Thursday, April 25, 2013

Green Smoothies. Guest Post by Sangeeta Khanna




I've been away a lot this month, I know. My apologies. Been a crazy busy month for me, especially since a lot is riding on this one event that is scheduled for Saturday. And while I'm trying my best to blog whenever I get a bit of free time, I've also had to depend on my a little help from my friends.

This month, I've asked my friend Sangeeta Khanna to do a guest post for me. In case you've missed out on me mentioning her every couple of posts, please know she's absolutely one of my favourite persons in the blogosphere (and otherwise). I've spent many a dinners with her and hours chatting on our cubby hole on Facebook just talking about each others lives.

But that said, she runs two absolutely fantastic blogs Health Food Desi Videshi and Banaras Ka Khana. And she's the one who's making sure I eat right everyday. So for her guest post, I asked her to share some super healthy seasonal recipes. And she's done exactly that - two amazing smoothie recipes that totally hit the spot.

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Thank you Ruchira for having me over. I have been reading your blog almost since it's birth I guess, the creative recipes at Cookaroo are awe inspiring. I have had the pleasure of eating many of your stuff and it was finger licking good every single time. The dips and spreads you make are so diverse, your desserts are so beautifully executed. It is my pleasure to share a couple of quick smoothie type recipes at Cookaroo, I hope you and your readers enjoy the recipes as much I do.

Smoothies make great meals or snacks. You can customise your smoothies for the day, the season, your mood or current requirement of macro nutrients or whatever micro nutrients you wish. The best thing about smoothies is, you mostly do it with raw ingredients and the meal is ready in almost 5 minutes. I add all sorts of ingredients into my smoothies, from yogurt, milk, coconut milk or soy milk to cooked oats or alternate grains, all sorts of fruits and vegetables and even aromatic herbs. I often add ginger to my smoothies for the anti inflammatory benefits it brings. Combining ginger with pineapple gives you great results if you are suffering from post workout muscles aches. Protein enriched smoothies will be great for a post workout meal while a fruity and herb infused smoothie will be great to perk you up on a summer morning.



This musk melon and sweet basil smoothie is such a pleasure to have chilled in afternoons, if not for breakfast. The time when you start feeling worn out after half of the days work. The basil soothes your senses and melon hydrates your system. I have added coconut milk to this smoothie to keep it aromatic and to supplement you with good fats for the day.




Musk Melon and Sweet Basil Smoothie
(one large serving)

Ingredients
4 cups (chilled or frozen) musk melon (kharbooza) chopped into cubes
handful of fresh basil leaves
a 200 ml carton of coconut milk (what is the point of a smoothie meal if you have to extract coconut milk fresh, don't bother with it)

Directions


1. Blend the musk melon pieces and torn basil into your blender first, make a smooth paste.

2. Add the coconut milk and blend again for a couple of seconds. Take care not to blend too much after adding the coconut milk as the fat would start getting separated. Not that it will become bad in taste, the white fat globules are not a good sight and they take away the flavor from the smoothie.

3. Enjoy chilled. This smoothie can also be turned into a sorbet if you wish.

4. Use everything frozen and give it a good blend and serve immediately.


Here is another smoothie recipe which is savory and hence makes a nice cold soup. almost like gazpacho but very delicately flavored and refreshing. perfect for summers.






Aloe, Cucumber and Celery smoothie or cold soup
(one large serving)

Ingredients

2 tbsp fresh aloe gel
1 cup chopped cucumber with skin  ( I used Armenian cucumber, any tender cucumber will work)
1/4 cup chopped celery stalk
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
1/4 cup diced red onions
1/4 cup diced ripe tomatoes
celery salt or sea salt to taste
3/4 cup fresh yogurt  or a little more
EVOO to drizzle (optional)

Directions

Using all the ingredients chilled works well to get a nicely cold smoothie instantly, otherwise chill before serving, it stays well for a couple of hours.

1. Blend the onions, tomatoes, celery stalk and leaves first without adding water. Make a smooth paste so there are no bits and pieces. Add the chopped cucumber and blend again to a smooth paste.

2. Add the yogurt and salt, blend very briefly again to mix thoroughly.

3. Serve cold or chilled with or without a drizzle of  EVOO.

4. The flavors are amazingly aromatic with celery, cucumber lends a nice cooling feel while the tomatoes and onion bring the right amount of tang, very subtle but something that complements the base flavors.

5. Enjoy with a garlic bread stick, a cracker or with a grilled main course or just have it as a refreshing snack.

Note: Both these smoothies are suitable for Indian summers and for a cleansing diet if taken with appropriate meals







Sunday, April 21, 2013

Beetroot Caramelised Onion Crostini. And frozen food from The Temperamental Cook



A couple of years ago when I insisted I wanted to buy another fridge with a large freezer section, the  husband thought I was bananas. We have a perfectly good fridge, so why would you want to change that, he'd asked me repeatedly. But my mind was made up. I was certain that a bigger freezer would save me a lot of time and I'd be quite the champ at juggling home, work and family.

After all I'd learnt from the best. My grandmother could rustle up a gourmet meal from the contents of the freezer in a jiffy. She'd have fried paneer, blanched spinach, frozen diced mangoes, pieces of coconut, loaves of bread, jackfruit from when they were in season, mashed potatoes and plenty of meat in the freezer. And trust me, it didn't fit into one freezer, we always had two.

Now that I finally have my big fridge and small fridge, and two freezers that come with it, you have to see just how stuffed my freezers are. I've got a shelf filled with berries, fruits such a mangoes, chikoos and even overripe banana. I have got a shelf filled with cocoas from different part of the world, spices from the south, coffee powders and a drawer filled with meats some marinated and others in various cuts.

What I don't keep so much of are ready-to-eat things. Maybe a bunch of potato bites and some chicken nuggets incase of emergency but I'm a big fan of fresh food. So when Srishthi Handa of The Temperamental Chef sent me a couple of her ready-to-eat things to try, I was quite excited especially since I was told that I could deep fry, shallow fry and even bake the goodies.


She sent me these three beautiful frozen almost ready-to eat - Beet and Walnut Bites, Spinach Bolts and Balinese Bean bites. I did them all three ways and had results which were pretty much sealed the deal for me.


Spinach Bolts: A sort of a spanakopita, where filo pastry meets spinach and ricotta shaped like cigars. Obviously with bits of garlic and herbs



Deep fried: Frying these bolts was a disaster. They drank too much oil, and the pastry was almost falling apart. The garlic tasted almost raw and was a total no-no for me.
Shallow fried: The filling remained quite cool, not cold and the pastry crisped up a bit too much. And while they flavours were a little more mellow, I would still refrain from doing the bolts this way.
Baking: This worked the best for the Spinach bolts. The pastry crisped beautifully with just some oil sprayed in. The garlic mellowed beautifully really enhancing the spinach filling. This way was a total winner for me.


Beet and Walnut bites: A lovely combination of beetroot and walnut that remains moist no matter how its done.




Deep fried: The bites retained a bit too much oil for my liking. They did not  retain their shape as much as I'd have liked to
Shallow fried: I used  non-stick pan to shallow fry the bites. I felt that this experience retained the shape and the bits of walnuts came in the mouth, giving the bite the texture it deserved
Baking: The nuttiness of the walnuts and the mellowness of the beets really developed while baking. The bites remained moist despite baking them.


Balinese Bean Bites: A mixture of beans and lentils and corn that make these bites quite a delicious mouthful.





Deep fried: These bites retained too much oil but tasted the best amongst the three when deep fried. Served with some mint chutney they'll taste deadly
Shallow fried: I think of the three ways, this worked the best on these bites. The nuttiness from the lentil made it quit be amazing and I'd recommend these be served shallow-fried instead of any other way.
Baking: While the baked patty was good, I felt it dried out a bit too much and became almost flakey.

Verdict: Bake the Spinach bolts, bake the beet and walnut bites but shallow fry the Balinese Bean Bites

But of the three my favourite was the Beet and Walnut bites. They were just wonderful and so I knew I had to make something from it. I decided to make a crostini with caramelised onions and goatcheese which offset the sweetness of the beets beautifully. Texturally, the contrast worked very well too




Beet and walnut bites crostini with caramelised onions and goat cheese

Ingredients

1/2 a loaf of baguette
6 Beet and walnut bites
6 tsp Caramelised Onion Jam (click here for recipe)
12 tsps goat cheese shards
Pepper and Salt to taste

Directions

1. Slice the loaf of baguette into  6 pieces 1-inch diagonal.
2. Spread caramelised onion jam onto each slice of baguette
3. Shallow fry the beet and walnut bite and crumble each on top of the caramelised onions
4. Top with 2 tsps of goat cheese shards on each slice. Season with salt and pepper
5. Broil at 180 degree centigrade for 7 minutes just before serving
Yenjaayyy.

Oh and I'm also announcing the winner of the Urban Dazzle - Cookaroo giveaway. But first, I am super sorry I haven't been able to announce the winners earlier, I haven't had the time to update the blog. So without further ado, the winner of the beautiful fruit plates is Padmajha PJ.

Padmajha please email me your address within 48 hours so that your present can be sent to you asap.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Music and Lyrics. Like my father

It was snowing the day I was born. Christmas carols were in full swing at the Mount Sinai hospital. And the doctors and nurses who were attending to the pregnant women hummed along whenever their favourite carol played on the speakers or so my father tells  me. It was Christmas eve after all.

I was six days old when I was brought back to my parents apartment. My father, who loved all things pop needed to record the top 40 countdown so that he could listen to it whenever it was his turn to take care of me.  So the first thing they did as soon as they entered the apartment was to turn on the radio to hear who was number one that year. It was to be a close call between Gloria Gaynor's I will Survive and Bee Gees' Tragedy

I think that's the day my relationship with music began. My father loved his music to bits. As a restaurateur in New York city, he lived close enough to head home and grab LPs to get signed whenever someone famous walked into the restaurant. Who you might ask was famous? The Beatles for one. Elton John and even Barbara Streisand. (Yes, his record collection is to be envied).

It was no surprises then, that I grew up on a staple of VH1 and MTV. The first song that I remember listening to was Kim Carnes' Bette Davis Eyes. The first video I ever remember watching - Michael Jackson's Thriller and the first OST to play on repeat - Grease - was all thanks to my father.

Such deep love he had for music that even when we moved back to India, he'd wait all night to record the Grammy awards, just so that he'd know what the new songs were. He'd ask his cousins to send him copies of the Billboard magazine to be able to figure out what albums he wanted. And he'd have cassettes after cassettes of music videos that the local video library had managed to source. I suppose that's how we watched Peter Gabriel's Sledge Hammer or even heard about Madonna's La Isla Bonita.

When the LP/records turned to CDs he didn't flinch. Instead he checked out the top 10 in all genres, asked anyone travelling to get him a CD. He introduced Garth Brooks to us. He brought Beethoven into our lives.  

You can't imagine his delight, when in the 90s cable started in India. I think we were the first household to get all the channels. Every Sunday, he'd sit down with my sister and I and make us watch the top 10 of the week on MTV. We'd make lists every week to remember what stayed on the top the most. Turns out Michael Jackson's Black or White was the most popular song that year.

By then my sister and I had already started developing our tastes in music. We'd share new songs with Papa and tell him to get this song or this album or watch this video. Together between the three of us, we'd have seen atleast 10,000 music videos which we can describe with our eyes closed. Music became such a  connect between the three of us that come summer, the three of us would sit in the balcony, listen to CDs on shuffle, and try and guess the song by just their opening bars. I remember Mili Vanilli were our favourite that year, closely followed by MC Hammer. 

Even as we grew up, Papa's love of music didn't end. In the Napster era, we burned CD after CD of the latest songs before the whole piracy thing hit out big time. That year Rapture by Iio was his favourite song. 

By college, my sister and I begged him to get us the World Space. And more often than not, we'd hear him turn it on, so check out the latest song. Now when he's home alone, you can catch him watching VH1 He remembers the song and calls me up to tell me to listen to a particular song. He's an American Idol and The Voice fan. And totally loves Adam Labert, Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

But that's not what warms my heart, it's when I see him ask my brother, who's been learning to play the guitar to strum Gotye's Somebody to Love, that I realise how far he's come and how much he's taught me and just how much of him is in me. 

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Everything in this post is true. But it's also a part of Indiblogger's HP Connected Music India series.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Meeting David Rocco. At The West View. ITC Maurya

First George and Gary. Now David Rocco. So now I've just got Adriano Zumbo, Thomas Keller, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Yotam Ottolenghi to go. Oh and Rene Redzepi. And Art Smith. And.. Oh you get the drift.

But I think I'm plain lucky. Because sharing a table with some of the funnest food people is just an added bonus. Plus it makes my month.

So at a sit down lunch at The West View, at ITC Maurya us food bloggers got to meet the very good-looking Canadian TV show host and Italian food guru David Rocco, who was in Delhi at the fag end of his 8-week India trip. He was in India shooting for a new series and so after visiting three cities - Chennai, Jaipur, Mumbai and now Delhi, he seemed to know a lot more about Indian food that he started off with.



Flashing that 1000-watt, Rocco swooped in on us, while we were already seated, post a quick visit to the herb garden on the terrace at West View. Oh and if you haven't been to TheWest View, go to just check out the gorgeous view of such a lush green Delhi, that it will knock your socks off.

Rocco sat down to talk to us about his trip. About the different things he'd learnt. Of the flavours he'd tasted. Of the new things he'd made. Of mustard oil, which was a brand new medium of cooking for him.

He told us about how he'd learnt cooking at home (FYI he's a home cook just like many of us out there and not a trained chef). Told us how he preferred canned tomatoes to the real stuff and how deep his love was for olive oil and how he loves cooking with his kids (a la Jamie Oliver).



As us bloggers sat around quizzing him of all the things he did back home, we were also served a plated menu that was all Rocco. Although the melon and prosciutto hors d'oeuvres were served outside since a bunch of us were taking pictures of the herb garden. The bubbly was poured. And the first course brought out  - Rigatoni con Pomodori e Melanzane, a Neapolitan style pasta with eggplant and Mozzarella sauce,  paired with Fratelli Sauvignon Blanc. I loved the ripeness of the tomatoes, couldn't really find the eggplants. But the penne had an awesome bite to it (although the menu said rigatoni) and I really liked what we ate.



The mains came out next Saltimbocca di Pollo - Chicken with prosciutto and sage, cooked in Marsala, beetroot risotto, and baby carrots with olive oil and chili flakes, paired with Fratelli Sangiovese. I loved this course. The chicken tasted fabulous with the prosciutto and the buttery sage paired so beautifully with it. But the piece de resistance for me was the beetroot risotto. Pink, fabulous and with some gorgeous arborio and lovely bite.



He talked about how his twin girls can make a mean risotto - with spinach, beets, mushroom - and how much they enjoy it. I wish I was taught that when I was five.  The dessert was brought on while Rocco excused himself for a bit. Torta Caprese, a flourless chocolate cake and Zabaglione con Frutti di Bosco - mixed fruits with espresso zabaglione. The Chocolate cake was filled wit almonds, I picked out pieces of the almonds but didn't really care for the cake. The zabaglione was rather unfortunate. Very eggy and the raspberry did absolutely no justice to the coffee-ness of the dessert. 


But then Rocco came back and a nice photo session with the bloggers made the whole afternoon worth while. The best thing about David Rocco is how warm he is. And effusive. And patient. And entertaining. Oh I could go on. 



Thank you ITC Maurya for such a fun time.  And do see what the others had to say - Charis, Deeba, Sangeeta, Anita, Parul and Reeta Skeeter . Because I guarantee you, he was a joy to meet. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pinterest Picks: Sucker for Lemon this April

Tart. Tangy. Puckering. A lemon is all that and more. This spring, do away with those heavy chocolate desserts and eat something refreshing. Lemon is a great option in both sweet and savoury cooking. I've picked out 10 best dessert options you can make this April in Pinterest Picks, just so that you know there's so much in the still to try out in this world.

Oh and don't forget to follow me on Pinterest


1. Lemon Meringue Pie - in a jar



2. Lemon Pancakes



3. Lemon Fro-yo



4. Lemon Pannacotta with Lemon Marmalade




5.  Lemon Trifle Pudding




6. Lemon Tea Cake




7. Lemon Gelato



8. Coconut Lemon bar




9.  Lemon Icebox pie



10. Lemon Delicious


Oh and the Urban Dazzle and Cookaroo is still on. If you'd like to win a set of six of gorgeous mini pie plates, click here for entering.



Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sea salt, Lime and Thyme Shortbread Cookies




You want to test my will power? Put a cookie in front of me. And see how fast they disappear. Put a warm cookie in front me, it will be gone in 20 seconds. Bottom line, I cannot resist a cookie.


But here's the thing, if I'm bad, I am married to someone worse. My husband is the ultimate cookie monster. If I bake cookies to give away, I need to make a dozen extra for him, for sure. Whenever I make my triple chocolate chip cookies, I always freeze a batch before he comes home, so that I have some dough leftover when I'm craving for some.

Despite his terrible cookie addiction, when it comes savoury cookies, he's quite giving. Even though he might have one off with his tea, nine times out of ten, he lets it be for me. I don't feel offended, instead I feel very happy that he's left some for me.



These cookies are lovely. They are buttery, light and so salty that you'll need to chase it down with something sweet. The perfect bar snack. Everytime I am sick of baking something sweet, the recipe is whipped out and a batch is made. 

You do a number of variations with this recipe. Replace  lime zest and juice with orange, thyme with basil, add in any kind of cheese, put in a bit of sugar, basically just go crazy with it. And trust me, you'll have no leftovers.




Sea salt, lime and thyme cookies
Adapted from Mary Cech's Savory Baking: Warm and Inspiring Recipes for Crisp, Crumbly, Flaky Pastries. Available in India, US and UK

Ingredients
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1/2 cup gouda cheese
Sea Salt to sprinkle on top

Directions


1. Stir the flour, salt, lemon peel, and thyme together in a medium bowl. 
2. With your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until a coarse, crumbly mixture forms. Blend the lightly beaten egg, egg yolks, and water together. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the egg mixture for brushing.
3. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the remaining egg mixture and blend together with your hands without kneading the dough together; the dough will look a bit crumbly. 
4.Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough together once or twice, just until it sticks together. Press the dough into a 1-inch disc, wrap in plastic film, and refrigerate until firm, about 1/2 hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 180 degree centigrade and line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place it on a floured work surface. 
6. Press the dough into a 6-by-5-inch rectangle. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a larger 10-by-7-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough in half, forming two 5-by-7-inch pieces. 
7. Using a pizza wheel or sharp paring knife, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Carefully place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet leaving a little room between each cookie. 
8. Brush the tops with the reserved egg mixture and sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on top. Gently press the salt into the surface of each cookie so it does not fall off. 
9. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.



Oh and the Urban Dazzle and Cookaroo is still on. If you'd like to win a set of six of these gorgeous mini pie plates, click here for entering






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