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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DIY : Thai yellow curry paste

There are precisely 2 things that make cooking Thai food from scratch hard for me. One, you don’t get the necessary ingredients very easily here; lemon grass, whenever I get my hands on I bulk buy and freeze, and kaffir lime leaves are almost never available (replacing it with lime rind I’ve found to be a good alternative).

Also I think because of the first hurdle, I used to end up picking up the pre-made pastes from the grocery store. Which now in retrospect, really makes me wonder why I’d even bother. That stuff is so bland and flavourless, leave alone loaded with preservatives and vile food-colouring agents, that I stopped cooking anything Thai-related after that realization entered my mind.

Now..what if I told you that it takes less than 20 minutes to make your own Thai curry paste from scratch, the authentic way? Yeah, hand pounded in a mortar and pestle. OK, you’re passing up that option at the mere sound of ‘hand pounded’. Don’t worry, but that only gets easier for you now – 7 minutes in a blender. Including prep time. Are we ready? Let’s go!

As I’ve mentioned in my earlier posts, using a mortar and pestle helps determine the consistency of the paste at every stage, and the flavour you get is more nuanced. Although I don’t really understand the science behind it, I can vouch that it makes a big difference. The blender method is obviously easier, and comes a close second in terms of flavour. Follow your own adventure!

This paste is endlessly versatile and can be used to make curries (I have a recipe with prawns coming up shortly), soups, and even in a salad dressing(?) That was off the top of my head, but hey, it could work!

 

Continue reading

FULLY LOADED BEEF TACOS (with re-fried beans, purple cabbage yogurt-slaw, guacamole, and salsa)

Sitting amidst the chaos that is moving houses is not the perfect setting I’d envisioned to share this recipe with you. But if you think about it, it is fitting in a way : all the separate components coming together in the end in perfect harmony (which will hopefully be the case with the home situation!)

Who doesn’t like tacos, like seriously? This recipe has a few different elements, which are all super simple to rustle up and put together (fun too!) and can all be made in advance, which is always a bonus.

As you can tell from the recipe, this is a relatively low fat option – no cheese, low fat yogurt for the purple cabbage slaw, and no butter. The truth is, you really don’t need it. The yogurt offers a slight tanginess which counters the richness of the beans and beef, and I actually prefer it to dousing it in heavy mayonnaise, to be honest.

I shall leave you with that, and will keep you updated with the move and such. I mean frankly, I can’t be talking about these tacos all day.

Oh wait, actually I think I can. Continue reading

SPAGHETTI ALL’ARRABBIATA aka Angry Pasta

The first time I came across this dish, I thought it was some sort of an exotic Italian-Middle eastern fusion type thing. I think that shows in the way that I pronounce it as well..arrrrabiata. Any Italian reading this, please pardon my ignorance (if you’re still reading, you’ll be pleased to know that I didn’t go too crazy with the authenticity of the recipe). But the thing is, when you’ve been pronouncing something wrong for a period of time, even after someone corrects you and you’ve figured out the right pronunciation, you just can’t go back to switching it up, you know?

While we’re on this topic, did you know that ‘arrabbiata’ actually means ‘angry’ in Italian? Anger in the form of fieriness and heat from the chillies. I am a real sucker for food facts.

Also, speaking of authenticity, a true food connoisseur would use Parmigiano-Reggiano instead of the common Parmesan that we tend to substitute it with. It’s the quintessential king of cheeses and can be called ‘Parmigiano-Reggiano’ only if its production follows a set of stringent rules set forth by the Italian DOC (Controlled designation of origin). One among them is that it has to be made in the months between May and November and only in certain stipulated areas of Italy. A little like how Champagne cannot be used as a generic name for sparkling wine. No wonder a tiny block of this super-fromage costs an arm and a leg!

Anyway, I just used regular Parmesan for this recipe and it tasted divine, but go ahead and indulge in some of the expensive stuff if you are so inclined.

{Quickly want to point out the changes that I made : a pinch of oregano that wasn’t in the recipe, and sugar to balance out the tartness of the tomatoes. Added olives. The measurements of the ingredients are slightly different too}. Continue reading

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