28 April 2013

A Vegetarian Mediterranean Brunch menu

So I was up early this morning (if you consider 6.15 am early for a Sunday morning). I was going to have some relatives over and I had no clue what to cook, except for the fresh vegetables and ingredients I had for inspiration. Since 'what to cook' and 'how to plan the menu' is pretty much the biggest problem for most cooking enthusiasts, I've decided I'll share my menus whenever I end up cooking something fun like today.

I shopped for some of the ingredients at Total Mall (Sarjapur) picking up some interesting stuff from the Pesticide Free section. The baby carrots and baby bell peppers in bags were pretty much the inspiration for this menu. Then I decided to add a simple pasta dish to the menu. The unbelievable heat at this time of the year was the inspiration for the juicy watermelon-grape-feta salad. And because I have a no-fail Focaccia recipe that I often fall upon, and I had some extra time on hand and I knew the oven would be running for the other dishes anyway, I added that to the list. The dessert was an after thought, but there's a divine eggless chocolate dessert on Aparna's blog that doesn't involve much effort or ingredients, but is sure to be a win. I tried it for the first time today and it sure wont be my last. I wish I had taken pictures of them all, but apart from a couple of pics during prep, I don't have any to share.






Menu

Rosemary Onion Focaccia

Watermelon-Grape-Feta salad

Baby bell peppers stuffed with herb garlic millets

Roasted baby carrots with shallots

Penne in Marinara sauce with hidden veg

Chocolate Creme pots for dessert




Rosemary Onion Focaccia 
Adapted from this Bon Appetit recipe, I skip the chilling overnight step.

Watermelon-Grape-Feta salad with fresh basil
Follow my recipe, but add sweet red grapes and use basil instead of mint

Baby bell peppers stuffed with Herb & Garlic Millets (can be made vegan)
Cut out the tops and scoop out seeds and membranes from bell peppers. Cook millets as per this recipe. Saute finely chopped garlic, onion, carrots, sprouted moong in olive oil. Add plenty of fresh basil and the cooked millets. Season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes and dried basil. Stuff the bell pepper halfway with prepared millets. Add a chunk of mozzarella cheese for a surprise and fill it with millets till the top. Cover with the cut out bell pepper tops which will serve as a lid. Brush with oil and bake at 200C for 20 mins. This recipe is vegan if you omit the cheese.

Roasted baby carrots and shallots (vegan)
Follow this recipe  adding shallots along with the carrots. Toss with olive oil infused with sea salt, fresh or dried rosemary and black pepper. Bake at 200C for 20 minutes. These carrots were really small so didn't need longer baking time.

Penne in hidden veg marinara sauce (vegan)
Adapted from this video 

Chocolate Creme Pots (eggfree, vegetarian)
Eggless dessert from Aparna's blog

23 April 2013

The secret to making fully loaded Nachos

It's been unbearably hot this month in Bangalore. And being the good girl I am, I have been focussing on making the most of the sun, such as sun drying tomatoes, making sun tea and getting my daily dose of vitamin D. 

Those who follow me on Instagram might have seen my gleeful updates on restarting my kitchen garden. We sowed a ton of seeds 3 weeks ago and each morning, I would take my coffee up there to talk to the little seedlings and watch each one come out from the soil and take head count (just kidding there!). As usual, I jumped too soon. There's this nut-job of a stray dog who climbs up on our terrace garden every single night and he has taken it as is life's singleminded motto to dig out every inch of soil in the garden, and along with it every thing that I sow. It is such heart ache for me that I cannot bear to step into the garden and see the mini earthquake unleashed by that 10 kilo dog. He sure was an earthmover in his previous birth! Now that I've vented my anger and frustration, I can get back to talking about good food things. 




Since the last few Fridays, I've been making a big platter of these fully loaded nachos for dinner. It's like a big salad with lots of veggies, beans, cheese and of course tortilla chips. If you get down to baking these chips, then you have a completely healthy, high fibre, high protein snack ready to serve for a house party. I plan to bake these chips in advance for this weekend.

This is the perfect party dish, easily scaled up. You can assemble these in smaller foil containers, sprinkle cheese and bake so it can be shared between two people. 

Preparing the beans:
These are not exactly refried beans because in the former, they are mashed to a coarse paste. Here the beans are pressure cooked until soft but each holding their shape and not mushy. They are then sautéed with some seasonings and kept aside for use in the nachos. You could  make these ahead of time and refrigerate up to 10 days in an airtight container.

Ingredients
1/2 cup raw rajma ( I use the smaller Kashmiri variety) 
pinch of baking soda
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp cumin powder
1 chipotle chilli or a regular dried red chilli, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
3/4 tsp salt or to taste
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander

Directions
Soak the rajma overnight with a pinch of baking soda.
Drain, wash well and add 1 cup water to this or enough water to completely immerse the beans in a utensil that goes inside the pressure cooker.
Pressure cook the beans for 10-12 minutes. (After two whistles, keep on sim for 10-12 minutes) The cooking time depends on the size of the rajma, for bigger sizes you may have to cook for slightly longer time. You want the beans to be cooked thoroughly, pressing with the back of the ladle or the thumb should mash it to a paste but it should hold its shape. Drain any excess water and keep aside.
In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt until the onions are soft. Add the drained cooked rajma, cumin powder, chipotle, salt, coriander. On a low heat, gently saute and let all the seasonings coat the rajma for 5-7 minutes. Once this is done, keep aside until use.




8 April 2013

SaffronTrail Food Times Edition-01


This is the first edition of the SaffronTrail Food Times, where I'll try and share food news in and around Bangalore- be it new restaurants in the city, food workshops that enthusiasts can participate in, food festivals hosted by restaurants and so on. I'm thinking of having this a fortnightly or monthly column. If you have anything interesting for me to share here (Bangalore based), do mail me at saffrontrail [at] gmail. Please understand that I shall use your information at my discretion and cannot promise to post everything that comes my way.

SAFFRONTRAIL FOOD TIMES EDITION-01

Weekend Breakfasts in Bangalore
We found two breakfast places which couldn't be more different from each other. 



One serves up the Full English Breakfast, cocktails you can feel less guilty about over drinking in the morning, absolutely sinful Red Velvet waffles and thick French toasts. I don't know if you've guessed, we're talking about the 'Breakfirst' at Monkey Bar. Apart from eggs, waffles and toasts, vegetarians have a few other choices like the Handwo, Chilli Cheese Vada Pao and a really big croissant called the Mobar Maxi Croissant. There's a Big Bang breakfast specially for vegetarians called the Garden City which comprises of gratinated vegetable crepe, feta stuffed mushrooms, hash browns, grilled tomato, baked beans and jumbo toast. Mobar has tied up with theindianbean.com to serve up a specially formulated single estate coffee blend, so you can be sure that you're in for some good coffee.
Expect to be put behind by INR1500 for two people. There's good music and the company of breakfast loving enthusiastic morning crowd and one must give them points for innovation (Red Velvet Waffles, Pita with Pandi etc.). The good part is you can skip lunch altogether and have a long snooze after filling up here.
Monkey Bar, 14/1 Krishna Manere, Wood Street, Richmond Road, Ashok Nagar, Bengaluru - 560025. Phone: 080 41116878/ 79 | www.mobar.in
Weekends 9 am-12 noon

The other breakfast we loved was the all you can eat spread at Kamat Yatri Nivas (Hoodi). The  South Indian breakfast serves all the usuals. The Masala dosa, vada, kuzhi paniyarams are freshly made in small batches. The other items served are masala idli, puri-chana, khara-baath, bisi bele baath, mangalore buns, akki rotti, watermelon juice, fruits, rosogulla, coffee/tea. They also had bread, butter, jam and some other things I may have missed. The buns were delicious, and our friend said that the kuzhi paniyarams were as good as the ones he had eaten at a small eatery in Coimbatore. I don't think there's any other breakfast in Bangalore that can beat the 'VFM-ness' of this one. If you live in and around Whitefield, don't miss this. It is a steal at INR 125/adult, 75/child. 
Kamat Yatri Niwas, Graphite Road, Hoodi Circle, Whitefield. Phone: 080-28459075 | kamatyatri.in - Weekends 7am-10am, no reservations required.


CBTL celebrates 50 years with a new menu
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has introduced a new menu with more focus on healthy and gourmet options. 



We liked their Japanese Cherry Green Tea and Swedish Berries Tea, both made using loose leaf tea bags. These are a perfect choice for those who want to spend time in a cafe without loading up on calories. For those who like their high calorie drinks, they also have a Hot Double Chocolate  with Caramel Swirl and whipped cream :)




Among their healthy eating options, I liked their Roast Vegetable with Hummus. Their Greek salad however was a disappointment because of tons of fake feta. Even if it was paneer, it was a stale one. Their muffins are the giant American size, I'd recommend it be shared between 3 people! Their Chocolate Chunk muffin was loaded with chocolate chips. Try their signature Ice Blended coffee in your favourite flavour. 
http://www.facebook.com/TheCoffeeBeanIndia
Branches: Koramangala, 1MG Rd Mall, Inorbit Mall (Whitefield), Phoenix Market City

A cozy cafe inside a mall- Plus 91


Photo courtesy: Aravind Balakrishnan

Newly opened at the buzzing Phoenix Market City mall at Whitefield, they are the modern upmarket version of a multicuisine restaurant with a bar. From chaats to steaks, they have it all on their menu, along with an extensive alcohol and drinks menu. Theirs is a cozy ambience of a street corner cafe, with a little outdoor section. The indoors nearly makes you forget you are in a mall. The fact that they have a jukebox gives them extra points from my side. We were invited for their pre-launch Sunday lunch and they were playing vintage disco for which I'll give them two thumbs up. We tried the radga patties, a modified version of sev puri (using baby papads instead of puri), paani puri, frankie, paneer tikkas and the sizzler. While the penne pasta in tomato sauce was perfectly made, the chaats needed some help from the roadside chaatwala in terms of textures and flavour. The feedback was passed on and I hope they'll get better in that department. As they have an extensive appetisers menu, I think this will be a good place for a couple of after work drinks and small bites, for those working in and around ITPL. Their dessert menu is limited to three items. In case you're wondering about the origin of their name, it indicates India's phone code :)
Plus 91, Phoenix Market City, 1st Floor, Mahadevpura, Whitefield Road, Bangalore-48.
Phone- 80-65995666 | https://www.facebook.com/Plus91India
Hours: 12 noon-11.30pm, walk-ins welcome



7 April 2013

A Jammy Weekend: Recipes for Strawberry-Balsamic & Fig-Vanilla-Black Pepper Jam




A little cafe surrounded by a kitchen garden - windows with fluttering lace curtains - a big oven on one side - cinnamon, yeast, vanilla scents in the air - sounds of happy chatter - the aroma of fresh coffee brewing - people waiting in anticipation of a simple good time - a cup of good coffee or choice of tea with a scone or a muffin topped with some homemade jam - A girl can day dream right?

On Thursday, I ordered more fruit than I usually do for a week, especially strawberry and figs, with the intention of making jam. I'm not much of a jam sandwich person. Give me a Mumbai style coriander-mint chutney and cucumber sandwich any day. But when you have a little boy at home who'll say 'I'm hungry' at the most unpredictable times of the day, it is good to have a loaf of bread and some spreads handy to make a snack in 2 minutes. He likes my 'Chocolate coconut Peanut Butter' - well, I like it a lot myself and each batch gets over in a matter of 2-3 days. So I decided to make some jams anyway. What better way to preserve the goodness of seasonal fresh fruit for a couple more months?

There's a lot more I'd like to write about on 'jamming' but the weekend chores beckon and I promised a few people that I'll be sharing the recipe on my blog before the end of the weekend, so here are the recipes for the two jams.
 If you always wondered what the difference was between jelly, jam and preserve, read this
I'd say my recipes are in between a jam and preserve, because while they do have a chunky texture, it is not 'that' chunky because the fruit was fairly finely chopped to begin with. Contrary to popular belief that jam making is the job of old matronly housewives who wish to slave in the kitchen all day and night, these jams don't take more than 30-45 minutes each, including fruit chopping time, especially because we're making only a small quantity at a time. Also, in both these jams, we don't need any added pectin because both fruits are full of seeds inside them which are a natural source of pectin. As for fig jam, most recipes from international websites don't ask for the fruit to be peeled, but Indian figs are very thick skinned, therefore better off peeled.

Strawberry Balsamic Preserve
Recipe adapted from Epicurious



Ingredients
750 grams strawberries (washed, patted dry and tops removed- I bought 1 kg and this was what I got after eating a few and removing the tops)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp water
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp butter

Directions

  1. Finely chop the strawberries-you'll get roughly 2 1/2 cups of chopped fruit
  2. In a heavy bottomed steel or anodised pan, put all the ingredients together, on a medium flame, bring this to a simmer.
  3. The butter prevents the mixture from foaming and splattering too much. In fact, mine didn't splatter at all. 
  4. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the mixture is thick and translucent. Keep stirring off and on. Don't worry if it's still a bit flowy and it will thicken further on cooling. So, switch off before the jam turns thick.
  5. Remove pan from heat and cool thoroughly.
  6. Meanwhile place two empty clean and dry glass jam jars  bottles without their lids in the microwave for one minute. This is to quick sterilise the bottles.
  7. Once cooled to room temperature, spoon the jams into the two jars. I'd say I got roughly two jars of 300-350 grams each.
  8. Close them tight and keep in fridge. Use within a month.


Recipe for Fig-Vanilla-Black Pepper Preserve
Adapted from Taste





Ingredients
Roughly 1 kg fresh figs
1 cup sugar
half a vanilla pod (or use a cinnamon stick + 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon)
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp butter

Directions

  1. Wash, dry and remove stems of figs. Peel and chop finely.
  2. Slice the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds with the end of the knife, add this to the chopped figs. 
  3. In a large bowl, add all the ingredients, including the scraped vanilla pod, cover and keep overnight. [at this stage you could either keep the bowl of ingredients covered in the refrigerator overnight and proceed with jam making in the morning or proceed with the process immediately. I left it in the fridge overnight] 
  4. After the mixture has sat in the fridge overnight, transfer them to a heavy bottomed steel pan or anodized pan, bring to a simmer on medium flame.
  5. Keep stirring off and on so that the sugar does not stick to the bottom and burn.
  6. In around 20 minutes, the mixture will start to thicken. Remove from flame. Cool thoroughly. 
  7. Meanwhile place two empty clean and dry glass jam jars  bottles without their lids in the microwave for one minute. This is to quick sterilise the bottles.
  8. Once cooled to room temperature, spoon the jams into the two jars. I'd say I got roughly two jars of 300-350 grams each.
  9. Close them tight and keep in fridge. Use within a month.
P.S. Sorry for the longish title. I didn't want you to think that my jammy weekend had anything to do with Rahul Dravid.


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