Wholewheat Couscous Salad with Asparagus and Eggs Chermoula (My version of a Maghrebian Dinner)

Dear Cousins!

Happy New Year!! What a start to the year..Daibi…2 back-to-back posts from you??!!! Wow, that is indeed commendable!! :D.  Your post on the healthy aspects of street foods should have been written some 15-20 years back when mothers like ours totally prohibited us from eating these things…uufff the reasons she gave for not letting us gorge on Papri Chaat or Gol Gappa were so convincing!! “You will get a sore throat..or You will get a stomach upset”!! Ma’s commandments on street foods however led to my secret missions to the market, eating few platefuls of Chaat, coming home and then again eating a full dinner!! You guys can very well imagine my condition, right? 😀 Burping and praying that next morning everything stays fine (especially stomach and throat), I would quietly go to sleep 😀 Till date Ma doesn’t know about those secret missions :P.  Reading your post now am thinking, if only I had known these amazing facts about spices then, I would have combated Ma’s decisions with them instead of the secret missions!! But I must confess, the kick one gets in such secret missions was and continues to be awesome…heehhehehehe!!

The pics in your second post on Pushkar Mela look awesome Man!! I wish I was there too….considering what is going on in India today, it “seems” to be the worst place to be…but trust me in all the travels and stays around the world, I still feel ‘Go East or West, India is the Best!’….the stories, the rich culture, the melas, the food, the people….OH!! there are so many reasons always for me to go back to India!! I will…I will one day….

Wholewheat Couscous Salad with Asparagus and Eggs Chermoula (My version of a Maghrebian Dinner)

Wholewheat Couscous Salad with Asparagus and Eggs Chermoula (My version of a Maghrebian Dinner)

Anyways, today I am writing to share this amazing sauce I recently discovered which I think goes well with our chaat plates as well.  Its called the Chermoula, a Maghrebian (Egyptian/Algerian/Moroccan/Tunisian) marinade for fish, seafood and meats.  It looks like our simple mint chutney, but the blast of flavours you get with every spoonful, makes it awesome I think.  The day I saw this recipe, I only had eggs in the fridge and some veggies.  So I decided to make a Couscous Salad and Eggs Chermoula. Couscous is primarily a North African staple food made of semolina which serves as an accompaniment to the curries, tagines and meat/fish dishes.  One can make lovely salads as well with it. In keeping with the pact of being and eating healthy this year, I used Wholewheat Couscous instead of the plain one that’s made of white flour.

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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.

A Chocolate Chess Board Cake with Sugar Clay Chess Men

Dearest Cousins…

What do you know, the sun has just decided to show face.. I think I may not speak with it though, how could it forget us for so long…oh wait it’s saying something..what..oh… hmm…It says its been taking lessons from a certain Ramit Mitra! If the person in question is reading this then they might think of showing face as well, its no fun being two cousins out of three…can you imagine a tricycle running on two wheels..it would be a bicycle then wouldn’t it! Enough chastisement now to business…

Well you are both aware that every year I try to make a surprise birthday cake for your nephew, keeping his current passions in mind…last time he was obsessed with Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter…I distinctly remember him telling me in all seriousness to call him Harry Sparrow, you know Harry as in Potter and Sparrow from Jack Sparrow! Hilarious but I had to keep a serious face and nod sagely.. so last birthday it had been the Black Pearl Cake with the treasure chest overflowing with jewels. This year he is obsessed with chess, playing it with his Papa, or on the computer or our mobile phones all the time. A friend of ours has lent him Bobby Fischer’s book on chess and he is learning the moves. So this time I wanted to do a chess board cake.

Chocolate Chessboard Cake with Sugar Chess Men

 

Initially I had thought about just making the board and using real chess men to decorate it. But you know me, I can never pass up a food challenge…and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make the pawns as well. In the end I did, after lots of trouble and heartache and jitters and mishaps..it turned out spectacularly well even if I do say so myself…do I hear clarion calls and trumpets..Thank you all..he he! On a serious note, it was a success in the sense that I had to make everything yourself. There are no short cuts available here, nothing ready made that you can buy at the shops. But I also made so many mistakes and had to keep patience and work with them, modifying or sometimes starting again from scratch.  It was a labour of Love but the best reward was the surprised sparkle in Riz’s eyes when he saw it and the hug he gave me said it all.

For the Dark Chocolate Cake for the chess board ( See previous post on Sinful Dark Chocolate Cake). You will needed to bake Four nos., 8 inch cakes for the chess board, and another extra cake for the Box. Let all cakes cool. Overnight is good, refrigeration of the cake even better for icing. You cannot ice a hot cake. Your icing will melt into a oily mess.

To display the cakes, cover a large wooden board with foil or silver paper . To make the chess board, cut a brown paper square of 12 inch which will serve as template. Using the template,cut cake to size and assemble. You will be left with extra pieces of cake. Reserve these for any emergency. Ice the main cake with Chocolate butter cream icing. You will also need to make the box and the lid cake. Just cut two rectangular pieces of cake. Scoop out a bit from the one that will be the box and position the lid on top. Ice with Strawberry Butter cream icing. (For all Icing refer to Black Pearl Ship Cake recipe).

 

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Sugar Modelling Clay for the Chess Men

Before I go on to describe this recipe, let me clarify that this was the first time I made this. I scoured the internet for a recipe whose ingredients would be available here. But unfortunately most fondant recipes ask for edible glycerine or marshmallows or corn syrup…none of which are available here. So I had to experiment a bit. The results were incredible for my first try, but there was a lot of heartache involved. I started two days in advance so that I had the time to modify…and boy did I need it. At one point my husband said that he was loosing patience just watching me! The weather too played havoc, height of monsoon and eighty percent humidity doesn’t bode well for any kind of sugar does it! But It was like a thorn in my side I had to get it done, I just had to. So you will have to bear with me if I say that the recipe is far from perfect. I would love for you to make it and tell me how to modify it or make it better.

Ingredients (White Sugar Clay)

Icing Sugar ( Sieved)              500 gm

Margarine                                  1 tablespoon + a little extra for kneading

Gelatine                                       2 tablespoon

Method

Soak the gelatine in a spoon of warm water. On a double boiler melt the margarine, add the gelatine and stir . It should mix quite easily.Take  the bowl off the heat and start adding the icing sugar. This will take some patience and a lot of faith! The mix will be sticky and show no sign of  coming together, just keep adding the icing sugar. It will start coming away from the bowl. Dust your work surface with a little icing sugar, turn out the sugar clay and start kneading, adding more sugar till it becomes a nice pliable dough. It will happen, when, I cant predict.  If  it sticks too much to your fingers use some margarine sparingly to oil your fingers. Once the sugar clay is done, it should look nice and silken. It may be a little soft because you have been working on it. The sugar clay must be wrapped in cling film/plastic bags and then in a piece of cloth before putting it in a air tight box. Only then store it in the fridge. It can be stored in the fridge for days. When you wish to work with it, take it out of the fridge, break off the amount you need. Rest keep covered in cling and cloth. Contact with air will dry it out. Sprinkle your work surface with corn flour. Then knead the clay till it becomes pliable again. Always keep icing sugar with you. at this stage, if your clay is too soft adding sugar will firm it up. If it is too dry, dip your finger in margarine and knead. It was a trial and error method for me but it works! You can roll out the clay with a rolling pin, continuously dusting your work surface and the rolling pin with cornflour.

White squares for the chess board cake :I made only the white squares, as the chocolate icing on the cake will serve as the black squares. For a 12 inch  base cake, I needed  32 white sugar clay squares of approximately 1 and1/2  inches each. I rolled out the sugar clay as thinly as possible, then using my sons plastic ruler I marked out and cut the squares. Keep a large tray dusted with cornflour ready at hand, and arrange the squares on this as they are done. They will dry out nicely overnight. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

For White Chess Men using real chess men as inspiration I modeled out the pawns. But I took a short cut! I could not imagine making 64 pieces, so I looked in the Bobby Fisher book and found a move  which showed the check-mate move with minimum number of pawns!! I made a few extra to strew around the board. I used bottle caps to cut out the base, used the rear end of brushes to give texture and design. The chess men too were left out in the open to dry which nicely did. For Brown Chess Men the same sugar dough was used. I kneaded in a little brown powder food colour into the white sugar clay. But there must have been some reaction, as this never dried, instead kept melting. Over three days I re-did them numerous times, every time adding more sugar. Finally they did stand. But they did not dry. But hey, they sang for their supper and that’s all I asked of them!  To Assemble the cake on your iced chocolate cake , assemble the white squares to make it look like a chess board. On the box cake, using a piping bag/icing nozzle pipe the details and the name. Arrange the chess men on the board and some outside and one or two in the box.

In spite of all the work, it is well worth all the effort and trouble. Riz wanted to play chess on it and didn’t want to cut it….I think when I sat back at night with my aching feet up on the sofa and looked back, I felt I would have done it again in a heartbeat…provided it was just once a year : ) I wish you to try these recipes, and tweak them along the way. Especially the colored sugar work. If you feel the whole thing can be made easier, just let me know…always love an easy way out ; )

Take care

Waiting to hear from you ASAP

Didi

Missing everyone….and making Quattro Formaggi Pizzas!

Dear Didi and Daibi,

Yesterday was Rakhi…was missing you all a lot..didn’t feel like doing any work either..its been soo many years that we three haven’t been together on Rakhi.  Didi, when you were in Delhi, you tied Rakhi to both of us….I guess I never told you this but I felt very proud for having this honor; and when I would go to school later, I flaunted it saying, ‘meri didi ney bandha hai Rakhi coz mai bhi didi ki raksha karungi (my sister tied me the rakhi coz I would also protect her like my brother would)’.  Those were such lovely days, Ma used to make Loochis (fried flat bread) and some lovely aloo sabji (potato curry) or choley (Chickpeas curry)..and ofcourse that heavenly paayesh (rice and thickened milk dessert) served with freshly made narkol nadu (coconut laddoo) or jethima’s famous malpuas (soft and flat flour sweets dipped in sugar syrup)!!!  And Daibi, do you remember, almost every time just before Rakhi we would end up having a deadly fight..and we both would bitterly say, ‘No Rakhi this time’…then on the Rakhi morning we would have peace talks mediated by Ma and Baba and then all would be fine (next time we meet, we should have one of those fights just for the kicks!!)……aaah those were the days….

Anyways, remembering that time, yesterday I made a four cheese pizza called “Quatro Formaggi” in Italian. I used your method of making a pizza-dough and topped it with mozzarella, parmesan, provolone and gorgonzola cheese.  I have read about many variations to this recipe where they have used ricotta and other types of Italian cheese.  But gorgonzola is very important for this pizza…which I doubt you would get in India..its a kind of blue cheese with a very heavy pungent smell and not everyone likes it.  So when you guys come here, I will make it for you 🙂

Quattro Formaggi Pizza

I also made calzones with the left-over dough and made a caramelised onion and lamb sausage stuffing for them.  Niloy got that for lunch today, so he is is happily benefiting from my ‘not-so-good’ days when I end up making something new and interesting!

Oh and I totally forgot to tell you guys…a few days back I made this upside down strawberry cake and choco-chip+candied orange peel muffins.  I lined up the baking tray with strawberry halves and poured the cake batter on it. Didi, I still follow your recipe of madly whipping up 1/2 cup oil+1/2 cup sugar+2 eggs together and adding 1 tsp baking powder+1 cup flour later.

Upside down Strawberry Cake and Chocochip & Candied Orange Peel Muffin

The cake turned out to be feather-soft and the juices from the strawberries made it melt in the mouth.  I have tried making a similar cake with apple quarters, peach halves, pineapple slices and grapes! Trust me they all turn out to be delicious!!! 😀 See talking about food already lifts my mood…now I will get back to work..

You both take care, sending loads of love and hoping that someday we three get together for Rakhi.

Write back soon,

Rinki

Sinful Dark Chocolate Cake

Dear Didi,

I wanted to ask you how to make your famous chocolate cake. Can you post it soon as I wish to make it for mum’s birthday next month. But I would like to try it at least once before hand. I am really rushed at the moment, will write to you later. Please do post it as soon as possible

Love

Ramit

July 21st

Dear Ramit,

I got your message asking me for my dark chocolate cake recipe. It is wonderfully sweet of you to wish to make it for your mum’s birthday. I am posting it here and if you follow it there should be no problem at all. It is a tried and tested recipe.

This recipe is a basic two cup cake recipe for a 8 inch diameter 2 inch height cake.If you want a larger cake, increase everything proportionately, or decrease if need a smaller batch. As this is a chocolate cake the amount of flour has been halved and replaced by cocoa powder, in a plain cake the flour itself would be 2 cups.

Ingredients

Flour ( maida) + Cocoa powder                          2 cups ( 1 cup flour + 1 cup Cocoa)

Sugar                                                                              1 cup

Baking powder                                                            2 level teaspoon

Butter/Margarine                                                      1  cup ( 3/4 cup if using Oil)

Eggs                                                                                  4 large

Essence of Vanilla                                                      2-3 tsp

Method

Like any other cake, pre-heat the oven at 250 degree C and prepare your cake tin by oiling it well and dusting with flour. Sieve the flour,cocoa powder, and the baking powder to to aerate and get rid of lumps and impurities. Whisk sugar, egg and butter/margarine/oil together till frothy. Add the essence. Add the flour slowly. Another important thing to remember is that don’t over mix or keep the batter too long after its ready, as the baking powder will start loosing its potency. Pour in the tin and bake at 250 degree centigrade for ten minutes and then reduce the heat to 200 degree C and bake for further fifteen minutes. If you insert a skewer in the center it should come out clean. Let the cake stand for a few minutes. Now if you had oiled and dusted your tin well the cake tin can be upturned and tapped on the bottom and the cake will come out clean. If this gives you nightmares, use oiled paper to line your tin bottom.

Take care.

Love

Didi.

21st July