Friday, October 06, 2006

Birth of a new Blog



CoconutChutney is now at: WWW.COCONUTCHUTNEY.ORG

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Honey-Walnut Wontons

I'm a big fan of traditions, passed down from one generation to another, from mom to daughter, from the past to the future - tradition serves as a memory of a different time and of people and is much more than a just a sequence of actions - it is a bridge to the future.

 

Every time the skies open and rain pours down my window, and the air is fragrant with the scent of the earth, I do one of a few things - Stand at my window celebrating the rain, or sit down with a large cup of something warm. The rain helps me slow my pace down, no more lists to make, no more worries to harbor - just follow the gentle pitter-patter of the raindrops and let everything else go, at least for a bit.

 

Allowing ourselves to indulge every once in a while is a luxury that we sometimes don't let ourselves enjoy often enough. Being focussed on the present, on this very moment - however sane it may sound, sometimes doesn't feed the soul, it can be rejuvenating to not be in the present - to be in a different time and place, to enjoy a guilt-free slice of time is pure bliss!

Honey-Walnut Wontons
Recipe:

My interpretation of Baklava with an asian twist that is perfectly crunchy and sweet and very addictive and so very indulgent. This is my entry to Sugar High Friday 23 - Surprise Inside!

 
Mix chopped walnuts (3/4 cup) with honey (1 Tbsp.)and 1 Tsp. Cinnamon. Brush the edges of the wonton wrapper with water, place 1 tsp. of the walnut mixture in the center of the wrapper and fold into a triangle. Seal the edges. Now, curl the other side of the wonton and overlap the edges and seal, making sure that the walnut mixture doesm't seep out of the wonton.
Heat oil and deep fry wontons till golden brown, drizzle with honey and melted chocolate, if desired. 

Monday, September 04, 2006

Samosas with Mint Raita

Fast food doesn't always have to be a bad thing, the popular connotation for fast food now has come to be what is served at chain drive-throughs or something that is fixed in a jiffy at a grease-spoon. Traditionally, food-on-the-go was something that took forever for the cook to prepare but was easy for the consumer to handle in a rush. Empanadas, Spanakopitas or Samosas are something that take time and patience but the end result is delicious and easy to handle - hence, good fast food!

 

Anybody who knows anything about comfort food knows that Potatoes are satisfying- what else could explain the warmth that envelopes a person indulging in a fork full of Mashed Potatoes or Shepherd's Pie, the potato is unitimidating, safe and not to mention gratifying.

Samosas are little pastries made with a simple filling of potatoes and spices, variations in the filling of this versatile snack food are endless ranging from lamb to spinach to beets. Sold at bakeries and snack shops, at fancy restaurants and little tea-stalls, all over India and the world they range from mild to spicy and are an usual accompaniment to afternoon tea. They are served with chutneys or raitas that are perfect for dunking the samosa - this is usually followed by a engaging debate about politics, cricket or whatever is the flavour of the day !

 

The pastry for the samosas vary from being buttery and flaky to crisp and crunchy. This recipe for the pastry calls for semolina which is ground grain - wheat, rice or corn, which gives the pastry its crumbly texture that melts in the mouth. Mint raita which is served with snacks as well as rice dishes is refreshing and mitigates the heat in the food. Made from fresh mint leaves - it is a delicious relish and can hold well on its own.

Samosas
Recipe:

For the pastry - Flour(3/4 cup), Semolina(1/4 cup -fine ground), a pinch of salt and Baking Powder (1/4 tsp.) are sifted together. Cut in Butter (2 Tbsp.) with a pastry blender and knead adding few drops of cold water to form a flexible dough. Cover with a damp cloth and keep aside.

For the filling - Heat oil and add finely-chopped ginger(1 inch), green chillies(2), turmeric(1/2 tsp),cumin powder(1/2 tsp) and red chilli powder(1 tsp). Add peeled and chopped potatoes(2). Add salt to taste and cook till the potatoes are done. Take off the heat, mash the potatoes and add 1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice.

Roll out the lemon-sized balls of the pastry, cut into semi-circles and make a cone, place the filling inside and crimp the edges to form a triangle shaped samosa. Make sure that the filling doesn't spill out of the pastry. Heat oil and deep-fry the samosas till golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Mint Raita
Recipe:

Blend 1 cup plain yogurt with chopped mint leaves (3/4 cup), chopped onion(1/4 cup) and salt to taste. Refrigerate and serve cold with the samosas.

'Samosas with Mint Raita' is my entry to the very timely - La Festa al Fresco.

 

Monday, August 28, 2006

Grilled Pineapple with Grand Marnier - Cream Sauce

Sometimes, the most simply prepared food is the most memorable - pasta tossed in butter and parsley for an easy meal, a perfectly ripe mango in the peak of summer or peach-ice on an overbearingly hot day, life's joys sometimes is in the small things. Not fussing with complex recipes or hard-to-find ingredients spares time for a lazy afternoon nap, re-reading a forgotten novel or sharing a laugh with loved ones. As summer crawls to an end, the need to capture every last bit of summer sets in, and with it, a craving for everything summer - fresh vegetables, bright colors, breezy blouses and flip-flops.

 

Although they don't often find their place in traditional pies or cobblers, tropical fruits epitomize summer - juicy mangoes, papaya or melons sometimes take the place of a meal around this time of the year. A few ingredients and a juicy pineapple, with some time, transform into an elegant and simple dessert - with subtle flavours and unexpected ingredients. Grand Marnier - an orange flavoured liquer that is instanly recognized by its signature red seal and renowned in the world of spirits for its quality and excellence, tenders a delicate flavour of oranges to the butter-cream sauce and takes the grilled pineapple to the next level.

 
Recipe:
Remove the skin from the pineapple, cut away the 'eyes' and slice into spears. Brush melted butter and grill the spears for a few minutes on each side, till grill marks start to appear.

In a saucepan, add brown sugar (1/2 cup),butter(1/3 cup) and heavy cream(1/2 cup), stir till the sugar melts and bring to a boil over medium heat. Take it off the heat, add orange juice(1/3 cup) and grand marnier(1/3 cup). Arrange the spears in a bowl and spoon the sauce over it. Garnish with orange zest.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Roasted Bell Pepper Hors d'oeuvres

 

Like with life, sometimes with food, what you see is not what you get. Appearances can be deceptive, and so can first impressions. The most comforting, delicious food need not photograph well and may not even illicit signs of awe, that a french macaron or a sugar sculpture can, but who is to say what can feed the appetite and soothe the soul. For some, it may be mom's meatloaf or that aroma of vanilla that permeates the kitchen when a cake rises in the oven. Like life, food deserves a second chance and an open mind.

Bell peppers are an ingredient that finds itself in everything ranging from stir frys to dips, simply tweaking the method of preparation brings out a subtle quality of the bell pepper, a smoky sweetness that pairs with poultry as well as seafood.

 

Roasted Bell Peppers, in its nascent stage looks charred and unsavoury - something that deserves to be tossed out - but on a second thought, just peeling the dark skin reveals a slick, sweet and smoky rendering of the bell pepper that is a bounty only for the patient. Roasting bell peppers is surprisingly easy - all one needs to do is turn up the broiler and place the bell peppers under it, turning occassionally till all the sides turn black.

The cooled bell peppers now, after removing the seeds, can be preserved in olive oil, to be tossed later in a pasta salad, or to be layered in a panini for an easy summer meal, or can serve as a tasty envelope for any filling that your heart desires.

 

Recipe:
Roast Bell peppers(4) under a hot broiler till the skin is charred. Let cool, peel the skin & remove the seeds and cut into strips an inch and a half wide.

For the filling:

Mix shredded, cooked chicken (2 cups) with pesto (3 Tbsp.), lime juice(1 Tbsp.) and fresh chopped basil(1 Tsp.). Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the filling into the roasted bell pepper strips, and roll tightly. Refrigerate these rolls for an hour, slice into bite-sized pieces and serve topped with french fried onions. 

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Kaya Appam - Banana Fritters

 

Deep frying - however intimidating it may be, always results in instant gratification. I've never met a soul who didn't like french fries, spring rolls or heck..even fried zucchini blossoms. There has to be some math somewhere that says that frying food adds calories exponentially in a manner that is directly proportional to taste, with some exceptions to the rule of course! Anybody, who has ever had a hot doughnut melt in their mouth knows exactly what I am talking about.

Banana Fritters - Kaya Appam as they are known in the state of Kerala, India are delicious, sweet fritters that are crisp to bite into and tender inside, bursting with the flavour of Bananas and Cardamom and sweetened with Jaggery. The closest comparison I can make of the crunchy outside is to Hushpuppies, but the similarity stops there.

Jaggery is a version of sugar that is relatively unprocessed, and doesn't contain the chemicals used in processing cane juice to sugar, it is an ingredient in a majority of Keralite (from the state of Kerala, India) Desserts. Jaggery or Gur as it is also known, ranges in color from pale to deep brown, has a crumbly texture and is usually sold in blocks weighing a pound or so.

Kaya Appam is my entry to Food Parade on Independence Day.

 

Banana Fritters taste best after they've had some time to sit, usually a day or two later - ie., if you're lucky, usually doesn't last that long !

Recipe:
Melt coarsely chopped Jaggery (3/4 lb.) in a saucepan with 2-3 tsp. of water to a smooth consistency. On sufficiently cooling add melted Jaggery to the mashed bananas (3), add 1 tsp. Cardamom powder and 1 tsp. Baking Powder and mix well.

Add flour(3/4 cup), I used wheat flour, all-purpose flour will work too, till the mixture reached a medium consistency - a little thicker than the consistency of pancake batter. If the consistency is too thin add some more flour or if it is too thick dilute with water and add jaggery accordingly. Drop spoonfulls of this batter into the hot oil and turn occassionally to get a even brown color throughout.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Lemon Garlic Chicken Kebabs with Roasted Vegetables

I love GAHLIC !! I have a tendency to almost double the amount of garlic in everything I make ..correction- everything other than 'chicken with forty cloves of garlic' - that I don't want to mess with. Garlic doesn't leave your breath smelling like roses - but the way I think about it - that can be fixed with some mint! In addition to the various health benefits that garlic has to offer ranging from mitigating and resisting the common flu to some cancers, it is the centerpiece of my repertoire. Chopped garlic sauteed in olive oil is the first step to a delicious meal. The base for sauces, marinades and dresssings, this is something I inadvertently always always have in my kitchen.

 

A recent episode of Alton Brown's 'Good Eats' focused on Garlic, and confirmed what my Grandmom had told me years ago - that the smaller clove of garlic had much more flavour than the larger, easier to peel version, and that the elephant garlic or the XL ones that you find in the grocery store is not really garlic but a kind of leek !! I'd be stumped if I had to cook for someone who was allergic to Garlic - I'll have to search for recipes that didn't include this miracle bulb!

For a simple meal, I marinated chicken that was cut to bite-sized pieces in olive oil, chopped garlic, lemon juice and salt for at least half an hour. Roasted vegetables, I think have a greater complexity of taste than ones that are boiled or even sauteed, I'd like to roast vegetables more often except that I don't often like to deal with a hot kitchen in the summer. Eggplant and Bell pepper cut in long strips and tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper went into a oven at 350 F for 45 minutes.

After the chicken is marinated, thread it onto the skewers alternating with juicy strawberry tomatoes. To avoid the wooden skewers from burning on the grill - soak them in water. Place the skewered kebabs on a hot grill and turn occasionally till the chicken is tender and opaque all the way. Transfer the skewers onto a bed of roasted vegetables and serve immediately.