Grilled olives with chilli and lemon

This recipe is one I got from one of my favourite Italian food websites Silvia’s Cucina…I served it at my Italian-themed dinner and it was a big hit. My guest had great fun trying to ‘fish’ an olive out of the bowl with a grissini. Many hilarious attempts involving the snapping of the grissini into halves, thirds, and quarters ensued. When one of us managed to ‘catch’ an olive, it was celebrated with cheers and claps and a sip of spumante. Thanks Silvia!

Appertivo : Grilled olives

Appertivo : Grilled olives with grissini

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Sanjeev Kapoor’s Garam Masala – the king of spice mixes

Garam is the Hindi word for “hot” and Masala stands for “spice”. Despite that, Garam masala is not hot like chilli is but is a warming, beautifully aromatic mixture of spices such as cumin, cardamom and nutmeg.

“Curry powder” is a common thing one finds in the Western supermarket but one you wouldn’t find in an Indian grocery shop. Masalas on the other hand are a lot more familiar to the Indian ear and let me assure you that each of them is a unique blend of spices and is used to flavour only certain dishes. Of these, garam masala, is in my opinion the king of all masalas as it is really versatile and can bring life to the most boring of vegetables. You can cook it into a dal or sprinkle it on top of one, you can use it to flavour savoury lassi or the mashed potato filling that goes into a samosa , and to add flavour to the bean mixture that goes into vegetarian nachos – it’s uses are endless.  Someone’s even written a page about the many avatars of garam masala.

I have given you the garam masala recipe from the book “How to Cook Indian” by my favourite chef Sanjeev Kapoor. I would highly recommend this book as would I it’s sister book “Mastering the Art of Indian Cuisine”. The garam masala recipe itself is really simple once you’ve assembled the raw ingredients. Being quite a strong flavouring, you only need to use a tiny amout to flavour any dish and so it lasts a fair while in a cool dry place in your pantry.

Hope you try making it and come up with new ways of using it!

Garam Masala

Garam Masala

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Dosa (savoury crepe/pancake) and its friends

What is a dosa ? For starters, it is pronouced “Though-sah”. It is a South Indian crepe or savoury pancake and is the pride and joy of that part of the country. There is nothing like a fresh brown, crispy dosa served with a little blob of butter melting on top of it. The city where I come from (Bangalore) and the state it belongs to (Karnataka) take the humble dosa very very seriously. In fact, a good dosa joint is worth sitting in traffic for along time. Luckily for us, when we visited Bangalore, one of the best dosa places in town was across the road from where we stayed. At the cost of about 60pence a dosa, we had they to our heart’s content!

The traditional dosa is made mainly of lentils ( urid dal) and par-boiled (partially boiled and dried) rice with little embellishments such as fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds. One starts by soaking the lentils and rice overnight to soften them. Then, each ingredient is ground to a slightly gritty (grit size about 1mm) paste in a strong kitchen blender or a dosa grinder. The batter for dosa is then made by mixing the two pastes, adding a bit of salt and allowing the batter to ferment for 8-10 hrs but usually overnight. The natural yeast in the air are what makes dosa batter ferment. If you are in a cold country, then your best choice is to place the dosa batter inside your boiler cupboard to ferment.

The resulting batter is airy, slightly tangy smelling and an absolute treat once cooked. Mum says that the ratio of rice to lentils for dosa batter is 3:1 and perhaps a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds (to soak with the lentils). Cook dosas like you would cook any pancake with vegetable oil to easy the edges of the pan. While a lot of taste is in the dosa itself, the things that go with dosa add a whole new dimension to this traditional crepe. The most popular form of filling for a dosa is one made with boiled potatoes. In addition, dosas are served with chutneys (dips) made of coconuts, chillies, onions, garlic and roasted lentils.

Today’s blog is going to be about the friends of a dosa. The dosa I made was a cheat as I bought an instant-mix by a company called MTR. If you don’t have easy access to an Indian store to buy MTR dosa mix, you can make dosas out of semolina and standard flour. Use one cup of semolina and half a cup of standard flour, mix in one cup of yoghurt, salt and enough water to make a pancake-like batter. To jazz it up a bit, you can add finely chopped onions, green chillies and cumin seeds to the batter too.

Dosa and its friends

Dosa and its friends: Top left = Potato curry ; Top centre = Lentil, onion and chilli chutney; Top right = Coconut and coriander chutney; Bottom centre = MTR’s instant dosa

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Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi and inspired dinner

I have recently become addicted to three cookbooks I acquired from Amazon and our local library. They are, in order of favouritism,

1. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2. Moro by Samuel and Samantha Clark

3. Ottolenghi also by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Why the addiction – well these books respect vegetables like I have been taught to respect them as a life time vegetarian. Growing up in a South Indian household, my mother and grandma had endless ways of making vegetables exciting and I try and continue this tradition till today. However, I’m also a little more adventurous that mum and grandma and I cannot eat the same/similar things day in and day out. This is something I did quite gladly did when I was still dependent on my parents, but ever since I’ve moved out on my own, my kitchen has been a bit of a playground, as is this blog I host.

Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi, while laden with meat-based recipes are also quite generous with their coverage of vegetable/vegetarian dishes from Eastern Mediterranean regions, Israel, Palestine with influences from Italy, Spain and Northern Africa. Overall, these vegetables are prepared quite differently (most of the time) to how I’d prepare them as a person of South Indian upbringing and I find that really really exciting. Sometimes, I find some similarities and start thinking about the origins of certain food and how recipes might have travelled from one region to another in ancient time.

To summarize it is food, vegetarian food, exciting vegetarian food and I love it! Food to me is most satisfying when I’ve made it and others are enjoying it 🙂 An opportunity presented itself when we decided to host a dinner and board games evening at our place. While I usually cook Indian food, I decided that I’d try recipes from my recently acquired books instead. There was a deathly silence as everyone sat eating until one of our friends spoke up and said , “You know the food is good when everyone is too busy eating and cannot stop to speak”. I’m going to call it a successful experiment based on this !

My menu and links to the recipes are presented below. I managed to take a lot of pictures for the first few dishes and then ran out of time and my guests arrived so I couldn’t keep clicking any more. Hope you try some of the recipes and like them !

Menu for board games night

Menu for board games night

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Tomato gojju or spicy tomato chutney

“Gojju” in Karnataka (where I grew up), refers to a thick, tangy sauce made with tamarind pulp, some basic spices and vegetables that will hold their shape when cooked in a sauce – like capsicum (peppers), eggplant (aubergine/brinjal), onions, okra (bhindi), lemon and so on. The tamarind pulp is the predominant ingredient and gives gojju the tang it is so well known for. Gojju, much like chutneys in the Western world, can be served as a condiment to rice dishes. Alternatively, gojju can be mixed with plain rice and consumed as a dish in itself.

Tomato gojju is a version of gojju which takes advantage of the abundance of tomatoes in the tomato rich season in South India. No tamarind is added to this version as tomato has its own subtler tang (yay Vitamin C) and a beautiful red colour that is much more appetising than the dark brown colour of a normal gojju.

Tomato gojju can be mixed with rice to make tomato bhath (mixed rice) or used as a dip to go with flatbread (rotis, chappatis), idlis (steamed rice cakes) and dosas (savoury rice and lentil pancakes). The recipe is easy and the end product is addictive. The hardest part is not to eat it all before the sauce thickens in the pot.

I’ve been having some fun with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to take the yellowness out of my pictures owing to the yellow lights in the house. I think it has worked well – hope you do too!

Tomato gojju with idli segments

Tomato gojju with idli segments

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Tempering in action

My last two posts Tempering/Seasoning de-constructed – Part I and Tempering/Seasoning de-constructed – Part II were about the concept of “tempering” with respect to South Indian food. In this blog, I want to bring your attention to the various kinds of tempering that I have used in the recipes already presented on this blog. You will see that tempering spices are never used one at a time but as a combination that works uniquely for each dish.

Tempering for rasam

Tempering for rasam – Margarine, turmeric, curry leaves, asafoetida, mustard seeds, garlic, cumin seeds

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A delicious Christmas lunch: Thanks to all my fellow-bloggers!

We are a bit unconventional when it comes to most things and Christmas lunches are no exception. While most households in England and around the world are busy dealing with a turkey, I spend my time looking up recipes from around the world that I can incorporate into our “Internationally-inspired Christmas lunch”. Last year we had an Italian Starter (Tomato and Mozarella salad), an Indian main (Malai kofta) and a French dessert (Chocolate and raspberry moelleux).

This year, I decided to incorporate something from the Southern hemisphere and this turned out to be the dessert –  passionfruit mousse. Over the summer, I got to try a twice-baked goat’s cheese soufflé and the melt-in-the-mouth taste that I experienced was amazing so I decided that would be my challenge for Christmas this year and this turned out to be the blue-cheese souffle main. Finally, I was keen on trying to make something from South-east Asia and settled on the Malaysian steam bun. I have very fond memories of the steam bun as my once neighbour, who was Malaysian, would bring them over to us straight out of the steamer. As the filling in these buns tend to be meat, I used a curry puff filling recipe to make it vegetarian. All three dishes turned out really well – not to mention my Christmas cake.

Most of my recipes (except the Christmas cake) came from my fellow-bloggers and this blog is a tribute/thank you to them for sharing their wonderful recipes. Our Christmas wouldn’t have been as tasty without them. Merry Christmas and keep blogging!

 

Our Christmas menu

Our Christmas menu

 
Recipes used:

In this section, I have listed links to the recipes I used for our Christmas lunch along with a picture of  the end product. Any changes to the recipes are also listed. Hope you like them and will try them out yourselves. We had an amazing time polishing off this food.

Click on the links below to get to the details of the recipe and more delicious pictures.

 

1. Starter: Baozi or Pau – Malaysian steam bun

2. Main: Twice-baked blue cheese soufflé with a creamy tomato sauce and apple, walnut, rocket salad 

3. Dessert: Mousse de Maracuya or Passionfruit mousse (from Ecuador)

 

Christmas-lunch