Monday, 27 August 2012

Monterey Jack Cracked up with Jalapenos!!

“Monterey Jack” sounds so regal, aint it?? The name caught my eye and I had to buy a pack of it. I am not too much of a cheese geek, but I had heard of Pepper Jack before and thought maybe it’s a cousin from the same family. It wasn’t hot or spicy, neither was it too strong in flavour. It is perfectly mellow, soft cheese to cook with or have on hot toast or crackers. The Go Cheese Company, (an enterprise of Govardhan, from the stables of Parag Milk and Foods Pvt Ltd) use fresh cow’s milk to churn out these delicious ranges of cheeses, which sits pretty with a rounded full flavour, while keeps it mellow enough to suit Indian tastes. Confused?? Try them and you will know what I meant!!

In my last post, a patron complained that their city in eastern India doesn’t carry Govardhan products. I have passed on the information to the company and am hoping they will take action pretty soon. Making good products isn’t half the job done; distributing it takes the cake completely. I have been assured that they will look into it and start work on it sooner than later! In the mean while, please stay clear from the stacks of processed cheese in your super market or Kirana Store. Processed cheese is laden with chemicals and is completely artificial, so try and avoid it to the max possible. There is nothing worse than giving synthetic chemicals to your body, to digest. So choose wisely and stay well!!

These Monterey Jack biscuits topped with jalapenos are a complete delight with a hot cup of tea. I have used healthier whole-wheat flour and have seasoned and flavoured the dough, rather than topping it. Feel free to experiment this recipe with other kinds of cheeses and herbs! These biscuits tastes the best when eaten warm from the oven. If you need to store these for a couple of days, put it in an air tight zip-lock bag/jar. If the crackers loose their crunch, warm in the microwave for 30 seconds at 900 watts, to crunch it up quickly before serving!


1 pack of Monterey Jack Go cheese, grated (about 1½ cups)  
2 tbsp olive oil (any normal olive oil will do, no need to put in expensive extra virgin)
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¼ tsp fresh garlic paste
Salt & Pepper to taste
¼ tsp of dried herb of your choice, I used thyme
A few round pieces of pickled Jalapeno to top (optional)
Milk to brush (optional)

Put all these ingredients in a mixing bowl and combine well to make soft, but not sticky dough.  Shape it into a ball, cover in a cling wrap and refrigerate for half an hour.

Now roll it into a 3 mm – 1/8 inch thick sheet and cut out whatever shapes you like.  I used my cookie cutter to make cute little squares. 

Puncture them in the centre with a fork to prevent them from puffing up in the oven.  Put them on a baking tray covered with baking paper and bake those in a pre heated oven at 200°C for 12 to 15 minutes, till its golden on top and crunchy.

To give these a bit of visual twist and added flavour, I brushed my cookies with milk (or a beaten egg) and topped them with a piece of pickled jalapenos. The tangy hot flavour of the jalapenos was a great contrast to smoky depth of the cheese.


Friday, 24 August 2012

Coming Up Next...

I was intrigued by the name Monterey Jack cheese!! And so, I turned My intrigue into a tasty tid-bit..

Thursday, 23 August 2012

My Rustic self: Baked Apples!!

It feels so funny when I hear that earlier desserts were sweetened with tons of dry fruits, because sugar was a luxury product; while dried fruit wasn’t. Now the tables have turned once again. We as consumers are going towards the healthier dried fruits, condemning sugar to be the white devil. We are increasingly looking out for options to incorporate fresh unrefined ingredients. And that quest has taken me back to that era, which boasted of fresh, simple and rustic farm food.

I don’t in any way mean to degrade sugar into the category of enemy food. It is an important part of our being, but it’s not meant for every meal. Using it to the minimum and trying to replace refined white sugar with a healthier natural option like honey or jaggery or brown sugar is a good way forward. Plus, the tropical fruits we consume daily have a healthy dose of fructose. Given our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, we don’t need anything in addition to that for our well being.

This recipe is about my journey to find that perfect balance of sweetness from fresh and dried fruits, to make an enviably rustic dessert, with a twist. It is my Baked Apples with Fig and Cinnamon, served with sweetened thick yoghurt dressing!!


2 large apples (try using the juicy pink variety, commonly known as Chinese apples)
3 dried figs
1 tsp of cinnamon (I love lots of cinnamon with apples, but if you don’t like the flavour so much, then adjust it accordingly)
1 ½ tbsp of chopped walnuts
1 tsp honey
½ cup hung curd
Some oil to brush the cooking dish

Cut the top side of apples like a cap and set it aside.

Core the apples and remove the seed from the centre. Try not to pierce through the flesh while doing so.

Now in a small bowl, chop the figs and combine it with walnuts and cinnamon.

Let the apples stand straight out on an oiled microwaveable glass bowl and stuff the centre with the fig mixture. Shove in as much of the filling, as possible. Make a clean horizontal skin deep slash around the apple, to stop the skin from wrinkling in the heat.

Now place the caps on top of the apples and microwave it on high (600-700 watts) for 5 minutes, till a butter knife goes in without any resistance. Cook these apples till tender.

For the hung curd dressing, whisk the hung curd with a bit of cinnamon, salt and honey, till u get a creamy texture. In an optional step, add some roasted walnuts to the dressing for an additional crunch.

Serve the dressing on the side with the baked apples.
As promised, a fresh, simple and rustic express-dessert. Cheers!!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Absinthe- The Tale of a Green Fairy!!

Recently I got exposed to many theories regarding the green fairy. And that led me to write this, about arguably the most delusional drinking spirit; the Absinthe. First, please do not treat absinthe as a shot of tequila. Because of the simple reason, that it isn’t tequila. It is not a drink for a round of “bottoms-up” in a party!! Moreover it should never be consumed like that. Take your time to make it right. It’s an expensive bottle with a delicate flavour which has to be savoured, rather than gulping it down the throat with a timer on! In this post, I have tried to portray the green magic in a way that is appealing to our Indian taste. And what more, it will never leave you with a hangover to deal with later!

Absinthe is one of the most alcoholic distilled spirit found in the world, with a total alcoholic volume of 65 to 75%. It has a strong flavour of fennel (saunf), something that we Indians don’t consider a cocktail flavour. Our tastes compel us to associate fennel with mouth fresheners. After a hearty Indian meal, that paan walla’s paan (betel leaf laden with a sweet cocktail of fennel seeds, betel nuts and sweetened dry fruits) is what we look out for. So for me, my first thought while having absinthe was, Paan!! And so I introduced my friends to an after meal liqueur, which is just about right for our matured, yet a hearty Indian Taste!!!

So if you are having a cocktail party, indulge your guests to a small helping of absinthe to end the party. Making the perfect glass of the green fairy is laborious, never-the-less very satisfying. One helping is good enough for 6 shot glasses. Perfect end to a perfectly beautiful meal, the Indian way!!

30 ml absinthe
Cold water
1 sugar cube
Absinthe strainer, comes with the bottle
6 chilled shot glasses
1 tall water tumbler
Ice (optional)

The first step is to make the apparatus required. Assemble the absinthe strainer and the sugar cube on a tall water tumbler as shown here.
Now pour in 30 ml of absinthe, passing it through the sugar cube.

Slowly drip in cold water (drop-by-drop), and let it dissolve the sugar cube into the absinthe below.

Once the sugar dissolves in, adjust water to suit your taste. Remember, it is at least 60% alcohol, so filling up the glass with a bit more water will be a good idea.

Divide it equally between half a dozen shot glasses and enjoy!!

 For any further clarifications, feel free to write in. Cheers!!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Atta-Go Cheese Bites!!!

Recently I got a flurry of requests to bake breads. While the health conscious men folk wanted me to supply them steadily with home baked, 100% whole wheat bread, the women folk wanted to learn how to make these at home!! While all its frenzy lasts, I thought to introduce my readers to a completely new kind of bread making, which is fast, simple and delicious. This kind of baked bread uses baking powder instead of the traditional yeast and still, tastes and feels completely alike! This is my version of soda bread which is quite flavourful and rich, thanks to the incredible Go cheese (Gouda).

Go cheese is the closest I have got to a proper imported cheese, in Indian markets. Though I am eagerly waiting for them to start a range of hard cheese, in the likes of Parmigiano Reggiano, but the assortment of soft cheese (Montery Jack, Cheddar mild & strong, Gouda) that they offer now, are incredibly tasty and wholesome. Please readers and fellow bloggers, stop buying the synthetically made, chemically laden processed cheese, and go towards these healthier alternate options. These have a more wholesome flavour of dairy and are best to cook with as pizza topping, on toast, on lasagne, in white sauce and the list goes on...

I used Gouda for this recipe but feel free to try the same recipe in other flavours of cheese u like to eat. Let me know in a comment below how it turned out to be!!

2 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp Baking Powder  
1 tsp salt
1 cup grated Go cheese Gouda
Dried Oregano to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Dried Parsley to taste
2 tbsp oil
1 cup milk
Couple tbsp water (as per need)

For topping after 15 minutes of cooking:
2 tbsp butter
½ tsp fresh garlic paste
Dried Oregano to taste
More cheese to top (optional)

Mix all dry ingredients (first 6 in the list) together with the flour and whisk vigorously to combine evenly.

Now pour in the oil & milk and incorporate it well with the help of a spatula or spoon. The batter should resemble a cake batter and should be of a dropping consistency, i.e. dropping easily from a spoon. If your batter is thick, add a few tbsp of extra water and mix it well to incorporate evenly.

Spread the batter evenly in a loaf tin and bake it for 15 minutes at 200 to 220 degrees c, preheated oven. (Every oven is different and adjust the heat in the best way possible. Bake it like a cake) 15 minutes is enough for the bread to rise and form a light brown crust on top, but not to cook these cheese bites fully.

While the bread is cooking, melt the butter, and whisk in the spices and garlic to combine. Let the flavours rest in the hot butter for a while.

After 15 minutes remove the pan from the oven and generously spread on the Butter and spice mixture on top of the light brown crust. Be as fast as possible so that the bread doesn’t flop down and loose the puff it gained in the past 15 minutes.  Put it back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes, till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the crust is nicely browned!!

Atta-Go Cheese Bites with Garlic Aoli..

These are delicious hot out of oven. If you have a party to cater for, then bake it in the night and reheat it once before serving. Its soft supple texture is great and it can be paired with a nice dollop of garlic aoli, cheese spread or simply, mayonnaise. The stale pieces can be packed and stored in the refrigerator for days and toasted in the morning for a delicious breakfast treat. It’s such wonderfully adaptable dish, made the express way!!


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Post-o Tales!!

Sampurna Majumdar, the quintessential bong blogger from Life and Times, was quite happy to pen down a cute little note on her nostalgic memory of a vegan bong dish her granny and she would devour in the hot temperatures of Kolkata summer. Read on for the world’s easiest and tastiest dish… not to mention, the most inexpensive high that you can ever relish!!

Bhaat e Macch e Bangali (Rice and Fish make a true Bengali), so goes an adage. True… Food has always been a weakness for Bongs!! The quintessential “Bangali Babus” meal would be incomplete without these ingredients, bhaat (boiled white rice), machher jhol (stewed fish) and a bhaja (fried vegetables like, brinjal, bitter gourd, etc). However, Bengali cuisine offers a whole range of vegan delicacies as well. Posto (poppy seeds or khus khus) is an integral part of Bengali cuisine. The use of posto in Bengali cuisine dates back to almost two centuries. Posto finds its place in Bengali literature as well. Bankim Chnadra Chattopadhyayas Kamalanter Daptar (From the Desk of Kamalakanta) is one such example. Written on the lines of De Quincys “Confessions of an English Opium Eater”, Bankims protagonist remains inebriated most of the time as an aftereffect of consuming too much opium (drug obtained from poppy seeds). During the struggle of independence, Opium dens were known to exist in Kolkatas China Town.

Ground and ready, Kancha posto!!
The sole purpose of penning this note is nothing but nostalgia buffs. Few days back, the quintessential Bengali in me was craving for some kaancha posto (raw poppy seed paste). I remember way back in the 90s when I was all of 10, my granny would pretty often make kaancha posto. She would grind them mixed with water and some salt; then add some chopped onions, green chilies and a zing of strong mustard oil. As a kid, my share of the yummy kaancha posto would be devoid of the green chilies. However, as I grew up green chilies made their way to my plate and thus began my never-ending love affair with this sumptuous yet simple, vegan Bengali dish. Pretty often I have eaten all my rice with kaancha posto! Not a very healthy habit I agree, but, a treat now and then will not harm…

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Biryani Express!!

While was bustling with visitors looking for Rakhi gifts (an Indian celebration of siblings), I got a surprise visitor at my place too. Though in between work, I don’t believe in entertaining; this was one situation I couldn’t excuse myself from. And now, when I think back, it provided me with a nice time to catch up with myself and to let my hair down for once.

Working from home is something I am yet to come to terms with. With real estate prices of Mumbai, I have no other solution but to endure these maddening days when my pretty little home transforms into a frantic, noisy chocolate factory. There have been times when I have actually asked people to leave or not come at all. The entertainer in me cried out loud, but the chocolatier in me had the firm hand. But this dinner was different, and couldn’t be ignored at all.

Now if it is so important for me, then the menu had to show that up straight. Easy simple ingredients, which would give out the most exquisite, delicious dishes.  So I chose chicken and rice with wine followed by apples for dessert; can u get simpler “everyday” ingredients than that. So the menu for the night read out like this:
  • ·         Quickest Chicken Biryani
  • ·         Mint Raita
  • ·         Some leftover Paneer (cottage cheese) masala (optional!! :P)
  • ·         Baked apples with cheese, served with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

So this is my mantra in hosting successful dinner parties in the middle of a hectic working week. I am sure you have more such awesome ideas and recipes that you or your family uses. Please feel free to write to me about them. I love reading your comments, suggestions and experiences!!

Now to the recipe of this post, I am gonna spill the beans on my quick quick biryani. There are a few steps you need to follow, but nothing that is not gonna let you finish cooking between 30 minutes. So strap on your seat belts now, because the roller coaster ride to making a perfect plate of Biryani begins...


For the Biryani Part of the dish:
1 cup Biryani Rice (The pic taken is from earlier times, when I made the biryani using everyday rice rather than the expensive biryani basmati. If you are not too choosy, feel free to use whichever kind of rice you like.)
Salt to taste
A bunch of whole spices like a star anise, a cinnamon stick, couple of cloves, a dried red chilly and ½ tsp of shahi jeera.
2 onions chopped
Big handful of mint leaves
Big handful of coriander leaves
Traditionally saffron with water, but I didn’t have saffron at my place, so I dissolved 2 pinches of turmeric in water, to get the colour right. Flavour wise, saffron is the best way to go!

Riot of colours!!
For the chicken part of the dish, marinade the chicken for 30 minutes in a mix of:
400 gms Chicken
200 gms curd
Turmeric to taste
½ tsp Cumin powder
½ tsp Coriander powder
¼ tsp all spice powder (Garam Masala)
Cinnamon powder to taste
Salt to taste
1½ tbsp of olive oil (love the fruity flavour it adds, groundnut oil will work too)
1 heaped tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste

and 2 tbsp of oil for frying chicken and onions

I always mix these spices in the curd and whisk it well to incorporate. Then slowly add in the chicken to sit and absorb flavours of the spices. If you are using big pieces of chicken with bone (like a couple of whole legs), spritz on some fresh lime on the flesh, before submerging it into the curd mix. The acid in the lime juice will help tenderizing the muscles of the chicken, resulting in shorter time to cook.

Before you start prepping the ingredients for the dish, soak the rice in some water and let it rest there for at least 10 mins, longer the better.

Meanwhile prep the herbs and onions, and get a pan of water to come to the boil.

Once the water starts boiling, throw in the whole spices and a generous amount of salt. Remove the residual water in which the rice was sitting and add it to the boiling pan of flavoured water. Let it cook for 5 minutes on a high flame.

While your rice is cooking, heat a wok with oil and caramelise your onions till light brown. Once you are happy with the colour, mix in a pinch of salt to season and remove from the wok.

After five minutes, remove half the rice from pan. By this time, the rice should be 40% done, with a resisting bite in the middle part of the grain. This portion of rice will cook further with the chicken. The half which is still boiling in the flavoured pan will be removed when almost al dente or 80% cooked. This portion of rice will go on top layer of the biryani, which will be exposed to only residual heat. 10 minutes in boiling water of the pan should render the rice 80% cooked.

Now, in the wok where you fried the onions, pour in another tablespoon of olive or groundnut oil and brown the chicken slightly to enhance the flavours. This is an optional step but I strongly recommend you to do so.

Once all these tedious prepping is done, start layering your Pressure cooker. I suggest use a pretty one, which can later be also used as a serving dish.

Hot and steamy!! 
Now to layering:
The meat with bones will take the most of time to cook, and thus it goes in at the bottom. Cover it with a layer of the marinade. If you have boneless meat left for a second layer, then divide the marinade accordingly. Sprinkle on a big dose of fresh mint and coriander leaves followed with a splattering of fried onions.

This will be followed by 40% cooked rice. Layer the top of the 40% rice again with herbs and fried onions. 

Boneless chicken pieces along with its marinade will go in next, followed by herbs and onions, topped later with the 80 % cooked rice. Once this layer is complete with a generous sprinkle of fresh herbs and fried onions, splash on the Turmeric-water-mix for a pleasing yellow colour. If you intend to serve white biryani, then simply splash on a few spoons of water to complete the layer. At this stage feel free to add in any nuts if you may want to.

Tightly secure on the lid and let it cook on a high flame till it blows the whistle for the first time. Now reduce the flame to the lowest possible and let it simmer till it blows the whistle once again. On the 2nd whistle, switch off the gas and let it release the steam slowly, unaided.
All done and beautiful!!

While your biryani rests, take out a mortar pestle to smudge about a handful of mint leaves with a teaspoon of brown sugar. The leaves will wilt and smash into a pulp pretty quickly. Dump in the sugar and mint mix, season with salt and pepper and viola, mint curd is ready. To transform it to raita, whisk vigorously till its cream like smooth...

To pair the perfect wine:
Biryani, just like the other spicy Indian food, is best paired with a nice red wine with robust flavours and a wonderful body. Shiraz is one of my favourite, while Merlot is another that can be paired well with this meal. 

And I cannot stress enough, but please note; when the bottle says it is supposed to be served at room temperature, it means a pleasant 18 degrees, which would be the room temperature of a northern European country. India is a tropical country; hence the wine should be served at a pleasant temperature acquired by an hour of refrigeration.

My next post is gonna be all about the dessert, Baked Apples with Figs and Cinnamon!! Cheers!!


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