Sunday, May 27, 2012

Summer BBQs = Happy Days

Balcony of an East London high-rise. Braving the crazy wind, the coals in the kettle BBQ glow a deep orange.  Lamb chops, chicken sashliks and chicken wings are fighting for grilling space. 

It's a Friday, the day had been hot and sunny and the balmy evening perfect for a BBQ. Some friends gather and an impromptu party starts. Sounds of laughter and chatter drift out into the quiet neighbourhood. 

The sun lazily sets in the horizon, streaking the sky pink and lingering for the longest time.  The newly built Olympic racing tracks glow in the last rays of the sun.


*****
A hot Sunday afternoon spent fighting the weeds in the small patch,  which they proudly call their garden. In the late afternoon they involuntarily light the BBQ. It is too perfect an evening to miss out on BBQ-ing. Londoners do not take chances with good weather, nor do they take them for granted. So on days when the sun does come out, they celebrate that sunny day whole heartedly. And if by weather God's grace that day coincides with the weekend, then it seems like each and every Londoner has won the Lotto. No, make it the Lotto and the National Lottery and every horse race from England to Ireland. They, meaning the good people of London, spend the whole day outdoors in parks, gardens, meadows, beaches, riverside, poolside and most of them BBQ bits and pieces of meat. So like true Londoners they, meaning the weed fighters, also light the BBQ and proceed to grill some meat. And while the meat was grilling, they poured themselves a glass of bubbly and relaxed in the tranquil evening.


*****
The May edition of World on a plate is about grilling. A perfect topic for this time of the year. Though I am sure those in India and rest of the super heated places would severely disagree. But here in the UK we have been enjoying awesome weather and suddenly there has been a spate of BBQ dinners. 

My absolute favourite among all BBQ meat are hot and sweet chicken wings which feels sticky to touch and tastes a bit hot and a bit sweet and on the whole super yummy. I do not know where I first ate it. Maybe in some Chinese restaurant back home. But it is a taste that has lingered in my favourite food list for far too long and decided to rent the top position, perhaps for ever. So when I started cooking with loads of enthusiasm, I decided to perfect my own hot and sweet chicken wings recipe. This recipe was the foundation on which I built my perfect hot and sweet chicken wings recipe. I simply cannot imagine a BBQ without this and there are never any leftovers wings for the next day. And the recipe is so simple that now I think I could make this in my dream. Just keep your 1/3rd cup ready and the rest is easy peasy.


Ingredients for Hot & Sweet Chicken Wings:
  • 1 kg/ 2 pounds of chicken wings 
  • 1/3rd cup of honey
  • 1/3rd cup of Sriracha sauce or any other hot sauce that you prefer
  • 1/3rd cup of dark Soya sauce
  • 1/3rd cup of oil
  • 2/3rd cup of BBQ sauce
  • 2 garlics crushed

Method:
  • Wash the chicken wings and gently pierce them with a fork/knife or even a skewer at several places and pat dry, keep them aside
  • In a large bowl or plastic bag add the rest of the ingredients, mix well (the marinade will be a little liquid-y)  and then add the chicken wings, make sure that the chicken pieces are nicely coated in the marinade.
  • Keep them in the refrigerated for 24 hours. Sometimes I have grilled them just an hour after marinating them, they still taste nice, but no where near to what they taste after being marinated for one whole day.
  • Get your BBQ ready and grill them till they are almost charred, coating with the remaining marinade from time to time.

  • Wait till they cool a little, before you take your first bite. I have burnt my poor tongue many a times in my tearing hurry to take the first bite. Burnt tongue or no, the taste is so worth it, that everything else fades when you chew a piece of juicy chicken seeped in sticky hot and sweet sauce and the charred bits add to the perfection.
So today when we started the BBQ, I realised to my horror that there were no chicken wings left. But there were some pork loin cubes. I marinated the pork in hot and sweet marinade for about an hour and it came out a treat. Midway while the pork skewers were sizzling on the grill I had an urge to eat rice. So I quickly made some fried rice and reduced some of that remaining marinade with a little chicken stock and made a sauce.

Before signing off, I want to repeat (you may also repeat after me) how finger lick'n good this recipe is and so simple to make. Do give it a try.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Easy Pad Thai...



I. LOVE. South East Asian Food. 

My tender feelings developed as a mere child, with the taste of Indian Chinese cuisine. And now it has expanded to encompass the entire region and beyond. All embracing love you see :-)

As a kid I hated eating vegetables.  Except as part of Chinese food. Spinach, cabbage, carrots, beans-- vegetables which made me want to cry when cooked with Indians spices, took me to heaven when made with little soya sauce and rice vinegar. Fortunately for me Kolkata had/has lots of great Chinese places. And even more fortunately my mother loved/loves Chinese food. So the two of us would often eat lunch in Chinese restaurants. These were our secret dates, even my father or brother were unaware of these. 

Teenage made me discover Tibetan momos/dumplings and thupkas (Chinese style soups with Indian garam masala). Spent many a happy afternoon polishing off plates of steamed pork momos and slurping on the soup when I should have been in college. And then one of my aunts  introduced me to Burmese cuisine. Ah the joys of spicy and pungent Khao Swé. 

As a student, when I moved to Toronto, I was really excited cos my dig was next to the China Town. But that excitement fizzled out when served with extremely bland broths and steamed stuff with barely any flavour in them. I felt like telling them to take the food back to the kitchen and spice it up. That was when I realised (the hard way) the difference between Chinese and Indian Chinese cuisine. That is also when I turned my attention (somewhat in desperation) to the rest of the region. And I discovered Vietnamese, Thai and Filipino food. Same basic ingredients-- rice and noodles with lots of veggies and some meat/fish/sea food and joy oh joy cooked with soya sauce and vinegar. Throw in some fish sauce, sesame oil, 5 spices, peppercorns, oyster sauce and my love got deeper and deeper with each new flavour.

And I am really partial to noodles. Given a choice of noodles and rice, I always, always go for noodles.

Continuing with the noodle-y love of mine presenting to you some easy peasy Pad Thai for those week nights you cannot be bothered to spend more than half an hour in the kitchen. This is a recipe which can be easily made from the ingredients in your pantry & freezer and makes you feel like you are eating in a restaurant.

I basically follow this Pad Thai recipe from You Tube, but ingredient wise my version is much shorter.


Ingredients For Pad Thai with Shrimps:

For the Noodles:

  • One packet of  Pad Thai noodles, need to be soaked in water according to instructions at the back of the packet.
  • A pound or so of cooked shrimps
  • One medium onion, finely diced
  • Couple of spring onions, diced
  • Couple of eggs
  • 2 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced
  • Sliced tofu (I did not add this)
  • Veggies like broccoli, carrots, bok choy, mushrooms, sweet radish, Chinese chives (I did not add any this time round)
  • I added a couple of those fat red chillies to bring in some heat
  • Oil
For the Sauce:
  • 2 table spoons of Oyster sauce
  • 3 table spoons of tamarind sauce/pulp
  • 3 table spoons of fish sauce
  • 2 table spoons of palm sugar (I used Indian jaggery)
  • Little water
For the Garnish:
  • Crushed peanuts
  • Lime (juice and slices)
  • Coriander leaves
  • Red chilly flakes
  • Bean sprouts




How To Make Pad Thai:

Pad Thai is cooked in three steps.

First lets make the sauce: In a sauce pan add the palm sugar/jaggery and a little water, once it has melted, add the rest of the ingredients one by one and bring it to a boil, remove from heat and keep it in a bowl ready to mix with the noodles at a later stage....taste the sauce, if too sweet add some more fish sauce to make it salty....

Now onto the second stage, lets stir fry the noodles: Heat 2 table spoons of vegetable oil in a wok, when smoking hot, add the garlic and the onion, after a couple of minutes when the onion starts to look transclusent, add the already soaked noodles and mix well. Then add the cooked shrimp, sliced tofu, and any other vegetables that you might be adding. After another couple of minutes, add about 4 to 6 table spoons of the sauce, mix well, if it is too dry you can add a little water. Once all the ingredients are well coated with the sauce, make some space in the wok, add the two eggs, lightly beaten and scramble them.Then mix with rest of the ingredients. 

Garnish the noodles with some crushed peanuts, lime juice, coriander leaves, bean sprouts and dry chilly flakes.

[You can substitute the prawn with chicken, vegetarians can cut off prawn/chicken and just stick to veggies and tofu, the options are numerous.]

Your easy Pad Thai is ready, you can proceed to polish it off like I do. In the middle of the week, I promise a nice and easy dinner, which makes you dream of sun bathing in Thailand, okay if not, then at least a meal in your favourite Thai restaurant!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Okra Stir Fry & Some Venice Stories

Hello Folks,

You must be wondering where I had disappeared to, yet again. Thanks a bunch for those who enquired. I am hale and hearty, just a wee bit travel weary. You see I am back from yet another trip. This time it was Venice. Yes the water city, the land of gondolas, the beautiful churches, labyrinth of lanes and by-lanes, sunshine, gelato, masks and all other things beautifully Venetian.

You must be wondering how much I travel. Dear me, I am wondering the same thing myself. And I am pinching myself too. To see if I am dreaming or this is really happening. One month I go to Paris, next to Venice. Am I in some wistful travel dream? 

You see ever since we came to the UK just after our marriage, a little less than three years ago, we have been planning to travel. It was one of the juiciest carrots my husband dangled to bring me to the UK. He showed me dreams of seeing Europe, not in 15 days but slowly, steadily, a little at a time. Needless to say I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. The first year when he was a full time student and me, sporadically employed, travel was an unthinkable luxury. Second year we were finding our feet, settling in the hectic life of London fresh from the green pastures and slow life of Oxford. But by third year we were ready to travel. Boy, we were raring to go. Some things we decided on--
  • To travel during March and June, the weather gets better, tourist season starts, yet the rush of summer does not set in, so prices are still affordable and places are a little less busy...
  • To apply for Schengen Visa for three months and make at least 3 to 4 trips to make the most of the visa, I wish UK was part of Schengen, then we could have spaced out our travels...
  • To make use of the public holidays of this time, there are quiet a few in the UK, and go for short trips, save annual leave for a trip to India ( hopefully, fingers crossed)...
All well with the planning, but what this frequent travelling is doing is making me super busy. The pre-departure thousand things to do, followed by post holiday exhaustion and chores, trying to get back into normal rhythm is super time consuming. Hence my reduced presence in the blog sphere. But I am not gone all the time, am trying to keep up with the commitments, albeit a little late. I hope I will not loose my new blog friends.  And I am certainly not complaining. I am loving this kind of hectic schedules and if you asked me to set off for another exotic place tomorrow, I can be ready in half an hour and would happily get up at three in the morning to catch the early morning flight! I will also find some time to make some sandwiches for travel (airport food is horrible and expensive), do some research about the place we are visiting [the must see + the must eat + the must buy], tidy up the house (hate coming back to a messy place), do grocery for when we come back et al. I am sure you get the gist.

Before I share the recipe of this post, I wanted to share with you some photos of our Venice trip.

The famous Rialto Bridge/ Ponte di Rialto, one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal (main road/water way of Venice). There are innumerable souvenir shops on the bridge.  It is a hectic place, filled with tourists and has some great views.

Gondolas parked along the bank, Venice

A typical Venetian Piazza. We found the best Venetian mask shop in this square. The masks were lovely and pretty affordable, compared to some of the shops nearer to the landmarks. We liked the shop so much we went back the next day, getting lost in the never ending Venetian lanes and by-lanes. And all our efforts were rewarded by a hefty discount!

Typical Venetian houses. Love the balconies and the flower pots. Our house in Kolkata has lots of balconies, so they are really dear to me.

Santa Maria della Salute, this church is located in a narrow finger of land.  We sat near the water one evening, had a picnic dinner while watching the sunset, it was lovely!

Bridge of Sighs/ Ponte dei Sospiri. 
The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. It was designed by Antoni Contino  and built in 1602.
The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byronin the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, little could be seen from inside the Bridge due to the stone grills covering the windows.
A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge Of Sighs.

Source: Wikipedia

Colourful Houses in the Island of Burano. In this island, famous for its lace, each house is famed to be a different colour!

Shot from the Grand Canal, while travelling in the water bus.
View of Venice spread out, from the Tower of San Giorgio Maggiore

Venetian masks, one shop on the Rialto Bridge
Shot during our picnic in the land strip next to Salute
Gondola on the Grand Canal
Piazza San Marco all lighted up and filled with music!
*****
Now onto the recipe. It is time again for Blog Hope Wednesday and this time I am paired with Kamalika of Dedicated to Janaki Pattis. Kamalika is a vegetarian and in her blog she talks a lot about diet for diabetic people. After going through her blog a couple of times, I decided to make her Okra-Onion Stir Fry. Okra is one of our favourite vegetables, but sadly we do not eat enough of it. So I grabbed the chance to cook Okra. This vegetable reminds me of summer, long lazy days, holidays. My mother made it several ways. This is one of those rare vegetables which I loved since my childhood. I have added a potato and one tomato to Kamalika's recipe, also a pinch of sugar, yes sugar to balance all that sourness of am chur powder [dried mango powder]. The okra came out all tangy and tasty, served it with khidchi/khichuri [lentil and rice cooked together] and some hot lime pickle.


What You Need To Make This Okra Stir Fry:
  • Okra - washed , dried and cut into 1/2 inch pieces ( I used roughly 400 gms )
  • Onion - 3-4 cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • One potato, slit into half and then cut into thin wedges
  • One juicy medium sized tomato, cut into thin strips
  • Red chilly powder - 1 tea spoon
  • Coriander powder - 1 tea spoon
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tea spoon
  • Amchur Powder/Dried Mango powder - 1/2 tea spoon ( This is used to remove the sliminess of Okra). This can be replaced by tamarind water or lime juice.
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 table spoons of Sunflower/Groundnut Oil
  • 1/4 tea spoon sugar

The way You Make This Stir Fry:

In a non stick pan add oil, when the oil is hot, turn the heat to medium low, add the chopped potato wedges, fry for 5 mins or so till the potato wedges brown nicely, then add okra pieces and sauté for 3 - 5 minutes. Add the dry powders except Amchur powder. Sauté for a couple of minutes more. The add the chopped onions, tomatoes and salt to taste. After a couple of minutes when the onion pieces started to look translucent, add about one fourth cup of water, let it come to a boil, the water will evaporate. Add the amchur powder, mix well and then add the pinch of sugar to balance the taste. Switch off the heat. 

You can serve this with chapatis/parathas, I served it with khidchi. This would also be lovely with some rice and dal.


Cannot tell you how yummy and homely the okra  and the khichuri tasted in the middle of all that unpacking! By the way these are some of my shopping from Venice. Did I mention that Venice is a treasure trove for shopping? If you are planning a trip there, do keep a separate shopping budget. We sure blew ours!


In case you are wondering about the food we ate there, you can find the album in Kitchen Karma's Facebook Page. Do pay a visit to see all the gelato and the pizzas!

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