Trying out Chicken Saltimbocca…

Ok, here;s a recipe that I improvised from Rouxbe (http://rouxbe.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&type=recipes&q=chicken+saltimbocca) 

It’s much easier to cook recipes from cookbooks and websites now : 1) Ingredients are now more easily available and 2) The authors make sure they provide the Indian name, or a recipe to make something (so there are recipes within recipes)… it still took much longer than I expected. But it was surprisingly fun… layering stuff, pounding it to flatten… interesting aromas and flavours, and lots of cheese and meat!! What else does one need?

I substituted the cambozola cheese with Gorgonzola. I went to Godrej Nature’s Basket and didn’t find Cambozola (very sad), then googled and found out I could use Gorgonzola (http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Dictionary/C/Cambozola-cheese-5786.aspx) … so i did. I managed all the other ingredients fine. But forgot the unsalted butter. So I went ahead with normal butter, and went easy on the salt. I used normal white wine, didn’t bother with a cooking wine etc. And for the sauce, i didn’t follow exact measurements… there may have been a little more wine! (HIC!)  🙂  Just tried to get the consistency right.

Try it… it’s quite easy… and the prosciutto makes it taste absolutely fantastic!!!! Here’s two pics….

Recipe – chicken seekh kebabs

Cooking non vegetarian food at home has been pretty lean for me as I happen to be the only consumer in my vegetarian sasural. Not that I don’t cook for myself but somehow one needs quite a bit of drive to go through the process of buying, freezing, thawing, cleaning, cutting, marinating, cooking 200 grams of meat just for oneself. So when people sharing my taste of food visit, I kind of end up taking too much on my hands. All the recipes that I have read/watched since the last time I cooked NV come flooding to my mind, battling with each other to make it to the table. And I must say, my leniency gets the better of me and very few dishes return with heavy hearts. So you can imagine what happened when my father announced he was coming for a day to Mumbai. He would have just one meal with us so I had to pack as much as I could in it. I decided to make Chinese for main course and a Mughlai starter. You can get away with such a medley only at home or at weddings.

I planned the menu –

Non vegetarian – Home made chicken seekh kebab for the starter, mixed fried rice (with egg, chicken and prawns), chilli chicken, golden fried prawns for the main course

Vegetarian – Haldiram namkeen and peanuts for starters (hehe…that would be for my husband…he’s very forgiving), vegetable fried rice, almond vegetables in some sauce (that I can whiz up with dashes of this and that)

Am I cruel or what…

So I started a day in advance – with the seekh kebabs. I don’t mind admitting it was an inspiration from Nigella Lawson (not the seekh kebabs, but the preparing in advance bit), but actually the longer you marinate the meat for seekh kebabs, the tastier they get.

It was my first attempt ever at making any sort of kebabs. I watched videos and read up recipes to prepare myself for this and one rule blared loud and clear in all of them – the biggest mistake while making kebabs is to leave any moisture in the meat. Fine, that can be taken care of. Moreover, I had seen one of the chefs blotting the mince with kitchen paper to absorb residual moisture. So after thoroughly draining the washed mince in the sieve, I tried the kitchen paper trick. And as soon as I pressed the paper (that I had folded several times to make it thick) to the mince, voila! I had the base for the revised recipe of ‘chicken seekh kebabs with a crispy kitchen paper crust’. The damn paper stuck to the mince like skin. You can imagine what a perfect a** I felt. This happens when you don’t use your brains. So I carefully peeled off the paper till the very last bit and stared at the mince for a while as if trying to make the moisture evaporate by just looking. Then I got it. I plonked all the mince in a wide bowl, pressed the sieve on top of the meat to squash it as much as possible and then dabbed the kitchen paper on top of the sieve over the mince. I used up nearly half a roll of kitchen paper this way but how it worked!!! Hah…the power of the human mind…

Well now with the mince taken care of, I went ahead with the marination…here’s the recipe –

½ kg chicken mince – I used less…what with the dabbing and getting out the moisture thing…phew!!

2 tbsps ginger garlic paste – freshly made

1 cup fried onions – this was the secret ingredient…the taste and smell that you get from this…mmmhh…

Fried onions

 

20 sprigs of coriander leaves – I used less

2 green chillies – depends on how much heat you want

1 tsp garam masala – freshly ground

1 tsp amchoor – lemon juice sounds ideal but you don’t wanna add any more moisture that you so painfully extracted so amchoor’s perfect

½ egg – to be used later

Salt

Bread crumbs – to be used only if the final mix is a little moist. I didn’t use any. Remember that this will eat up a lot of flavour so in case you’re using bread crumbs, season the mince a little more

To be dry roasted and ground – 3 dry red chillies, ½ tsp black peppercorns, 2 tbsps coriander seeds – I didn’t use all of the powder

Ground spices

 

Put everything into the mince except the egg and mix well. It should look like this…

Seekh kebab mixture

 

The sad thing is, this is something you can’t taste to check for seasoning as the meat is raw. So what I did was, I took a little bit and microwaved it for 30 secs. It came out cooked and crisp at the edges. Perfect to check seasoning. Just make sure it’s nice and spicy. This is a seekh kebab mix, the finished product will preferably be eaten all by itself so the taste needs to really hit your senses. So although you don’t want the masalas to overpower the taste of the meat, you do want a ‘kadak swaad’ (really couldn’t find an English equivalent for this). But do go a little easy on the garam masala especially if you’ve freshly ground it. It can be really strong.

So now pop it into the fridge and let it marinate for as long as you want. I gave it 24 hours. Out with it, add the whisked egg and mix well. Press it along a skewer and grill for about 15-20 mins. Done. Served with sliced onions. I did not get a picture of the finished product as the moment it was cooked and served, the plate was wiped clean 🙂

As for the rest I marinated the chicken (for the chilli chicken) and the prawns (for the golden fried prawns) next morning ready to be fried and cooked in a matter of minutes. (I just got pictures of the seekh kebab because that was something I was making for the first time and was really excited about it.)

Actually it was more of a prepping job for the rest of the dishes I did. It took a hell of a long time with all the chopping, dicing ans slicing. Cooking all these dishes did not really take longer than half an hour. I’m glad I made enough to send some back home with my father for tasting. The compliments were more than welcome 🙂

Grilled at last…

Bombay (yeah I know…but I don’t like saying Mumbai) – supposedly a haven for eating, dining, breakfasting, brunching…lunching…teaing and all that. I say ‘supposedly’ because I haven’t really had the opportunity to explore more than 10 eating joints in the last six years of my stay here, so going by what I’ve read and heard, that’s what it is – a haven. I should be ashamed of calling myself that with my fantastic record. But in my defense, of the limited joints that I visit, I am pretty much, a patron.

This post comes in the light of a slight deviation from the routine of six years. My very vegetarian in laws (just sis in law and hubby), my preferably vegetarian husband and the purely non vegetarian me decided to meet for dinner last Saturday. We almost entered the restaurant where we went to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, first Sundays of the month, buying a new lampshade, getting all traffic signals green, …basically anything. Anyway, just as we were entering, my SIL said she’d heard of a grill house nearby that we could check out. I was thrilled since the last time the four of us (or even just me) went to a grill house was two years back, soon after my marriage. That was something that had undergone more planning than the marriage itself…hey come on, we were going to ‘Kebab Factory’ (in Noida I think) for the first time and it was a big deal. We have been planning to go to Barbecue Nation near Bandra for the longest time but in vain. That’s another story.

Anyway, in less than five minutes we were out of our favoured restaurant and outside ‘Grillopolis’, in a place called Oshiwara located in the western suburbs of Mumbai. The name was about as far Greek as the place could get. Can be surer of that as my husband and I went holidaying in Greece last year and are pretty sure no façade there inspired what we saw in front of us. But I did not let that bother me…food (read grilled meats) was what I was waiting for and I was sure it would beat the ‘oh so famous’ (dunno why) Greek salad. Being a Saturday, we got a table in a record 10 minutes. Obviously we did not go for the a la carte since the buffet had five non veg and five veg starters, just as many dishes per category in the main course and desserts. Not bad. I didn’t even bother with the veg…and I’m not sorry. First up, I dug into the chicken kebabs that had some sort of a rice flour coating – soft and juicy on the inside, crisp on the outside. Lightly spiced but delicious. Then came the grilled fish with baked beans (didn’t know that could be a combo). It certainly wouldn’t have qualified for Masterchef Oz coz there were BONES!!! Did anyone watch the episode where Gary cooked a fish dish in a Masterclass and Callum found a bone in it…what a slap (or should I say prick) that was! Anyway, the grilled fish was decent. Found no more bones after the initial bits. Then followed some delectably soft mutton shammi kebabs served on tortilla chips (huh???). Didn’t bother with the tortillas but the kebab was lovely. It did not have the hit smell or taste of the original shammi kebab but it was fragrant and really really soft. Probably that’s why they served them on the tortillas so that they held shape. Then, dhan ta tan…grilled prawns. Was having prawns after eons. Didn’t mind how they were served…except raw of course. Spicy, well cooked. Very nice. Four down, one more to go. As I waited for it, I wondered what they could possibly serve – chicken’s done, so is fish and goat and prawn. Hmm…and then it came…chicken again!!! Well, that’s about as big as the non veg circle went. Pretty orthodox for a place called Grillopolis eh? But this time the chicken was quite interesting. It was a seekh kebab. Indian notes of garlic and earth spices in the beginning and then a kick of soya in the end. Sounds odd but it made for a pretty interesting combination. Quite nice, quite different. Had several helpings. Some of the names of these dishes may have sounded Indian, but they all had a pretty western hint in their tastes. A little here, a little there. If you go there expecting to find Karim’s kebabs’ copies…mmm…not that good an idea. The name of the place actually helps putting such expectations at rest.

Anyway, by now I had had my fill. But after a walk around the buffet counter for the main course I felt some empty spaces spring up out of nowhere within me. How else was I to stuff in the masala crab and fish and mutton biryani and drunken chicken and butter chicken??? (These guys really know their way around with chicken) Ah! Is there a cloud number 10? Well I was beyond that. Yeah I had to struggle a bit to maintain dignity while eating the crab. And that was not it. I had to make a pretence to my family (veggie, remember?) that eating crab was just like sucking on drumsticks (no not the chicken ones…the green ones you put in sambhar). But how…with crab…how??? Finally I found recourse in the wall of glasses and salt n pepper cellars that I created around my plate. Couldn’t eat the crab as much as (I mean to the last shred) I would have wanted to but that sufficed for the time being.

No more space left to create space for dessert! But the brave soldier marches on and the sight of those gooey, creamy, chocolatey delights made me brave enough to run. I had two helpings of dessert…hah! Strawberry pastries, chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream, baked Alaska – layered sponge and fresh fruits topped with soft peaked whipped cream and lightly bruléed. They didn’t do it too well as quite a few grains of sugar met their end between our molars. But what the hell…it tasted great and the attempt can at the least be appreciated. And the bottomline is…all good things come in sweet packages…

With a sumptuous meal down, we got discussing whether they served the same menu everyday. We said obviously not. I’m sure they know more than four chicken dishes. When will they serve those? Might go and find out soon.

Bercos, Dwarka – Comfort Chinese (at home)

Metropolitan India is undergoing a global cuisine revolution. Descriptors such as niche, artisanal, authentic, creative and fusion now apply to numerous new restaurants in Mumbai, Bangalore and even Delhi (where the hippest restaurants are often found in its oldest villages – subject of a couple of posts previously). Foodies throng to these new places, discovering new cuisines and improving their geography (can you now identify Hunan province on the map of China, and do you know Jamaica through your jerk chicken or is it the other way round?).

Apparently all this is happening. Because if you live in Dwarka, you only see glimpses of this through excited reviews and colourful weekend planners in newspaper supplements, blog posts of friends, or lifestyle shows on TV that help you plan exciting evenings and weekends. Dwarka is a new-ish large suburb at Delhi’s south-western extremity, but its adjacency to Delhi’s airport hasn’t helped fly in global cuisine or far flung-regional cuisine (such as Konkani, Chettinad, Bengali and.. umm.. anything beyond Delhi and Punjab actually) here yet. Most of Delhi’s great culinary traditions find representation here however – Punjabi-tandoori, kabab-shabab, Mughlai, Punjabi-Chinese, Chhole-chaat-jalebi, with a few idly-dosa and pizza joints thrown in. Of these, Bercos is among the most famous of Delhi’s stalwart restaurant brands to have set up shop here (Golden Dragon is here too, but that’s another post).

Bercos has been one of Delhi’s greatest purveyors of Indian-Chinese cuisine, and an institution at Connaught Place (sorry, Rajiv Chowk?). At Dwarka, except to step in and pick up their ‘home-delivery’ menu once a couple of years back, I haven’t been inside the establishment and so cannot talk about ambience, service, seating and such like. But their food has been a regular and reliable visitor at our home for over two years now. Berco’s doesn’t mess much with new-fangled concepts – their ‘dimsums’ are called ‘momos’, and they offer all the old reliables of a Chinese menu – chilly garlic fish, chilli chicken, shredded lamb / diced chicken / slice fish in (choose 1) hot garlic / black bean / szechwan sauce et al. While little of it is authentic in the new-age way, the Bercos kitchen manages restraint in not going too far over to the ‘Punjabi’ way either. And so most of their food actually achieves a satisfying ‘marriage’ of robust taste and discernible flavour.

With Bercos, what you think is what you get. What comes to mind when you think chicken Manchurian? Or hot and sour soup, American chopsuey, fish in black bean sauce? Yes, that’s how Bercos makes it. And their order-taking on phone is reassuringly familiar –
Self: hello
Bercos: hello sir goodeveningthankyouforcallingbercos, you want veg or non-veg
S: non-veg
B: chicken or fish
S: fish
B: ispicy or non-ispicy
S: medium spicy
B: ok sir then you take sliced fish in black bean sauce, will be medium ispicy.
S: what about gravy?
B: do you want dry or gravy?
S: what will this dish be?
B: semi-dry, you can have it with isteamed rice.
You can only have a vague idea of what you want when you dial in, Bercos will guide you through their menu and help you decide dinner quite skilfully. And they are among the rare joints in Dwarka that deliver well within the promised time, even on a weekend evening. All of this probably doesn’t sound like much, but many restaurants in Dwarka will show you how easy it is to get these wrong.

All is not Manchurian and black bean sauce at Bercos either. Their Thai options, again inspired by Thai cuisine 101 (red and yellow curries, tom yum and tom kha for soup), are worth the occasional order as well. A Thai holy basil chicken was quite nice the last time we ordered. A segment called ‘Chef’s Special’ on the menu promises much and doesn’t deliver too poorly either. The chefs do seem to extend themselves here. A sliced fish in mustard chilli sauce tastes very un-Indian-Chinese and is quite lip-smacking. Combine this with their lovely aromatic Moon Faan rice, and you can end up with an unexpectedly good meal. I’m afraid there is no evidence to report of the soups or the vegetarian selection. Ordering from home, somehow those pages on the menu have been a blind spot to me so far.

Which reminds me, we haven’t ordered their starters in a long time either. Sorry to be abrupt, but it’s Friday evening now, and time to decide between Crispy Fish (as you like it with pepper-salt, pepper-garlic or butter-chilli-garlic) and Singapore Wok Fried Chicken!

Easy on the starters..

So I always had this funda about starters… should be nice, bite sized, mostly non-veg (since I am one, and many of our friends and family too), must be interesting looking…. Hors d’oeuvre … such a fancy name, conjuring fancy images in my head….. As a result everything depended on me being creative, spending hours shopping for thr right thing, looking at many recipes…

I used to slog over recipes (so difficult to find easy, starters that looked and tasted exotic etc, right?), preparing them when I called people over for dinner. And of course, since I had learnt from my mom, I used to slog over the rest of the meal also. As you can guess, such parties were the death of me… no fun, only slogging and then wondering about how everyone is liking it, will hate me… and so on.

Well, older wiser, more mature… and more easy going (something my husband is trying hard to inculcate). I whip up starers in no time now. The secret? Loosen up the definition of starters… and loosen up my perceptions of the perfect starter. Perfect starter = what people enjoy + what I can prepare with less effort!! So I grate a little cheese over Monacos (a very old trick, but in my earlier books it was too easy and hence not happening) and garnish with a wee bit of mint, fresh cut vegetables (called crudites) like spring onion, carrots, radish, cucumber and with that prepare dips by mixing up sauces and other market available dips, serve our good ol Indian chaat options (sev puri is my favourite now), cut up chicken cubes and throw them in a wok with some oil, salt and chilly flakes (how easy is that!!)…

Bruschetta is actually a really easy thing to make, and you can make your own easy versions with Jamie Oliver’s ready to use fantastic spread, dips and mixes (another blog on this later)… Its more about imagination. Imaging a dish, imagining an easy dish, imaginging cooking easy dishes … be creative, but also relaxed… that’s my mantra now…. 🙂