Thursday, April 3, 2014

Greek Goddess Dip



One of my favourite pastimes is walking down supermarket aisles, just exploring the foods and flavours you can cook with. A special favourite of mine is recently opened Foodhall in Lower Parel's Pheonix Mills. The name is clearly borrowed from Harrods and just like its London counterpart, Foodhall boasts of hard to find, delicious goodies from around the world.

They also have in house chefs who bake and cook stuff you can take away. I always try the new things they have out to taste. On last trip, I encountered something called the greek goddess dip. I instantly liked the tangy, salty blend of flavours. The chef, who was standing right there with his creations, listed out some of the ingredients that went into the dip. It's taken me a couple of weeks and a few tries but I finally have something fairly close to what they make at Foodhall.

You need Greek yogurt for this (hence the name) but since you can't find it easily in India, put a cup of normal curd in a cheescloth and hang over a bowl until the water drains off. Scrape out the thick yogurt into a bowl. Add 100 grams of feta cheese and with a fork, mix the two together until you have a smooth mix. Add juice of half a lime to up the tanginess. Take a large handful of cilantro leaves and chop finely, then mix those in as well. There is no need to add any salt since feta has enough of it already but some freshly ground pepper will be a nice addition.

I love this with crunchy lavash but you can also go for healthier options and serve this alongside carrots and cucumber sticks.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Perfect Hummus




One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was on how to make hummus. Six years on, nothing much has changed. Hummus paired with pita bread or with crispy lavash remains my favourite snack. Add a salad or a couple of falafels and we're talking about a regular dinnertime occurence.

One thing has changed though. Tahini, the sesame seed paste essential to hummus recipes, was impossible to find in India then so I wrote of a makeshift recipe. Middle Eastern foods have since become much easier to source so it's high time we talked about a proper hummus recipe.

At least 12 hours before you make hummus (usually the night before), soak 1/3 cup chickpeas in 2 cups of water. The next morning, boil chickpeas in a pressure cooker until they are very soft. You should have around a cup of cooked chickpeas. Put them in a blender alongwith 3 cloves of peeled and minced garlic, 2 tbsp tahini paste, 1 tsp lime juice (half a lime should do), 2 tbsp olive oil and a hearty pinch of salt. Blend into a smooth paste. Taste and add more olive oil or lemon or salt until you get a perfect tasting hummus.

Scrape into a bowl, pour some more olive oil on top and if you like, sprinkle with sumac.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chips and Dips




The other day, I was making a list of my favourite comfort foods. It surprised me to see how many of those involved a crunchy carb paired with something soft and gooey. In short, a chip and a dip. So in this brand new series, let's talk about my favourite chip and dip pairings.

The top of this list will always be guacamole. In London, I made many a meal of nachos and guacamole, on other days it was potato chips and guac. I even had this farmer in borough market who would sell a whole basket of avocados for a pound, thus ensuring a whole week of guacamole meals.

Good avocados are harder to find in mumbai but I never pass one by. So whether you are an old fan or someone who is yet to be converted, go look for ripe avocados and make yourself a batch.

The only secret to good guacamole is good avocados. When shopping, look for the ones that are soft when pressed. The hard ones take weeks to ripen and some never do.
Before you cut open your avocado, get all your ingredients ready. For each avocado, finely chop a small onion. Tear leafs off 4-5 sprigs of cilantro and chop those too. Juice half a lemon. I don't eat chilli but it's traditional to add finely minced jalepeno chilli to guacamole and you should probably do that.

Now back to the avocado. Split it in half, remove the seed and scoop out the flesh. Pour lemon juice immediately to prevent any darkening. Mash the avocado roughly, then add all the other ingredients plus a pinch of salt and mix well. I prefer to leave it chunky but you can mash it even finer if that's your preference.

All done now, so grab that bag of nachos. A word of warning - guacamole will get dark if you leave it lying around so only make as much as you are likely to eat in the next hour or so.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On Things That Get Imported


I sometimes marvel at the people who make purchasing decisions for supermarkets. Really, just walk down the aisles of any large grocery store in Mumbai, specially the imported food sections, and so much of it will make no logical sense. Take this elderflower cordial. Syrups and mixers fall in two categories in Indian markets. There is the Roohafza and all the local flavours my mom and aunties buy every summer. And there are the high priced Monin flavours of Irish Cream and Blue Curacao and such like made popular by the drinks served at cafes and pubs.

Elderflower cordial is neither. It's not a flower that's either grown or traditionally made into a drink in India. And I am yet to find a Mumbai pub selling elderflower drinks. In short, selling elderflower cordial in India completely defies logic. And yet there are rows of these bottles sitting pretty in the imported food aisles of hypercity.

And I was so glad they are there, I wasted no time bringing one home and fixing myself a drink. For these iconic green bottles define summer in a distant city that's almost a second home to me. Elderflower to me is a short lived summer, a basement pub and lots of smiling friends. So whoever you are Mr. Hypercity buyer, thank you for the memories!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bircher for One


Joy the Baker raised a crucial point about breakfast a few years ago. Most breakfast recipes out there can't be scaled to feed just one. Even if you add just one egg, you will end up with way too much batter for crepes or pancakes. Joy solved the problem with pancakes, and possibly waffles with her iconic post titled The Single Lady Pancake.

I've now encountered a similar problem with birchermuesli. A Swiss breakfast staple, bircher is a delicious combination of uncooked oats left to soak overnight, apples, nuts and dried fruits. The issue here is the apple. Even the smallest apple will be too much for one serving and you can't leave these apples lying around, they brown too quickly.

So here's my solution. The night before, measure out 3 tbsp oats in a large bowl. Add enough apple juice to cover the oats. This will impart the traditional apple flavour to your bircher without you grating a real apple. The next morning, pick a fruit that goes with oats. It has to be something sweet, not tart and preferably small enough to scale down. Ideal, as you can see, will be grapes. Or berries. Add that to your oats and then anything else that catches your fancy. I like the bite of nuts so I added almonds and then some cranberries to make it an indulgent breakfast. Mix it all in and if you find the muesli to be too thick, you can add a bit more apple juice or even some yogurt.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Magic Library

Every year on my birthday, the most important decision is on where to eat. Last year, it was the excellent spuntino in London's soho for lunch followed by an equally spectacular hix for dinner. So when the day rolled in a couple of weeks back, I wanted to pick another restaurant with a wow factor.

Jiggs Kalra's masala library has been on my wish list ever since it opened a few months back. But turns out it's super popular and you can't call them up a couple of days in advance and expect a reservation. Thankfully, a last minute table did open up and masala library is where I found myself for my birthday dinner.

The 9 course chef's tasting menu starts with an amuse bouche of sev puri shot and a cheddar cheese pao. Loved the bun, while the sev puri was more show than flavour.

The meal then started with a mushroom chai. A bit of mad Heston like touch here - the servers bring in tea cups where they add dried mushrooms (tea) and white truffle oil powder (looks like creamer). The mushroom consommé is then poured over to complete the soup. I didn't much care for the dried mushrooms but the consommé had an intense flavour that made it one of my favourites for the day.

Then come in a succession of starters - all presented well and delicious but hardly memorable. What's truly memorable is the mishti doi sorbet that comes as a palate cleanser before the mains. It shows up in a tiny box as a lollipop that's truly delicious.

I frankly didn't like the mains. The dal is your signature Kalra and quite near perfect but the veggies were a bit meh and the kulchas overwhelmed by their stuffing. The desserts are presented creatively - jalebi shaped like caviar and gajar halwa pyramids surrounded by gajar halwa icecream. Fun, but not something I'd go back for.

What I will go back for are all the sides and all the little touches like the pan candy floss and the churan box. Masala Library may not be perfect but it certainly makes for a delightful evening.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Traditions

Today is a day of many festivals. Maghi in the north, makar sankranti in Western India and pongal in southern regions, the day variously marks harvest, new year and start of an auspicious time. My favourite festival though happens a day before January 14. On lohri day, my state of Punjab celebrates winter solstice with bonfires and much signing and dancing.

As with all festivals, food forms a major part of lohri. It's traditional to eat peanuts, sesame brittle called rewri and for some strange reason, popcorn, on the day. The same foods are also thrown into the bonfire, an offering to bring in good luck.

There are also sweets, of course. The more popular one is bhugga, made of condensed milk and sesame seeds, bringing in warmth in the cold months. But it's this lesser known sweet that I wanted to tell you about.




This sweet springs up at all sweet shops in Amritsar the first week of January. It's called khajoor, the same name as dates. And yet, the sinful treat has nothing healthy or date like going for it. This is instead, a dough ball made of sugar and flour and ghee. Then deep fried in more ghee so the outside becomes crisp and crumbly while the inside is soft, white and truly rich and delicious. I have memories of khajoors eaten just a short while out of the frying pan, still warm and oozing ghee. Then, just like magic, they vanish a day later, not to be seen for another year.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Polenta



There is no grain that polarises opinion more than polenta. Most people I know can't stand it. Even an Eastern European friend, who should be guzzling this stuff, couldn't understand why I would order polenta fingers at a restaurant. It's peasant food, he said.

But peasant food or not, I like the simple comfort of polenta. I like it even better when it is cut into fingers or wedges, then pan fried. And topped, in this case, with a creamy mushroom sauce.

I am not going to tell you how to cook polenta because it varies from one package to the other. So go by what it says on yours. Once it's cooked through, pour into a greased pan large enough to hold about 1 inch thick layer. The one you see above is in fact a bit too thick. Once it's in the pan, leave it in the fridge overnight to set.
Next day, cut into fingers or wedges or a shape of your choice. Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan and shallow fry your polenta until browned on both sides. The thinner you set it, the crisper it will be.

I like polenta best with this creamy mushroom sauce that's also super easy. Wash 4-5 mushroom. Remove stems, pat dry and cut into thin slices. Peel and finely mince a clove of garlic. In a small pan, melt a tsp of butter. Add garlic and sauté until it starts to brown. Then add mushrooms and stir fry on a high heat until they are browned and cooked through. Now add 2 tbsp cream, cook for just another minute to heat it through and finish with a pinch of salt and a dash of fresh ground pepper.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year


Here's to a year full of...

          The richness of cream

          The decadence of chocolate

          The sweetness of vanilla

          The comfort of cinnamon

           And the joy of tiny, tiny marshmallows.

Have a delicious 2014!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kale Chips

Kale Chips by Bombay Foodie

I know, I know, you are sitting there wondering why we are talking about this again. Haven't at least half the food bloggers already written posts about how kale chips are the new and improved substitute for potato chips.

Well, I just wanted to set the record straight. Nothing is a good substitute for a fried potato. But if you take that off your head and get in the mood for a crisp, savoury snack that takes 10 minutes to bake and is really good for you, go ahead and make kale chips.

Kale's now easier to get in Mumbai, thanks to Trikaya (did I tell you I owe them a LOT for all the fancy vegetables they grow for us foodies in Mumbai!!!!). And these chips are easy enough to put together whenever you get a snack craving. Just make sure that as soon as you buy your kale, you wash it and dry it. Then leave it in an airtight box in the fridge until needed.

Heat the oven to 190C. Wipe your kale leaves with a cloth to remove any residual water. Remove stems and roughly tear into small pieces. In a bowl, mix 6 torn kale leaves with 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle salt and crushed black pepper, then mix well to coat the leaves with oil. Line a baking tray with parchment and spread the kale leaves in a single layer. Bake for 12-15 minutes until crisp. Keep a close watch starting at 10 minutes because these chips will get bitter if they burn.