Tuesday, 24 December 2013

December Celebrations!!

So December is a great little time for my household. A Birthday and an Anniversary, on the same day. so the menu had to be awesome as well.

For Anniversary, it was mom's favorite Banana tea cakes, in the form of a rough cake with message encrypted with cashew-nuts on top!! A clever little trick I say, and U should steal.

For Birthday, it was the Birthday Boy's favorite Rum Souffle cake. A traditional recipe made with a basic choux pastry and eggs. I flavored it with a good glug of dark rum. If you want the recipe. write to me and I will show you exactly the way I made it!

The little bowl on the side, it was a traditional Bong dish called Payesh. Made on auspicious occasions such as a Birthday or Anniversary, its a celebratory rice porridge, uniquely flavored with jaggery made out of dates.

And thus celebrations were on full bloom!! Cheers!!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Famebox Webchef Contest - Chicken Booby Kababs!

We have sent an entry and now i need your help to win it!! If you want to see Zouqh as a YouTube Channel, Please View, Share, Like and vote for our video...


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Whole-Wheat Banana Tea Cakes

A tough week!! A maddening rush to change address and moving with a baby... Huff puff!! So in this rush and in this frenzy, I had to device a wholesome fast and quick recipe for a snack at all times for all members of this change. My sweet loving bong family needed a sweet treat and nothing was better than these oh-so-awesome banana tea cakes!!

 The idea to this recipe is not entirely mine. A very close friend of mine, I lovingly call her Suki, gave me this idea. She was baking a pudding with sugar syrup instead of just sugar. I loved it!! And I decided to try it out. It came out awesome as expected. This is actually a swirl to my earlier No Butter, No Flour, No Egg and Yet a Cake recipe, but with whole-wheat flour instead of semolina.

3 Ripe bananas (big)
1 cup whole wheat
1 tsp Sodium-bi-carbonate (baking soda)
1 tsp baking powder
3 pods of cardamom, slightly crushed
½ cup grated Coconut
½ cup Sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup Cashew nuts
2 tbsp oil
A pinch of salt


Make simple syrup out of the sugar and water and put in the cardamom pods in it to steep out its flavour in the hot syrup.

Mash the bananas well and add the soda-s, grated coconut, salt and oil to it.

Now combine the syrup and bananas, and mix in whole wheat flour ¼ cup at a time, till it reaches the perfect cake batter consistency. The addition of flour will depend on how long your syrup steeped on heat. So to get perfect fluffy cake, get it to a nice spoon dropping consistency. If you feel your batter is too thick, add another tbsp of oil. 1 cup of whole wheat was good for me and I removed my simple syrup the moment sugar was dissolved.

Oil the tea-cake moulds and pour in the mixture with a help of an ice cream scoop. You can decorate with cashews on top. As the cake doesn’t have anything which will fluff it, the nuts on top will show and get roasted beautifully in the oven.

Preheat the oven and bake for around 20-25 mins at 200 degrees c or until a knife put in centre comes out clean. Remember to always check for doneness, right at the centre. Once done, let it cool and enjoy.


Monday, 25 November 2013

Baby Steps: An Indian's Guide to Baby Food

Let’s define a new age Indian mom. We are a whole new breed in ourselves; picking up bits from superstitiously bitten last generation, and the fearless Wild West; treading the path of balance in whatever is hurled up on us! I belong to this category, and I can tell you it isn’t as easy as it may look like. It took Lord Buddha a whole lifetime to attain the wisdom of being on the middle path, and it would be so for us as well!!

But it’s not always so bad! We have options, and that’s a luxury. The mighty Bai to family all around... Helpful neighbours to eager-to-help new age dads... I can’t really complain in this field; but when it comes to baby products, this new age mom is completely confused and stranded on a cross road. Internet is filthy full of Uncle Sam’s take on baby products, but obviously Aunt Indie is different and her needs are different as well. So when my baby suddenly started eating, I was a bit flustered trying to understand what to give and what not to. The paediatrician’s list was not so detailed for a first-time, nervous, recipe-blogger mommy. So a bit more research and inputs by other mommies later, I came up with a plan. And so here I am with my full proof stage-1 plan, for starting solids for an infant (after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding). Stage 2 and 3 would follow as and when my little one graduates up the ladder.

Stage 1- Baby food

I divided a balanced meal into the broad categories of Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fruits & Veggies. Starting a baby on carbohydrates (only rice) is one of the best ways to move forward. But Aunt Indie has a ritual of annaprashan. It marks the beginning of the weaning stage. As the date of annaprashan depends on ritualistic holy calendars, it fell a couple of weeks after my doctor advised us to start my baby on solids. So, I started my little one on fruits, rather than rice.

1st baby meal- Apple puree
Half an apple, thoroughly washed, peeled and pressure cooked till tender. Put as less water as possible, to keep the nutrient intact. As it was one of the first meals for my baby, I used to mix in a bit of expressed breast milk for him to understand and like the new complex taste. Alternatively you could use some infant formula.

After Annaprashan, I washed and dried a handful of rice (small grains as it’s easier to digest).

2nd baby meal- Home-made rice cereal
·1 tsp of dry roasted rice powder (I roasted the rice on a high flame for a couple of seconds, just to eliminate any moisture and for easier cooking later).
·         2 ounces of prepared baby formula
·         ¼ tsp of dark jaggery (try not to use sugar, jaggery is a great source of iron)
·         3-4 drops of ghee (essential fats)
·         A small pinch of cinnamon powder (optional)
·         Filtered Water for thinning the paste to your desired consistency

Cook the first three ingredients till the rice is cooked and properly dispersed through the mixture. Thin it out with more water as desired. Add ghee and cinnamon powder and bring it to a rolling boil.

Cool and feed! This is one yummy baby food that everyone in the house is going to enjoy. The first time I made it for my little one, his granny proclaimed that she is going to have that only for her dinner. For adults, I jazzed it up with a bit more milk, cow’s milk and jaggery. It can any day be a great dessert served chilled!! J

Now spices are optional, but you can include it in really small quantities in your baby’s food. Remember, start only one thing at a time, and keep a gap of a week before you start any other kind of food. It’s best to not serve anything raw for the first few times that your baby eats.

3rd baby meal- proteins in the form of mashed khichdi

Now here the gap between Uncle Sam and Aunt Indie is the most. Lentils are a great source of protein and I strongly feel it should be the first protein to be incorporated in a baby’s diet. So I chose a variety which is easily digested. Split yellow mung was my first choice. I washed the lentils well, roasted it a bit and in the processor to get a good powder.
·         Mung dal roasted and ground
·         Rice roasted and ground
·         3-4 drops of ghee (essential fats)
·         Filtered Water for thinning the paste to your desired consistency

Cook till the rice and dal are done and tender.
The ratio of it will depend on the stage your baby is. Start with 1 part mung dal to 2 parts rice and aim to slowly come to equal parts of mung to rice.

I add a small pinch of whole jeera, roasted in the processor and grind it well with mung and rice. This is purely for taste and would ready the baby’s palette for all the Indian curries he will start in a while.

Slowly add in some veggies, once the baby settles for mung. First to add are root veggies like carrots and potatoes. Then on I will start some greener veggies like peas and ripe tomatoes. After adding the veggies, my little one loved his khichdi.


It’s a huge debate!! Do you salt baby’s food or not?? Earlier generation salted it generously, but internet says no salt for the first year. I am still in the crossroads, wondering where to go from here. Till now, I haven’t given my LO salt in any of his meals. He is savouring the natural sweetness of milk, fruits and veggies, with a slight nudge of jaggery for its iron benefit. So here I am asking my readers, what do u do? If you have read till, you are definitely a parent or a soon to be one. Throw in a comment on this issue. I am eager to hear what you had done or would do in this situation. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Perfected Chicken 'Booby' Kababs on a Stove Flame!!!

The greatest food challenge is undoubtedly in making perfectly cooked yet, moist chicken boobies!! It’s the most difficult thing to achieve. A kitchen challenge I say!! So when I was given this food wish, I jumped the gun immediately.

Chicken is a temperamental bird. Doused as the healthiest protein with the right amount of fat, fibre and protein, it takes the pride to its heart. A minute longer on heat and it will turn tasteless as a piece of cardboard. A minute less and its inedible and unhygienic. So it is very important to get it to the right temperature at the right time. And it isn’t an easy task!!

So here I am jotting down a few pointers to tackle this tasty bird, my way! If you find them helpful in any way, let us know in a comment below. If you don’t find it helpful, comment anyways as we love to hear what you say!!
  • I urge my readers to always buy fresh cut chicken, rather than the frozen ones. I have nothing against freezing the bird, but the poultry-frozen chicken is almost always treated first, something we should avoid exposure to regularly. Instead, buy fresh birds and freeze it at your own pace. This way it will work out cheaper and you have full authority on the shapes and sizes of each piece.
  • Chicken boobies and chicken legs require different temperatures to cook in. Hence to enjoy this magnificent bird fully, cook these 2 cuts separately. I get my butcher to skim off the boneless skinless chicken boob off the bones. The bones can be cooked together with the legs in a curry, while the boneless chicken can be made into these superb kababs.
  • Stay away from organ meats in chicken. Though it’s not as cholesterol laden as red meat, it’s still less healthy or tasty compared to the meaty parts.
  • And lastly, when storing or freezing chicken, DONOT ever salt the pieces. Salt pulls out the water from the meat, making the meat harder. 1 to 2 hrs before preparing, salt it well and that is all the salt marinating chicken needs.

Now to the perfect chicken kabab on gas flame:


1 whole piece of chicken breast (boneless, skinless)

For Marinade:
4 tbsp thick curd
3-4 cloves of garlic crushed
½ tsp ginger crushed
¼ tsp Kashmiri mirch powder (paprika)
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp mustard oil

For Grilling:
1 iron skillet (tawa)
A pair of tongs
2 tbsp mustard oil

The technique is very important. So play around with all ingredients but be very particular about the technique.

Mix all ingredients for marinating and marinade the whole chicken breast overnight.  As an optional step, take a sharp fork and pierce through the meat for the marinade to seep in.
An hour before the preparation, take it out of the refrigerator and mix in salt thoroughly on the chicken pieces. Let it rest and come to room temperature, before cooking.

Once it stops feeling cold on touch, get an iron tawa ready and hot on the stove.
A thumb rule to follow, always oil the meat, not the skillet; when grilling. So smear on some mustard oil on both sides of the breast.

The next logical step, oiled chicken breast on hot iron tawa!! On high flame cook till it stops sizzling considerably.
Another thumb rule- be brave and don’t fiddle with the cooking chicken breast. Let it sit in the exact spot and reach the lovely brown caramelization we want and seek. Don’t touch or try to turn it over at this stage as it would start breaking off and sticking to the pan.   

Once the sizzling is lessened, put it on medium heat and cook covered for 3-4 minutes.
Now slowly, but firmly, remove the piece and let the other side sizzle and cook. If your chicken refuses to budge from its place, let it remain on the skillet for another minute. Do not, and I repeat do not ever try to push it off the tawa forcefully. It might not have cooked and hence it is sticking. Once it’s properly cooked, it will come off easily.

Repeat the same step for the next side and wait for the caramelization.

As an additional step u can brush over some of the marinade on the cooked side and return the side on the tawa to cook off the raw chicken from the marinade.

Altogether, the whole breast will take about 10 minutes to cook right. It’s very important that the chicken breasts are kept whole. This way, chances of over cooking it is minimised. Though it’s quite easy to understand when the chicken is cooked, yet for a first timer, there is an easy test to guage the doneness. Pierce the chicken in the middle and check the colour. If its white, its done.

Remove from heat and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Now to the most interesting step; take a pair of tongs and hold the chicken directly on the flame. this will give a wonderful charred effect to the kabab, something we all love and adore. 
It’s the most essential step in getting the perfect kabab. Let it stand on the flame for a couple of minutes, turning half way through.
Once charred, let it rest for 10 minutes or so. Slice the meat up and serve with fresh cut salad and mint coriander chutney. YUM YUM!!


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

No Butter, No Flour, No Egg and Yet a Cake!!

A friend made a food wish, an eggless cake please!! A simple request from a perfect hostess living in England; I had to take it up. She said, any eggless cake I had, never tastes as good. I agree; the fluffy airy texture of a beaten egg in a cake is what cakes are famous for. Can you substitute it? I think not!! And hence I suggest lets create a cake where there is no substitution involved!! So here is a classic goan recipe of a semolina based cake. The feel, aroma and texture, all of it is different. And hence, without substituting anything in any of your favourite recipe, you get a wonderful dessert for that ‘jain’ guest, who is about to visit!!

Now before you delve into the making of this cake, let me give you a bit of a heads up. Semolina/durum wheat is by nature heavier than flour. So obviously to make it softer, desserty kinds, you can either put in an astronomical amount oil/butter or, take out some time to soak these grains. Semolina porridge is an example of the first technique while this recipe is an example of the second. So, no oil, no flour and no eggs involved!!


3 Ripe bananas (big) or as I used, 9 of the mini ones
1 cup semolina (wheat sooji/rava)
1 tsp Sodium-bi-carbonate (baking soda)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Cardamom powder
2 cups Coconut milk
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Cashew nuts
A pinch of salt


Dry roast semolina over low heat in a wok until aroma wafts off. Then soak that rava in coconut milk for 2 hours.

Meanwhile mash the bananas well and add soda, salt, sugar and cardamom powder to it. Let it sit out so that the sugar gets a bit of time to loosen up.

After 2 hrs, mix all of them together and put in the cashews.

Oil the cake mould and pour in the mixture. You can decorate with cashews on top. As the cake doesn’t have anything which will fluff it, the nuts on top will show and get roasted beautifully in the oven.

Preheat the oven and bake for around 40-45 mins at 220 degrees c or until a knife put in centre comes out clean. The cake will be a little difficult to bake as the stubborn rava does take a little more time to cook than your usual cake. Remember to always check for doneness, right at the centre. Once done, let it cool.

Decoration tip: slice off the cake from the middle a spread over a big dollop of strawberry crush or any other fruit crush. It tastes best when served cold!!


Monday, 23 September 2013

Work and food dilemmas!!

It’s not a new story... age old!! I have work to do so I can’t cook, lets order in today!! And this kind of becomes a repeated story for months on it. Yeah there is an easy Indian option to hire a cook. But that comes with its own pair of strings, not to mention the cost. And then, you don’t have strict office timings, when do you ask the cook to come in?? So the easy home-made solution to these woes- Maggi and others of its kind. It’s unhealthy, and hence you decide to put it off for the next New Year resolution to start eating healthy. If this is you and you have read till this point, you might want to continue on as I have figured out a great solution to these woes...
First of all, let’s look at the problem.
  •         Time: You never seem to have enough of it to look for pots and masalas on the kitchen counter.
  •     Energy: always tired to go in the kitchen... Really!!
  •     Now Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver both did some inspiring work on this front. But we dont get their food. We want our desi stuff!!

So here are the solutions to all these problems, in THREE words- PLANNING, MARINATING & REFRIGERATING!!

To read more, and I know you do want to as there are many tips and tricks that you cant forgo; click here- http://www.smartindianwomen.com .

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Shudh Desi Paratha in Layers..

It was a difficult decision to not indulge in the flaky soft maida wala kerela paratha... too good... too delish... but also too sinful... I love it but I had more important things on my mind, like breast feeding which compelled me to stay, drink and dream healthy. So I thought and thought... what could be next best thing and it had to be home cooked, whole wheat parat wala paratha (layered flat breads). The cooking technique of a traditional kerela paratha and these parathas, my way; are a bit different.  Needless to say I thrive on simplifying everything in my way; and I did the same here. It’s a perfect dish to woo your date off the planet, as it looks ‘oh so difficult.’ And later you can very well call it a shudh desi romantic dates in layers!! :-p


Whole wheat flour and water kneaded into a bit tacky but firm to touch, ball of dough.
Refined oil/ghee for the layers as well as to fry the parathas

Filling options:
1)      Dry powder masala wala paratha
·         ½ tsp cumin
·         ½ tsp sweet paprika
·         ½ tsp coriander

2)     Kala jeera

3)     Salted carom seeds

4)     Roasted masala
·         ½ tsp fennel powder
·         ½ tsp coriander powder
·         Roasted together


Now to the technique of this super gourmet looking flat breads. Firstly make fist size balls of the dough and flatten it on a board in a somewhat square shape, as shown in the pic here. Use extra flour to help it not stick to the board and go as thin as possible, without visible tears or any sticking. With the glutinous maida its easy to just stretch out a sheet, with aata u have to be a bit careful.

Once there, brush over a teaspoon of oil or ghee and sprinkle a pinch of salt from a distance to reach every corner.

This is the perfect time to sprinkle you desired fillings as well.

Once done, roll the dough as if rolling a carpet. Now with maida, traditionally people would cascade it slowly to form many folds. This won’t work with aata because of the textural difference. Rolling will serve the purpose better.

Now re-roll the roll, unlike your carpet.

Finally using a rolling pin, very gently flatten the re-rolled roll to a perfect disc. With maida, you could just press it with your palms to get this result. With aata, on account of its fibrous texture, it’s difficult, once again.
Heat some oil in a pan carefully, and transfer the delicately layered discs on it. Roast them till done.

And just like that you created magic on a plate!! Viola!! Enjoy it while it’s still hot.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Ahoy Nimbu-Colada Pops!!!

Eons just slipped by since I wrote something here. And I missed it dearly..

It is one time that is destined for me; the romance of sitting with a hot cuppa, penning down the exploits of my findings in the kitchen. But the busy me, just had no time to do so... Hoping against hope that it is the last time I go on such a long hiatus! Thanks a ton for the continued support, couldn’t have done without this encouragement...

Now to the delish Nimbu-colada pops!!! Yes, I am aware that the summer has passed. But another rather hot season is right around the corner. And I just want to imagine myself, sitting prettily in a new silk saree, amidst a hot smoky Durga Puja Pandal, dreaming about having these... 
I gave the classic pinna-colada cocktail a much needed Indian twist by substituting pineapple juice with homemade ‘nimbu-paani (hence the name!!! @#%$@)’ Not only did this save me the hassle of juicing this difficult fruit, but also kept me away from its synthetic/canned versions. This refresher is a perfect appetizer to be served to guests who walk in for a lazy Sunday brunch.

Now to the simple recipe:

200ml Fresh Nimbu Paani
80 ml Coconut cream
80ml Malibu Rum 
½ fresh Lemon zested and squeezed


Whisk all the ingredients together, adding the alcohol the last.

Pour into moulds and freeze overnight.

Unmould carefully, without letting them wait around for too long. The alcohol content will make the pops melt quite fast. Enjoy these with some crispy masala nuts on the side!!


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

We Got a Mention!! :)

Zouqh's been silent for a few months.. But we saw us featured in this month's BBC Good Food India Magazine with our essentially Indian twist on the super awesome Pinnacolada Pops!! Ahoy, Nimbu-colada Pops!! Recipe will be in shortly!! 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Orange Kissed Marmalade Bars!!

I don’t know what it is with me and the plain old freshly milled chapatti (Indian flat bread) flour. I remember in my childhood days when my mother would laboriously get the wheat kernels from the market, wash it, dry it in the huge balconies and then take it to the nearby milling shop to get it milled. She would wait till the time it’s milled to her liking and get it back at home to make fresh hot chapatti, a staple in our everyday food. Huge process!! I can’t be bothered so much. I simply just give the neighbourhood milling shop a call and get a freshly milled, warm pack of whole wheat flour at home. I am not against the ready-made packs available in the market, but really; I have never tried them, nor do I recommend using them. Anything fresh is always more beautiful and rather tasty!!

This cookie is a great way of making a filling snack for in between of bigger meals. The whole wheat flour adds on the fibre, with a fruity dose from the Kissan Real fruit Marmalade Jam.  This is my take on the various cream/jam filled biscuits available in the market. Why buy when you can make them using simple everyday ingredients???


½ cup of Unsalted Butter
½ cup Vegetable Oil
2 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour
1 Egg
½ cup of Granulated White Sugar
½ tsp of Salt
2 tsp of Baking Soda
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
Zest of 1 of an orange
½ to 2/3 cup Kissan Orange Marmalade Jam


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line a 9X9 inch baking pan with butter paper and set it aside for use.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, oil and sugar, till it’s light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and orange zest and mix in until well combined.

Quickly with a wire whisk, mix together the dry ingredients, namely whole-wheat flour, salt and baking soda; before mixing it with the wet mix of butter, egg and sugar. It should form a pliable ball of dough.

Press 2/3 of the batter into your prepared pan evenly. Now smear on Kissan Orange Marmalade Jam all over; then crumble on the remaining dough on top. You can choose to be as messy or as precise as you wish to. Remember to leave a bit of room between the top crumbs for the jam to peek through the cookie dough.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp on top.

Allow it to cool completely, before cutting into mini bars as per your liking.


Friday, 8 March 2013

Healthy Crumbs: Fig-gy Oats Cookie!!

Cookies have had a notorious reputation all its life!! It’s in actuality a meal in itself, but hardly ever consumed as one. It’s taken more as a tid-bit to be had with tea or coffee; more of a snack to be had in between big meals; an accompaniment for a sumptuous creamy dessert; anything but a healthy meal to be had alone.

I don’t think cookies are that bad if they are eaten in the right way. Even if it’s a traditionally made cookie, with refined flour, white sugar and butter, it has some nutritional content. It just has to be coupled with a high fibre accompaniment like a whole fruit smoothie or a fruit salad, and it makes an amazing meal, perfect for the two hour eating plan that many of us follow these days.

But, old habits die hard, and hence it’s very difficult to not reach for a cookie when we have a steaming cup of coffee in front of us. So here is my solution to this problem, a high fibre cookie which is made with no sugar, but is sweetened with the help of dry fruits and honey, packed with the fibrous goodness of chopped mixed nuts and complete with a little cheat ingredient, chocolate chips!!

I wasn’t confident at all about this recipe of mine. I felt it was too healthy for anyone to like. So sheepishly I took a few pieces along with me to a very health conscious friend’s dinner party and was amazed at the ladies freaking out on it. In fact I dedicate this recipe to the hostess and her friend who requested me to blog about them soon. So here are the healthy little bites which is completely guilt free and can be had and digested even as a midnight snack pang!!

2 cups quick cooking oats 
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup flax seed powder
1 ½ tsp cinnamon powder
½ cup mixed nuts
½ cup chocolate chips

6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup fig
1/3 cup honey
1 egg
¼ cup fresh grated coconut


This is not one of the classic cookie recipes we have grown with. This requires few different steps, though all pretty easy to follow.

After preheating your oven to a standard 180 to 200 degrees c, get to the dry ingredients and mix them all in a big bowl.

Now melt the 6 tbsp butter and incorporate it well with the dry ingredients so as to get a lumpy wet cluster of oats and nuts. Set it aside to rest while we prep our wet ingredients.

In a food processor or a mixer, add the figs and the honey. Process till its relatively pasty and hardly any big lumps of fig is visible to the eye. Add the grated coconut and egg, and process once more to mix it well.

 Now very carefully fold in the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix them well together. I find the handiest tool to do the task is good old pair of clean hands. That way, you are assured that every cookie gets equal amount chocolate chips and nuts.

Shape them in little spheres of 10 cm diameter. Lay them neatly on a baking tray, a cm apart, and bake them for 20 minutes or so in a preheated 180-220 degrees Celsius oven. Look for the top and sides to be browned. Once desired doneness is reached, lay it on a wire rack to cool completely. Store it for up to a fortnight in an airtight cookie jar.


Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Art of Layers: Lasagne

I am still in the mode of laborious love!! And this time it’s in the form of layers. Layers of hard work!! If someone tells you lasagne is such an easy thing to rustle up, be sure to understand that s/he never really made the dish themselves. S/he bought it and sent it to u, just to earn the brownie points. And I actually have seen someone do that with my own eyes. Simply, ordered precooked lasagne packs from the restaurant, put into a serving dish side by side and baked in the oven with a slight sprinkling of cheese on top. Imagine the plight of the foodie in me when that lady so boldly claimed later during the party, that making lasagne is a child’s play!!!!#$#%@#$!
It’s not!! And I am not going to lie to you about it. A classic plate of meat lasagne takes a lot of time, energy and love to be prepared. It’s not a dish for a couple to pick on, but a whole hearty dish for the full family to enjoy!! And it’s a loaded dish. Loaded with freshness of a bright tomato sauce, nutrition of proper cheese and milk and packed with layers of love!!

Now my recipe is certainly Indianized to a great extent. The classic Italian lasagne is always made with beef, but I wanted a lighter Indian version, so I opted for chicken. You can very well substitute beef or meat in the recipe; just remember that the cooking time will increase accordingly. I have had chicken lasagne in a lot of restaurants, but trust me when I say that it’s not even 10% of the taste that this particular recipe of mine will give you. I have tailor made it to suit my Indian taste buds, and very soon I will also do a version for the vegetarians to enjoy as well.

450 gms Chicken mince
7 -8 rashers of bacon (either use classic, or chicken or turkey or completely forget about it!!)
3 medium tomatoes pureed
1 big onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tsp of fennel seeds
A handful of fresh coriander chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt according to taste
Ground black pepper according to taste
A splash of red wine
5 lasagne sheet
2 tsp butter
1 tsp oil
3 tsp maida (refined flour)
½ cup to ¾ cup of cold milk
Grated nutmeg according to taste
A good amount of grated Parmeggiano Reggiano, mozzarella and/or cheddar cheese

In a large pot, scatter chopped bacon and let it render out its fat. If you choose not to use it, heat some oil instead.

Brown the ground chicken, onions and garlic in the oil or with the bacon and its juices, until they start to cook. It takes about 6 to 9 minutes to brown the meat. Use a medium to low temperature to brown the meat. 

Now add the tomatoes and stir well to combine. Cook for another minute or so before adding in the following ingredients to the pot, stirring it constantly:

1 tsp of fennel seeds
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt according to taste
Ground black pepper according to taste

Once these ingredients are well incorporated, let the sauce simmer and cook till tender. Chicken takes very less time to cook down, so 5 - 10 minutes of simmering on low heat will do the job. Finish off the sauce by adding the splash of wine and fresh coriander; remove from heat once the alcohol has cooked off.
Now to the white layer:
Traditionally, a ricotta cheese and egg mixture is used to create this white layer between meat sauces. But I find that cheese super expensive to buy, and making it at home never really has given me a satisfying result. Moreover, lasagne already been this labour extensive, will add in much more pain if you also had to do cheese making. So I settled for a layer of basic white sauce, which does the trick beautifully!!

In another pan, melt 2 tsp butter with 1 tsp oil. Add in the flour and let it cook gently, till a roasted aroma of flour wafts out of the pan!

Now to this hot roasted mix in the pan, add in the cold milk (straight-out-of-the-fridge-cold) and stir constantly to get a lump-free, heavy cream like consistency of white sauce. Once the desired consistency is reached, that is it should coat the back of a spoon without thoroughly dripping off the sides, remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and ground nutmeg.

In the meanwhile, in salted boiling water, boil the pasta sheets till its soft, drain and rinse in cold water. Then lay it out on kitchen towels to soak in the excess water, and its ready to be used.

Now to layering the dish:

Finally, the best part; layering this extensive dish of laborious love!!

In an oven proof dish, ladle out the cooked meat sauce to coat the bottom. Evenly lay pasta sheets on it. Top that with the white sauce and sprinkle over an even layer of the cheese mix. Lay the second layer of pasta sheets.

Ladle out the tomato meat sauce evenly on top of it, and sprinkle over a thin layer of Parmeggiano Reggiano grated. Cover that with the pasta sheets and repeat the layers till you are finished with all your ingredients.

Make sure that the meat sauce comes on top, with a generous layer of cheese mix to top it and finish off the layers. Your dish is ready!! At this point you can wrap in foil and refrigerate it till the time to serve dinner/lunch.

Right before serving it, put it in a pre-heated 200 deg Celsius oven for 15 to 20 minutes, till the cheese on top is melted thoroughly and the layers rise up a bit. Serve hot!!
Served best with toasted garlic bread and tossed salad!!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Labourious Love: Fresh Strawberry and Orange Ice-cream

I have been really lazy here on the blogging front! I delayed this valentine’s treat of laborious tale of love till 15th Feb... But I have a valid point; I made it for my valentine’s special dinner. So, I am blogging about it right today, past the D-day!! And anyways, with v day falling on a week day, not a lot of couples were able to celebrate it together. So, this can be a wonderful smear-and-lick-project for the valentine’s weekend coming up.

An ice cream machine is a useless investment in my opinion. In the ever decreasing size of housing in this century, I find no space for a bulky machine which is to be used for just a day in a whole year. So I never really missed having it in my kitchen. And anyways, making it in the classic way, the way it was made in the earlier days when machines were a rarity, adds an adventurous fun to the whole episode. And moreover, divide the labour between both u guys, the men would be happy to do the heavy weight whisking, while women can happily chop away the dainty strawberries. This way or that way, this is the perfect way to celebrate the labour of love. The ingredients are super simple and you can add or subtract any of the flavouring fruits as per you wish!

 4 Egg Yolks
1/3 cup of Granulated Sugar
200gms of Light Cream (we get pretty much only one brand, and sadly that is all that I can use.)
Zest of 1 orange
500 gms fresh strawberries, chopped in small pieces.

Refrigerate the cream for a while to aid whipping.

Fill a saucepan with one inch of water and bring to a simmer over low heat.

In a metal or heat-proof glass bowl (one that fits over the saucepan), whisk together the egg yolks and sugar with a handheld whisk for about 3 minutes or until thick and pale in colour.

Place the bowl over the pan with the simmering water (very important that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water) and cook the custard while constantly whisking for about 10 minutes.

Once cooked, remove from simmering water and fold in the zest of an orange. Let it stand and cool on the counter.

In another bowl, put in the cut pieces of strawberries, and let it sweat out. We don’t want water in our ice cream, as that will make it frosty. In fact I had put in some raw pieces of strawberry and regretted it big time.

Now in a large bowl, add in the cream and whip it for about 10 minutes or until it develops slight stiff peaks.

Fold the heavy cream, custard mixture and strawberry compote together, taking precaution not to lose the fluff of whipping cream. Pour the batter in an air tight box, and place it in the freezer for 8 o 10 hours or until set.

Remove from the freezer and serve immediately!



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