Konnichiwa!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2012 by vegetarina

I’m sure reading the title gives you an idea that this post has something to do with Japanese.I’ve always been obsessed with eating and cooking Asian food since I was a child,have tried Chinese,Thai,Malaysian,Indonesian,Singaporean and Japanese.Lately I have been trying to cook and eat dishes that are not drowned in or masked by spices,heavy sauces or curries, where the original flavour and freshness of the core ingredient can be preserved and tasted.This very concept is the foundation of Japanese cooking.

Image

The menu and counter

It is said that hundreds of years ago Japanese cuisine was entirely vegetarian since the emporor as well as the population followed Buddhism.It wasn’t until the 1800’s that meats like pork, beef and chicken were introduced owing to the western influence.To know more about this cuisine I visited Sushi and More, India’s first Japanese take away store.This year old enterprise is the baby of Maido India and is headed by Chef Shreeya, an IHM,Mumbai Graduate with a specialization in Japanese Cuisine.She has been trained at Four Seasons, Mumbai and JW Marriot, Mumbai.An extremely passionate young chef, she happily told me about Japanese food, how she and her team worked on the menu to offer equal options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.She patiently answered all my questions and cleared a lot of misconceptions about the cuisine.

Image

The cooking set up.The square cast iron pan called Tamago Pan is used for making japanese rolled omlets known as Tamago Yaki

The main focus of Japanese cooking is to preserve and retain the flavour and nutrients of the core ingredient of a dish.Presentation is also of utmost importance.Japanese food is based on five key ingredients, each of which has a specific purpose:

  • Dashi – Stock, vegetable, mushroom or fish.
  • Soy/Shoyu – Dark, light, tamari, shiro (white).
  • Sake – Rice Wine, used for de-glazing and/or de-odorizing.
  • Mirin – Sweet cooking sake,acts as a balancing agent used for marination, in dressings.
  • Su – Vinegar

The basic cooking methods are:

  • Agemono – Deep Fried
  • Mushimono – Steamed
  • Nabemono – One-pot
  • Nimono – Simmered
  • Yekimono – Grilled
  • Itamemono – Stir Fried (used in chinese style dishes)
Image

Sushi rice

Let’s come to one of the most common and popular japanese dish almost everyone has heard of,SUSHI.Most of the times when one says sushi people think its raw fish, this is the biggest misconception.Sushi literally means vinegared rice.Rice being the staple in japan, is eaten accomapanied by meats and vegetables or used to make different types of sushi.The best rice to make sushi is Koshihikari.(Sushi itself is a vast subject to explore, will get to that in future.) Another a rice variety known as Koshibuki which is less sticky than sushi rice is used in other rice dishes.

Image

Sushi Oko – used for vinegaring and cooling the rice

Japanese noodle dishes are also very popular,the two main types of noodles being Soba (buckwheat noodles) and Udon (wheat noodles). Ramen are chinese style wheat noodles served in stock with roasted meat or vegetables.The noodles are picked with chopsticks and the broth sipped directly from the bowl.

Image

Oshi Zushi Mould – 3 piece mould used for making sandwich sushi

Another popular dishe available in India is Tempura, batter fried vegeteables or sea food.Teppanyaki is another practice which is gaining popularity due to the interaction and show it comes along with, vegetables or meat are grilled on an iron hot plate known as Teppan in front of guests at a restaurant.Along with the one’s I spoke about, there are a lot of other dishes that one can try out at Sushi and More, at Breach Candy (in the lane opposite mucchad panwala) look for them on facebook to see the menu. I got to see quite a few utensils and equipments used in Japanese cooking, tasted the vegetable Gyoza (pan seared dumplings) and absolutely loved them.Will be trying all the vegetarian dishes on the menu one by one.And after having cooked chinese for so many years, I’m shifitng my focus to Japanese food and am going to try and make as many things as possible.

Image

Sushi rolling mat

It was very kind of Chef Shreeya to share the recipe for a basic Teriyaki Sauce.It is a super simple and quick recipe one can whip up in no time and use it as a glaze or sauce.Will read up and see where all and in what recipes it can be used and post about them.

Teriyaki Sauce

Ingredients:

3 tbsp Dark soy sauce

2 tbsp Sugar

4 tbsp Mirin

1 tsp of Cornflour slurry

Method:

Bring all the ingredients to a boil and thicken with the cornflour slurry.Cool and use when required.

Advertisements

Annakut

Posted in Uncategorized on October 30, 2011 by vegetarina

All around the world when people celebrate a festival,food is the first thing on the list of preparations that start days in advance sometimes.Every festival has a traditional meal or dish(es) associated with it since centuries.The food cooked for the festival often has some religious or historical significance but at times its just because its been done that way since generations in a family.From the top of my head the festival-food associations I can think of are ghevar on holi,sevaiyan kheer on id,apple pie on 4th of july,turkey for thanksgiving,jalebi fafda for dussera,Poran poli on Guddi Padva,there are a lot of other festivals but I don’t exactly know what food is traditional to them,like lohri,baisakhi,pongal,pateti (parsi new year),onam and these aren’t even all of the Indian festivals,trying to list all from around the world is next to impossible! Coming to the current festival Diwali which is celebrated over five days with each day having its own history and tradition.The day before diwali is celebrated as Kaali Chaudas in gujarati households where dahi wadas/bhallas are traditional fares.The day after diwali is the Hindu new year,I think mainly for gujaratis as other communities have different new year days at different times in the year.This day is also celebrated as Gowardhan Pooja or Annakut since over 5000 years.

The story of why, how and for what this day is celebrated is narrated in hindu mythological literature that narrated stories of lord krishna,including the bhagwad gita.According to legend, when Krishna was young there was a tradition in his village where after the monsoons and harvest season, all the villagers would offer all the food to Lord Indra,the god and controller of rains to show their gratitude for the water provided in the form of rain.On seeing this,Krishna asks his father the reason behind all this to which he explained that it is to please the rain god and to be able to live happily and prosperously the rest of the year.Krishna opposed this belief saying that the happiness,prosperity,misery or sadness is not subject to the rain or the rain god but is a result of their “Karma” meaning deeds.After a lot of debating with his father and the rest of the villagers explaining to them that worshipping natural phenomenon that occur irrespective of one’s doings is of no use but instead to live their lives and worship just the one supreme god who decides one’s fate based on his deeds as it is also mentioned in the bhagwad.He finally convinced the villagers to stop worshipping Indra and instead worship the mountain govardhan which is a form of the supreme god.This change however did not go down well with Indra and in his ego and arrogance he brought down heavy rain and thunder on the village of Vraj for seven days and seven nights.Krishna lifted the gowardhan hill with his little finger and provided shelter and refuge to the village for the entire time.

Seeing his efforts to punish the villagers fail,Indra gave up and accepted defeat before Krishna and asked for forgiveness.Since then on the day after diwali,the worshipers of Lord Krishna, prepare a feast known as “Annakut” anna meaning grain,in this case food and kut meaning mountain which together literally translate to mountain of food.The world over,a chappan bhog (56 offerings) is prepared in Krishna temples and homes of Krishna followers.This feast includes everything from dry snacks,to pickles,salad,puris,sweets,fruits,juice,buttermilk,pulses,vegetables and a mound of rice to symbolize the gowardhan hill basically an enitre meal from A-Z.In homes the preparations start a few days in advance as everything offered has to be made at home,they usually start with the dry snacks (farsaan) like chakris,chola fali and the likes as they have a good shelf life,the sweets are prepared a day or two earlier as they are time consuming and the vegetables,pulses,rice and puris or rotis are prepared closest to time so they can be served fresh.

This year I had the chance to experience annakut at my mother’s childhood friend’s home.I wanted to be present for the preparations and the cooking but couldn’t due to time and distance constraints.But none the less, just being present on the main day was amazing,all the food was beautifully arranged before krishna’s idol starting with the sweets right in front,followed by the dry sncks,and going on to the mains.A rangoli of sorts was made around the food with turmeric powder and the surrounding adorned with flower petals,tulsi leaves and diyas.All the food was prepared with such simplicity but the taste surpassed any 5 star hotel buffet.Fifty-Six items were surprising enough for me but when I actually counted and listed the dishes it came up to SIXTY-TWO.All the food was displayed before krishna and then everyone stepped out of the room for a while to give god some time to savour the food and bless it.This was followed by krishna bhajans,arti and then it was time for us to eat the prasad.

I’ve known of the concept of chappan bhog since childhood but didn’t quite know the occassion it was prepared for,but the tradition of annakut was a completely new thing for me and as soon as I received the invitation I was intrigued,I looked up on the net,went through that section of the bhagwad gita to understand the story behind this ritual.This story is just reinforced my belief that no matter what the occassion,religious or social,food has been at the core of it bringing everyone together since centuries and generations all through the world.

I could barely eat ten of the sixty-two dishes on the menu and yet I felt I over-ate.There were so many things, I couldn’t fit all into a single picture.Here is the list of the entire menu:

  1. Mathdi
  2. Fried Chana Dal
  3. Fried Dry Fruits
  4. Fafda
  5. Sev
  6. Chevda
  7. Naan Khatai
  8. Ghugra
  9. Khaari Puri (savoury crispy puri)
  10. Satpadi
  11. Ghaari
  12. Assorted Bhajiyas
  13. Kanji Wada
  14. Dahi Wada
  15. Moong dal dhokla
  16. Khatta Dhokla
  17. Patra (rolls made with colocasia leaves and tempered with mustard seeds)
  18. Puffed Puris
  19. Chips nu shaak (dry potato subzi made with fries)
  20. Undhiyu
  21. Baingan Bharta
  22. Tandalja Bhaji (Green leaves,an amaranth species)
  23. Mix kathol (red chana,black eyed peas etc.)
  24. Mung (sprouts)
  25. Arbi
  26. Sambhariya Bhindi
  27. Kadhi
  28. Fava Beans in tomato gravy
  29. Chana Subzi
  30. Guava Juice
  31. Chaas (Buttermilk)
  32. Raw papaya salad
  33. Tindli pickle
  34. Fresh Fruits
  35. Aam Ras (mango pulp)
  36. Dahi (yogurt)
  37. Makkhan (white butter)
  38. Chutney (Mint & Coriander chutney)
  39. Steamed Rice
  40. Yellow tempered rice
  41. Sweet rice
  42. Lemon Rice
  43. Curd Rice
  44. Gulab Jamun
  45. Sandesh
  46. Jalebi
  47. Boondi Laddoo
  48. Peda
  49. Kaju Katli
  50. Sitafal Kulfi
  51. Dudh pak
  52. Shrikhand
  53. Badam Rotlo
  54. Badam Puri
  55. Sheera
  56. Anjeer Barfi
  57. Kopra pak
  58. Basundi
  59. Kaju Pista Roll
  60. Mohanthaal
  61. Dotha
  62. Paan

Bloggers Park

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2011 by vegetarina

1st October was my first Mumbai Food Bloggers Dinner at the West View Bar & Grill hosted by ITC Maratha thanks to Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal.For those of you who don’t know her she is one of the first few food bloggers in Mumbai and has brought the food blogger community together which is now becoming a fraternity. The evening saw a vibrant mix of bloggers with such enthusiasm and passion for all things food (alcohol is a 1+1 free gift).Everyone was from a different walk of life,of varied age groups and dietery preferences.Excise official,student,business man,actress,communication professional,a blogging couple and so on.

Ready to be grilled

Though vegetarians and vegans were in minority we were surely not treated differently, there was a huge array of food for us as well. After the introductions,greetings (and no ragging of fisrt timers thankfully) and papparazzi like picture clicking by every single one of us were done, we gathered in the Enoteca wine library with a glass of crisp prosecco wine and a cheese platter (more like trolley) to go with it.We proceeded to the restuarants dining area and headed straight to the buffet, where a wide range of salads and appetizers awaited to be gobbled up by all of us foodies.Meanwhile we were asked to select our maincourse that would be grilled in the open kitchen proudly ruled and run by all women chef and brought to our tables once the first course was done.The list of things is too long,so will let the pictures do the talking.Then came the perfect ending to a perfect meal,DESSERT.A beautifully arranged platter of chocolate pudding with cinnamon dusting,a mini apple strudel and the best of all Lemongrass infused creme brulee.

Dessert Platter

Accompanying the great food were equally interesting and fun conversations and discussions, meat eaters teasing the vegetarians, the highlight of the dinner was the ‘grill off’ between teams of bloggers at their tables.Super cool (read super hot 400 degrees C) volcanic stone slabs were brought to the tables,which were used by us vegetarians to warm our hands and watch the show since it was not possible to grill veggies on such high temperature.All the ingredients like meat,seasonings and spices were brought to the tables and the teams were given a time limit to cook and plate their dish.The head chef judged the 2 dishes herself and was happy that for a change she was eating and someone else did the cooking.At the end of the evening all of us were surprised with 2 very thoughtful and lovely goodie gifts, a special spiced puffed rice snack from Jyotika of follow my recipe and an adorable tiny box filled with hand made tea bags and a cute little note from our very own tea somellier Snigdha of teatrunk.

Volcanic Stone Grill

Despite all the great food,one thing I gorged on the most was the roasted potato salad,can’t help it, after all potatoes are my first love since childhood and will always hold that place no matter what.So to remember those potatoes here is a recipe for roasted potatoes my style and versatile.Can be had as a hot appetizer,warm/cold salad or a side with a main course.

Roasted Potato Salad

ROASTED BABY POTATOES

Ingredients:

200 gms baby potatoes,scrubbed and washed well.

3-4 pods of garlic,crushed

Sea Salt to taste

Freshly ground white and black pepper to taste

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Few tbsp olive oil

A big piece of coal.

Finely chopped parsley,chives or spring onion leaves for garnish

Method:

Cut the potatoes in half if slightly big, poke holes all over the washed and dried potaotes with a fork.Heat oil in a flat bottomed deep non-stick pan,add the potatoes and saute for a few minutes on high flame.Add salt and mix well, reduce the heat and let the potatoes cook,turning them over occassionaly to prevent sticking,do not cover.Once they are almost cooked add the garlic,pepper and rosemary.Mix well to evenly season the potatoes.Check the potaotes to see if they are completely done.Once cooked, move all the potaotes aside making a well like space in the center of the pan.Light the piece of coal and put it in a small steel bowl the size of the space in the pan.Put the bowl in the pan and cover tightly for a few mintues.Doing this imparts the smoky flavour similar to when done on a barbeque without the barbeque grill and equipments. The same trick can be used to add a smoked flavour to lot of other dishes.

Tryst with Tequila

Posted in Cocktails on September 19, 2011 by vegetarina

A couple of weeks back I had the chance to attend a Jose Cuervo Tequila Masterclass with the brand ambassador David Dennis. More than trying to promote just a brand the focus was on tequila and the rich history and culture surrounding it.It is one of the rare brands that is still completely family owned and made only by traditional methods since generations.

Getting Started!

Tequila is always associated with celebration, fun, people coming together for parties.The most common way it is had is as a shot with a wedge of lime and salt.The class wasn’t all theory and gyaan! We did a fun and insightful experiment where we were given two shot glasses of tequila, one at room temperature and the other absolutely chilled from the freezer. And there was a vast difference between the two.The room temperature shot was not very pleasant to taste and burned the throat as it went down and that feeling lingered for a few minutes.And the frozen shot went down so smoothly and I could actually taste the nuances and flavours of tequila and not the alcohol in it.

Ingredients for cocktails

The most fun was when a few of us were invited by David Dennis to pick out a couple of ingredients for him to create cocktail.The point of this was to show that tequila is a very versatile spirit and not just meant for shots.The first person (a bartender) picked Orange and Ginger which were mixed up into a long refreshing drink ideal for summer, I picked cucumber,pomegranate and basil leaves to create a martini,and a fellow blogger went with fresh Watermelon chunks and lemongrass and made a fabulous drink one can not just drink but also eat!

Cocktails from my workshop

I could really identify with the concept of the cocktails David made because during my workshops the emphasis is always on using fresh available ingredients,not needing expensive syrups and liqueurs and breaking away from the classics. In my quest of always trying to create new and interesting cocktails I came up with one for recent workshop.

Strawberry & Lichee Margarita

Ingredients:

60 ml Silver Tequila

10 ml Strawberry Crush

90 ml Lichee Juice

4-5 Basil Leaves

Half a lemon

Salt in a quarter plate for rimming

Method:

Moisten the rim of a Margarita/Martini glass with the lemon wedge and dip and rotate in the salt to evenly rim the glass.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add all the ingredients and shake well for a minute. Strain the drink into the glass and garnish with a basil leaf.

Easy Peasy

Posted in Desserts on September 8, 2011 by vegetarina

As a teenager, I was always more inclined towards making desserts, and was always put in charge of making dessert on occasions like rakshabandhan, diwali ,family dinners,potlucks and the likes.Over time dessert making took a backseat in my quest to learn about cooking dishes different cuisines.Even today my cousins and friends remember and always ask me to make this mousse like dessert I used to for them.

Biscuit Base chilling in the freezer

I went to a friend’s place for dinner for the first time since they moved into a new place,so decided to make my famous dessert to take with me. With the important role that alcohol plays in my life, I thought of taking the dessert to another level and make it “A” rated.

Smaller individual "pies" with the cream layer

According to me this is one of THE easiest to make dessert there is. In terms of alcohol, there are a lot of things that can be used; baileys (my all time favourite), cointreau, grand marinier, creme de menthe,cherry liqueur,the list is long. The alcohol can be omitted and it tastes just as good.

Drizzled some raspberry coulis on the chocolate curls

SIMPLE SIN

Ingredients:

2 pkts Bourbon Biscuits

1/4 cup melted butter

2 cups Whipping Cream,thawed (I use Rich’s or Topolite)

1 slab dark compound chocolate (at room temp)

60-90 ml Choice of liqueur (optional)

Any fruit(s) for garnish (optional)

Method:

A pie/cake tin with a detachable bottom would be ideal for this,if not any shallow glass bowl/container will do.You can also do small individual size portions.

Coarsely crush the biscuits into crumbs either by hand or in a mortar and pestle. Put it in the container, pour the melted butter over and mix and lightly knead till the butter is soaked in.

To test, take a handful of the mix and close your fist tightly and open, if it retains shape its done, if not add a little more melted butter.

Spread the mixture in the container and pack in tightly. Place in the freezer for 30 mins to an hour to chill.

Meanwhile, take 3 of the sections from the chocolate slab, saving 1 for garnish, chop them into small pieces and melt either over double boiler or in the microwave.Let it cool.

Beat the cream till soft peaks form.Add the cooled melted chocolate and the liqueur and whip further till it reaches the stiff peak stage.

Pour it over the biscuit base and spread it evenly and level it.

Using a vegetable peeler, go along the vertical of the saved chocolate segment in downward direction to get curls and garnish over the cream.

Put in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving.

Something Simple

Posted in Noodles on August 21, 2011 by vegetarina

Since years I’ve been longing to write about my food experiments, experiences and musings in general. But, laziness, procrastination and work always got the better of me. Today I won! Though my dog is trying his best to deter me from doing so by refusing to budge from my lap and constantly licking my hands as I type. It takes a lot of constraint to not give him attention with his adorable attention seeking acts and sounds, people who have met him will agree.

Coming to the main topic here, FOOD! Very often in the quest of making something good or fancy we tend to use a lot combinations of spices, herbs, store bought and home made sauces.Which is alright as long as the dish turns out good and people like it.Most of the times we tend to dress our vegetables in sauces and spices that we forget their true natural tastes.A few weeks back while cooking for my 2 year old niece I realized, rather was reminded of just this through what I made.

Prepared Ingredients

When cooking for her we make sure not to use anything high on artificial flavourings,colours,preservatives ,sugar salt or spice (heat) factor,which doesn’t mean it has to be bland or boring. The little princess requested for noodles so it had to be done. I decided to use Soba (buckwheat) noodles as opposed to the usual white.To pack in as much nutrition possible I used a mix of vegetables like carrots,french beans,coloured peppers, onions, mushrooms and baby corn. And on the flavour front I just went with ginger, garlic,black pepper powder and toasted sesame seeds.

Black & White

The outcome was refreshing, light on the palate and simple flavours and each vegetable stood out as much as the other.Great potential to qualify as a quick fix and comfort food.No over powering taste of chillies,soy sauce or any other sauces.I could feel and taste each individual vegetable in a single bite.It turned out so good, I was keeping my fingers crossed for some left overs.

Had to send dinner for her tonight so made extra for myself!

Soba Noodles with toasted sesame

Ingredients:

1 bundle Soba noodles, cooked as per pack instructions

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

small piece ginger, finely chopped

1 carrot, cut into jullienes

1/2 green,red, yellow bell pepper , each cut into thin strips

handful of french beans, cut vertically into half, then horrizontally

5-6 Mushrooms, stem removed and thinly sliced

5-6 Baby Corn, cut into strips

3-4 Spring onions, white & greens seperate

1/2 tbsp each black & white sesame seeds, toasted

Black pepper and Salt to taste

1 tbsp oil

Method:

Heat a wok/kadhai and add the oil, followed by ginger, garlic and stir fry for a minute.

Add vegetables in order of cooking time, starting with the french beans,  carrots, baby corn,mushrooms,onions,peppers.

Stir fry for a few minutes till tender, add salt and pepper. Cook for a couple minutes.

Add the cooked noodles and mix well. Top with toasted sesame seeds, saving some for the garnish.

Add chopped spring onion greens and mix. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle remaining sesame seeds.