Fish Tales

Time sure flies when you are having fun, and even when you aren’t. The last month has been quite hectic but let’s focus on the positives. One of these was the following article on popular monsoon foods in certain regions of India. It was included in the latest issue of Jetwings, Jet Airways’s in-flight magazine.

Monsoon Delights. Jetwings June 2013

Monsoon Delights. Jetwings July 2013

Click here –>Monsoon Delights to read the article and see some amazing photos by an ace photographer, Sanjay Ramchandran.

Other than the above (and other work) the last month was about visiting families, friends and lots of cute and brand new munchkins born to some dear dear friends and attending birthdays of some not so brand new munchkins – equally adorable, of course.

All through this the kitchen fires have been blazing, even through the working week days. Short on time and fed up of take-aways, I decided to experiment to see I could come up with a few quick fixes. Fish was an obvious choice as it doesn’t take long to cook and is versatile. The next three posts including this one will be on quick and fishy meals. I hope they will be of use to you, especially if time and patience are in short supply.

Pan fried salmon with flavoured butter sauce

Ingredients: 

  1. Salmon fillets: 2
  2. Olive oil: 1 tbsp
  3. Butter: 2 -3 tbsp
  4. Spring onions: 2-3
  5. Fresh red chilies: one, de-seeded
  6. Ginger: 2 inch piece
  7. Lime: one
  8. Salt and pepper to season

Method:

  1. Season the salmon well with salt and pepper. Make sure to rub the salt into the skin.
  2. Heat the oil in frying pan to medium-high temperature.Place the fish skin side down, for about 5-6 mins until the skin is crispy and golden. Press it down with a spatula if you don’t want it to curl.
  3. Cook the fish till it is almost done and then flip it flesh side down for a few seconds (10-15 sec)
  4. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Melt butter in the pan. Add the spring onions, chilli, grated ginger and lime zest to sizzle in the butter for a couple of mins, then add the lime juice.
  6. Spoon the sauce over the salmon.
  7. Serve with rice or veg.

Voila!

Pan fried Salmon

Pan fried Salmon

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Picnic + Chocolate Strawberry Cake

Every summer I want to go on at least one picnic. Every summer, barring the one in 2010, we did everything but go on a proper picnic. You know the one Enid Blyton described in painstaking detail – the ones had on soft verdant carpets of grass, surrounded by flowers or beside the sea, filling ourselves with yummy cold meat sandwiches, cool/hot drinks and a fair bit of running around. That kind.

Henley-on-thames. Back in 2010.

Henley-on-Thames. Back in 2010.  Perfect for picnicking

Anyway. That was not to be had for a long time, till yesterday. A few friends decided to throw caution to the winds (literally) and brave the chill to eat our suppers outdoors. After all the sun was out and it would have been a shame not to make the most of it… Yes I am aware how fraught with irony these lines are. But it wasn’t all that bad. Thanks to great company and what not.

The Gang

The Gang

I would add good food to the reasons for joviality but that would amount to tooting my own horn. Almost. The picnic was a success due to two amazing recipes that I got off two great blogs. A) Rice with beans and Sun-dried tomatoes from My Favourite Pastime b) Banana and Date Bread from Frugal Feeding.

Do try out the recipes (as well as the blogs); you won’t regret the decision.

The rice  is so full of flavour it is unbelievable. what attracted me to the dish was the inventive use of varied ingredients. They worked together beautifully. If I could I would serve you a plate but as I can’t, savour the picture I took before we took it for a jaunt.

Rice with Beans and Sundried toamtoes. Courtesy: My favourite pastime

Rice with Beans and Sundried toamtoes. Recipe courtesy: My favourite pastime

And the bread –  so moreish that the loaf disappeared soon after it was inaugurated to the gang – except for this one slice, which I kept aside for personal hogging and took a picture before committing it to my maw.

Banana and Date bread

Banana and Date bread.                                            Recipe courtesy Frugal Feeding

After I plied the group with the two great offerings, I supplied them with another cake. I am glad to report that it was gleefully accepted. This one was my own creation. A strawberry chocolate cake with a hint of mint.

I am not a big fan of strawberry as it stands, but pair it with cream or chocolate I can down punnets in a sitting. Given that my favourite combination is strawberries and chocolate, I decided to combine them in a cake. The result…

Chocolate and Strawberry cake with a hint of mint

Chocolate and Strawberry cake with a hint of mint

Ingredients: 

  • Flour: 1-1/4 cup
  • Cocoa powder: 1 tbsp
  • Baking powder 1 tsp
  • Butter: 125 gm
  • Eggs: 3
  • Strawberries: 200 gm
  • Mint leaves: 3-4 bruised
  • Sugar: 3/4 cup
  • Chocolate (dark and milk): 100 gm , melted

Method:

  • Cook the strawberries with a little sugar and the mint leaves. Leave to cool.
  • Cream sugar and butter
  • Add eggs, one by one, to this mix
  • Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa into the liquid mix in thirds. Combine gently.
  • Add strawberries (with the liquid) and melted chocolate at the end.
  •  Bake at a 180 degrees C for 40 min.
  • Cool  and consume.

Fast and flavoursome

Much as I would like to order food in on weekdays, I don’t. Simply because a) I want to eat something fresh and wholesome after a long day at work b) I find cooking to be relaxing.

Having said the above I hasten to add that on weekdays I prefer to cook a dish which is quick and requires minimal effort. Something a friend of mine suggested I post more of on the blog because she too would rather cook than defrost for a working week dinner – and she needs ideas.

The following recipe is a current favourite and inspired by Nigel Slater’s Thai Green chicken curry (find the original here).

Other than lemongrass, rest of the ingredients are store cupboard/fridge regulars.

Thai Green curry inspired chicken dish

Thai Green curry inspired chicken dish

Thai Green curry inspired Chicken curry

(Serves two)

Ingredients:

For the curry paste

a)      Lemongrass stalks: 2, tougher outer leaves discarded,

b)      Green chillies: 3

c)       Garlic: 3 cloves, peeled and crushed

d)      Ginger: 2 in piece, peeled and crushed

e)      Onion: 1, small, peeled

f)        Fresh coriander: 2-3 sprigs

g)      Freshly ground black peppercorns: According to taste

For the curry

a)      Chicken: 500 gm (boneless or with bones- both work)

b)      Groundnut/vegetable oil: 2 tbsp

c)       Coconut milk: 300 ml.

d)      Chicken stock/hot water: 1 cup

e)      Fish sauce: 1tbsp (it can be quite strong so rein in the desire to put more if you can’t taste it just yet)

f)        Basil: medium-sized bunch, shredded

g)      Fresh coriander: a small bunch, roughly chopped

h)      Lime juice: According to taste.

 Method:

For the curry paste, bruise the stalks to release the flavour. In a food processor/electric chopper whizz all curry paste ingredients (roughly chopped) into a thick paste, pushing the mixture down from time to time with a spatula.  Set aside

For the curry:

  • Heat the pan, add oil and, when hot and sizzling, add the chicken and let the pieces brown on all sides. Try not to crowd the pan. Tip: do it in batches.
  • Remove the cooked chicken pieces from the pan. Keep the oil.
  • Add the curry paste and fry for a minute. Pour in the coconut milk (reserve 100 ml to add at the end) and stock, the fish sauce, peppercorns and half of the chopped herbs. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • Return the chicken to the pan and simmer the chicken is cooked through. Add the remaining 100 ml of coconut milk, stir in the last of the herbs and keep the pan on fire/heat for a few seconds. In the end, stir in the lime juice. Serve with plain/jasmine rice. I served it with a side of stir fried vegetables.

On ingredients: When I use a recipe I tend to modify it to my taste. I find flavours to be a good guide when deciding on how much to put of a certain ingredient.

I have made this curry sauce thrice so far; the first time was without the coriander leaves to the curry paste. I prefer the taste of that version to the one where I added the green leaves. The choice, of course, is yours.

Even if you don’t like the taste of fish sauce, please try it, it takes the flavour to whole new level.

Hope you like this dish, which I found it to be simple to cook, fragrant and easy on the tummy.

Breakfast biggie

A lot has been written about the benefits of breakfast; even I have weighed in at one point.

In our household of two, we don’t usually breakfast like kings but on weekends an effort is made to have something more exciting than cereal or store bought croissants.

Till recently when I decided to do something about it, one of the issues I have had with breakfast is lack of creativity. Back in the day it was either a sunny side up with toast or paranthas or porridge or something akin to these.

Once the employment bug bit me, breakfast was just a time-consuming chore that was dispensed with in favour of an extra fifteen minutes of sleep. As a result I had made best friends with Digene, some of you may know its cousins Pepto-Bismol and Gaviscon.

My struggle with breakfasting changed a few years ago when I discovered the joys cereal – endless options of it, granola-yogurt  pots, croissants and on occasions, a full English. After a while, the charm of new things waned and it was back to mundane food mornings.

For now I have made my peace with the fact that b’fast can’t always be exciting. Till it is weekend that is. Weekend morning treats are now about experimentation and exploration. This post is about one such morning.

More brunch than breakfast: Filled omelette served on brown toast and a side of fruits (or Hot chocolate)

More brunch than breakfast: Filled omelette served on brown toast with a side of fruit (or Hot chocolate)

You may like to call it a Fritatta or a Spanish tortilla but I will stick to Omelette, albeit a robust one.

Ingredients:

  • Eggs: 4
  • Spring onions: 2-3 (I used both the bulb and leaves), chopped
  • Red (other any other colour) pepper: 1/2, cut into small squares
  • Tomato: half (de-seeded to limit the amount of liquid), cut into small squares
  • Chorizo: 50-60 gm cubed
  • Olive oil
  • Basil leaves: a bunch
  • Cheddar: a slice or similar amount grated

Method:

  • Heat the pan and add a little oil. Fry the Chorizo in it. I did not need to season the dish with salt or pepper because of the spicy sausage.
  • Add the spring onions and peppers to the pan and saute.
  • Add the chopped tomato.
  • Saute till the tomato is soft. Add chopped basil leaves and stir.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl; add to the pan.
  • Cook on slow heat.
  • Make sure you keep folding/breaking the egg to cook it through.
  • When the omelette is nearly ready, add/sprinkle the cheese and cover. Cook till the egg is done.
  • Serve on  a toast or have it as it is.

I topped the omelette with fried mushrooms. If you opt for this addition, fry the mushrooms in lots of butter and season with salt and pepper.

I served the dish with some pears and tart plums. It worked well.

If using fruits, leave the hot chocolate for later- the two do not go well. Believe me.

So now that you know what  I ate on the weekend, I would love to hear about yours. (it’s only fair, no?). Breakfast favourites and peeves; bricks and bouquets are all welcome.

Crazy Pasta bake

Today was one of the few instances when I cooked a dish based on my instincts rather than follow a recipe… which is not to say I didn’t google around before launching into the project – a short one may I add (under 30 minutes). Given how cold the day  was, my tummy and soul were both in need of instant gratification- well something warm and hearty definitely. However, embarking on a laborious meal was not an option, so I settled for a pasta bake instead. I had a can of cream of chicken soup in my cupboard, and mushrooms; frozen veggies and lots of cheese in the fridge. I gathered the above and few other ingredients, cooked it all up and what happened next was this. Continue reading