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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Spicy Veggie Cocktail Nibbles with Tangy Sesame Dip

Dear Rinki

How are you today? How was the movie? I wish we too could have seen it especially Riz wanted to see Batman so much but to travel to Kolkata just now isn’t possible. We shall have to wait for it to come on DVD. On Thursday we were invited for a dinner party. It was an enjoyable evening out after a long time. The rains have played havoc with our social lives! The food was great. With drinks there was a delicious chicken pakoda (fritters) and fish fries, but for the vegetarian option sadly there was just some potato crisps out of a bag. It’s surprising how many Bengali’s are stumped with the idea of putting up vegetarian options when they have company. So I was inspired to share out my recipe for an easy vegetarian starter which goes great with drinks or tea and also wonderfully well with a steamy hot novel on a rainy afternoon.

Spicy Veggie Cocktail Nibbles with Tangy Sesame Dip

Spicy Potato Cheese and Carrot nibbles

Ingredients (enough to make thirty bite size nibbles)

Boiled and peeled potatoes                                        5 large

Bread crumbs/ fresh bread crumbled                   1/2 cup

Cheddar Cheese grated                                                                   1/2 cup

Carrot Grated                                                                     2

Onion finely diced                                                            2

Ginger and garlic finely minced                                1 tsp each

Fresh Coriander leaves/mint chopped                  lots!

Sesame seeds                                                                    1 tablespoon

Tomato ketchup                                                              to taste

Green Chilies deseeded and finely chopped         2-3

Chili powder (optional)

Mint Powder (optional)

Salt to Taste

Oil to fry

Method

Take all ingredients in a bowl, mix them well, squashing together with your fingers to form smooth dough like mix….if the mix is watery add more bread crumbs, adjust salt and seasoning accordingly.Form into tiny bite sized balls and deep fry in oil till golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and serve hot with tangy sesame chutney (recipe follows).

There is no hard and fast rule to this recipe, please feel free to add or remove ingredients according to taste or dietary constrictions.The nibbles can be prepared before hand and kept in the fridge covered with a cloth till it’s time to fry.Crushed roasted peanuts can also be added to the potato mix to add taste and texture. 2 tablespoons of granulated soya meal which has been soaked in water and squeezed, can also be added to get a different taste. Mince chicken/meat may be prepared in exactly same method for non-vegetarian option, an egg maybe added to bind the meat.

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Tangy Sesame Chutney

Ingredients

Sesame seeds                   1 -2 tablespoons

Garlic chopped                  4-5 cloves

Red chili flakes                 according to taste

Chives (dry /fresh)          1 tsp

Tomato Ketchup

Salt to taste

Oil                                      2 tsp

Method

In oil fry the garlic with chili flakes, add the sesame, when a nutty yummy aroma permeates your senses and the sesame and garlic have turned golden brown turn off the heat and add the chives. Remove into serving bowl immediately to stop further browning, add tomato ketchup and mix. There you have it, tangy sesame garlic chutney in a minute.

Did you go through my post on Rizi’s birthday cake…We really missed you; you manage kids so well, having you around would have subtracted my stress levels enormously. I wish you would post your cocktail eggs with tamarind dip recipe, I remember making it years ago after I had it for the first time at your place in Delhi. I remember it was such a hit with everyone. I have forgotten the details of the chutney. Do share soon so I can make it next time we have company.

P.S. Am reading William Dalrymple’s The White Mughals. What an amazingly researched book and how it bursts so many misconceptions we have about our own history. I didn’t know that the Portuguese came to Goa before the Mughals, did you?  I’m enthralled… The book although a narration of real events reads better than any pot boiler… If you haven’t read it try and get hold of it.

Say hello to Niloy, and looking forward to hearing all about his birthday celebration.

Catch you soon

Didi

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

Crispy Ham and Dumpling ‘Bourguignon’

Dear Didi and Daibi,

Do you know about Boeuf Bourguignon, a famous French recipe?  The step-by-step documentation of this dish was first done by Auguste Escoffier who popularised and modernised  the French cooking methods.  His techniques were based on Marie-Antoine Carême who is regarded as the King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings.  He was an early practitioner and codifier of French haute cuisine which empashised on meticulous preparation and elaborate presentation of food.  Now keeping with the tradition of haute cusine, Boeuf Bourguignon takes about 10-14 hours to cook as a traditional chef would also make the bouillon or the beef stock right from the scratch which itself takes about 4-5 hrs of cooking (and people say Indian cooking is slow!!).

I first learnt about this dish from my friends from Germany, Paruedee and Marco who saw the movie Julie and Julia and followed the cooking frenzy shown in the movie.  Unfortunately when they cooked it (and I tell you it took 14 hours for them), I was back home in India .  So my Romanian friend, Gabi decided to cook the dish, but with lamb (coz I my tummy goes on vacation whenever I eat beef); and all I can say about it is…mmmmmmmmm…..

Yesterday I decided to make my version of the dish, a much simpler one though which still took me 3 hrs…but the satisfied look on Niloy’s face when he had it, made the 3 hrs worth!  I added some ‘Dakhina Touches’ to the dish and would provide options if someone doesn’t eat Pork 🙂

Crispy Ham and Dumpling ‘Bourguignon’

Ingredients: Serves 3

250gms Ham (or shredded goat meat)

1 large Onion

2 big cloves of Garlic

1/2 stick Leek (or 1 onion+1 big clove of garlic)

2 Carrots

1 Red Pepper

2-3 Celery sticks (or radhuni seeds for almost similar flavour)

7-8 Mushrooms

1 cup Red Wine

My Bouquet Garni – A twig or two of thyme, rosemary, sage, 1 Bay leaf,  few peppercorns

4 tbsp Butter

For Dumplings

3/4 cup White Flour

1 heaped tsp Baking powder

Dried herbs like Dill or mixed herbs

4 tbsp Butter

150ml warm Milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

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First wash and cut all the vegetables into dices.  In a big pot saute the ham/meat in 2 tbsp of butter till they are crispy and caremalised.   Transfer them in a plate and to the same pot (let the caramelised burnt oil stay) add 2 tbsp of butter and throw in the onions and garlic. Once the onions and garlic are brown, add the veggies, salt and pepper powder, and cover for 5-7 mins.  Then add the ham/meat, bouquet garni and wine and let the stew cook on medium heat.

Take the flour and rub in the butter, herbs, salt and pepper.  Add the milk and make a sticky dough (the sticker it is the softer the dumplings are).  In boiling water, drop teaspoon-sized balls made from the dough (if the dough sticks too much, apply some oil in your palms).  The dumplings will rise to the top when cooked.  When the whole lot is done, transfer them to the stew pot.

Check seasonings and let the whole stew simmer for another 30-40 mins on slow heat.  Serve hot with freshly-made loaf or baguette!

Let me know if you guys decide to make it.

Lots of love,

Rinki