Sunday, February 26, 2012

Simmered and Stirred.....with apologies to Mr. Bond

Sunday evening signals that the weekend is almost over. The only way to cheer yourself up is to cook something really special. It is important for me to make the evening meal on Sundays a little different and interesting. Helps tide over Monday morning blues.

This evening I chose to make the handmade Tunnisian Harrisa Fettucine pasta that sister had got me. Apart from being hand made I am not really sure how this pasta is different but what I do know is that it is head and shoulders above any other pasta that I have cooked/eaten. It is also less sticky and stays separate for much longer.

I particularly enjoyed making the meat sauce today. I let the sauce simmer on the flame for over an hour. Was exciting to watch the mince simmer, bubble up and acquire the right consistency. I also kept adding ingredients impromptu- vegetable stock from last nights stew, some red wine that has been sitting in the refrigerator, a piece of cheddar from my husband's snack platter. All of them adding color, taste and richness to the sauce. Unlike other times I used a masher( yes, the same one I use to make Pao bhaji). This gave my sauce a uniform and glossy texture. The kitchen smelt really nice as the mince was simmering. Son claims he could smell it from two flights down. Never mind the exaggeration it all worked well together. And finally plating it so that the pasta and meat sauce could create some magic on our sensorials.

Pasta with meat sauce

Serves :4, Cooking time: 1 hour

Fettucine Pasta: About 100 grams
Garlic: 4/5 pods chopped fine
Onions: 2/3 medium sized onions, chopped fine
Tomatoes: 3/4 medium sized tomatoes blanched and pureed
Tomato ketchup: 1 tbsp( primarily to add color)
Red wine( optional): 1/2 cup
Mutton mince: 500 grams
Vegetable stock: 2/3 cups( else use warm water)
Olive oil: 2/3 tbsps
Oregano seasoning: 1 tbsp
Green corriander: 1 tbsp, finely chopped for the garnish


  • Boil the pasta in plenty of water to which a little salt has been added(to ensure your pasta does not stick, add a tsp of olive oil into the water) for about 8/10 minutes. Drain the water, toss the pasta with 1 tbsp of olive oil and keep aside.
  • Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes. Next add the onions and fry them till they turn glassy. Add the mince, oregano seasoning, tomato puree, ketchup and saute for a few minutes.
  • Turn the stove to a low flame add the vegetable stock and red wine. Let the mince simmer for about an hour. Alternate between cooking it covered and open. Keep stirring and mashing the mince with a masher from time to time. Add more stock if needed. The meat sauce should have a runny consistency
  • Once the sauce is done add salt to taste.
  • Now to plate. Place the pasta on a plate, shape it like a bird's nest. Spoon about 2/3 tbsp of the meat sauce onto the center. Garnish with finely chopped coriander and serve piping hot. As the pasta would have grown cold it is a good idea to microwave the serving for about 60 seconds and then serve. Add the garnish after you have microwaved.
  • Go ahead slurp it up!
Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Pound of Flesh....

This post is dedicated to my Grandpa. He often quoted these famous lines from 'The Merchant of Venice'. That it was mostly in non- food related context and had something to do with his fights with Granny is another story. Like the rest of the family Grandpa loved food and thanks to his travels had sampled different kinds of cuisine very early in his life. His food stories were a delight, he managed to create excitement around everyday dishes. Pish Pash was one such dish- we always thought he had made up the name till years later bro found it on the menu of a Dak Bangla( referring to the times of the Raj) buffet.

Now coming back to the dish, like I had mentioned in my earlier post those loaf tins inspired me to bake with renewed vigour. My success at baking bread made me feel confident to try out other seemingly difficult recipes.

Compared to baking bread this one is a sitter. In terms of impact a perfect 10. I just loved the way this dish looks. While I don't have a picture of the sliced loaf( the boys were busy wolfing it down and unwilling to photograph any further) the tri-color pie- mince, egg yolk and egg white looked amazing. It tasted delicious too.

Meat Loaf
Serves: 4, Preparation time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 1 hour.


500 grams of Mutton mince
3 onions chopped fine
Breadcrumbs: 1/2 cup or 100 grams
Ginger garlic paste: 1 tsp
Vinegar: 1 tsp
Boiled eggs: 3
Raw egg: 1
Salt to taste
Olive oil- 2 tbsp

  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions till they turn light brown. Sprinkle some salt over them and let them cool.
  • In a bowl mix the mince, raw egg, ginger garlic paste, vinegar, bread crumbs and mix well. Add the onions and mix again.
  • Now take the loaf tin, line it with some oil or butter. Divide the mince mixture into two. In the tin pat one half of the mince mixture to form the bottom layer of the meat loaf. Next shell and place the boiled eggs in a row to form the middle layer. Cover completely with the remaining mince mixture. Shape and compress to get rid of any air gaps.
  • Bake at 200 degrees for close to an hour. Initially with only the bottom coil on and for the last twenty minutes with both the top and bottom coils.
  • Once done let the meat loaf rest for about 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and slice evenly.
  • Take a bow when the accolades begin.
Ideally serve this with a clear soup and some stir fried vegetables.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Breaking Bread!

Happy New Year! I know I am late by more than a month and half but this happens to be my first post of the year. I have been busy cooking some interesting stuff, just not managed to write about them. Hopefully I am going to be more regular over the next few months.

There have been many firsts since the year started. I baked my first bread loaf. The inspiration for the bread and several related dishes(watch this space for more) came from the " loaf tins" that my sister gifted me. These are non-stick, easy release trays so you get the entire loaf out in a jiffy. No more post baking stress of loosening the edges, turning the dish over, giving it a few gentle knocks, waiting for the familiar thump and hoping that you have managed to get all of it onto the plate. Now I just wait for the loaf to cool and pull it out-straight way up.

As soon as I got the trays I knew I just had to bake bread. There is something almost zen like about lightly buttered fresh baked bread. Maybe it has something to do with the amount of patience this dish requires and the sense of peace you experience when you take your first bite( this is no exaggeration, mind you) . While the ingredients are few and except for the yeast readily available at home the stages take time( no, there are no short cuts) and there are long waits in between. But it is well worth the wait my dears. And if you are clever and efficient as most homemakers are you would make good use of the waiting time to get the other accompaniments( soup/stew) ready. Or just curl up and watch your favorite TV show.

White Bread
Serves: 6, Preparation and Cooking Time: 3 hours


Flour- 7 level cups
Yeast- 1 tbsp( I bought mine from Modern Bazaar, Gurgaon)
Sugar- 1 tbsp
Salt- 1 tbsp
Warm water- 2.5 cups
Butter- 1 stick( ideally unslated, if using regular salted butter reduce the quantity of salt to 3/4th of a tablespoon)
Olive oil/Vegetable oil- 1 tbsp

  • Start by 'proofing'the yeast. In a large mixing bowl add 1 tbsp of yeast to 1/2 a cup of warm water and a tbsp of sugar( you could add honey instead). The sweetener helps the yeast to bubble up, expand and rise. Takes about 15 minutes or so.
  • Next add two cups of warm water and about 3 1/2 cups of flour( one cup at a time) and mix together. Very soon the dough would start to look like a sticky mess but don't you give up. In good time it will start to take shape.
  • At this stage you could add the salt, butter and remaining flour( 3 1/2 cups) . Keep adding the flour bit by bit.
  • Dust some flour on your rolling board or kitchen counter and start kneading the dough. You may add more flour if required. Follow three easy steps of push-fold-push for about ten minutes till the dough is no longer sticky( for beginners this could take a little longer).
  • Next, grease a bowl with some vegetable oil( this helps the dough rise easily) and place the dough in the bowl. Leave it undisturbed for about an hour.
  • The dough will rise to the top of the bowl. Here comes my favorite part- punch the dough to let all the air out.
  • Butter the loaf pans. Eyeball and make two equal halves of the dough. (if you want to be precise you can weigh them). Knead the dough a few more times. Flatten it out with your hands and fold from both sides(like a wrap), pinch the edges. Lift gently and place in the pan. Cover with a cling film( grease the side that touches the dough with a little bit of oil).
  • Let the dough sit in the loaf pan for close to an hour. The dough will rise again.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven( 200 degrees) for about 25 minutes. Remove the bread from the tin and bake on the rack for another ten minutes. This ensures that the crust is a rich, golden brown.
  • Allow the bread to cool.
  • Knock on the bread- you should hear a hollow sound. That means your bread is done just right.
  • Cut with a serrated knife, lightly butter it while it is still warm and eat.
Mmmm! Delicious. Very few dishes equal the taste of freshly baked home-made bread. Once you have got your basic bread right you could try adding other ingredients like toasted sesame on top, some herbs or seasoning. I even tried one with Ragi(millet) flour and spinach.

Bon Apetit and Happy Baking!