Saturday, October 31, 2015

Roast chicken with Rocket and Apples and a Spicy Orange Vinaigrette

I've been looking for rocket leaves for a while now. They are my favourite in salads. And quite honestly, I didn't want lettuce. There's too much lettuce everywhere, in every salad. I finally found a bag of rocket leaves in my local grocery store. These fancy supermarkets are of no use sometimes, I tell you. Also, colleagues from Chile sent across all sorts of condiments and spices to a few colleagues here. I did what I could and managed to get some for myself. I'm using this particular kind where I could taste chilli and coriander distinctively. I used it in the vinaigrette with extra virgin olive oil and orange juice. Makes for a good Saturday meal. Not too heavy, and not too light. Just the right kind for a post lunch nap.

Recipe for one.

1 chicken breast, sliced horizontally
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp chilli powder or any other spicy condiment you can find (there are tons in the market)
1/4 orange juice
Salt to taste

Marinate chicken in mentioned ingredients for an hour or two.

1. In a large pan, heat some olive oil and place chicken breast pieces.
2. Let it cook for 3 - 4 mins on each side and take it off the heat.

Mix together
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp spicy condiment powder/paste
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp orange juice

You can serve this with rocket leaves, sliced green apples, pomegranate leaves and sauted mushrooms like I did, or with mash potatoes or rice. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chicken, Broccoli and Mushroom Stir Fry with Brown Rice

Continuing my 'eating better' stride, I present to you, Chicken, Broccoli and Mushroom Stir Fry with Brown Rice. There were unused mushrooms and broccoli from dinner last night and all I needed was some chicken for a simple stir fry to go with brown rice. It's pretty simple and doesn't take forever to make. You'll get brown rice anywhere these days and it's delicious!

Serves 2.


1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cup water

1. Rinse rice at least thrice before pressure cooking it with the water for 15 mins. Check for doneness yourself and cook further if required. Keep aside.

Stir fry

250 gms boneless chicken (I used thighs) cubes
1 cup blanched broccoli
1 cup mushroom, sliced
1 tbsp cornflour dusted on the chicken
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chilli paste OR 1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp honey
Sesame seeds to garnish
Basil leaves
Lemon grass leaf
2 tbsp Sesame oil

1. Coat chicken with cornstarch, ginger garlic paste and a touch of salt.
2. Heat 2 tbsp sesame oil and saute chicken till cooked. Say about 10 mins.
3. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 mins.
4. Add soy, fish sauce and chilli paste/powder.
5. Add torn up basil leaves and the lemon grass leaf, along with broccoli.
6. Finish with honey and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Serve with brown rice.

You can garnish with spring onions if you'd like. Or add carrots and other vegetables as well. Make it your own and it'll be delicious!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Whole Wheat Spaghetti in a Roast Bell Pepper Sauce with Broccoli and Mushrooms

In times like these when fast food, junk food and generally unhealthy food is all around you, it's quite hard to stick to a healthy lifestyle. It's very easy to cave in and order fried chicken, greasy Chinese food, pizzas with not good but processed cheese, burgers with highly processed meats and sauces, and of course ridiculously heavy and sweet desserts. These can be addictive. Anyway, what I'm getting at is, not that I don't enjoy an occasional pizza slice, or a burger. And sugar is my poison. Home cooked meals are indeed the best. You can control everything that goes into your food and by extension, you. I'm not suggesting you eat brussel sprouts and carrot slices everyday. But there are ways to cut down the fat and grease in food without compromising its taste. I love my pasta and I love a good sauce to go with it. I read somewhere about roasting bell peppers and turning it into a sauce. It's a genius idea. I also had whole wheat spaghetti in my pantry. So, there!

Serves 2 hungry people.

250 grams or half a pack of spaghetti
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 very large or 4 medium cloves of garlic, grated
1 cup broccoli, blanched
1 cup mushroom slices
Basil leaves
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Paprika or chilli powder if you like some heat in your pasta
Olive oil for cooking

1. Heat a tbsp of olive oil, add garlic and saute bell peppers till you see them charred. Say around 5 - 7 mins.
2. Take off heat, cool and churn it in a blender with some salt till smooth or chunky (however you like your sauce).
3. While your sauce is in the making, cook the spaghetti as per instructions (usually 7 mins) and keep aside. Retain a cup of the cooking water to thin the sauce.
4. Heat more olive oil and brown the mushrooms in it. Toss the broccoli once mushrooms are done.
5. Add the bell pepper sauce now and a splash of the water you cooked the spaghetti in.
6. Tear up a few basil leaves and toss them in.
7. Remove from heat and mix the spaghetti in the sauce.

You can add any veggies or chicken and even different herbs. I just love the freshness of basil and could get my hands on some good basil here in Gurgaon after a long time. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pudina Dhaniya Chicken

I use pudina and dhaniya (mint and coriander leaves) together only in biryani. I intended to make biryani, but just got lazy and turned the base of the biryani masala into a curry. Obviously, you can tweak it any way you'd like, but don't skimp out on the pudina and dhaniya which makes the dish fresh, and hey..your greens are sorted for the day!

Ingredients for marinade:
1 kilo chicken pieces on the bone
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp red chilli paste/powder
1 tsp turmeric
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste

Marinate for 3-4 hours or overnight.

Ingredients for curry:
1 cup pudina (mint) leaves
1 1/2 cups dhaniya (coriander) leaves
3 green chillies
2 onions pureed
4 cloves garlic
2 dried red chillies
1 inch piece ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 inch piece cinnamon
3 cloves
1/4 cup grated or small pieces of coconut (optional)
1/4 cup fresh cream

1. Heat a tbsp of oil/ghee and saute pudina, dhaniya, cinnamon, cloves and ginger separately.
2. Grind to paste with garlic, cumin, ginger and coconut. Add water if necessary.
3. Heat some more oil and saute the dried red chillies along with the onion puree.
4. Once onion puree is cooked or has turned light brown in colour, add the pudina and dhaniya paste. Cook for 2 mins.
5. Now add chicken with some salt, and cook for 30 mins or till meat looks like it's coming off the bone.
6. Add cream to finish.

You can garnish with fried onions or even toss some almond flakes in there for some crunch. I served this with rice. You can alternatively serve it with rotis/paranthas.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chocolate Tart

I totally get it when celebrity chefs go on and on about using good quality chocolate while baking. A friend at work got me some from Australia. I wanted to showcase the quality of the chocolate by make a tart. I knew I struck gold when I saw how the chocolate melted under hot cream and milk, to form a puddle of luscious, silky and shiny bowl of heaven. Now I've been fairly unsuccessful when it comes to shortcrust pastry. Maybe it was the recipe or my skill of bringing the dough together, but it rarely came out right. This time it did. I was pleasantly surprised through out the process till the blind baking bit. The dough came together easily, rolled out just fine and sat in the tart tin also pretty well. I hope I continue to stay this lucky at all times. But try this recipe out on a Sunday when you want your home to be filled with the aroma of chocolate. This is an instant crowd pleaser. Folks in my office are going nuts!

Ingredients for the shortcrust pastry:
2 cups flour
3/4 th cup cold salted butter cut into pieces
3 tbsp sugar
1 egg
Up to 1/4 cup ice cold water

1. In a large bowl, put the flour, butter and sugar.
2. Add the butter and begin to crumble it in the flour till the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
3. Add the egg and mix it in the flour by hand.
4. Add the cold water, spoon by spoon till the dough begins to come together. If it comes together soon enough, don't add the rest of the water.
5. Don't knead it, but just turn it into a ball and cover it with cling film or parchment paper.
6. Chill in the fridge for 20 mins.
7. To roll it out, place the dough on parchment/butter paper and use a rolling pin. You can alternatively flour the surface of your kitchen counter and do the same. Roll it out enough to fit in your tart tin.
8. Press the sides well enough and use some left over dough to patch up any torn parts.
9. Line the dough with foil and fill it with rajma or channa, and bake it in your preheated oven at 180 C for 30 mins till it's light brown in colour. Don't leave it for long because you're going to bake it again with the chocolate filling.
10. Take it out, and let it cool while you work on the filling.

Ingredients for the filling:
300 gms or 2 full cups of good chocolate - 70% cocoa, cut up into pieces
150 ml or one cup of full cream
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
A pinch of salt

1. Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan till hot, but not scalding.
2. Pour it over the cup up chocolate in a bowl and gently run a whisk through it and watch how beautifully the chocolate solids surrender to the heat of the cream and milk.
3. Add salt and break the eggs into it and whisk it till everything is incorporated well.
4. Pour it into the cooled tart shell and bake for 20 mins till it's set at 180 C.

Let the tart cool completely and then put it in the fridge for at least 30 mins before cutting it up. Dust some cocoa on it for garnish. Trust me, this is the best thing you can do to a bar of chocolate this good!

Recipe adapted from The Food Network

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Khao Suey

I remember eating Khao Suey in some Asian type restaurant which served even Burmese food in Bangalore, years ago. Seemed like a lot of work to eat, forget the cooking. But it was totally worth it. I was mostly fascinated by the assembling of the main dish in the big bowl which contained the curry and noodles and then the little bowls around it, waiting to be picked from. They mostly contained garnishes and accompaniments like chopped coriander, browned garlic, caramelized and crispy onions, chopped green chilles, and the likes. It seemed like the perfect dinner when there's a nip in the air. Now there was no nip in the air here as such, even with the temperature drop. Only dust, as always. But since my successful attempt with Thukpa, I figured I'll give Khao Suey a shot too. I looked up various recipes and strangely all of them were different from one another. One said to make a ground paste for the curry base, one said to just use cumin and turmeric, you know, such things. So I went ahead and mixed and matched like I do with my wardrobe. Thankfully it turned out better than my experiments with my wardrobe.

Note: Cook 1 packet of egg or veg hakka noodles as per instructions on the packet, and keep aside.

Ingredients for chicken marinade:
500 gms boneless chicken cut into bite size pieces
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli paste or powder
1 tsp salt

1. Marinate chicken in above mentioned ingredients for 3-4 hours or overnight.

Ingredients for curry/sauce/soup base:
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried red chillies
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli paste or powder
1 tetra packs of coconut milk
Salt to taste

1. Head oil and add cumin, turmeric and dried chillies.
2. Add chicken with marinade along with chilli paste and a cup of water and cook for 7-8 mins or till done.
3. Add the coconut milk and let it bubble up before you take it off the heat.

1. Heat oil and saute sliced garlic till golden brown.
2. To the same oil add finely sliced onions, say 2 of them. Saute till dark brown.
3, Chop coriander, green chilles.

Place the cooked noodles in a wide serving bowl, pour the chicken curry over it and top with the garnishes. You could replace chicken with mushrooms and other vegetables as well.

My flatmates also liked this means it's a hit.

Waffles with Caramelized Bananas and Honey

The Flipkart Big Billion Day was upon us and everybody was all ooh-aah and everything about it. I also downloaded the app (yes, I'm a cavewoman when it comes to apps) to see what the fuss was all about. As expected, the first thing I click on was the kitchen appliances section. And lo behold, by the grace of tech Gods, I saw one waffle maker. That too for Rs. 899 only. One brand called Lifelong it seems. Now only time will tell if it's going to stand the test and taste of time. Anyway, now that I have procured the maker, I presumed with the making. Of the waffles, of course. I came across too many recipes. But decided to figure this out on my own. Couldn't be THAT off considering I'm one pancake queen. So here goes:

Makes 4 waffles. 2, if you want to stuff all the batter into that waffle maker and cause spillage and dense waffles.

1 cup maida (plain flour)
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

1. Mix dry ingredients and keep aside.
2. Mix milk, oil, yolk from the egg (keep the white aside to be added later) and vanilla and keep aside.
3. Now make a well in the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients to this and mix till incorporated. Don't over mix, else you'll have waffle shaped leather type thing to chew on.
4. Whisk the egg white till nice and frothy. Like cappuccino froth maybe. Gently fold this into the batter.
5. Pour 3/4th ladle of the batter on each waffle mould of the preheated waffle maker.
6. Close it and wait till you see steam coming out from the sides. Also, there will be a red and green light where green turns on means it's done.

I topped this with caramelized bananas and honey. You could choose chocolate sauce or maple syrup or basically anything else you'd like.

Also, I've learnt this a little too late, but still. Taking some effort to make your food look nice makes you also feel nice. Especially when the picture comes out good, when you don't have a fancy-shmancy camera and only a phone.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

I remember watching a romcom, years ago, where Patrick Dempsey and his friend are about to have cream cheese swirl brownies. I wondered what that would be like, and it also opened me up to doing different things with brownies. I never got to try the cream cheese swirl ones because no one made it commercially and it wasn't even made in bakeries or restaurants. I let it pass. But ever since I got my oven here in Gurgaon I've been trying out various brownies - mocha, bacon. It was time to give this one a shot. So, I did. They turned out pretty great and was a hit with friends and colleagues too. How could it not be? It's like a mouthful of cheesecake AND brownie together!

I did look up recipes but all of them involved using cocoa powder and not chocolate. I went with my instincts and added the cream cheese element in my regular brownie batter itself. Thankfully, it worked.

Ingredients for the brownie:
1 cup dark chocolate chopped up
1/2 cup cold salted butter cut in pieces
3/4 cup brown sugar (or regular)
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

For the cream cheese swirl:
1 pack cream cheese (150 gms) at room temp
1/2 cup powdered white sugar
1 egg

1. Mix all the ingredients for the cream cheese swirl together and keep aside.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter and whisk till smooth,
3. Add eggs and mix well.
4. Add vanilla and sugar and mix well.
5. Add the flour and fold it into the chocolate mixture.
6. Tip the brownie batter on to your baking tin and leave a few spoonfuls for the swirls.
7. On top of the brownie batter pour the cream cheese mixture.
8. Now add the remaining brownie batter spoon by spoon on different spots. Use a toothpick and run it all over the batter to create swirls.
9. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 mins at 180 C.

Let it completely cool off before cutting it up into pieces. Trust me, this is one heck of a dessert and really quite simple to make.

Creamy Spicy Chicken Curry

I don't know what to call this curry, to be honest. It's rich, creamy and a tad spicy - all of which you can alter to your taste. What's different with this curry is the ground paste I add in the end which makes it rich and bloody delicious!

1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup curd
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste

Mix all of the above and marinate 1 kg chicken (on the bone cut into pieces) with it for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Ingredients for curry:
4 onions chopped, sauted in oil till transparent and pureed
4 tomatoes pureed
1 tsp jeera
2 green chillies slit
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp ghee/butter/oil

1. Heat ghee/butter/oil (I went with butter), add chillies, jeera and then tip the onion puree into it.
2. Cook till it turns light brown in colour and add ginger-garlic paste with salt. Saute for 2 mins.
3. Add turmeric and chilli powders and mix well.
4. Add tomato puree.
5. Add the chicken with the marinade into this onion tomato mixture.
6. Cook for 25 mins or till done.
7. In the meanwhile make the paste which goes into the curry in the end.

[Ingredients for paste:
2 onions finely chopped
Handful of cashew nuts
1 inch cinnamon stick
4-5 cloves
4-5 cardamoms
1/4 cup fresh cream

1. Saute chopped onions in oil/ghee with cloves, cardamom, cinnamon till they're brown in colour.
2. Cool and blend it in your mixer with cream and cashew nuts till it's a fine paste.]

Cont. with curry..
8. Once chicken is cooked, add the paste and let it cook for another 2 mins.
9. Take off heat and garnish with coriander leaves.

You can alter this by omitting the cream or even the cashew nuts. But don't leave out the browned onions because it adds a nice caramel flavour to the dish. It sounds odd, but it's delicious. Serve with rotis or rice.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bacon Brownies

Not too long ago, a colleague and friend brought us a bar of Bacon Chocolate from the U.S. Don't pull a face - it was the best thing I've tasted in years. It was as if chocolate met bacon, they dated in someone's kitchen and then I got to attend the wedding. It was all kinds of awesomeness. Now, I did know about bacon brownies but had never tried them - baking or otherwise. After the successful encounter with the bacon chocolate bar, I figured I'd give the brownies a shot. They turned out good. But there's always scope to improve - and by improve I mean, add more bacon!

The short version: Add 1/2 cup of fried bacon bits and 4 tsp bacon fat to your regular brownie batter.

1 cup chocolate
1/4 cup salted butter
3/4 cup brown or regular sugar
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup fried bacon bits
4 tsp bacon grease/fat

1. Microwave the chocolate and butter for 30 - 40 seconds and whisk till completely melted and smooth.
2. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix well.
3. Add sugar.
4. Fold the flour into the batter.
5. Add the bacon bits and fat to the batter.
6. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 mins at 180C

Let it cool completely before demolishing it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Potato and Poached Egg Curry

Thanks to my Mangalorean lineage, I love coconut - in, on, under, over, however! In this recipe, eggs are poached in the curry. I don't know if we went to Israel or they came to Mangalore for a holiday, but there's a Shakshuka connection somewhere in the eggs poaching in curry/sauce. Why this is a quick dish for me is that I make the coconut based masala and store it in the fridge way before. It becomes the base for my chicken, mutton and vegetable curry. It's most convenient when you're a working person, and all you need to do it cook the vegetables out in the masala. You can then either add any kind of stock or simply use coconut milk for some gravy.

Serves 4

3 tsp of the ground coconut masala
1 tbsp ghee or oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 tetrapack coconut milk (200 ml or approx a cup)
1 medium tomato finely chopped
1 tsp tamarind pas
2 large potatoes cooked and diced
4 eggs
Chopped coriander for garnish
Salt to taste

1. Heat oil/ghee and add onions.
2. Let it turn golden brown and then add the curry paste.
3. It will turn darker in colour (2-3 mins) and then add the tomatoes and salt.
4. Add coconut milk and a cup of water to dilute the curry.
5. Let it come to a bubble before you add the potatoes.
6. Now gently crack each egg open into the curry, at four different spots.
7. Cover and lower the flame. Let it cook further for 5-7 mins or till the yolks are set.
8. Garnish with coriander and serve with rice.

Coconut Masala Paste For Curries

This is my safe base as I'd like to call it. After a day's work, I'd like to get done with cooking for dinner in minimum time so I can unwind and rest well before a good night's sleep. This masala really helps my cause. For a quick curry I cook vegetables or meat in this paste along with coconut milk, stock or just water. Sometimes I add chopped tomatoes and tamarind pulp for some sourness while cooking the curry.

Ingredients for the ground masala:
8 dried red chillies
4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp turmeric
1 cup grated coconut or 1/2 cup coconut pieces
4 cloves
1 inch piece of cinnamon

Method for the masala:
1. Saute all ingredients one at a time in 1 tbsp oil or ghee.
2. Grind to a fine paste with water.
3. Use immediately or store in air tight container in the fridge.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mutton Thukpa

Post my McLeod Ganj holiday, thukpa hasn't left my mind. It seemed reasonably easy and doable. I'm sure that's the case with most comfort food. With thukpa there's the broth, veggies and noodles. Get them all together in a bowl and comfort is guaranteed.

1/2 kilo mutton on the bone, cut into small pieces
1 onion chopped
3 garlic cloves sliced
1 inch ginger finely sliced
4 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 tbsp soy
1 pack hakka noodles cooked
2 cups veggies - I used mushrooms and carrots
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp crushed peppercorns

1. Heat oil in pressure cooker and add cinnamon and cloves.
2. Add onions, ginger, garlic and saute till fragrant - about 3 mins.
3. Add mutton and 500 ml water (or enough for the broth).
4. Cook till two whistle blows and turn off heat.
5. After pressure drops on its own, turn the flame on.
6. Take out the mutton pieces and bring the broth to a bubble.
7. Add the veggies and let them cook.
8. Add soy and check for saltiness. If you want to, add salt.
9. Add peppercorns and put the mutton pieces back into the broth. Turn off the heat.

To serve: In a bowl, place a handful of cooked hakka noodles at the bottom and pour over the broth with the veggies and mutton pieces. Garnish with chopped spring onions or coriander leaves.

You can replace mutton with chicken, of course. You could use chicken bouillon cubes to the broth for extra flavour.

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken is probably my most ordered dish in/from a Chinese restaurant. I didn't quite bother figuring out the recipe because it was easy to order in, of course. I'll take this opportunity to shamelessly plug in Zomato Order here. Anyway, I looked a few recipes and made my own version of Kung Pao Chicken. I've learned that shallow fried bite sized chicken can be tossed in a concoction of a couple of sauces and it turns into a quick "Chinese" dish. That's exactly what I did here. I did remember two things from restaurant Kung Pao dishes distinctly - dried red chillies and peanuts.

2 boneless chicken breasts - bite size cuts
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 dried red chillies
1 onion chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
Handful of peanuts
Spring onions to garnish

1. Marinate the chicken in the ginger-garlic paste for a couple of hours or overnight.
2. Shallow fry the chicken and keep aside.
3. Heat sesame oil, saute the red chillies, add onions and saute.
4. Add all the sauces and sugar, and bring to a boil.
4. Toss the chicken in and mix well.
5. Add peanuts and garnish with spring onions.

If you want a gravy version, add 2 tbsp corn flour mixed in water and 1/4 cup chicken stock and let it bubble before you add the garnish. I chose not to add vegetables, but you could add bell peppers, mushrooms and broccoli too.

What's best about Chinese food is that it makes for great leftovers!

What I did with leftover Kung Pao Chicken was - heated some oil and sauted onions and mushrooms in it. Scrambled 4 eggs in there, and mixed leftover rice into it. Then added soy, fish sauce, chilli sauce. Shredded the chicken and tossed it in and garnished with spring onions and peanuts. Kung Pao Fried Rice!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sambal Chicken in 10 mins

As usual I kept snooping around for easy chicken recipes on the internet and came across this. Seemed really simple and it is. I also happen to have a jar of sambal oelek paste. Guess what the ingredients at the back of the jar says? Dried red chilles, water, salt, thickening agents. Well, at least I have a nice jar. If you aren't stupid enough to buy the paste, just make some and store it in the fridge. It's just common sense to do so. Next time I'll add shallots, garlic and ginger to knock some flavour punch to the paste. Anyway, moving on to what I made.

2 boneless chicken breasts cut to bite size
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 big garlic clove
2 tbsp sambal paste
1/4 cup coconut milk
Salt if you need
1 tbsp oil

1. Marinate the chicken with ginger garlic paste. You could even omit this process by simply adding the ginger garlic paste to the sambal paste in the next steps.
2. Heat oil and saute chopped garlic cloves.
3. Add the sambal paste and cook it out for a minute.
4. Add the chicken and coconut milk. Let it cook for 6-7 mins and it's done.

I figured you can play around with such a simple and easy recipe any way you like.
* Shallow fry the chicken and toss it in the cooked sambal paste, along with soy, brown sugar and fish sauce.
* Cook the sambal paste in oil, add vegetables, eggs and cooked rice!
* Marinate chicken in sambal paste, ginger garlic paste and lemon juice - Grill!

Monday, October 5, 2015

McLeod Ganj. Food. Skies. Stories.

The long weekend, thanks to Gandhi Jayanti, was spend in McLeod Ganj - a much needed and rightly deserved break. While it took my lungs a few minutes to get used to the clean(er) air, my eyes were getting used to the breathtaking view. I won't get into details about the place and shall stick to what captured my heart (stomach, rather) - the food. Simplicity at its best and purest.

The day of arrival I walked around the alleys in search of my soul. Couldn't find it, hence settled for breakfast - Momos stuffed with potatoes and spinach. These were almost like pot stickers. Almost. They weren't the regular momos you'd get out here in the big cities. These were stuffed and steamed buns, then lined on a hot griddle for that nice char on each side. I'm clearly not good with descriptions, but I hope I was able to paint a mental picture. I don't have a picture of it, unfortunately.

For lunch I did what the locals do - thukpa. The local restaurants are small, cozy and a joy. We ordered for a pork thukpa, a chicken one and chilli chicken on the cook's recommendation. He then came back from the kitchen to tell us that there's no meat, but only pork fat and would that be ok with us. We went ahead with it anyway. I forgot to mention that I was suffering from a cold and temperature. Thukpa was just what the doctor had ordered (or he wishes). I'm no good with adjectives either, so let me just stick with - holy smokes it was bloody good! The thukpa opened up my senses, nostrils in particular. Despite the cold I could tell the broth tasted great. So did the infamous pork fat. The chilli chicken was, well like chilli chicken. Plain good. I'd also got myself some hot lemon tea. It was so good I could hardly contain myself. It was like granny's lemonade, but hot and with a hint of tea which came with the tea bag of course.

Post lunch I walked by this little kiosk of treats. I got 2 - a slice of baked yak cheese with coconut and cream, and a local chocolate and nuts bar. The yak cheese slice was moist and delicious. I call it the love child of a cheesecake and pound cake. It also came with a disclaimer that it wasn't going to be as sweet as we thought. Which exactly was the case and yet oh-so-delicious. The chocolate and nut bar was just about alright. Chocolate and nuts. A short and very sweet love story, which I wasn't too pleased to be a part of.

Continuing the quest for my soul, aka just good food, I found another little place called the Four Seasons Cafe. Food that definitely hit the spot here. We had a good old spinach and cheese omlette and a Chicken Soutsemen - which is a first for me. Pan fried noodles topped with oodles of gravy with vegetables and chicken. Definitely going to replicate this one at home.

In between some walking around and taking random pictures like a wannabe traveler, I got hungry again. Eyes wandered (so did I) and landed on Tibetan Kitchen. Got myself some steamed buns and sliced pork in pickle gravy. It was exactly that. Sliced pork in pickle gravy. It's like they watered down some mango pickle (salivating as I write pickle) and put a few pork slices in there. No, I'm not complaining. It was sour and spicy - what's not to like. Mopping up all the 'pickle gravy' with the pork bun, we walked back to the hotel.

On the way back I saw the same kiosk full of treats looking back at me. I gave in and got a couple of different treats this time - yak muffin and a local cookie (I don't remember its name). The muffin was light, soft and had the slightest hint of cheese - assuming it's from the yak. The cookie, thin coconut biscuit sandwich with jam, was forgettable - like its name.

For dinner I found this place which had a big poster of the show Highway on my plate at their entrance - looked like they gave the restaurant their stamp of approval. Alas, what a disappointment. Ordered the Tibetan Thali and pork chilli. Both were under seasoned and underwhelming. The thukpa was as if over cooked slices of vegetables were just put in hot water with some noodles. The pork chilli had no chilli and I don't think the pork was happy being a part of that dish either.

The next morning I was up and shining along with the sun to get some breakfast, of course. I didn't want to make it a morning trek to find a place and settled for a cafe close to the hotel. Carpe Diem Restaurant. Got ourselves a French and an English breakfast - just to make up for the less than impressive dinner the previous night. It was the usual suspect with the English breakfast - eggs, sausages, ham, bacon, the works. The French one came with eggs scrambled with peppers.

For lunch I picked yet another teeny-tiny-hole-in-the-wall kind of a restaurant called Yak. Best Chowmein ever. I don't know what else to say. It was right in every way. We also got the fried mutton momos. I'd give it a pass the next time around. It's double fried momos with a bland mutton stuffing. It was so crispy it turned hard and wasn't pleasant to eat at all. But the Chowmein was bang on the money.

This was the last day here and we had a couple of hours to kill before leaving. I spotted this little cafe on the basement floor (if it's called that) called Woeser Bakery that still has my heart. The most warm and welcoming owner makes you feel at ease as soon as you walk in. She'll tell you that the cafe's menu in on top (horizontal black board) and dessert samples are placed at the window. She advertised about her handmade cappuccino and that no one else in town does it. I quickly get one of those and a paradise bar, which is basically a biscuit base bar with a brown sugar caramel and coconut topping. The coffee was the best cappuccino I've ever had. Good strong coffee sweetened with brown sugar and I don't know what else she does to it that makes it taste so damn good. The paradise bar was a tad too sweet for my liking. I then ordered the Tibetan butter tea. It was a revelation for sure. It was unlike any other tea I've ever had. Salty, buttery and comforting.

With a heavy heart and full belly, I left McLeod Ganj promising I'll be back. But we both know about a tourist's empty promises. If I were a traveller, she'd have understood.