Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Little Italy...Risotto

" As a child my family menu had two choices around food- take it or leave it" Buddy Hackett

The excitement around creating something new. I guess that is what makes cooking therapeutic. I feel so happy when I decide to try out a new dish. Poring over recipe books, Google searches, chatting with friends who might have prepared the dish, the trudge to the nearest supermarket to pick up the ingredients, the anticipation around how the dish would turn out-finally plating the dish and waiting for the verdict! Most of the times the response is worth all that effort.

These days the only TV programs I watch with interest are ' cookery shows'. The delightful Nigella even has me staying up well past my bedtime. She is lovely and her passion for food clearly shows through. I love the way she romances food. Shows like hers and the Master chef series do introduce us to a whole host of global cuisine. My repertoire of Italian cooking tends to be restricted to various kinds of pasta and pizzas. One such show got me thinking about Risotto. This was quickly followed up with a trip to a gourmet food store, recipe searches, tweaks and finally the dish. Has inspired me to try Paella next- would be a toss up between meat or sea food versions. I am so looking forward to trying it soon. Another day and another post, for now it is a little bit of Italy by my side.

Risotto(Serves 4)


Risotto Rice: 2 cups
Red Wine: 1/2 cup
Vegetable or Chicken stock- 3/4 cups
Parmesan cheese: 1/2 tbsp( grated fine)
Butter: 1 tbsp
Olive oil: 2 tbs
Onion: 2/3, finely sliced
Mushroom: 6/7, quartered
Chicken Salami- 3/4 roundels, chopped into small pieces
Fresh Basil leaves- 1/2, for the garnish


  • Heat olive oil in a Wok and fry the onions for a couple of minutes till they turn soft.
  • Add the Rice and stir for a few minutes.
  • Next, add the red wine and mix well.
  • Keep adding the stock little by little( half a cup at a time). Once the rice absorbs the stock, add the next half cup. Continue this till the rice is cooked.
  • Toss in the mushrooms and salami. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Add salt to taste, the butter and cheese. Give it a good stir and remove from fire.
  • Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh Basil and serve hot.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sinfully delicious.....Fried Oreos

When I think of " Fried Oreos" I am reminded of a line my Dad used to refer to 'over indulgence', " Doobechi jodi patal ta ekhtu dekhe asichi"(This line is in Bengali and loosely translated this would mean, " having decided to indulge let me go the whole way"). Oreos or any chocolate biscuit for that matter are calorie laden. And to batter fry and dust them with powdered sugar is akin to the same. Some would say that just thinking about the combination could add inches to your waistline but then everybody deserves that little bit of indulgence. One is occassionally allowed to sin. Maybe one out of the twelve pack biscuit, an occassional second one. Go on test your will power.

For me it all started during one of my looong calls with sis. Husband often jokes that all we talk about during these calls is " food". Over the years I have realised that food calls like cookery shows are therapeutic. They also serve as ' thought starters' for a lot of cooking. Sis was telling me about a carnival she had been to and the fried Oreos she had sampled there. Sounded really easy to make, different from other desserts that I typically make and exotic enough to be reproduced for guests. I decided to try it the very same evening( Sis calls me the "doer").

Fried Oreos( Serves 4)


A packet of Oreos( or any other cream biscuit)

Maida/Refined flour: 1 cup

Sugar: 2 tbsps
Milk: 1/2 cup

Vanilla essence: 1 tsp

Egg: 1

Baking Powder: 1 tspBulleted List

Oil for deep frying

Powdered sugar: 1/2 tbsps


  • Mix the egg, milk, flour, sugar, vanilla essence and baking powder to form a smooth batter.

  • Heat the oil in a wok. Dip an Oreo biscuit in the batter to coat it evenly. Deep fry till both the sides are golden brown. Repeat for the rest of the biscuits.

  • Dust some powdered sugar over the batter fried Oreos. Best done by sieving the sugar through a tea strainer over the biscuits.

  • Serve hot

Perfect dessert on a cold winter day. Can help add excitement around simple, everyday menus. Older son claims that this is the best dessert I have ever made( doesn't speak well for my cooking skills, does it?). The combo also inspired me to try Choco chip pancakes with similar results.

Bon Apetit and Happy Sinning!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

There is a big green house....Daab Chingri

This dish almost seems like an extension of the riddle one learnt as a child. There is a big green house, inside it there is a big brown house, inside the big brown house there is a big white house and right in the middle there is a pool. The answer is " (Tender) Coconut". Replace the pool with some succulent marinated prawns, bake them for an hour. Voila! your dish is done.

I am super duper excited today. So much so that I have started writing the post even before the verdict is out. Making Daab Chingri(Prawns cooked in tender coconut shell) has been on my wish list for a while now. It looks and sounds so exotic.

With an ingredient list that sounds deceptively similar to of 'mustard prawn' it can't possibly taste very different( vetted by personal experience). However this is one dish where the journey is undoubtedly more enjoyable than the dish itself. There is a lot of excitement around preparing it. Even the staged photo shoot lasts much longer.

The prep work starts with hunting for " Tender coconut". Not as easily available post the scorching summer. Not always available at the neighborhood vegetable shops, typically the push- cart seller carries it. And then you have to get the vendor to scrape the top( this allows the heat in) , make a cut on top and slice a little bit from the bottom to help the tender coconut balance itself( for an extra fee of course). Drink the coconut water- you could save a little to add to the marinade- save the shell for the dish that follows.

Daab Chingri
Tender Coconut: Choose one that will fit into your oven.

Medium Sized Prawns: 1 kg, de-shelled and de-veined

Mustard Paste: 2 tbsp(my family likes the pungent taste of mustard, you could reduce the quantity to 1 tbsp)

Ginger Paste: 1 tbsp

Garlic Paste: 1 tbsp

Grated coconut: 1 small bowl(2/3 tbsp)

Onions: 2/3, sliced fine

Green chillies: 2/3, slit till halfway

Salt: To taste

Turmeric: 1 tsp

Mustard Oil: 2/3 tbsp

Wheat flour dough: To seal the top

Kalonji: For decoration


It is a simple one step dish
  • Mix all the ingredients together. Let them stand for a while
  • Scrape the top of the tender coconut. Cut out the top(retain it as you need it later).
  • Stuff the prawn marinade into the tender coconut, do not pack it tight.
  • Put the lid back, seal with dough to make it airtight. Decorate with some kalonji- contrasts well with the off white dough and adds to the visual appeal.
  • Bake in the oven for close to an hour at 180 degree centigrade
  • Serve hot with steamed rice
The prawns have been baking for close to forty five minutes now. The tender coconut shell has turned dark brown. The dough sealing top has dried up and tightened around the top. Fifteen more minutes to go. Table has been set. Rice is done. So baited breath it is.

Just sampled the dish. Really succulent, juicy prawns with a hint of tender coconut. Went well with the otherwise simple meal of rice and daal. Plan to try a variation where I reduce the quantity of mustard and add some tender coconut to enhance the flavour.

This is one of those dishes when placed in front of guests makes them first gasp and then go Wow!

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!