Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A guest post!

Deepa from the lovely blog, Foodlyrics was kind enough to invite me to make my first guest post on her blog! I was quite excited about it and submitted a recipe for a lentil and vegetable burger. You can read this post here and make sure you go through Deepa's wonderful recipes while you are there. Thanks so much, Deepa!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pasta and bean soup with pesto

Pasta, beans and pesto are three of my favorite foods. Last night I had a brainwave! Use all of these in a single soup. Why didn't I think of this earlier? The best part of this soup? It can be made start to finish using ingredients from the pantry or refrigerator. That is if you are a good grocery shopper and have pasta, beans, canned tomatoes, pesto and assorted spices in your fridge or pantry. I am not, so I did have to make a grocery store run but I thought I would mention it for the benefit of all of you good grocery shoppers.

The combination of pesto and tomatoes was inspired by this Spaghetti recipe on one of my favorite blogs, The Perfect Pantry. Actually, ever since I saw this recipe I couldn't wait to try out these two flavours together. The rest of the ingredients were only an excuse to bulk up the soup. I used Trader Joe's Genovese pesto (some of you know my obsession for this) but I think any store bought or fresh homemade pesto would work great, which reminds me that making pesto from scratch is high on my list this summer, when basil is in abundance. So if any of you have a good tried and tested pesto recipe, I would love to try it. I might even send you a container :).

Coming back to the soup, it was quite easy to put together. Other than pesto, I used oregano and crushed red pepper flakes for extra flavour. I was quite thrilled at the result, which had nice hints of pesto combined with the heat of red pepper and the tartness of tomatoes. Also the beans and pasta made it a satisfying one dish meal. It even tasted great cold! Now thats a winner.
Now that you are done reading the post, I would urge you to look around and ask yourself does the blog look different? We just redid the design and would love to hear your thoughts/suggestions.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1 can of cannellini or white kidney beans
1 cup of any small pasta (I used shells)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 and half tablespoons of pesto (fresh or store-bought)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon red chili flakes

- Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or stock pot.
- Add chopped onions, minced garlic and chopped carrots. Saute till soft.
- Add the pesto and saute for a couple of minutes.
- Add the diced tomatoes, followed by oregano and red chilli pepper. Add salt to taste (adjust the quantity as per the salt in the pesto and canned tomatoes).
- Add the beans and saute for a couple of more minutes.
- Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Check seasonings.
- Add pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes till pasta is tender.

Makes 4 main servings.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chicken Xacuti

Have you been to Goa? You must if you haven't. Its not just the tropical heaven or the beach paradise its made out to be. Goa has a certain oomph factor that can only be experienced but not described. Endless stretches of beautiful beaches and water, tall palm trees, quaint Portugese style churches, bustling markets and of course the famous 'sosegade' attitude which translates to why do something now, when you can do it later. Do you need any more reasons to go to place a like this? I would be ready to move there as soon as possible and I haven't even started on the food yet!

Goa was a Portugese colony when the rest of India was under the British rule and the food bears evidence to strong Portugese influence. Especially in sweet sounding dishes like xacuti, sorpotel and vindaloo. These unique dishes combine Indian spices with vinegar in some cases, palm sugar in others and olive oil in still others. Of course no description of Goan food would be complete without mentioning the seafood. Some of the best seafood I have ever had has been in Goa. But if I have to do it justice, then it has to be a different post.

I last visited Goa in December 2005 and had some of the most memorable meals there. One such meal was in a restaurant which was literally on the beach! The tables were on the sand and you sat facing the water. If you stayed long into the night, you had the warm sea water grazing your feet. And of course the food was amazing. Sigh, I didn't want to leave!

To recreate the Goan food experience minus the beach I was on the lookout for Goan cookbooks for a while. After extensive research my Dad sent me this one: The Essential Goa cookbook by Maria Teresa Menzes. I loved reading this book with its witty anecdotes on Goan lifestyle and great recipes and this weekend I finally got around to trying something out of it. This chicken xacuti recipe is a shorter version from this book.

Xacuti is a really spicy chicken curry. The book recipe called for grinding together three different sets of ingredients. By any standard this is quite a long process. I tried to shorten it a little bit by using the ready made garam masala instead of grinding it fresh. The only ingredient I thought would be missing from this masala powder was fennel which I ground fresh and used. This is definitely a recipe with some amount of effort but the end result is sure worth it. Even if you are not sitting on a beach while eating it.

Chicken xacuti:
1 kilo chicken, cut into pieces
1 and half large onion
1/2 cup grated coconut
3 green chillies
3 large garlic cloves
2" piece of ginger
handful of cilantro
1 tablespoon garam masala powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tablespoon fennel powder
1 teaspoon tamarind pulp, dissolved in a couple of tablespoons of water
salt to taste

- Grind together the green chillies, ginger, garlic and cilantro to make a paste.
- Clean chicken and marinate with the paste above. Keep aside.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil and fry half the sliced onion till its golden brown. Add the grated coconut and also saute till brown.
- With a little water, grind the onion and coconut mixture into a smooth paste.
- In a heavy saucepan, heat oil and add the rest of the chopped onion.
- Cook till onion is golden brown. Add a teaspoon of sugar to caramalize the onions.
- Add all the spices, including garam masala, red chilli, turmeric and fennel powder. Also add salt and mix well cooking for another couple of minutes.
- Add the marinated chicken and saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the ground coconut and onion mixture and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Add tamarind pulp dissolved in water and bring to a boil again. Cook covered till chicken is cooked tender.
- Add lemon juice before serving. Serve with rice or chappatis.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Potato cakes with Pineapple Mango chutney

This post is way overdue. When I started blogging I had promised myself I would not give any reasons/excuses to my readers (if I found any :)) why I have been late or not been blogging. Simply because at that time I thought no one except my Mom would be reading this and probably not be affected too much if I didnt blog once in a while. But now I am so glad to report that things have changed! I actually have some readers who have been asking me why I havent been blogging! So here are some reasons. Well reason number one has been work, it just been so busy! Reason number two has been the onset of spring which has made me deliriously excited about the not so far away warm weather. I have been thinking (and browsing for ideas) of spring dresses, spring breaks, spring brunches, spring breaks. You get the picture. All that thinking and working doesnt leave too much time for blogging. But I miss blogging and hence I am back with this great recipe that I tried for brunch last Saturday for my best friend.

I saw this recipe in the latest Bon Appetit issue and immediately bookmarked it. What appealed to me the most was the accompanying pineapple and mango chutney, which was really tasty. I made a few changes to the original recipes, removing the eggs from the pancakes and adding some cayenne powder for extra spice in both. With the chutney and a refreshing salad it made for a really good brunch.

Before I post the recipe, I wanted to introduce a new blog! My husband Aditya who has been taking all these beautiful pictures for my blog has started his own photography blog with three of his friends. I am really excited for them so do check it out if you get a chance!

Potato cakes:
8oz shredded sweet potato
8oz shredded potato
3 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

- Combine the shredded potatoes and onion. Squeeze out any water.
- Combine all the ingredients together with onion and potato mixture and mix well.
- On a hot griddle, pan fry each pancake till cooked through. (Couple of minutes on each side)

Pineapple and Mango chutney:
1 cup cubed pineapple
1/2 mango, cubed
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rice wine/white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer covered for 15 mins.

Makes 8 pancakes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Green pea soup

This post is going to be a short one. There are the Oscars to watch and Sunday chores waiting to be finished as I write this. Has this ever happened to you? You think you have the whole weekend for getting all these things done besides getting some rest and recreation and before you know it, its Sunday evening and you have got your rest and recreation but none of the chores done. It happens to me a lot and as I write this I am mentally jotting down lists of things I have to get to. Phew, next weekend will be different. Hmm that sounds familiar.

Anyways getting to the recipe for the day, its a green pea soup. I originally saw this recipe on Sanjeev Kapoor's website which I was quite delighted to come across. For those of you who are not familiar with Sanjeev Kapoor, he is a celebrity chef in India (very popular and one of the first to have a cooking show on Indian TV). Anyways me and my Mum used to be huge fans of his show and actually wrote his recipes down as he showed them. So I was quite pleased to find his website recently and bookmarked several recipes to try. This green pea soup was one of them. The original recipe called for heavy cream which I substituted with a combination of avocado and yogurt. I also added some white pepper for a little extra spice. It worked quite well in giving the soup the creamy texture originally intended for with the cream. Here goes:

2 cups fresh or frozen green peas
7 white peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon butter (I used Smart Balance)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons non-fat plain yogurt

- Heat butter in a saucepan and add cumin seeds, white peppercorns and bay leaves. Saute till fragrant.
- Add onion, ginger, garlic and saute till the onion is soft and transparent.
- Add the green peas and salt, followed with 2 cups of water. Cook covered till peas are soft.
- Move the mixture to a blender bowl, add the avocado and yogurt and blend till pureed.
- Add water if required to thin the soup a little, reheat and serve with a little squirt of lemon.

Makes 4 servings.