HERB CRUSTED SEA BASS IN A TOMATO-CUMIN SAUCE

When I moved to Chennai 9 months ago, I remember making a mental note of all the things to do here to fully experience the ‘big city life’. At the top of the list right under street shopping, was to check out its diverse food scene. Restaurants, old and new, recommended and side-lined, I wanted to check them all out for myself; especially the numerous cafés that kept mushrooming all over the place offering different cuisines. A few of these places we did try, and were not particularly impressed with. At the risk of sounding like a complete snob, I’m going to say that there was even one such café where the bolognese tasted like (pav) bhaji! In their defence though, it was a pretty good bhaji.

Scouring the city’s numerous restaurants in search of a good meal is not an easy job. I remember mentioning this to my father-in-law this one time, and he very appropriately summarized it as the paradox of choice. It is especially hard also, if it’s you who’s suggesting it to the people you’re asking to go with you – that’s like an added level of pressure where the outcome is not in your hands! Anyway, this is a story with a happy ending..

There was a newbie we chanced upon in the heart of the city that we thought was worth giving a shot. I ordered the herb-crusted fish that came with a spiced tomato sauce and boiled baby potatoes. It went down a treat, and by the time I ate my way through it, I was thinking up ways of recreating it.

My attempt was solely based off of what I had tasted, so I ended up using the general theme as a template and experimenting with the flavours. Fish and tomatoes – being a classic combination – works well with thyme and oregano, and the pinch of cumin really amplified its personality. It didn’t taste exactly like what I had eaten, but it was every bit delicious! Every recipe and every bite has a story. And this is how this dish was born.
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Gambas al pil pil : CHILLI-GARLIC PRAWNS IN OLIVE OIL

Hot summer days would mean a continuation of the salad theme. I’m not sure how and when exactly this switch happened, but it may have been something to do with my piqued interest after experiencing first-hand, the benefits of fresh and light lunch options. On an unrelated note, I bought some green tomatoes recently – any ideas on what I can use them with? Back to my happy-healthy food delusion, the munching down on salad leaves usually ends with a strong urge to plan for a full-carb dinner. You can’t win ‘em all, can you?

Tapas are essentially small portions of food that are served with drinks at lunchtime or before your evening meal. The Spanish don’t usually drink without having some kind of an accompaniment on the side, and originally these small morsels were served free with the drinks. As times changed and traditions developed, different parts of Spain started to have their own unique tapas dishes using ingredients that were readily available in that region and in sync with their palates. This particular dish is an Andalucian favourite!

My insatiable appetite for prawns, garlic, and chilli, all combined into one beautiful dish has made this my favourite go-to recipe of all time. Serve with big chunks of crusty bread to mop up all the delicious juices, and you’re sorted. Continue reading

BAKED STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE

Vanilla and strawberry have had a love affair for as long as I can remember. Look in the dessert section of any restaurant menu, recipe book, or café window, and you’ll see them canoodling joyously like little else matters. But who’s to disapprove? This relationship was meant to be.

Cheesecakes have taken over the world, and there’s not one flavour that hasn’t been tried and perfected already. I’m a liberal when it comes to food choices and bold enough to experiment with food from different cultures, but some of them out there are downright ridiculous – sweet bacon cheesecake? I think I’ve said in one of my earlier posts that bacon makes everything better. I’d like to take that back now, please.

You don’t need artistic talent to make this cake look stunning. It just bakes itself like that. If you don’t want to do the strawberry topping, you could just arrange some fresh strawberries on top and dust with icing sugar. Or find a preserve that isn’t too sweet and scoop some over the top (if you can get your hands on this, perfect).

I’m notorious for cutting down on the sugar content in desserts, but the 150 grams that’s in the recipe is perfect since the cream cheese has a subtle sourness to it. The bite from the biscuit base with the voluptuous filling all tied together with the slight tang from the strawberries, makes this cheesecake a force to be reckoned with. And devoured. Definitely devoured.

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GARLIC-SMEARED ROSEMARY ROAST CHICKEN

The best part about doing a roast is that the leftovers can be reincarnated into multiple ways through the week – shredded into salads, sandwiches, quesadillas (kudos, Nigella), the bones used to make the best chicken broth..the list is endless. I recently stumbled upon a recipe that uses leftover chicken in meltingly cheese-y nachos (why didn’t I think of that?!) One of these days, I might end up making a roast JUST for the rich pickings afterward.


Looking back at my other posts, I realize that I’m almost always rambling about garlic and orange zest. For the sake of continuity (cheeky, I know) here’s one more. You know how cinnamon is categorized as a “sweet” spice? Not in the sense that it can be used in desserts, but that it has an almost sweet-ish flavour when you cook with it in savoury dishes? Similarly, unlike the strong bite and pungency that you get from raw garlic, roasting it mellows the acrid burn without compromising on its flavour. The aroma of roasted garlic wafting through the whole house is just an added bonus.

Roast chicken is not something you’d come across often at restaurants in India even today; so you could say that it is somewhat of a fancy dish for us here. If you’re really lucky, a couple of good restaurants will flaunt them on their Christmas menu once a year. But back in the day, at a time when ovens and other fancy kitchen gadgetry were not available in the country, my grandmother apparently used to make a roast in a pressure cooker! Trussed, stuffed, the works. I remember her mentioning this to me a while ago, so I just called her to confirm the process before blogging about it – first she boiled the chicken in a pressure cooker, and then basted it in a pan to get colour on it. Genius! Things are way simpler now though, and all you require to serve up this magnificent bird is a handful of ingredients..and a lot of patience (still working on that). Now, in a country that’s very far from traditional roast chicken dinners, the legacy continues..
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