Sunday, March 27, 2011

The seven day itch...

Come Saturday and I start feeling restless if I haven't uploaded a new post. Yes, blogging is addictive, Like my son says " passion becomes addiction". But then blogging is therapeutic as well( I have said this before).

No posts also means that we haven't eaten anything new, different or interesting through the week. That makes me go on an overdrive to create interesting weekend food.

The inspiration for this dish came from some fresh basil that my cousin gave me. She has also gifted me a Basil plant. So I can make this dish over and over again. Yipee!

Fresh herbs can completely transform a dish. Pardon the hyperbole but I just love the fusion of ingredients, the ones that flood your taste buds with their amazing flavors, I am referring to dishes where all the individual ingredients come together to create magic. No single flavor stands out but there are subtle hints in each bite.

Chicken forms a good base when it comes to a creating flavorsome food, highly versatile, so soaks up dhania, butter and tomato puree(refer Dhania Chicken) as easily as orange juice. Works for me either ways.

Basil Chicken( serve four)

Preparation time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 45 minutes.


Fresh Basil: 1/2 cup, chopped
Dried Basil: 1 tsp
Chicken: About 8 pieces, choose nice, large pieces for this fish.
Orange juice: 1 cup, freshly squeezed would work best but Tropicana came fairly close
Lime juice: 3/4 tbsps, definitely freshly squeezed
Onion: 2, finely chopped
Cumin powder: 1 tsp, roasted and ground cumin adds to the fresh taste of the dish
Salt to taste
Olive oil: 2 tbsps


Heat the olive oil in a pan.
Add the chicken and fry for a couple of minutes.
Then sprinkle the finely chopped onion and continue to fry.
Add the orange juice, cumin powder, dried basil and salt. Stir.
Simmer and cook covered for 5/7 minutes.
Open the lid, add the lime juice and mix well.
Remove the chicken pieces onto a plate.
Let the sauce thicken a little more, add the fresh basil leaves and ladle over the chicken.

Serve the chicken with some herbed rice( add some butter, finely chopped coriander, chili flakes and salt to rice) and boiled vegetables.

Delicious! Finger lickin' good!

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rang Barse.....the riot of colors.....

Happy Holi and just the right time to post a recipe that looks colorful. Making your food look fancier than it is adds to the overall taste( given that we eat with most of our senses). And if cooking for children tricks them into actually eating more. Usually the more colorful your food, the healthier it is. Simple, you need to add more greens to add more color. Compare a macaroni with cheese and mushroom to one with macaroni, tomatoes, yellow/red bell pepper and beans. You got it?

Plating which translates into serving your food elegantly and artistically is a complex process. Master chefs on cookery shows say that it is not as difficult as it looks or sounds. It basically means getting the colors and balance of composition right.

Someday I shall be there. For now I follow some basic color rules.
  • Planning the menu well so that each ingredient adds color to the dish and to the table.
  • Making sure that no two dishes being served look alike, this automatically ensures that there is a fair variety in terms of ingredients, recipe types and taste
  • Use of colorful garnishes like cream or yoghurt for soups, ginger juliennes for the daal, fresh corriander for the rich gravies, nuts for the salads etc.
So, a little bit of creativity, an eagerness to learn and a lot of planning and patience is what would finally get you there.

Meanwhile the recipe that follows is the result of one such attempt. Very proud of it as I created it out of party leftovers. The source of inspiration was the lettuce I had leftover from Pinacorn salad made for lunch. I also had some herbed cottage cheese that I had used as cracker topping. Decided to combine the two along with some cherry tomatoes. Incidentally my kids love eating cherry tomatoes, must be to do with the size/form. Instead of making a regular salad, I decided to make these into tiny wraps. They looked quite exotic and tasted nice.

Lettuce Wraps( Serves 4)


Lettuce: 1 bunch(refresh the lettuce in ice cold water to which a few drops of vinegar have been added)
Cheery tomatoes: 12/15, halved
Herbed cottage cheese: 200 grams( This is available off the shelf as ' Masala' paneer, you can very easily make your own with some roasted cumin seeds together with fresh mint, green corriander, green chillies- all chopped fine, some salt)


Choose the bigger leaves. Lay them out on a plate.

Place the herbed cottage cheese in the middle.

Fold in lengthwise and then widthwise.

Place half a cherry tomato on top and secure with a toothpick.

Serve along with a spicy, hung curd dip.

The lettuce gives this a fresh, crunchy feel. A light summer starter and an anytime snack for all those weight watchers.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blowing my own trumpet........

Sis had made this poster which read:" I love blowing my own trumpet but off late it has been getting a little too loud for my own ears".

I am sorry but I just can't help it. I cooked something that I just loved. I think it is one of the best chicken dishes I have ever had. Such unusual flavor, texture, taste, the combination of seemingly varied ingredients came together to create sheer magic.

The recipe has been on my mind for a while now. Getting the ingredients together took some effort. I was quite determined to make it for dinner last night so trudged all the way to the speciality store and picked up my couscous. Hopefully I now have enough to make the dish seven times over( 500 gram pack and 75 grams each time I make this dish). I also had some Apricots leftover from Diwali( eating dry fruits during the winter months is big in the North of India), managed to find some raisins in the store next door. Rest of the ingredients were all available at home. Oh! Yes, I must add that I picked up Chicken thigh pieces for this dish which are the tenderest pieces( sold for a premium, sold as " boneless chicken legs", but well worth the price if you are making a boneless chicken dish).

Cooking the chicken with couscous makes it a balanced ,one dish meal. It has some really quick, easy steps( the dish is set on simmer for most part of the cooking time). I think substituting cous cous with daliya( widely available, lower priced) should give similar results. Going forward I also plan to add vegetables like beans, carrots and mushrooms. I think they would complement the taste. But that story is for another day. I am really eager to share this wonderful recipe which I just loved(despite cooking it myself).

Chicken with Couscous, serves 4

A popular Moroccan dish prepared with the Moroccan staple couscous


Chicken: 500 grams, boneless, ideally the thigh pieces

Olive oil: 1 tbsp

Apricots: 75 grams, chopped

Raisins: 3/4 tbsps

Jeera powder: 1/2 tsp

Dhania powder: 1/2 tsp

Chilli powder: 1/2 tsp

Cinnamon powder:1/2 tsp( grind this fresh for best results)

Water:2/3 cups

Couscous: 75 grams

Green coriander: 2/3 tbsp, chopped fine

Tomatoes: 4/5, chopped fine


Heat the oil in a non-stick kadai.

Add the chicken pieces and cook till it changes colour.

Add the powder spices and cook for a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes, raisins, apricot, salt and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes. You could cover and cook to help the chicken cook faster.

Once the chicken is done, stir in the couscous and cook for another 5/7 minutes till the couscous is tender.

Garnish with finely chopped green corriander.

Though this is a one dish meal you could also serve it with a stir fry. The apricot, raisin, tomato and couscous combination is sure to appeal.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Raising a Toast

Woke up today to a cold, foggy morning. Quite love it this way, nature's way of holding onto the last of winter. Saturday morning and no agenda for the next two days. Feels great.
Inspired by the success of the Medietteranean Chicken I cooked last night, I decided to head to the kitchen right away. Bread and eggs were on the menu. I needed to make breakfast 'blogworthy'. Had already written two egg based posts(scrambled eggs and egg sandwich). Decided to use the mushrooms that had been sliced for the scramble to a make a topping instead. Served it on toasts with poached eggs.
I even made one lot with a mushroom tomato topping by microwaving some chopped tomatoes along with the mushroom, sprinkling a little bit of sugar and adding. Mushrooms in cheese white sauce also go well as serving for toasts.
This is a dish that could be part of your regular rushed/harassed breakfast morning(yes, easy enough for that, you could make the topping, grate the cheese from the night before to make it quicker), it also qualifies for weekend breakfast menus which are leisured, luxury meals.
Mushroom on Toast(Serves 2)
Bread: 4 slices, toasted(I like my toasts hard and crunchy)
Butter: 1 tsp(optional)
Mushroom: 200 grams
Garlic: 2/3 cloves, chopped fine
Mushroom: 200 grams, sliced thin
Green chillies: 1, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Basil leaves: 7/8, finely chopped( I now grow some and so it is really handy to pluck and chop a few)
Grated cheese: Optional but if you are making this for a weekend extended breakfast I would strongly recommend you use some.
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Put the oil in a microwave safe glass dish and heat for 2 minutes.
Tip in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the mushroom, chillies, salt and pepper and cook for 3/4 minutes. Stir once to ensure the cooking is even.
Add the basil leaves and mix well.
Butter the toasts, spread some of the mushroom mixture onto the toast, sprinkle some grated cheese. The Cheese will melt in the heat.
Serve immediately.
This also works well as a wafer topping or the bread slices can be cut into sticks and served as a snack.
Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Friday, March 4, 2011


My evening today reminds me of the song " Jaate the Japan, pahunch gaye Cheen"(Planned something and ended up with something quite different).

I had planned on making a Cous Cous Chicken. Cous Cous, the new wonder food is doing the rounds. I had come across an interesting recipe for Cous Cous Chicken in a women's magazine. It was new, different, easy to prepare, healthy, a one dish meal and thus perfect for a Friday night dinner. A night when you begin celebrating the two day holiday ahead, want to have something special and yet are not looking at anything fussy or elaborate( those are for Sunday mornings or Saturday evenings). By the time you get back home on Friday, you are physically exhausted, mentally tired and just want to put your feet up. Maybe if you are a foodie, yoCheck Spellingu will make it to the kitchen and rustle up something in a jiffy.

I got late at work and could not pick up the Cous Cous. It is unfortunately not available with the neighborhood grocer. I got back home and decided to make a Fiesta chicken instead only to discover that I did not have raisins, a key ingredient in the dish. Finally after much deliberation and inventory search settled for a Mediterranean version. In this easy dish versatile chicken mingles with the flavors of white wine, herbs and garlic. Calls for ingredients that one usually has on hand.

Mediterranean Chicken( Serves four)

Chicken: 500 grams
Tomato puree: 6 tbsps
Wine: 1/4th cup( I used white wine)
Bay leaves: 2/3
Mixed Herbs: 1 tsp( I had run out of Basil so used some Rosemary and Thyme)
Garlic: 3/4 pods, crushed
Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Sugar: 1 tsp
Salt: To taste
Cornflour/Maida: 1 tsp
Olive oil: 1 tsp( Optional if using a non-stick pan)
Spaghetti: 200 grams( boiled in salt water to which olive oil has been added and drained)


Heat a non stick pan. Add the chicken and cook till it changes colour. This should take a couple of minutes.

Add tomatoes and all the seasoning.

Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender( add a little water if necessary).

Dissolve 1 tbsp of maida in a cup of water and add to the chicken.

Boil well and serve over spaghetti.

The sauce tastes delicious and has a glossy texture. Can also be an accompaniment for Pulaos and Fried rice.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Que Sera Sera....

When I was just a little girl, yes, I know that was a long time ago, have graduated to " my children ask their mother" line for a while now, Parle introduced the concept of serving Monaco biscuits with toppings. There were ads(usually the back cover of a magazine) where Monaco with varied toppings were displayed. They looked really appetizing and given our limited exposure then, exotic too.

They soon found their way into our home. We made ours with cheese( this was the pre- cheese slice era, so cheese cubes had to be painstakingly cut into thin slices), boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, tomatoes and sometimes with all of the above. Sis was usually entrusted with the task. Being the clumsier one, my job was to wait till she finished and then gobble up a few. The crunchy salted base and bland topping went quite well. Sis would add a sprig of coriander to add more color. I would be impatient for her to finish. The garnish could wait. I quickly figured out that it was best to pick a few from the first lot as the toppings got progressively smaller.

Any kind of base with some topping continues to be one of my favorite starter ideas. Though over the years both the base and the topping has changed.

Cream crackers, rice wafers etc. have replaced the good old Monaco. Boiled egg whites also serve as the base. Scoop out the yolk, add some milk, cheese, salt, pepper and pipe it back into the boiled and halved whites.

Toppings have ranged from cream cheese, hung curd, to tuna in mayo. In fact leftover sandwich filling works really well for the topping. I have often mashed up potatoes, spiced it up with green chillies, coriander, added a wee bit of cheese spread and used it to top canapes. Green, yellow and red bell pepper add color and flavor.

Have extended the idea of toppings to open toasts which incidentally is a great breakfast option. Grill the slice with the topping and serve hot. If feeling very self indulgent add some grated cheese and grill till the cheese melts.

Tomatoes on toast is really easy to make. It is very healthy too. Adding the mustard paste gives it an unusual flavour. You could also add some garlic. Use the leftover topping as a chutney or add to gravies.

Tomatoes on Toast


Tomatoes: 2/3, about half a tomato per toast

Mustard paste: 1 tsp(You could also used mustard powder, I used some mustard and khus khus paste)

Green chillies: 2(optional), chopped fine

Pepper powder: 1 tsp( try and use some freshly ground ones for that added flavor)

Red Chilli powder: 1/2 tsp

Sugar: 1/4th tsp

Salt: to taste

Olive oil: 1 tbsp

Green corriander: 1 tsp, chopped fine

Boiled sweet corn: Can add some to make a variation of the original.


Chop the tomatoes really fine. Microwave the tomatoes with the oil, sugar, salt and green chillies for about 3 minutes.

Mash up the tomatoes with some red chilli powder, pepper powder, mustard paste, green corriander and mix well.

Top over toast and serve hot.

This works well as a starter. If serving as a starter cut the bread toast into cubes. Alternately you could also pick up some ready to use bite sized garlic butter toast( these are very handy and stay well for close to a week). They form healthier bases( as compared to biscuits) for the topping.

If serving as a main course serve it with a chicken stew or soup. The spicy flavor compliments the bland taste of the soup.

Also goes as an anytime snack. Could add sauted mushrooms/boiled corn to make it more wholesome. Could even add some grated cheese and bake for a few minutes.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!