Lotus stem with chilli and honey

I have this really annoying habit. I like to peer into other people’s shopping baskets to see what they’ve bought, and try and figure out what they might end up doing with it. I mean, I think you really can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their grocery basket. Shopping cart psychology – when you see a packet of crisps, you’re also most likely to see a few cans of Coke in there. Canned food, Ramen noodles, and beer : college kid. Canned (baby) food, high-fibre noodles, and chamomile tea : new mom. Not the biggest revelation I know, but you get my drift.

I’m not sure what that says about me, but if the person has a good read, something along the lines of “is she shopping for three different households?” might enter their mind.

When I come across something that I’ve never seen or heard of before, I’m most likely to pick it up anyway and ask the person at the check-out counter what it is, while simultaneously looking it up to confirm whether he/she is right. I have a legitimate reason for my constant doubting though : the last time I picked up leeks and it showed up on my bill as celery, she was insistent that that’s what it was. I mean, c’mon.

When I bought these lotus stems at my local grocer and took it up to the counter, the manager had to be summoned to figure out what it was. After a bit of poking and prodding (and after I confirmed that they were definitely not sweet potatoes or a native variety of yam), he made a new entry in his system that said “lots stem”. Continue reading

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Sticky toffee pudding

I agree that this may not be the prettiest looking pudding out there, but I assure you that what it lacks in aesthetic appeal is more than compensated for in taste. Now that we are on this topic, I have a question – how on earth do you make something that’s sticky and gooey look good in a photograph without it looking like you’re the messiest eater on the planet? Any ideas and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I took Martha Stewart’s recipe. And I tweaked it. I subbed the castor sugar for brown, reduced the quantity, and also found it enough to make just half the amount of toffee sauce that it called for. The brown sugar gives the pudding that extra caramel-y nuttiness, accentuated by the plump date bits that form its base. The toffee sauce ties it all together and makes it a foolproof lick-worthy pud. Delicious!

We had friends over for dinner this past weekend and I’d made Aubergine parmigiana but with beef instead, and this sticky toffee pudding for dessert. I made the pudding a good 8 hours earlier and after going completely berserk with the hole-poking on it, poured half the toffee sauce over to soak it all up. The rest was reserved for drizzling over and licking straight from the bowl. Had to be done. Continue reading

Chicken quesadillas

While you see some simple, regular chicken quesadillas here, what I see is a Mexican – Portuguese twist on what was supposed to be just simple, regular quesadillas. I mean, I’ve been planning to make them for so long now, I even had it all planned out for dinner next week..and then this happens (I meant that in the best way possible).

Let me explain : we were at Nando’s over the weekend for lunch, and the glutton in me couldn’t order (what seemed like) a measly portion of a quarter chicken. I mean, I’ve always been able to make my way through a half portion quite easily, but I hadn’t calculated the impromptu attack on some amazing mixed olives in garlic and chilli right before that. What do you do with the remaining quarter of a chicken? Well, here’s what.

The chicken was coated rather generously in their signature Peri-Peri sauce, and that made for a delicious component in this quesadilla. So I stuck to the basics with some spring onions, tomato, pickles, gherkins, and cheese. I should point out here that if I were using just plain grilled chicken, I would maybe use a dash of Tabasco or throw in a finely sliced green chilli for an extra kick. Serving them with a fiery chilli sauce like Sriracha would work here too!

This spontaneous recipe has in fact opened up a big can of worms..dessert quesadillas with bananas and nutella, spinach and tomato with pesto, caramelized onion and steak..OK, I need to sit down now.

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Cajun-roasted sweet potato fries

This is completely different – fries, but ones with the most desirable culmination of sweet and savoury. I hope I haven’t lost you yet, ‘cause these..these are so good.

I love sweet potatoes. As you might’ve guessed from my earlier posts, I go a little cuckoo in the head with food pairings. Like this for instance. I’ll have you know though, that this only works sometimes (I still don’t understand the chocolate-chilli hype). But, there obviously is some kind of a yin-yang balance to this theory – fig and ham, salted caramel – now these I agree with wholeheartedly.

These fries are squidgy in the middle with a slight crispiness on the outside. The sugar content in the sweet potatoes helps the edges char ever so slightly in the heat, and the subtle smokiness from it works gloriously with the natural nuttiness of the tuber. A healthier, more exciting substitute to its ubiquitous counterpart that is half the calories with so much more flavour! Continue reading

Zucchini Kimchi

A lot of Chinese restaurants in India serve Kimchi as a condiment. That tastes like Indian pickle. Tossed with chilli powder and salt (and sometimes spices. eek). Having said that though, I do always end up mindlessly munching my way down half a bowl of the stuff whilst contemplating what to eat. I mean, it’s not bad, but it’s not what they say it is.

I don’t claim my version here to be completely authentic by any means, but I have tried to get my hands on the ingredients that are traditionally used. It doesn’t help that I’m often chasing after recipes that call for some exotic elements that I will never be able to get my hands on where I live (I think it’s only right that my father-in-law deserves some credit here for lugging food stuff for me every time he travels abroad). I ask for two small tubes of Harissa paste – I get four large ones. Two rolls of cling film? Enough to last Dexter through seasons 1 – 8. True story.

Kimchi is Korea’s national dish. It is a fermented vegetable condiment – mainly using Napa cabbage – combined with a variety of seasonings such as Gochugaru, or Korean red pepper powder, garlic, ginger etc., There are over a thousand varieties of Kimchi in Korea, and they are categorized in terms of geographical locations, seasons, and temperature differences. For example, the Kimchi found in the Northern parts of Korea tends to have less salt and spice, and is way more watery in consistency.

Making Kimchi follows the science (and art, I’m told) of lacto-fermentation, whereby the zucchini is first tossed in coarse salt for 1 – 2 hours to kill any harmful bacteria, before it is combined with the seasonings. For the uninitiated, this may sound like some major scientific procedure, but I assure you that it’s no more than some chopping and rinsing action.

While purists claim that traditional Kimchi must include some sort of a seafood element –  like shrimp paste or fish sauce – others completely frown upon the idea. Some have daikon radishes and carrots in their mix, while others don’t. The truth is, there is no one way of making Kimchi. There is only your way. Taste as you go as the seasonings are quite potent (esp the Gochujang paste – love this stuff), but other than that, you’re good to follow your own adventure. More than the sum of its parts, this simple Kimchi is both unusual and delicious!

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