Saturday, 22 September 2012

Breakfasting Glory: Whole wheat and Egg Bruschetta

My yummy Breakfast today: Whole wheat and olives bread with tomato compote and boiled egg!!

This delicious treat is very easy to put together, but very grand to be served as a proud-sweat-in-kitchen-type breakfast!! I cooked my veggies, but the raw salad-salsa tastes super great too. The ingredient list is pretty basic, including:

Chunky slices of whole-wheat bread
Diced Tomatoes
Diced onions
Chopped olives
Chopped roasted bell peppers (optional)
Chopped garlic (optional)
Lemon juice
Balsamic vinegar
Dried Oregano to taste
Dried tarragon to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
And hard boiled eggs

And the way to whip up these beauties is even easier!!

In a mixing bowl, combine together the veggies and herbs. I have deliberately not mentioned any amounts as it will depend on your taste. But as a tip, don’t go overboard on onions and garlic. The morning breath should be fresh as a daisy!!

In a small jar whisk together EVO, Balsamic and lemon juice to make simple vinaigrette. Season it well with salt and pepper.

As an optional step, you can cook down your veggies in a bit of oil, just enough to soften the tomatoes, and get out the raw taste of onions and garlic. Combine the veggies with the vinaigrette, and set it aside to marinade in the flavours. I make a big batch of this salsa, and store it in the fridge for future quick use!!

 Toast the bread, and slice the eggs.

On a board, lay down your slices and top it with the salsa mix. Now carefully arrange the boiled eggs on top. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper and splash on EVO and balsamic to finish!!

It truly is sexy yum on toast!! Literally!! Cheers!!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Frying Myths busted with Crispy Calamari!!!

People who have been a part of Zouqh for a while now, know how much I despise deep frying. It’s very little to do with calorie consumption, but more to do with the mess u are left behind to clean and the oil that has to be very cleverly re-used.  I try finding out ways to avoid using a wok full of oil. Being a Bong, everyone assumes that we just eat deep fried veggies, but really guys, there are other ways of cooking too in our culture... Bhaja isn’t the only option left for a vegetarian in a bong household!!

First let me burst some myths regarding deep frying:

  •             Myth: “It’s quite calorific and unhealthy.” Well good news, if you follow the steps right like; heat the oil to a hot temperature, where the food gets cooked in the residual heat from the oil; and use a heavy duty absorption paper to take out the excess oil from your fry, then it isn’t so bad. But obviously, this doesn’t mean you include a fried item in your diet daily. Eat it like a treat, once a week or so and cook it in the comfort of your own kitchen. The oil used outside should be avoided at any cost.
  •          Myth: “the oil once used to deep frying, should not be used again as it loses its nutrients..” Really?? Please count to me the nutrients present in vegetable oil.. Something that is already devoid of nutrients, can’t really affect you too much. Also, please note, you are supposed to use only vegetable oil for frying. Not mustard, sesame or olive oils and certainly not extra virgin olive oil. These oils have a lot of characteristics, which when overcooked, can be injurious to health and wallet!!
  •          Myth: “deep frying helps concentrate flavour of the food...” In one simple word, NO, it doesn’t. If you are making a veggie curry, sauté the vegetables in a spoon of oil, and u will get exactly the same flavour profile. Deep frying means letting your food go deep in the oil to fry and cook, almost like boiling in oil. You don’t need that, but a gentle sauté/ or grill to concentrate the flavours of meat and veggies, before adding it to a gravy.
  •          Eat responsibly!!! Yup, damn important... Deep fried food should not be a part of your daily diet; neither should you eat it, paired with alcohol. Try to indulge in grills if you are having an alcoholic beverage, and in between drinks, take a couple of sips of water, and then have that beautifully fried starter, which has been chanting your name since you came to the party. Finish it before reaching out for your second drink. I know, too much of dos and don’ts, but I have a habit to jot it down for you! At least now, you know!! :)

Having given the whole lecture about frying and deep frying, here is my version of a beautifully classic dish, Crispy Calamari!! I fail to understand Italians, the maker of this dish. They use bread crumbs in all sorts of fillings, but don’t use it to coat their meats before frying?!@#$#@!!! It is such a shame! But thanks to globalization, and now easily available panko bread crumbs (Japanese), these beauties get a whole new, global and crispy makeover!! Read on for the complete recipe:

 2 squid/calamari tubes cut in ½ to ¼ inch thick rings
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp garlic paste
Panko bread crumbs to coat (I had it so I used it.. if you can’t find it in your store, then by all means use normal dry bread crumbs or even fresh bread crumbs, made from blitzing a couple of slices of bread in a food processor.)
Vegetable Oil for deep frying

Wash and pat dry the squid rings. Try to take out as much water as possible.

Now preheat a wok on your burner, with a couple of inches worth of your choice of vegetable oil. Let it heat up gently on a medium flame, till you are done with prepping your squids.

In a clean bowl, add in the squid rings and mix it thoroughly with salt, pepper and garlic paste. Now portion the squids out, depending on the size of your wok. Frying them in small batches of 5 to 6 rings will ensure even browning, without affecting the temperature of the oil.

Take the first portion into a ziplock bag, and add a couple of tbsp of bread crumbs to it. Release any air from the bag and shake it vigorously to coat the rings evenly. The first time will give you a fair idea of how much bread crumbs will be required for the subsequent batches of squids rings. Limit wastage as much as possible!!

By now, the oil should have come to temperature. Drop in a piece of bread to test it. If the bread sizzles and browns off in a couple of seconds, then the oil is ready to be frying. If it turns black within a second, the oil is overheated and you should remove it from heat immediately.

Once satisfied with the temperature, put in the squid rings slowly in the hot oil. Try to keep a wok-cover handy, in case the fish splutters about the hot oil. If you cover your wok, keep a bit of the wok uncovered on the side, away from you. Do not fully cover the wok in any case.

Fresh out of the wok & resting on kitchen counter!!

The squids should be perfectly browned in a couple of minutes. Take it out immediately and drain off the excess oil on a kitchen towel.

A delicious snack ready to be savoured with a spritz of lemon juice on top!! 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Stuffed & Braised Calamari!!

Staying in Mumbai has a definite plus point when it comes to buying fresh sea food. In fact, I feel every non-vegetarian in this island city, and more, should opt for these fresher sources of protein, rather than just sticking to you regular frozen meats. It is much more flavourful, easy and quick to cook, and would be very easily available throughout a sea food market. Sunday is one day of a week or a fortnight that should be dedicated to buying fresh edibles, be it veggies or proteins. One day of planning can actually save many from the regular hassles of ‘what to cook today’!! I had got many requests from my newly matrimonized friends, about a lesson on freezing and planning meals. So, pretty soon I am going to write up an interesting bit on how a day’s hard work will reap u a week’s worth of fresh homemade, healthy food.

Now the story that led me to make these delicious treat for dinner yesterday! If you follow my blog, we made a delicious pasta dish last, in which I used an essentially Indian pesto. I got a bit left over, and thought why not use it as a stuffing. The Sunday market in my neighbourhood boasted of a beautiful catch of fresh squids/calamari (rather inexpensive too) and I had to try filling the baby ones and cook it to perfection. I saved the squid crowns and fins for flavourful fried rice or a stir-fry, while using the whole squid-tubes to make an Italian favourite, Stuffed Calamari, braised in tomato sauce. Needless to say, I used fresh tomatoes, instead of a can, and added a bit of onion and sugar to balance the acidity. I reckon, this dish will stand perfect with a bowl of salted-boiled pasta. Spoon over the braising sauce on the boiled pasta, along with a stuffed calamari (sliced on an angle) on top, to make a perfect little Italian dinner treat! Buon appetito!!!

 5 fresh baby Squids/ calamari
2 tbsp of the fresh coriander-garlic-peanuts-cumin seeds mix from the post “Pasta that was Indianized!!!
¼ cup of ground fresh whole-wheat bread (fresh bread ground to make crumbs)
2 tsp drained capers
2 tbsp Del-monte Olives, chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, grated
1 small onion finely chopped
½ tsp fresh garlic paste
½ tsp hot red pepper flakes or powder
¼ cup white wine
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
Olive oil
Sugar and salt to taste
Fresh sprigs of cilantro or basil chopped
5 sticks of wooden tooth pick

First, we will make the filling. In a clean dry bowl, mix together the bread crumbs with the fresh coriander-garlic-peanuts-cumin seeds mix, capers, olives, black pepper and a tsp or so of olive oil. The olive oil should moisten the mix enough to clump it together. Taste it once for seasoning, and set it aside for the flavours to mingle together.

Now clean and pat dry your squid tubes on a kitchen towel. Make sure to remove the plasticky bone that runs through the tube.

Fill in the tubes with the filling mix, making sure that u keep 1/3 of the top space empty. If you fill in the squids a bit too much, the filling might burst out of the squids while cooking. Secure the top closed, with a help of a wooden tooth pick.

For the sauce, heat a pan with high sides on medium flame with a couple of tbsp olive oil. 

Once the oil is warm, put in the onion and fry it till translucent. Now put in the garlic paste and the chilli powder/flakes and sauté it for a minute.

When the pan is aromatic with a perfectly caramelized onion and garlic mush, drop in the grated tomato, sugar & salt. Mix it thoroughly and let it come to a boil. Once there, mix in a quarter cup of white wine and dried herbs, let it simmer for a minute, for the alcohol to disperse, then slowly add in the stuffed calamari. Top the pan with a bit of water so that the squids are submerged inside

Now clamp the lid on the pan partially and simmer it on medium to low heat, for 45 minutes. Give it a stir every now and then. By the end, the squids would have puffed up beautifully and become opaque white all through.

To make it a one pot wonder, add a cup of dry pasta and a ½ cup of water to the pan, after simmering the squids for 35 minutes. In the next 10 minutes, the pasta will cook to al dente, while soaking in the flavoured tomato sauce, and also act as a thickener for the sauce. After 45 minutes, you would have a wonderful dinner to serve, from one single pot!!


Monday, 3 September 2012

Pasta that was Indianized!!!

A birdie chirped in the news that Indiblogger is hosting a food challenge with Del-monte, seeking recipes using their products. I thought I will try my hand on it, considering I already had a few of the brand’s product, lying in the kitchen.

Del-monte is an Indian brand selling products of foreign origin (pasta, Extra Virgin Olive oil & olives). But in this age of technology, every household has a day dedicated to a pizza & pasta dinner. And I am a fan of olives all through and through, so EVO oil is a staple in my kitchen, along with a bottle of green and black preserved olives. So I thought I will give these very foreign ingredients, an Indian twist of cumin and coriander. So here is my recipe, which gives the Del-monte products an all necessary, Indian makeover!!


Two handfuls of Del Monte Penne Rigate pasta
A small bunch of fresh coriander roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic (big sized)
2 green chillies
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds (Alsi seeds; optional)
2 tbsp peanuts
Lemon juice and zest
6-7 Del Monte Pitted Black Olives
2 tbsp chopped roasted walnuts
Salt & pepper
Del Monte Extra Virgin Olive oil
Grated Parmigiano reggiano (optional)


In a food processor or mixer, blend together coriander, green chillies, peanuts, caraway seeds, cumin seeds and garlic to a paste (add 1 tsp water to help blending). Do not add any extra water; use lemon juice as a source of hydrant instead.

Once thoroughly ground, transfer the paste to a mixing bowl and whisk in 2-3 tbsp of Del Monte Extra Virgin Olive oil. Try to drip in the oil slowly, while whisking constantly. Season it well using salt and pepper and let it rest for a while.

Cook your pasta in salted water according to the instructions written on the pack. Once you are happy with the texture of pasta, drain the water off in a separate bowl. We might need a couple of tbsp of pasta cooking water to thin our dish later.

Now simply combine the cooked pasta, walnuts and chopped olives with the coriander mix. Add in a good amount of lemon zest (to taste) and mix well. If the mix is too dry, add in a bit of the cooking water to hydrate the dish.

Finally, drizzle with some Del Monte Extra Virgin Olive oil for added flavour, and grate on a good amount of parmigiano cheese.

A delicious, fast and very healthy pasta dish created in a jiffy, but with an Indian twist. 



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