Warm Mushroom and Water Chestnut Salad

Why is a mushroom a great friend to have? Because he’s a fungi. (No? Okay).

Mushroom Salad

If you, like me, are on a mission to stay away from junk food snacking, then warm salads are your best friends. They provide you that cosy, comfy, warm feeling and keep you full for longer. Bonus points for the health part too. The best part is that they aren’t that difficult to make, you can prepare large portions and store them in the refrigerator for reheating whenever your body says “nom-nom time”.

So the other day I came across a stall selling fresh young water chestnut that are my mum’s favourite. It made her happily squeal louder than she should have. I didn’t know what the fuss was about until I promised to try making her a water chestnut salad. I hadn’t cooked with water chestnut before but it looked rather innocent and friendly (insert puppy face fused with water chestnut). It turned out to be surprisingly yum because of its interesting, crunchy and lush texture. More water chestnuts, please!

Mushroom Salad 3

This is an Asian Stir-Fry style salad, so I suggest you keep your ingredients ready before you start cooking. Here’s what you will need:

Ingredients

  • Button Mushrooms – 2 cups (quartered)
  • Water Chestnut – 1 cup (chunks)
  • Boiled Broccoli – 1 cup
  • Ginger paste – 1 tbsp.
  • Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp.
  • Vegetable Oil – 3 tbsp.
  • Onions – ½ cup (thinly sliced)
  • Black Bean Sauce – 3 tbsps.
  • Brown Sugar – 1 tbsp.
  • Five Spice Powder – 1 tsp.
  • Chinese Rice Wine Vinegar – 1 tbsp.
  • Green Chillies – finely chopped (optional)
  • Spring onion greens and coriander to garnish
  • Seasoning

Method

Now that you have everything, it’s time to rock on with your wok on (couldn’t resist) high heat.

Add the oil and let it heat up. Once the oil is smoking, add the green chillies, onions and ginger-garlic paste. Sauté till the onions are slightly fried. Then, add all the sauces and condiments (black bean sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar and five spice powder) because you want them to latch on to your vegetables whilst they cook. First add the water chestnut and sauté it till the edges brown. Then add the mushrooms and finally the broccoli. Your wok must be smoking by now (if it isn’t then turn up the heat). This will give a beautiful smoky flavour to the dish. Lastly, season it with salt and pepper according to your liking. Garnish with greens and tuck in.

Happy healthy snacking (pat on your back)!

Mushroom salad 2

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Grilled Aubergine Mediterranean Sandwich



Med Sandwich 1

Raise your hand if you get midnight hunger pangs. (Those with your hands down, I’m seriously judging you right now). The other day, whilst watching a tedious movie that went on for 3 and a half hours, I caught myself focussing on the main character’s lunch plate instead of his dialogues. (Happens, right?)

It was past midnight and the day’s dinner was wiped off a little earlier that night. I found myself staring emptily inside the refrigerator and just when I was about to abandon mission ‘don’t attack junk food’, I spotted it. Fat, purple and quite hapless looking. It was time to have a midnight date with the poor aubergine.

Agreed, the idea needed a tad bit extra effort for midnight hunger pangs but poor Aubergine! Thankfully I had some cottage cheese, candied walnuts and leftover salad from lunch in the refrigerator. A Mediterranean sandwich idea felt like a divine intervention.

I suggest you pick poor Auby over that tempting bag of cheese puffs next time and give this sandwich a chance. Fine, I know cheese puffs win anyway but try it when you’re feeling the love towards your digestive system.

Med sandwich 3 

Ingredient list: (Can be made vegan without the cottage cheese)

  • Aubergine
  • Bell Peppers
  • Red Onions
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Candied Walnuts (optional)
  • Lettuce: Ribbons
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Dried Herbs : Any
  • Bread : Slices (I used honey-oat) 

For the salad:

I stir fried some red bell peppers and red onions in olive oil with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and garlic powder. I served it with ribbons of lettuce, crumbled cottage cheese and candied walnuts.

For the grilled aubergine:

Heat the grilling pan. Cut 1 inch thick slices of aubergine and rub them with olive oil, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley and oregano flakes. Add a tbsp. of oil in the pan and once hot place the aubergine slices on it. Grill on both sides on high heat till the slices are a little charred. Remove from the pan and sprinkle salt. On the same pan, grill some buttered slices of bread.

To assemble:

Place lettuce ribbons on the bread slices, gently lay a slice of warm grilled aubergine and over this spread the bell pepper and onion salad with crumbled cottage cheese. Sprinkle candied walnuts on top and seal the Mediterranean goodness with another slice of grilled bread.

From poor Auby to stunning Auby. It’s a date!

Med sandwich 2 

Strawberry and Yoghurt Parfait

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Use this recipe to whack someone who says, “Healthy food never tastes good” or “Delicious food can never be healthy”.

 

The high achieved out of creating something yum out of the seasonal favourite in under 5 minutes is supreme. What’s more, your calorie meter will be dancing with joy even after you scoff down 4-5 helpings of this at one go.

 

I dislike eating fruits (sounds ridiculous but it’s true) but still found myself surreptitiously adding more strawberry to my portion.

So if you’re the “Ew! Fruits!” type, then be prepared to get converted.

 

Also, the parfait looks like Christmas in a cup! Now who in their right mind would not like to have that?!

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INGREDIENTS: (for 4 servings)

  • Yoghurt (low-fat) : 2 cups
  • Fresh strawberries (chopped): 2 cup
  • Brown sugar:  2 tablespoons
  • Lemon juice: 1 tsp.
  • Digestive/ Diet cookies (crumbled): 2 cups
  • Low fat butter: 2 tbsps.
  • Toasted almond flakes: For garnishing

 

METHOD:

To create strawberry compote, put strawberries in a hot pan, sprinkle the sugar and drizzle lemon juice. Heat till the strawberries will start releasing juices and the mixture is sticky and bubbly.

 

Bash the cookies to crumbles and pour melted butter over it. Mix thoroughly.

 

To assemble:

Take a jar or a nice-looking glass container and start layering the elements. There is no rule as to what goes first so you can decide the order and number of the layers. I was out of toasted almond flakes but I usually sprinkle some as garnish and for a crunch.

 

Happy Winter!

 

 

Smoked Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

There’s nothing that screams ‘comfort’ louder than unwinding with a bowl of hot soup, a cosy blanket and a good book. Also, winter is a-coming (silent fist pump)!

So just imagine a chilly evening (pretend, if you’re in Bombay), a giant blob of butter gently melting away on steaming hot bread and that bowl of soup. The classic way of making soup generally involves toiling away in the kitchen for a good hour or two, over a simmering pot, slowly cooking the soup, then blending, then garnishing… And oops… you missed that awesome dusk-fall.

Instead, this recipe gives you a creamy, robust soup in less than 20 minutes. Yes, yes, I feel your love already 🙂

Smoked Red Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Tomatoes: 3-4 (quartered)
  • Red bell pepper: 1 (cut into chunks)
  • Onion: 1 (cut into chunks)
  • Garlic: 4-5 cloves
  • Basil: finely chopped
  • Dried red chilli: 1 (optional)
  • Sugar: 2 tsps.
  • Mustard powder: 1 tsp.
  • Seasoning
  • Fresh cream: 3 tbsps.

 

METHOD:

Heat oil in a pan until it is smoking hot. Flash-fry all the veggies until they are charred. Blitz the cooled mixture with some water to make a paste.

In a tablespoon of oil, reheat the paste and add the seasoning and condiments. Keep tasting while you add the condiments to make sure you get a balance of the flavours. Adjust according to what you like; add more sugar to make it sweeter or red chilli powder if you want it hotter. Once the mixture is completely cooked (the oil will separate and form a layer), adjust the consistency. This, again, is according to how you like it. Add fresh cream to make it creamy or water to make it lighter. If you want  a fat-free version, you could even substitute the cream with milk.

 

I personally love creamy soups so I add about half a cup of cream and then garnish it with some sage fried in butter. Talk about indulgence!

 

Once the soup reaches the consistency that you prefer, turn down the heat and simmer it for a couple of minutes just so that all the flavours come together. Pick up your favourite book, grab that slice of fresh baguette, dip and eat. How I love winters!

 

 

 

Chickpea Hummus

After months of procrastination, I finally had to give in to the ceaseless poking from the ‘Bro Gang’ about having a dinner party.

When in doubt, pick ‘Lebanese’. The spices, the flavours, the kebabs, the tangy salads, the fragrant rice… You cannot go wrong with a Lebanese theme.

So the theme was set, the invites were sent and too much excitement was shared.

The star of the menu was, undoubtedly – the hummus.

I haven’t come across anyone who does not like hummus. It can be served as a starter, a dip, or a meal in itself with some salad and pita bread. It can be made with innovative combinations and flavours, like roasted pumpkin hummus with cumin or roasted aubergine hummus with toasted sesame seeds (switch on the experiment bulb). Takes one mixer container, 4 ingredients and less than 5 minutes to prepare. It is a perfect snack for those creamy cravings and most of all; it is super-duper healthy and nutritious! What’s not to love, then?

Chickpea Hummus

INGREDIENTS

  • Soaked and boiled chickpeas – 4 cups
  • Garlic cloves – 4
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Olive Oil – 3/4th cup
  • Tahini paste – 2 tbsp (optional)
  • Warm water – as per desired consistency

METHOD

Blend all the ingredients together to make a paste and keep adding warm water till it reaches desired consistency. I like to keep it thick and hearty so that it can even be used as a spread. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika and serve with pita bread at room temperature.

And that is literally it!

The dinner party was a lot of fun! We spent the evening gorging on food, cracking horribly inappropriate jokes, laughing till our stomachs hurt, mocking T’s ridiculous poses, cutting the pending chocolate cake (finally).

Got the happy and smiling peeps captured in a picture-perfect moment.

Like they say, Bros before…. Umm… Crows!  🙂

The Bro Gang

The Bro Gang

 

Bread Rolls

The 3 magic words that every person loves to hear:

Freshly baked bread.

After years of walking past bakeries just to take in that wafting aroma of fresh-baked bread, I took it upon myself to try making it at home. My tussle with bread making continued from a few years back to last month when I finally got it right (joy to the world!).  I haven’t stopped baking bread ever since. Nobody in their right mind would.

The 3 secret ingredients to making good bread are patience, patience and more patience. Treat your dough like a baby; nurture it, watch it grow in size and then… eat it up.

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For the dough:

  • Water: 1 cup
  • Dry yeast: 2 ½ tsps.
  • Sugar: 1tbsp.
  • All purpose flour: 2 cups
  • Oil: 3 tbsps.
  • Salt: 1 tsp.

 

Step-by-step method:

  1. Warm a cup of water.
  2. Sprinkle the dry yeast over it.
  3. Sprinkle sugar on top.
  4. Allow this to rest for about 5 minutes. The yeast will release air-bubbles and the mixture will turn frothy. (It’s fun to watch).
  5. In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together. This is to make sure the salt does not come in direct contact with the yeast.
  6. Add the oil to the liquid mixture (water+yeast+sugar).Make a well in the flour and slowly pour the liquid mixture.
  7. Form the dough, adjusting oil, flour and water as needed. Knead it for 10 minutes until it is thoroughly elastic and springy to the touch. (Stress-balls are passé, kneading dough is deliciously rewarding!)
  8. Add the dough to a well-oiled bowl, cover with a wet towel and put it away to proof for an hour or two till it doubles in side.
  9. Once the bread doubles in size and looks well-aerated, punch it down till it falls flat and knead away for another 5 minutes. Allow it to rest for another 10 minutes. (Patience, remember?)
  10. Now shape the dough into whatever shape you like: rolls, baguette, loaf, plait, your wish. Cover it with a wet towel after shaping and let it rise for another 30 minutes.
  11. Preheat the oven to 220 C (or 430 F), brush the dough with butter and sprinkle desired toppings. (I used toasted sesame seeds, dried rosemary and basil)
  12. Bake for 15-20 minutes for the rolls as they are smaller. Lower the temperature to 200 C (400 F) and bake for 15 more minutes for bigger shapes.
  13. Serve hot after generously slathering it with butter (Danish Lurpak is my favourite) or olive oil, or with jam or cheese.
  14. Let there be bread… Always!

 

Spinach and Corn Quiche

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This one is my take on the classic ‘Spinach and Corn Quiche’ or as I fondly call it, the ‘Corny Popeye’. Tastes way better than it sounds (haha!).

I’m a huge fan of both, Popeye and spinach but for those of you who get queasy at the mere mention of spinach, give this a try and you’ll be surprised to know how pleasant the quiche tastes. Not very spinach-y, plus the creamy béchamel makes it feature high on my  ‘comfort food’ list.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, you can go easy on the spinach and go crazy with other herbs. Coriander, parsley, thyme, your wish!

This is a good way to trick your folks into eating healthy (Yes, I am the self-appointed food-grandma of my family). Nobody eats spinach without making a fuss so it must be disguised fancily and served with extra love and a wicked grin.

I. For the crust

  • All purpose flour: 3 cups
  • Butter: 2 sticks
  • Olive Oil: 2 tbsps.
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Chilled water: 3-4 tbsps.

It is best to prepare the crust first and then start working on the filling. To make the crust rub the flour, olive oil and butter together with your fingers till the mixture becomes crumbly. Add one tablespoon of chilled water at a time to bind the dough. It is very important to use chilled water for the crust so that the butter in it doesn’t melt. After forming a ball out of the dough, cover it in cling-film and roughly roll it out on a flat surface. I use a rolling-pin till I get a circular shape and then work on it with my palms to stretch it out. Roll the dough onto a tart tin, trim off the excess bits and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

II. For the filling:

  • Spinach: 3 cups (chopped)
  • Onion: 1 (chopped)
  • Corn: 1 cup (boiled)
  • Assorted dried herbs
  • Garlic powder: 2 tbsp or chopped garlic
  • Green chillies: 2 (finely chopped)
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  • Oil: 1 tsp

Start by heating oil in a pan.  Add the onions and sauté till translucent. Now add the green chillies (depending on how spicy you want it) and spinach. The spinach will begin to wilt and release water once you add salt so save the salt for the end. Sprinkle your favourite assorted herbs, dried or fresh (I used dried thyme, rosemary and oregano), boiled corn and garlic powder. Finally, season it with salt and cracked black pepper and allow most of the water from the spinach to evaporate. Cool this filling.

III. For the béchamel (white sauce):

  • Plain flour: 1 tbsp
  • Butter/ Olive oil: 1 tbsp
  • Milk: ½ a cup
  • Cream: ½ a cup

I used to have nightmares about lumpy béchamel until I learnt this sure-shot technique. Heat the butter in a pot (if your calorie meter is going bonkers after reading ‘butter’ then use olive oil. It works just fine). Add the flour and start mixing till the flour has lost its rawness. Take it off the flame and add milk. Put on some old music and whisk away… It should take about 5 minutes to remove the lumps. Now add the cream and put the heat back on till the mixture is dense and creamy.

To Assemble:

Preheat the oven to 180 C or 350 F. Poke the crust with a fork before putting it in the oven and blind bake for 10 minutes.

Now spread the filling on top of the crust, pour the béchamel over it, making sure you coat it evenly and pop it into the oven again, this time for around 30-35 minutes.

Remove, slice and serve.

Don’t forget to put on a smug face when you see everyone happily eating spinach!