Monday, March 26, 2012

Fhuchka- An Ever Popular Kolkata Snack...



Be it the rich or the run-down, the shiny  new or the crumbling old, the trendy modern or the time wrapped traditional, the public broad-ways or the narrow back alleys, the tourist hangouts or the residential areas, the bustling bazaars or the busy dock, the west or the east, the old city or the migrant colonies, the riverside or the lakeside--in a city of 4.5 million residents the presence of the ubiquitous fhuchwalla with his mobile stand is a standard feature.

Last summer we held a fuchka party in our home. Sharing with you the invitation to show a mobile fuchka stand.

Who is this fhuchkawalla? 
He is the man who sells the fhuchka, an immensely popular Kolkata street food.  It is a food of extremes, it gives you immense pleasure yet makes you cry with the sharpness of its taste. Its a passionate food, not for the prim or the proper, or the fastidious or the finicky. Its a food which involves all five human senses. Lets just say it's a food which can be compared with the city of Kolkata-- its irresistible, its surprising, it packs a punch yet it is humble, its common, its everyday and its cheap (or used to be). Mostly you would not have to walk more than a 100 yards in the city to find a fhuchkawalla ready to serve you.


What kind of food is this puchka? 
A crisp little puffed wheat ball  dented in the middle, stuffed with potato filling, dipped in tangy tamarind water and served to you in a little bowl made of shalpata/dried leaf. The style of eating this is also pretty interesting. The phhuchkawalla stands in the centre, while the customers (a comfortable three to a jostling five or six) make a semi circle around him, he hands them each a leaf bowl, then proceeds to mash potato, add boiled yellow grams/kala chana, chillies, cilantro, lime juice, taramind pulp, rock salt, red chilly powder and roasted cumin masala. You can tell him how to you want it---really hot, less hot, really tangy, less tangy, more green chillies or less red chilly powder...the list goes on and on. While he is fixing this the air is filled with an awesome smell of rock salt, lime, cilantro, cumin masala, tamarind and the anticipation is high. Once the mixture is ready to each customer's satisfaction (he often divides the potato mix into small proportions catering to each of his customer's individual preferences), he takes these little wheat balls, dents them in the middle, stuffs in a little potato mix, dips them in pre-prepared tamarind water and puts them in each customer's bowl. He works really fast, he moves onto serve others while you finish yours, and then he comes back to you with the next one. The fuchkawallas often work so quickly, that often it is difficult to keep pace with them. When the customer eating the puchka first puts the wheat ball into his/her mouth, it is filled tangy tamarind water, then once s/he bites into the ball, a host of tastes hit at the same time-- the crunch of the crispy wheat ball, the saltiness, heat and sourness of the potato masala, terrific heat from green chillies, tang of lime juice et al. 

When I was young we could get 10 puchkas for INR 1.00. Now it has increased to INR 10.00 for 10 phuchkas or less.


Who eats this snack? 
Well just about everyone in the city-- the school children after school, the housewives out shopping, couples out on dates, friends out to have fun, the tourists, the college/university students while planning a revolution to do away with the bourgeois, the poets and cine-lovers hanging out in Rabindrasadan, the dreary office workers while returning home late in the evening. Men, women, the young, the old, the vegetarians, the non vegetarians, the rich, the poor...If they feel shy eating it out in the streets, they go to fancy restaurants and order fuchkas where the tamarind water is made with Swiss mineral water. It is served in a regular plate and  not even one tenth the fun. Puchka has even weaved its way into the illustrious wedding menus of Kolkata.  Usually a fhuchkawallh stands in one corner serving guests before they hit on the kebabs, biriyanis, fish fries and the desserts.

Away from Kolkata, I satisfy my craving for phuchka by making it at home. Its really simple, let me share with you how.

Ingredients:
  • A box of puchka shells from Indian mithai/delicatessen shop [They come in plastic boxes. Usually there are 20 to 30 shells in each box]
  • A tin of yellow grams or half a cup of dried yellow grams soaked overnight and steamed with little water for two  to three whistles in an Indian pressure cooker
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and roughly mashed
  • One bunch of coriander, finely chopped, use the stems as well
  • Green chillies (numbers of chillies depending on your heat tolerance) very finely chopped (you can de-seed them, but do add them, apart from the heat, they bring in a nice smell and taste as well)
  • Juice of a lime, keep another lime or two ready, in case you want more tang! I definitely do!
  • 2 table spoons of tamarind pulp (found in Indian grocery stores, Tesco super markets, UK in the Asian section) or 4 to 6 dried tamarinds or even the tamarinds in shells (though these are a little sweet) soaked in half a litre of water
  • Rock salt, finely ground, according to taste
  • Red chilly powder according to taste
  • 4 heaped table spoons of roasted cumin powder (take equal amounts of whole cumin and coriander seeds and dried red chilly. In a hot, dry pan roast these, till they start smelling. Cool down the mixture and grind to a fine powder. If kept in an air tight bottle, this masala stays fresh for  a year or so. I always get my stock from my mother. Its great in all kinds of vegetarian dishes, for me a pinch of this masala makes the food exciting since it brings a whiff of  the Kolkata streets)


How To:
First the tamarind water, dissolve the tamarind in the water, a little pulp will settle at the bottom of the water, let it be. Add juice of half a lime, throw in the lime skins (they smell heavenly), add about 2 heaped table spoon of rock salt and roasted cumin masala each, red chilly powder according to your heat tolerance, few pieces of green chillies and handful of chopped coriander. Mix everything and taste. If needed you can add more lime juice, chilly powder, salt, masala etc.

The potato mix: Add 2 heaped table spoons of roasted cumin masala, red chilly powder and rock salt (both according to taste), scoop out the tamarind pulp from the water and add that too, squeeze in juice of half a lime to the mashed potato and mix really well. Then add the yellow grams, the remaining coriander and green chillies and mix again. Taste it and adjust the balance.


Time for assembly-- get the puchka shells, tap them lightly, some may break, just throw those into the potato mix, stuff the balls with potato mix (ideally one third of the ball should be filled, this again depends on the eater's preference), dip it in water and eat. Some people prefer it without water, some people love drinking the water on its own. I like eating it in a bit of this and that way.



P.S. More on the joys of phuchkka  here
P.S.S. In this post I have used various spellings of fuchkas, actually there is no standard English spelling, so tried on different combinations, sorry for any inconvenience caused during your reading.
P.S.S.S. In the rate chart photograph, apart from English, Bengali script is used.
P.S.S.S.S. I have got awards from 5 of my blogger friends, will post about them sooon-ish.
P.S.S.S.S.S. This is my entry to Spice Foodie's YBR March.



Have a great day, till next time.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Saying Goodbye To Winter With A Chocolate & Orange Tart...


Disclaimer: In life we often have to bid final goodbyes to our near and dear ones. We, as a family said goodbye to my grandmother, my father's aunt this January. She was old and frail, yet when the news of her passing away reached us, we were all shocked. I guess we were not ready for it. No one ever is. These goodbyes are heartbreaking and extremely painful. This post is not about them, rather the occasional goodbyes which we bid from time to time with promises of meeting again, more like dekha hobe in Bangla, phir milenge in Hindi and au revoir in French.

I hate goodbyes. But being the migratory sort, often have to bid them. Leaving the family behind can be extremely tough. And no, however many times you part, it never becomes easy. Like my mother says she loves to go to the railway station/airport to receive us but hates going to see us off. When you are going to meet someone there is so much of anticipation and excitement, you are almost jumping with joy, if not, at least grinning madly. You think of all the things that you have to tell that person/s, all those things you need to share, the happy days you are going to spend together. Life stretches out in front of you with joyous possibilities. But when you go to see someone off, you know there is going to be such a void back home that a person's leaving always makes. Time just flew, there are so many things left unsaid, so many activities left undone. You did not visit your old relative together, nor did not visit your favourite misti ir dokan/ sweet shop or show your new discovery, a shop which stocks the most beautiful saris. You wonder to yourself how come the days flew by so quickly, they never do when you are alone. Your heart feels heavy, your feet drag, yet you smile on bravely and chatter inanely, so that the person who is leaving does not feel worse.



But sometimes goodbyes are not bad. Like bidding goodbye to a long and lingering winter.

Every autumn I get excited about the approaching winter because it brings Christmas. And that means festivities, celebrations, good food, gifts, socialising and all things nice. Living in the West, I find December to be the most magical month. Though the days are short and cold, there is an excitement in the air which is almost tangible. There are lights and glitters everywhere, shops are beautifully decorated and brimming with merchandise, people also seem to be in a better mood than usual. Smiles and nods are in abundance. There is Christmas cheer in the air and all around!

But by the time March comes around, we are tired of winter, having survived the dreary January and February. We are weary of the relentless cold, the grey skies, the leafless tress and the heavy winter coats. Even if March is cold in our minds it is the harbinger of spring and we are impatient for the winter to move on and let spring in. We look for little signs of spring like the little green shoots, little less bite in the wind, little longer days and these small signs bring enormous cheer. Long winters are hard on everyone, but especially dreadful to tropical people like us used to a month or so of a lame excuse of a winter. Five long months of harsh winter seems like a corporal punishment.

This year in London spring is playing hide and seek with us. There have been some glorious days with sunshine and mild temperature. And then horrible grey days with biting cold comes back. But I am ready for spring, and I no longer want to wait for it. Since winter seems in no hurry to move on,  I decided to give it a little nudge and wish it a firm goodbye. I wrote winter a little note.

''Dear Winter, I'm afraid it is time for us to say goodbye. You know what they say about guests who overstay their welcome? Go away and come back after autumn. Bye for now. xoxo''

How about you folks? How do you feel about saying goodbye?

I wished winter goodbye with this glorious chocolate & orange tart. I chose this because of the orange in it. To me orange symbolises winter and what better way to say goodbye than this orange-y dessert?

If like me, you love orange flavoured chocolate, this is just the dessert for you. Not only does this tart smell of oranges, it tastes of oranges too. The dark chocolate when infused with orange caramel takes on a whole new depth. It takes you to chocolate heaven, propelled by the rest of the ingredients-- double cream, graham crackers, sugar, butter, coffee, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla. When these fabulous ingredients come together they sure create magic!


I had bookmarked Chef Charles Draghi's orange and caramelized orange tarts a long time ago. From time to time I would watch the video. I love his relaxed, easy approach to cooking. Also this is one of the most detailed food videos I have come across. Finally I made the tart this Sunday. I am not sharing the whole recipe here. you can watch it in the Chef's video.

I followed everything to the last t. It came out a treat, only I was not very confident about pulling the tarts out of the ramekins. They felt a little wobbly.

It is a very heavy dessert, my husband and me, we could not finish one ramekin between the two of us. Given our (especially mine) voracious eating habits this was indeed a shock!

This is a dessert I would make again and again. Simply because it is one of those which not only tastes glorious, it falls into the food category of more is less. A couple of spoonfuls and you are sated.

Oh I switched to a Fairtrade and organic chocolate. Usually I use Lindt's 70% dark chocolate for my baking. This time picked up Green & Blacks 70% dark chocolate bars because they are organic and Fairtrade.  The moment I unwrapped the foil, a nice smell hit me. And the chocolate is just divine. It is silky smooth and creamy and not very bitter. All those who love dark chocolate, I do not, would find this pleasurable. I am sticking to this brand for now. Not only will I be doing some good to the world, I am getting superior quality in return. They cost the same as other luxury chocolate brands, so I am not even paying extra.


P.S. It's a glorious day here in London, the sun is out in full glory, with promises of temperature going up to 14 degrees. Do you think winter listened to me? Maybe got seduced by the chocolate and orange tarts?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Kolkata Chicken Roll/ Roti Wrap with Spicy Chicken Filling


We needed a quick dinner before rushing off to see Kahaani, a Hindi thriller casting my favourite actress Vidya Balan. Our home has adopted a no-eating-outside-on-weekdays policy. Since it is only in its second week, felt bad breaking it so early on. After all the resolution may grumble and complain about an early death at my hands. Not going that guilt ridden route!

After mulling over various quick options, decided to make a healthier version of Kolkata chicken rolls which are basically roti wraps with spicy chicken filling. It is very much like the Mexican taco.

A hugely popular street snack, these are known as rolls and depending on the stuffing inside they are called chicken roll, egg roll, egg chicken roll, paneer tikka roll, mutton roll, fish roll, potato roll so on and so forth. It is actually a greasy paratha which they fry in front of you and put preprepared filling, sprinkle some salad and roll it up in a white roll of paper and you are good to go. 

In the 1980s little vans took position in every nook and cranny of  Kolkata selling these rolls. So I basically grew up with it. This is one snack which can proudly claim to have South Kolkata roots. Culturally and historically Kolkata can be divided into two parts--north and south. The northern part is much older, known as Adi Kolkata (the original one) and almost all the famous snacks like telebhaja, cutlet, vegetable chops, moglaiparatha originated from there. Among many jeers is this food thing that we, newbie southerners have to face from the veteran northerners. So when the rolls emerged on the scene, we southerners quickly claimed it as our own. North caught onto it much later. 

It is a wholesome snack and used to be really cheap (not any more, like everything else in India). It is usually eaten from late afternoon onwards. Every Kolkatan swears by these and claims to know the best roll shop in the city. I have a couple of favourites too :-)


Ingredients For The 
Healthier Version Of The Roll:

The Rolls:

4 Chapatis/rotis/ Indian wheat bread (usually two of these makes a filling dinner). 
Either make your own chapati or get ready-to-eat-ones from the supermarket.

200 gms of chicken 
( Any skinless, boneless portion, I used two breast pieces )
Vegetarians can substitute with potato or paneer

One medium onion, finely chopped

One medium pepper, finely chopped

2 tea spoons of meat masala

A pinch of turmeric/haldi

Half a tea spoon of ginger and garlic paste, each

2 green chillies, finely chopped 
(seeded or de-seeded depending on your heat tolerance)

3 to 4 cloves of garlic,
peeled and slightly crushed

2 tea spoon of Maggie Hot & Sour Ketchup 
(or any other ketchup)

Salt to taste

2 tea spoons of oil
(vegetable/sunflower)

4 strips of paper to roll the rotis in for an authentic look
(Approx 5 and 1/2 inches long and 12 inches broad)

The Salad:

1/2th cucumber finely chopped

Half onion, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

Juice of half a lime

handful of chopped cilantro

Rock salt or any other salt for sprinkling


  • In a pressure cooker, put the two pieces of chicken, about 3/4th cup of water and the crushed garlic cloves and steam them for up to 2 whistles. If you do not have a pressure cooker, steam the chicken pieces in the way you usually do. Once they have cooled down, pull out the chicken meat into thin stripes
  • In a frying pan, heat the oil, add the chicken pieces, ginger garlic paste, the onion, the pepper and the masalas. Fry for four to five minutes till everything is fried, add salt and the ketchup, mix well and remove from heat
  • Make your chapatis or roast the store bought ones
  • Mix all the ingredients of the salad together and set it aside

  • For assembling the rolls, lay the trips of paper, on them put the chapatis in a way that a couple of inches of the paper is not covered by the chapati. Lay the chicken pieces and top with the salad. Roll the chapati and then wind the paper around it and tuck in the little extra. This will help in holding the filling inside.
  • The roll is ready. It is usually served with lime and chilli. This a an on-the-go snack, eaten in late afternoon/early evening before dinner which starts from 9ish in the evening.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ramblings Of A Two Month Old & A Plate of Lemon Rice

My name is Karma, Kitchen Karma.

As some of you already know, I am a fledgling food blog. The good news is I have just completed two whole months of my existence and the thrilling news is that I have a looong way to go.  I  am realising that I am born at an exciting time when lots are happening in the world of food and food blogs. I sure am delighted to be alive.

I am being nourished by my creator Suchi (more on her later and none of it good!) and all of you, my dear friends who visit me every day. When you look at my page, drool over my photos, smile while reading my content, wow over my recipes, I swell with pride. You may be unaware but I try my hardest to capture your attention with my new post for the brief few minutes you are here. Sometimes I do a cartwheel or two to keep you here longer. And when you leave me a comment I feel like the cat who has got the cream and eaten it too. I purr with satisfaction and blow you a kiss. I am sure many of you felt my love and gratitude.

Another exciting part of my day is when Suchi takes me to visit your blogs. We play and frolic with each other  while you ladies and sometimes a few gentlemen natter on. 

Apart from friends we also visit other blogs. Sometimes we stumble upon these blogs which blow my breathe away....man the photos they have, the recipes they flaunt, the followers they have, the number of comments they receive--it all makes me turn a horrible shade of bottle green with envy. I so want to be like them. If only Suchi would listen to me. *Sigh*

Oh ha Suchi. Let me tell you a bit about her. I was started by a slightly cantankerous woman. Man, she is one whimsical lady, you won't believe the number of drafts lying unfinished in my folder. She just starts typing a couple of sentences or sometimes even a paragraph or two and then leaves them. I mean finish the post and publish it. My number of posts will increase, no, that woman has other ideas. She goes off to her kitchen to cook something else and starts yet another post. I do not want to sound sexist but women are sure moody beings. And being her blog, I have no choice, but to follow her random wishes.

Rather I like that husband of her's much better. Indranil, that is his name, is a sharp eyed guy who misses nothing much. That guy earned my undying gratitude by correcting innumerous typos and spelling mistakes while Suchi is composing. Also he designed my blog header, which he doesn't like much, but impatient Suchi forced him to put it up. He is working on another header, which is a cool one with fishes and carrots, lets see when  he puts that one up.

So basically this is what two months have been about, growing up slowly in the family of food blogs with your care and support. Thanks a lot for being my friend.

P.S. We are in Facebook, where Suchi is posting photos of their various London eat outs, please do join us.

P.P.S Also Suchi has started tweeting (smirk, smirk, she is intimidated by that site), you can follow her blabbers tweets here.

*****

This is my first Blog Hop Wednesday and I am paired with Rudra of Mom's Corner. Her blog is a veritable feast of South Indian food. This was lucky for me, since my husband loves South Indian food. After his 5 years stint in Bangalore he is picky about his sambar, can give a long lecture on whether it is cooked the Tamil way or the Andhra way, keen on his rasam, loves lemon, tomato, curd and other such rice dishes. After toying with the idea of making sambar, loosing nerve I choose the easy way out. I made Rudra's lemon rice, several times over. Her lemon rice is simple, not many spices and my husband just loves it. The first time I made this, I served it with fish in tamarind gravy and my husband polished it all off. Calamity I had not taken any photos. So I made it another day and that day the photos came out all horrible. I was grumbling about it when my husband suggested oh-so-casually that I should make it yet again, just for decent clicks, not for him. But the lazy me decided to pass off the indecent photos, rather than make this yet again.

Ingredients:
Preprepared Rice-- 2 cups
Lime--big, juicy one
Handful of peanuts & cashew nuts
1/4th tea spoon of mustard seeds
1/2 table spoon of roasted chana dal
1/2 table spoon of urad dal
1/2 tea spoon of tumeric powder
2 green chillies, de-seeded and slit in the middle
1 small onion finely chopped
Few curry leaves (my husband for all his love for South Indian food 
cannot stand the smell of curry leaves, so I skipped these)
Salt to taste
2 tea spoons of oil
Lots of cilantro for garnishing


How To Prepare:

In a frying pan, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, once it starts to splutter, add the chopped onion, after a minute or two once the onions start to look glassy, add the dals, nuts, green chillies, haldi and salt. Fry it for a couple more minutes, till the smell of haldi goes away and remove from heat.

In a bowl, add half a lime's juice with the rice and add the fried masalas and the chopped coriander. Mix well, taste, if it does not taste of lime, you may need to add some more lime juice. 

Second time I served the lemon rice with Rasi's Aloo Masala. It was a treat.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Murgh Malai Tikka/ No Spice, Creamy Chicken Kebabs


*****

I lived in Delhi, rather New Delhi in two phases. First as a student in  the JNU campus for three years and then as a working professional for two years. I used to work for a human rights organisation and loved every minute most of it. 

Life was busy, no life was super busy. Since the organisation did crisis response; we were always on our toes. Our Delhi office was/is a crazy place, hyper active and chaotic, thriving on energy and adrenaline surges. In the middle of all the lawyers, rights activists and social workers, I was the lone ex-academic who seemed to have accidentally strayed into the world of activitism. 

I was always dumped with all the writing and managing jobs which the others in their action packed days of fighting court cases, rescuing victims, doing public meetings, training judges never had/found the time to do. For a Ph.D. drop-out used to spending days in musty libraries, breaking my head trying to understand opaque theories and labouring over essays, thesis, bibliographies...my job seemed pretty easy, fun even.

Soon after joining the organisation I was baffled. I could not understand the stress people faced before going in to meet the big boss. Often we could hear screams from the big boss's chamber and papers being thrown. People who went in mostly came out with long faces, sometimes in tears. My time to take in  a report I was working on came one late afternoon. I marched in, confident about the work I had done, yet a little terrified. Fortunately for me the big boss  liked my writing and approved of the report. Unfortunately it meant more and more work.

Along the line I discovered a boss who gave the term workaholic a new definition yet could be a lot of fun, did not suffer fools at all, loved teasing people, persisted in calling me 'Sushi' knowing full well it irritated me, raided my desk for food and mostly saved his screams for others.

I was basically an overworked and underpaid professional. But I was not alone, so were all my colleagues. We were all grossly underpaid and mostly overworked. Though we cribbed about it endlessly, we did not mind much deep down. The satisfaction of working in the development sector, helping people in need, being in the middle of action, never getting the time to get bored was compensation enough.

In the Delhi office we were mostly single, aged between early twenties to mid thirties and life was basically one long party. I shared a fantastic terrace flat with two girls from office, which was just a block away from our office. So it was the official party place and man the rocking parties we have had there. If not a full blown party, a group of friends would hang out together after office every evening. Because our salaries were meagre we soon learned to have low cost fun.

In retrospect, I think the Delhi chapter of our lives could easily be turned into a chick lit. There was friendship, romance, heartbreak, dramatics, fights, companionship, struggle....the list goes on. Most of us have moved on, few friends still remain there.

*****


Few months back I came across an episode of Bikramjit Ray's Secret Kitchen where he went to the Bukhara Restaurant (among the world's 50 best restaurants) in New Delhi to try out their signature dish-- Murgh Malai Tikka. Now this is one of those restaurants which would have never been in our budget. But Bukhara being Bukhara I had read about it in lots of places. So I was curious. The recipe seemed fairly simple except that I did not have a tandoor. Taking the basic recipe, I tweaked it further and over the trials I have discovered a really easy to make yet one of the best chicken kebabs I have ever had. This is that dish you can quickly rustle up for a tasty dinner or wow your guests with. I am waiting to try this on the barbecue during summer. 


Ingredients:

500 gm  skinless, boneless chicken cut into cubes (I use thigh pieces)
A bunch of coriander stalks finely cut (used chives as well)
1 medium onion cut into cubes
1 medium pepper similarly cut into cubes (to make it colourful I use parts of green, red, yellow or orange peppers)
Half a cup of puréed processed cheese (I use home made cottage cheese)
4 to 6 table spoons of milk
( preferably whole milk)
1 and 1/2 tea spoon cornflour
1/2 tea spoons of ginger and garlic paste each
Yolk of 1 egg (adds colour)
Couple of green chillies finely sliced (can de-seed them to lower the heat quotient, apart from the heat, the chillies add a lovely smell and a depth to the dish)
Salt to taste
Oil spray
Approx 4 steel or bamboo skewers (if using bamboo ones please soak these in water for an hour at least before using these, otherwise the skewers may burn)
Lime juice and chopped cilantro for garnish


Method:

Switch on your oven to the highest possible. You can also do this in your BBQ machine or if you have a tandoor that would be ideal. Can also be done on the stove top in a non stick pan. Need about 2 table spoons of oil for frying in that case.

Make the marinade by first mixing the cheese, milk (adding it a little at a time), cornflour, ginger and garlic paste, chillies, coriander stalks and salt. Make sure the marinade is not runny. Add the chicken and veggies pieces and marinate for half an hour or so.

After half an hour, arrange the skewers, brush the chicken and veggies with egg yolk, spray some cooking oil and  put it inside the oven. Please reduce the temperature to 150 degree Celsius. Grill till the chicken pieces turn light/golder brown (roughly 20 mins to half an hour, but then ovens vary, so please keep checking).

Serving Tips:

A good squeeze of lime juice and some cilantro to garnish the kebabs. Serve it with a side salad as a starter or make it the main meal with a big salad.

Taste:

Milk makes the chicken pieces really soft, the cheese turns a lovely brown and adds its own flavour, the cornflour holds the whole thing together and egg yolk gives a lovely golden colour and makes the kababs silky smooth. Since there are no spices added in this kebab, the taste of milk and cheese dominate which is what gives this kabab a unique taste. No wonder this is Bukhara's signature dish. I wish I could make this for my Delhi friends and have another party in our beloved terrace on a balmy spring evening.


Hope you had a good Holi and did get the time for do something special  for yourself to celebrate Women's Day. Check out this special sari clad lady riding on a broom here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Welcoming Spring With A Strawberry Cake!


I did it. Finally.

I baked. A heart shaped cake. Layered with delectable pink strawberry filling and decorated with glazed strawberries. A perfect Valentine's Day cake. But baked in March, more to usher in spring. Not that the  recent weather has given any indication of spring being anywhere near the British Isles! It has been grey, dull and rainy. But  the tress have started coming back to life and I take heart.

So a sumptuous cake. Cake times are happy times, aren't they? :-)

Any excuse to dig into a rich, moist cake is always welcome and if it is enjoyed with friends and family all the more better. After the excesses of the weekend, I still have a little leftover in the fridge. Lets say it will be the chief weapon to fight beginning of the work week blues.


The recipe is my mother's standard sponge cake recipe. Growing up I have helped my mother make this cake innumerable times. Over the trials I have added my touches, here and there.


Lets get started  with the cake.

Ingredients:
2 cups self rising flour
1 and half cups of granulated sugar
3/4th cup vegetable oil
1 tea spoon of baking soda and baking powder each
1 pinch of salt
1 tea spoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk at room temperature
3 eggs (at room temperature or even slightly warm, you could keep it on the window sill if the sun is out)

Method:
Switch on your oven at 150 degree Celsius and in your mixer (if you have a cake mixer how I envy you!) start blending the oil and sugar for about 5 to 7 mins. You can see the colour and consistency changing. A little patience is needed at this stage, but believe me you, it is absolutely worth it. Then add the eggs one at the time, with the first egg add a table spoon of the flour. The flour stops the egg from curdling. Give it a blitz and move onto the next egg. Once all the eggs are added mix for 3 to 5 mins more. Add the vanilla extract and the buttermilk. Give it one more blitz. For now let the mixture be, once you stop the mixer, you will see air bubbles forming in the sugar mix. These bubble are the secret to a good, fluffy cake.

In a mixing bowl, sieve in the flour, the baking powder and soda and a pinch of salt. Slowly add the liquid mixture and fold in gently, moving in one direction.

Grease your cake tin, get your magic cake strips ready, if using any and pour the batter onto the pan. These cake strips stop the cake from doming in the middle and a flat top is a great help while spreading the icing. The cake takes usually 40 to 45 mins to bake. But each oven varies, so please keep checking. After 20 mins or so I place a big piece of foil over the cake tin. This stops the top from burning.

Once your cake has passed the toothpick test, bring it out of the oven and leave it to cool completely. Ideally the cake should be left more than a couple of hours before attempting to cut it in layers. If you cut into a warm cake it crumbles and that we do not want under any circumstances. This video has a good tutorial on how to how to cut a cake into layers.


The Strawberry Filling/Icing:

250 gm of mascarpone cheese
250 gm minus two table spoons of strawberry jam [I usually use Weight Watcher's Reduced Sugar Strawberry Jam, so I need to add  a couple of tea spoons of sugar]
1 tea spoon of vanilla extract

Mix this really well, it will become light pink in colour and gooey in texture. Taste it, you will be tempted to taste another spoonful, but hold on.

Once your cake has completely cooled down, cut it into two. Spread the filling, starting from the centre and leaving a little space on the edges, once you put the top layer back, the filling under pressure would automatically be pushed to the edge.

Spread the remaining filling on the top by using a spatula.



The Glazed Strawberry Decoration:

Wash 4/5 medium sized strawberries and pat dry. Cut them into halves, keeping the leaves on. Taste the strawberries, if they are really sour, you may need to add a little sugar to reduce their tartness.

Take 2 table spoons of strawberry jam, add a little water, microwave for 20 secs or so. Mix it together and dip the strawberries skin side down in the jam mixture and let them dry. Your glazed strawberries are ready.

Lightly place them on top of the cake. Keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours for the filling/icing to set. [Frankly I do not ever have the patience to do this.]

The strawberry cake is ready to dig into.


This is going to Rasi's I'm The Star Event.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tandoori Salmon

*****
Few days  in a charming sea side town, walking along the sandy beach, watching the sea, roaming  in the markets, meeting nice people, eating good food, soaking in a bit of culture and of course shopping! The weather was really mild which made sitting on the beach and walking a pleasure. The sun was also up and about, keeping us company :-) That just about sums up my much awaited holiday. You can find some of the photographs here

No chores, no cooking, no cleaning or even making the bed. What bliss! 

Like all good things, this also came to an end.

We got back home pretty late. The house felt cold and musty and we were  really tired. Things were higgledy piggledy pulled out of the bags, dirty clothes quickly piled up, the house started getting messy, the fridge looked like it has gone on strike and stopped housing food. I tried to bring order of this chaos while my husband frantically got back into work mode. Emails, phone calls, ironing shirts, what not. A girl can take so much *sigh*!

Next day after husband rushed off to work, I glumly sat on the sofa, bleakly taking in the scene.  It felt like the house has been hit by a hurricane and I am the sole survivor! I feel like one too, survivor that is, depleted of all energy and feeling exhausted just by thinking about the hours of house cleaning looming in my horizon. These are the times when I wish we had wall to wall carpets to shove everything under them!

I gave up even before I started and just went back to bed.  Mid morning hunger pangs drove me to the kitchen and all I found was a bag of corns, which I somehow popped in the microwave and took back to bed with me. Munching on the pop corn, I  happily wallowed in misery till too much popcorn gave me tummy ache. Life, sometimes is just too hard!

There is a limit to how much you can imitate the ostriches, lovely exotic creates, they are though. Eventually I resurfaced and getting back into normal mode. Slowly.

Do you also feel the same after coming back from a break? Or is it just me? Why is it that every time I come back from a holiday, I feel like I seriously need another one, like right now?

*****

Today I am going to share with you an easy peasy fish recipe that is on the staple list in our home. Tandori Salmon. It is my husband who discovered the joys of cooking salmon with tandoori masalas. The canteen of the bank where my husband used to work in Copenhagen used to serve this dish. Apparently on the days the canteen served tandori salmon there would be really long queues and the fish kind of flew off the tray. So in order to avoid disappointment they would flock off to canteen early, only to meet a horde of other equally intelligent bankers:-)

Ingredients:

2 medium sized fresh Salmon fillets
1/2 cup of plain/Greek yogurt
3 to 4 heaped table spoon of Tandoori masala (can be easily found in South Asian grocery stores, in the UK   Tesco stocks Shan Chicken Tandoori Masala)
1/2 tea spoon of ginger paste
3/4th tea spoon of garlic paste
1/4 tea spoon of paprika (non spicy variety for colour, the tandoori masala has chilli in it)
1 tea spoon of vegetable oil
Oil spray or oil to grease the baking tray
Half an onion and pepper cut into cubes
Salt to taste
Lime wedges and cilantro for garnish
Red food colour optional (I skip this)

Method:

Clean the salmon fillets and pat dry with a paper towel. In a marinade bag pour the yogurt, add the ginger and garlic paste, the masalas, oil and salt and mix well. Gently add the fillets and coat well. Keep the bad in the fridge in 20 mins or so. (Fish is extremely soft, so longer marinate may result in flaking the fish).

Preheat your oven at 150 degrees. Grease a baking sheet and lay down the fillets, skin side down, spray the fillets as well. In the remaining marinade add the chopped onion and pepper pieces and put it away.

Bake the salmon at 150 degrees Celcius for 40 mins or so till the edges of the salmon pieces become light brownish in colour. My current oven is really slow, it takes well over an hour. Keep checking, with 20 mins remaining gently turn the salmon pieces and spray on the skin side this time. With 10 mins remaining add the onion and pepper pieces, you can put them in a skewer or like me just spread them on the remaining space of the baking sheet.

Prepare two bowls with salad leaves, once ready put the salmon and vegetable pieces on the salad leaves, this way the juices run into the salad leaves and you do not have to bother with salad dressing. Squeeze half a lime on the fillets and sprinkle a little rock salt or any other salt. This time I sprinkled some chat masala too. And you dinner is ready.

If you are in a hurry you can do this on the griddle pan as well.

Serving:

The fish and salad is usually a pretty heavy combination and I generally do not serve anything else with it. But yesterday while browsing through food blogs I came across Julie's Corn Chat. Made some to go with the tandoori, only I did not put any sweet chilly sauce like Julie in my chat. The chat had boiled sweetcorn kernels from 2 cobs, half a cucumber, one pear, 1 de-seeded green chilly, half a red pepper and half a red onion, all very finely chopped and some chopped coriander leaves. I mixed these with lots of lime juice, chat masala powder and some rock salt. It was yummy and tasted great with the tandoori. This chat is all set to become a regular on my menu.



So your carb free, low calorie dinner is ready. I usually make this with white fish fillet to serve as starter during dinner parties. Of course if you barbecue it over coal it tastes yummier.

For desserts we had some fresh fruits and some actually a lot of ice cream.

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