coconut from Niloy’s sister who lives in Melbourne too.  One has to soak it in milk enough to cover the whole amount for 2-3 hrs and then cook it with sugar/brown sugar/jaggery and some milk powder till it becomes sticky.  For the first time I also tried to make the Bengali malpua but instead of putting them in a sugar syrup, I added some sugar in the batter itself…while frying them, I realised how much oil they absorb…out of shock, I turned the malpua batter into pancakes 😛 they tasted the same…next time am thinking I would drop them in sugar syrup and see what happens!! What say??!

Anyways, what I wanted to talk about today was this dish called Chicken Involtini.

Chicken Involtini (with basil) and Polenta with Tomato Veggies

Chicken Involtini (with basil) and Polenta with Tomato Veggies

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