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 

Cheese-stuffed Chicken Oregano Burger

I don’t know about you but these amazingly gloomy, dreary days have had a serious impact on my fat cravings. I find myself longing for cheesy, buttery, deep-fried, decadence. Oh, dear appetite on steroids!

So using the weather excuse smartly, it has become imperative to indulge oneself in these beautiful fat fantasies. Blame the monsoons if anyone (the dietician or other healthy eaters) tells you otherwise. Fantastic strategy, no?

If you really need more validation, feast your eyes on these stomach-growls-inducing pictures. Then proceed to make the burger of joy.

Also, it’s my blog’s 1st birthday! Yay!

Behold the burger of joy Behold the burger of joy

Ingredients (For 2 burgers)

• Chicken mince – 200 gms (makes 4 patties)
• Chopped onions – ½ a cup
• Ginger and Garlic paste – 2 tbsps.
• Tabasco – 1 tsp.
• Red chilli powder – 1 tsp.
• Mustard powder – 1 tsp.
• Worcestershire sauce – 2 tsp.
• Finely chopped coriander – ½ a cup
• Dried Oregano – 2 tbsps
• Finely chopped basil – 2 tbsps.
• Flour – To bind
• Chopped Bacon – ½ cup
• Ham slices – 4
• Grated Cheddar – 1 cup
• Seasoning – As required

To serve:
• Burger buns – 2
• Egg – 1 Sunny side up
• Caramelised onions
• Chargrilled Tomatoes
• Creamy coleslaw

Method:

Mix all the ingredients except the cheese and ham slices. Bind the meat together with some flour and shape into balls. Flatten these into thin discs. To make the patty, add 2 tbsps. of grated cheese between two discs and seal the edges. 
On a high flame, heat 3 tbsps. of oil in a grilling pan. Once it starts to smoke, add the patties and cook on both sides. The patties must have a charred exterior and a melt-y, gooey centre. Add 2 cubes of butter in the pan and keep basting the patties to keep them moist.

 

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Assembling:

Lightly toast the burger bun and layer the chargrilled tomatoes on it. Place the patty and a sunny-side up egg. Top it with a generous helping of caramelised onions and lather mayo on the other half of the bun. Serve with fries and coleslaw.

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Cut the burger in half, watch the oozing cheese marry the runny yolk of the egg and the mayo, yell “Hallelujah” and dig in!

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Cheddar-Chive Chicken (Baked)

What is better than great food?

Great food with an alliteration.

 

 

What’s better than great food that’s alliterated?

Great food that’s alliterated and healthy.

 

 

What’s better than great food that’s alliterated AND healthy?

Great food that’s alliterated, healthy and takes under 3 minutes to prep.

 

Ok, you get the point.

 

Also, warm baked chicken is to gloomy days, what rain is to a happy umbrella. I’m not entirely sure whether that’s the right analogy but who cares when you’ve got warm baked chicken waiting for your love.

 

Cheddar Chive Chicken

 

INGREDIENTS:

Boneless chicken – 200 gms.

Bread crumbs – 1 cup

Flour – 3 tbsp.

Cheddar – 3-4 tbsp. (grated)

Garlic chives – 2 tbsp. (finely chopped)

Olive oil – 2 tsp.

Garlic powder – 2 tsp.

Seasoning

 

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Rub oil and seasoning over chicken. Combine the rest of the ingredients. Dunk chicken in them till evenly coated and pop it in the oven. Wait for the seemingly endless 30 minutes of your life. Once the crust is golden-brown and crunchy, test the chicken with a skewer. Juices should run clear on piercing. Bring out the cooked chicken and give it lots of love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic Brown Rice with Beetroot and Flax Seeds

So I’ve been on a 2 month-long binge-eating spree. Let’s call it a holy food trail. Unfortunately, this holy food trail turned out to be quite unfriendly towards my digestive system and thus there was an urgent need for a detox and healthy food (making an ‘ugh’ face here but you can’t see).

Detox – That terrifying and horrible sounding word that I was afraid to even Google search. (I could already taste some bitter gourd in my mouth). However, it turns out, I was a total detox-illiterate, so to speak. Detox didn’t always have to be scary, bland food that doesn’t make sense to your taste buds. After some research and making a bullet list of healthy ingredients I made up my mind to start with the one thing I love the most – rice!

Also, I had no idea that toasted flax seeds tasted SO great.

It’s been a day and a half into ‘Detox and Health Food Week’ and to be honest, I feel ‘not-so-bad’. Of course I miss the greasy fries and the Mayo jar but Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Yoghurt are a healthy compensation.

Here’s hoping the ‘Deep Fry Devil’ doesn’t get the better of me this time. Good luck wishes to self.

Now onto some Green Tea while I write this.

Beetroot Brown Rice (Please excuse the clumsily clicked picture, this was all I could manage from my phone camera)

INGREDIENTS:

  • Brown Rice : 1 cup
  • Water: 2 and 1/4th cups
  • Oil : 1 tsp.
  • Garlic : 1 tsp (minced)
  • Beetroot : 1/2 (grated)
  • Carrots: 2 small (grated)
  • Spring Onion Greens
  • Coriander
  • Seasoning
  • Sesame Oil : 2 tsp.
  • Soy Sauce
  • Stock cube : 1
  • Flax Seeds : 2 tbsp

METHOD:

For the rice: In a pressure cooker, sauté washed rice in the vegetable oil and stir with in the stock cube. Add the water, put on the lid and allow the rice to cook for 2 whistles. Then the heat down to the lowest setting and allow it to cook for another 10 minutes in the residual heat.

For the stir fry: In a pan sauté minced garlic, beetroot and carrots. Add a dash of soy sauce,  and then the rice. Stir fry till everything comes together and the rice takes on a magnificent pink hue. Garnish with spring onion greens, coriander and flax seeds.. Once done, take it off the heat and drizzle sesame oil for flavour.

You could also add some scrambled egg for a healthy egg fried rice version.

I thought health food was boring but on having this rice, I stand corrected!

Chicken in Mandarin Orange Sauce

I found a bright orange orange in the fridge today.

It lay there, neglected, in all its orange glory so I picked it up and decided to cook with it. The first idea was obvious – crêpes. However, the more exciting idea was to combine it with some kind of protein. Thus I ended up making Chicken in Mandarin Sauce instead (glad I picked option 2).

Terribly simple and deceptively fancy. Not to forget, light and healthy as well.

Mandarin oranges are sweeter than the normal ones and gave the sauce a delicious acidity and a hint of sweetness.

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INGREDIENTS:

  •  Garlic: 6-7 cloves finely chopped
  • Ginger: 1 inch piece julienned
  • Green bell pepper: 1 julienned
  • Chicken: Boiled and cut into cubes
  • Chicken stock: 1 cup
  • Mandarin Orange juice: 1 cup
  • Onion: ½ julienned
  • Cornflour: 2 tbsps.
  • Chilli flakes: 1tsp
  • Oil: 1tbsp.
  • Salt and pepper: To taste

 

METHOD

However complicated it may look, this chicken dish is super simple to make. 20 minutes tops and you shall be rewarded with an Asian blessing. Before starting with the sauce, put a chicken breast to boil in some salted water and let it cook away. For the sauce, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Once it is hot enough, add the chopped garlic and ginger and sauté till fragrant. You know the onion is ready to go in when your kitchen smells like an Asian street food stall because of the aromatic ginger and garlic. When the onion turns slightly translucent, add the chilli flakes, vinegar, salt and pepper. Take a peek at the chicken and if it is cooked (poke a sharp knife into the thickest part. It should go in without any resistance) cut it into cubes. Use the water as stock to make the sauce, as it will have some flavour of the chicken. Add the mandarin orange juice along with the stock and let it simmer for about 5 minutes on low heat. Mix in some cornflour paste once the liquid has reduced a little. I leave the bell peppers for the end so that they retain their colour and also give a bit of a crunch. The final step: mix in the cornflour paste to thicken the sauce. Once it thickens, add the chicken pieces, cover with a lid and allow the chicken to absorb all the flavours. Garnish with heaps of spring onion and serve on a bed of fried rice or steamed rice. Ni hao, comfort food!

 

 

 

Chinese Vegetable Dumplings

My favourite word in the English Dictionary would undoubtedly be – Dumpling.

It’s one of those words you just cannot say with an angry face. (Try it).

I can eat dumplings all day, everyday and never tire of them. Steamed dumplings, boiled dumplings, fried dumplings, vegetable dumplings, chicken dumplings, pork dumplings, Chinese dumplings, Greek dumplings, Georgian dumplings, dumplings, dumplings, dumplings…  I’m sure Kung-Fu Panda gets me.

The only time being a dumpling-hog is not favourable is when you are at a fancy restaurant, eagerly waiting for your order of dumplings… When sometime later, the basket is placed before you, promising to curb your dumpling desires… You slowly open the lid and voila! 3 tiny pebble-sized dumplings! You almost always end up ordering at least 3 more portions but then again, who is complaining?

However, the sure-shot way to be well fed with dumplings is to make dozens at home. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t really that hard to make. Plus, you can fill them up with your favourite stuffing and go crazy with different combinations.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • Flour: 2 cups
  • Oil: 2 tbsps.
  • Water: as required
  • Salt: to taste

For the filling:

  • Finely chopped vegetables: 2 cups
  • Light soy sauce: 1 tbsp.
  • Garlic: 3-4 cloves, finely chopped
  • Ginger: 1 tbsp. (finely grated)
  • Oyster sauce (optional): 1 tbsp.
  • Vinegar: 1 tsp.
  • White pepper powder: ½ tsp.
  • Salt: To taste
  • Oil: To sauté

METHOD:

In some oil, sauté the garlic and ginger. Add the finely chopped vegetables (I used carrots, cabbage, onions, french beans, peppers and mushrooms). Stir them around till they are cooked. Add the sauces and seasoning. Allow the filling to cool and get on with the wrappers.

To make the dough for the wrappers, combine flour, salt and oil. Add some water and bind it to form a smooth dough. Knead well before shaping into small balls. Use a small rolling pin to roll out small flat discs. The right way to roll out the wrappers is to start from the outside, rolling inwards. The centre of the wrapper must always be the thicker than the rim so that it can hold the filling. Now add a spoonful of filling in the middle and shape it anyway you like. The half-moon shape is the easiest, where you just fold the disc into half and seal the edges. You could even make a hat shape, folding the edges of the half-moon outwards and sealing them. A lot of YouTube video tutorials are available online to help you learn different techniques of folding dumplings.

After shaping the dumplings, you could cook them in 2 ways:

One is to put them in a steamer over boiling hot water till the flour loses its opacity and the second is to drop them in salted boiling water. The dumplings will float to the top once they are cooked which is an indication for you to remove them from the water.

Make a quick dipping sauce out of soy sauce, honey, ginger and chillies or if the dumplings are making you impatient, just use some store-bought Thai sweet chilli sauce as an accompaniment. Garnish with fresh coriander and spring onion greens and serve. Dumpling warriors, attack!

Cheddar Melt Pizza

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What do you do when you’re confined to the warm comfort of your home on a gloomy, rainy day and the nearby pizza outlets aren’t taking orders for home-delivery? You make your own pizza, of course!

Another reason why I prefer making pizza at home is because I’m not a fan of cooked, stringy, chewy mozzarella. Before you make that “are-you-serious?” face, let me tell you that I actually know quite a few people who share this view about cooked mozzarella. However, I LOVE the idea of a freshly made wood-fired-oven pizza. So in times of clashes like these, out comes faithful Cheddar to the rescue!

Gooey, melt-in-the-mouth, silky, golden Cheddar. What more could you possibly want from cheese?

The pizza dough in this recipe is made with whole-wheat flour and does not contain yeast.  Apart from being deliciously crispy, it also automatically turns healthy (for whoever thinks pizza is junk food). The dough stretching also involves spinning it in the air so be prepared to feel awesome.

Cheddar fans, this one is a ‘must-try’; we all know why.

Mozzarella fans, this one is a ‘must-try’; to surprise yourselves!

I. For the base:

  • All purpose flour – 1 cup
  • Whole wheat flour – 2 cups
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp.
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Milk – ½ cup
  • Olive Oil – 3 tbsps.

Mix everything together in a bowl. Knead the dough for around 10 minutes till you stretch the gluten and form a soft dough-ball and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Dust work surface with flour, use a rolling pin and roll out a small circle. Then, flatten the circle using your hands to work the dough till it is approximately 15 inches in diameter. Finally, (if you are up for a little fun) toss the base in the air using only your fingertips to spin it and your knuckles to catch it. Practice a few times and you shall spin like a pro. This also helps in stretching the dough but if you feel safer without food flying up in the air, by all means, use a rolling pin. Use a fork to pierce the dough and blind bake in a preheated oven at 200 C (400 F) for 8 minutes.

II. For the sauce:

  • Tomatoes – 4 small or 3 large
  • Onion – Half
  • Garlic – 6-7 cloves
  • Red bell pepper – 1 (deseeded)
  • Mustard powder – 1tsp.
  • Vinegar – 1tsp.
  • Sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Paprika or red chilli powder – 1 tsp (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • Salt and pepper – 1 tsp. each
  • Assorted herbs

Heat oil in a pan and allow it to reach smoking point. Then flash-fry the peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes till they turn smoky and have burnt edges. Allow the vegetables to cool and then peel off the tomato skins. Blitz in a mixer till you have a thick, sauce-like consistency. Pour it into a pot and put it on the heat. Add seasoning, herbs and the remaining ingredients. Cook till the oil starts separating and the sauce has taken on a rich red colour.

III. To assemble:

Spread the sauce over the pizza base, add toppings of your choice; I usually use tomatoes, mushrooms and basil. Simple but they go brilliantly well together. Sprinkle more dry herbs and layer cheddar slices (even grated cheese works fine). Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 180 C.

Give yourself a pat on the back when your kitchen fills with the aroma like that of an Italian pizzeria!