Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fusion Cuisine

Early morning flights are bad. I had get up at 3 to get ready and catch a flight to come to my hometown. Am here for a couple of days. I hate sitting inside that flying capsule. So to divert my attention I walked into the airport bookstall that generally sells corny novels. I found this interesting book there.

The East Indian Kitchen (Enduring flavours of Maharashtrian-Portuguese fusion cuisine) by Michael Swamy. The book was sealed with plastic, so there was no way of looking inside; the name sounded interesting so I decided to buy it The first thing that I didn't like about the book is that the recipes don't have pictures. I like to look at a dish before deciding to make it. This book does have pictures of a few dishes, but they are at the center of the book miles away from the actual recipe. It's not helpful.

It has quite a few good things though. It gives measurements table for quick reference (though some values are wrong). It also gives information about various spices and their English as well as Indian names. In the meat section, there's information about cleaning different types of meat. This information is by no means comprehensive, but quite useful nevertheless. There is information about how to make different types of masala mixes. It also gives a bit of the history of the two cuisines and spices used etc. This information is good to just understand why Maharashtrian-Portuguese fusion comes naturally.

Now about the dishes. The dishes are quite simple to make (most of them) and it covers the whole gamut from starters to desserts. Also interesting is the wine section where he teaches us how to make different wines from peach, plum, etc. Some of the dishes are very common in every Maharashtrian home but some are a little more special (maybe they are common in Goan homes, but I don't know that). Overall it does look like an interesting selection of recipes for me to try. A couple of my Portuguese friends have just embarked on a world tour which will also bring them to India and I hope to make at least one fusion dish for them when we meet in a couple of months.

The loooooong one hour in the flight went flying away because of this book. And here I am sipping tea and watching my sis cook lunch. I think I should go and help her (and make something to put on the blog).

So long live Chillies and Tomatoes and all the other vegetables and spices that the Portuguese brought to India centuries ago. We wouldn't have had such a rich and varied cuisine if it wasn't for them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recipe - Phodnicha bhaat (Maharastrian fried rice)

Today, a friend said that he will ask his bachelor friends to visit my blog so they can learn some simple stuff to cook. Well, today I was feeling lazy so decided to make a very simple dish. I am sure anybody can make it. Plus, it is a good to use up leftover rice! Here's how it's gonna look eventually -

Ingredients - 
  1. Rice 100gms (Rice made the night before tastes better here :) )
  2. 1 small onion - not too thinly chopped
  3. 1 small potato - thinly chopped
  4. Green chilli - 2
  5. Curry leaves - 5/6
  6. Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  7. Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  8. Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  9. Salt
Method - 
1. If you are using rice made on the night before, break the lumps that might have formed in it. If fresh rice is to be made, use the absorption method - Take a bowl and fill it half with water. Put the rice in it and start heating on small flame. When it is just about to be fully cooked, take if off the burner and put it in a strainer. Wash with cold water and spread it out. We want all the water out.
2. Chop the onion not too thin. Chop the potatoes very thin. This is important so that both the potatoes and onion pieces cook at the same time. Chop the chill in medium sized pieces. If you like more spicy food, chop the chillies very thin.
3. Heat oil in a wok. Put mustard seeds in it and as soon as they start splitting, put the cumin seeds in.
4. Quickly put the green chillies and after about 5 seconds, put the curry leaves in. Cover the wok for 10 seconds while these cook.
5. Put the onions and potatoes in together. It's important that they are put together or else the onions will start browning even before potatoes are cooked. We don't want that. Cover the wok and let it took for a few minutes (you might wanna put a little salt in it to help it cook better).
6. Once it's cooked, put the turmeric powder in. Mix it well and put the rice in. There's no need to cook the rice anymore. Mix in the salt and you are ready to go! Serve it with Mango pickle or Mango chutney.

10 min later...
Today, there were no silly mistakes. Maybe coz there was no one nagging me (I can safely say this as the nagger is not around for 2 days). It tasted amazing!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recipe - Cauliflower & Potato Curry

After last night's semi successful experiment with the fish, I decided to go for ingredients that I know a little better. Cauliflower and potatoes. The maid has already made chapatis (I get bored of making them), so now it was only a matter of making the sabzi and eat!

There are two ways of making this sabzi. Dry and curried. I decided to make the curried one. Even with this I had two options, I decided the short cut method. It's easy and doesn't need a mixer/grinder. This is the method I used when I was in UK and I didn't have the luxury of some of the things that are easily accessible here.

Ingredients -
  1. Cauliflower - approx 500 gms
  2. Potato - 1 medium
  3. Tomatoes - 2 medium
  4. Onions - 1 big
  5. Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tsp
  6. Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  7. Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  8. Red chilli powder - as per taste
  9. Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  10. Garam masala - as per taste (around 1 tsp should be enough)
  11. and of course, Salt
Method -
1. Cut and wash the cauliflower into small pieces (cutting is not exactly what it should be called. it's plucking and cutting happening together). Wash the potato (I don't like peeling them) and cut into small pieces as well. Then thinly chop the onion and tomatoes. I love this part :)

2. Heat oil in a pan and put the mustard seeds in till they start splitting. Then put the cumin seeds and quickly put the onion in. Mix it and let it cook till golden brown (if it's red onion, it's a little tricky to tell if it's golden brown or not). Put the ginger-garlic paste in mix it.
3. Put the cauliflower and potatoes in. Mix well and then then put the turmeric and chilli powder in. Mix well and put the salt in. At this point (after it's cooked of course) it can still be served without any problem. tastes great! but has no curry.
4. Put the Garam masala and the tomatoes in. Mix well and pour a cup of water. More can be used later. Cover the pan and and let it cook for 10 min. Keep making sure that there's enough water. When both the main ingredients are cooked, it's done!
33 minutes and a small fight later...
Don't know what's wrong with me since the last couple of months. My mind's not in the right place. I very stupidly put "Goda masala" instead of "Garam masala". It still tasted good, but not the taste that I wanted. I gotto get out of this phase...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Recipe - Roasted Black Pomfret.. a new experiment

So, I braved the rains and went to the fish stall to get prawns. But, they were not fresh. Eventually I got a couple of Black Pomfrets. Decided to make roasted fish instead of one with curry. I don't like the curried fish much. Now, this is the first time I made this fish. So wasn't sure how it's gonna taste. Just smelled it a little and decided on a few things that would be best for marination. I am not going to put any numbers here as I usually cook by instinct. Any and all of these ingredients can be and should be put as per taste.

Ingredients - 
  • Tamarind
  • Schezwan paste
  • Salt
  • Rice flour
  • ... Fish :)
Method -
1. Clean the fish thoroughly with water and take all the innards out. We don't want to taste them. The best way to take them out is cutting the front underbelly of the fish and scooping them out. Cut the fins off and also the tail.

2. Cut the fish into manageable pieces. I like roasting the whole fish as well. In this case, make diagonal cuts on the body of the fish so the spices are absorbed better. Today I wanted to make smaller pieces.
3. Heat a a small amount of water (say about half a cup) and put the tamarind in it. Mix well and take the tamarind pieces out. Put this tamarind water in a bowl and marinate the fish pieces in it for 10 minutes in the refrigerator. This is not needed for all fish, but I find Black pomfret a little pungent. This helps remove that smell.
4. After 10 minutes, take the bowl out and throw the excess tamarind water away. Today, I decided to use Schezwan sauce which I had in the fridge. It tastes good. But instead of that, a lot of spices can be put. Red chilli powder, a little turmeric, Garam masala, Cumin powder, Amchur. This is what I normally put. And of course salt. Apply it well to all the pieces. Toss them around in the bowl and then put in it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

5. After the fish pieces are marinated for an hour, heat oil in a frying pan. Just about half a centimeter depth should be enough. Even less.

6. In a flat container, take out the rice flour.
7. Put the pieces one by one in it and coat it thoroughly with the flour from all sides. A little cornflour and bread crumbs is also good. But rice flour has a different taste.
8. Put the pieces in the heater oil carefully. Shallow fry the pieces on all sides till they are brown. After a few tries you will know how much you want to fry them. I like them well done (I like my steak VERY well done :) ).

9. Take the pieces out and put on a kitchen towel to remove excess oil. And serve with thinly sliced onions and lemon.

I gotto say, it looks amazing! I have stored some marinated pieces in the fridge and I am gonna probably bake them tomorrow. That's gonna be another experiment! Right now, I am gonna eat! Hungry!!!
30 min later.
Ok. The marination was amazing. The crust was good. BUT. I messed up on one most important thing due to my inexperience. I didn't buy good fish :(

Knives out!

I can see people scurrying for cover under trees as rain pours down. I am sitting in the balcony sipping tea watching the city get drenched. The fish stall has opened and so has the chicken outlet. And all of a sudden I feel the urge to start what I have always wanted to. A kitchen blog. I have had quite a few blogs in the past. But never one dedicated to my love for cooking. This will be the first and I hope I will be able to do justice to this. I want to put all my good and bad experiences and share all my experiments gone wrong, in this blog.

So, now I am gonna finish my tea and to get some fish before all the fresh ones are gone. Let's see what I end up making today.