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Watermelon Feta Salad ~ My version

I buy feta cheese at ridiculous prices here in Hyderabad and have it spoil while I make grand plans to use it inventively. A few days ago, I discovered a still fresh stash of feta in my fridge and cringed at how much I paid for it and how carelessly I kept it. That discovery hardly prompted me to do anything about it. I have been in a food funk lately and I won’t lie.

The only food I am interested in cooking these days is to pack into K’s lunch. One day its a glass noodle salad (which he won’t eat, its for his colleagues), one day plain dal, rotis and sabzi. That apart, I’m eating leftovers.

I have rocket lettuce growing out of control on my rooftop, I’ve neglected it beyond belief. I’m too lazy to go up and have left my plants un-watered for days on end. It is some wonder that they continue to grow. The watermelon lay in my fruit bowl alongside the apples, threatening to topple the bowl in which it sat since sunday and I wondered if I should just slice it up for Sage. I have an assortment of paper tea cups on my kitchen window. I have some lettuce, some garlic chives and radishes growing in them. The radishes I grow only for the leaves and it makes for an excellent rocket leaves substitute.

radish leaves in a salad

radish leaves in a salad

Yesterday, I was online after ages and was trawling my favourite food sites. Suddenly overcome with a fresh dose of guilt, I bolted to the kitchen to make lunch for myself. I gathered the watermelon with Sage underfoot, fished out the feta salad that lay languishing in the fridge and plucked out the lettuce from the paper cups (still too lazy to walk upstairs).

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

Watermelon Feta is one of the easiest salads to make. It is also the most forgiving. Usually onions and mint leaves are added. I don’t like either in salad so I skipped the onion and swapped out the scanty lettuce leaves for the mint.

I’ve found fresh paneer to be quite a good substitute for feta. Add salt to the milk and make it freshly at home using this recipe for an easy replacement if you cannot source feta cheese where you live.

Watermelon Feta Salad (Serves 2)

2 cups Cubed and de seeded watermelon (preferably chilled)

1/2 cup of cubed feta cheese

handful of lettuce (or mint leaves if you prefer)

8-10 pitted green Olives, brine rinsed off

For the dressing

2 tablespoons Extra virgin Olive oil

1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

In  a small bowl, add the ingredients for the dressing and whisk well with a fork.

Add the watermelon chunks, lettuce and olives and toss a bit. Pour half of the dressing over this and toss it. Add the cubed feta chunks and pour the remaining dressing over the feta cubes. Serve immediately. Make sure the watermelon chunks are chilled.

Gouda and Pizza Sauce Muffins Recipe

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Gouda Cheese and Pizza Sauce Muffin

Gouda Cheese and Pizza Sauce Muffin

Amma is currently with me and as is the usual practice, I try and make something interesting when she is around. Unlike K, she is game to try anything at least once, and is deeply appreciative of my culinary escapades 🙂

A conversation almost always gets triggered from a food memory. This time, while asking about the ingredients I used, and knowing that finely grated cheese was used, she told me about how there was food rationing in the 50’s and some of the schools and organisations affiliated to America received supplies of  cheese powder and egg powder which they had no idea how to use. So they would mix the two and make scrambled eggs 🙂

I told her how I love savoury muffins and that it is a pity most people associated baking with cake and cake is sweet and hence all baked goods are expected to be sweet. In my baking classes, I used to teach a savoury pizza muffin, but due to it having not too many enthusiasts, I changed that over to a sweet variant.

For this muffin, I eyeballed all the ingredients and it turned out wonderfully fluffy and full of flavour.

I ran out of whole wheat flour, and have used half of all purpose flour and half whole wheat, feel free to use whole wheat flour for the whole amount, but expect the crumb to be a little grainy.

The pizza sauce I used is the one I posted in the Fusilli with pine nuts recipe. This is an all purpose pizza / pasta sauce that is very handy to have in the fridge.

Gouda Cheese and Pizza Sauce Muffin

Gouda Cheese and Pizza Sauce Muffin

Gouda Cheese and Pizza Sauce Muffins (Makes 6 large muffins)

1/2 cup All purpose flour (Maida)

1/2 cup Whole wheat flour (Atta)

1/2 cup Grated gouda cheese + 2 teaspoons for garnish

(Use any cheese such as parmesan or even processed cheddar, mozarella makes the muffin stringy, hence not recommended)

1 Egg (to make this eggless, use 1/4 cup milk + 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, let it sit for 5 minutes and use when the recipe calls for egg)

1/2 cup Milk (I used full fat)

1/4 cup Pizza/ Pasta sauce (check for the recipe here or use store bought)

8-10 fresh basil leaves, shredded (substitute with any fresh herbs of choice – mint, coriander, garlic chives or even spring onions)

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Salt to taste (add half of what you think you need because the sauce and cheese are salty)

Preheat the oven to 185 C and brush the bottom of a muffin pan with oil. For an even brown crumb, do not use muffin liners.

In a bowl, add the all purpose flour, wheat flour, grated cheese, salt, baking powder, baking soda, chopped onion and basil leaves and toss well.

In another bowl, add the egg and milk and whisk with a fork. Add the pizza sauce and mix it well. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and with a light hand, mix till the batter is just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups equally, garnish with the reserved grated cheese. Bake for 16-17 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness.

Cool in the pan for 3-4 minutes before running a blunt knife around the edges of the muffin pan and removing them to a cooling rack / serving plate.

These muffins are best eaten warm. Can be stored refrigerated for upto 4 days.

PS: To make this an eggless muffin; use 1/4 cup milk + 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, let it sit for 5 minutes and use when the recipe calls for egg

 

 

One Pot Spaghetti with Tomato and Mushrooms

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Spaghetti with Mushroom and Tomato

Cooking for one is my most favourite and least favourite task in the kitchen. No I am not a person who cannot make up my mind. Cooking for one means I get to make and eat what I want, something which K doesn’t particularly care for (pasta) or even one of my not so successful experiments. Cooking for one also means that I will eat in solitude and that is not my favourite thing to do!

Last year, the one pot pasta recipe was a rage across the interwebs. Anyone who had access to the net and had one or more social networking account (from twitter to pinterest) was cooking a one pot pasta in a frenzy and marvelling at its convenience. I tried it too and the first time, it cooked itself into a flavourless gunk. I was so disappointed with the outcome that I almost cried. And that has not happened with me in a long time. I made the mistake of making it and serving it when we had guests. No one noticed because of the other dishes that were served, but I had a lot leftover which I sent to the freezer while I thought about salvaging it. Which I did a few days later, with a tonne of roasted vegetables, a layer of cheese and baked the gunk to resemble a casserole which I and amma ploughed through for a couple of meals! It would be a while before I attempted to cook this again I thought!

Today I was determined to get this right, and since I was cooking just for myself, I could quickly deal with the failure too incase that happened. 

When making a one pot pasta, the thing to remember and work around, is the kind of pasta that is being used. I used an Indian brand of spaghetti made by Bambino. The label reads “made of durum wheat’ but I find that this cooks into a gunk if not stirred atleast 3-4 times while it is being cooked. Maybe using another shape of pasta wouldn’t need baby sitting. But this is not a show stopper for me. I mean, one cooking pot, dunk everything in and stand around the stove (playing candy crush in between stirs) for 10 minutes cannot be that off putting.

Spaghetti with Mushroom and Tomato

Spaghetti with Mushroom and Tomato

One Pot Spaghetti with Tomato and Mushrooms

(serves 2, Time Taken: Prep time – 5 minutes, Cooking time – 12 minutes)

Spaghetti  – to serve 2 people (I eyeballed this, about 100 grams)

Onion – 1 medium, halved and sliced

Garlic pods – 2, sliced

Button Mushrooms – 1 cup, washed and quartered

Tomato – 1 large, chopped into 8-10 pieces

Olive oil – 2 tablespoons

Salt and pepper – to taste

Red Chilli Flakes – 1/2 teaspoon

Sugar – 1/4 teaspoon (the tomato I used was tart, skip if you are using sweet tomatoes)

a few sprigs of fresh basil

Cream Cheese – 2 teaspoons (optional but recommended or use grated cheese)

Method:

Slice the onion, mushroom, tomato and garlic. Fill a heavy bottomed cooking pot with 2 cups of water.

Put everything into a pot and boil

Put everything into a pot and boil

Add all the ingredients except the cream cheese / cheese to the pot and stir well, bring this to a boil.

Cook on medium high heat, stirring every 2 minutes for about 8-10 minutes or till the pasta is cooked.

The water would have reduced and the starch from the pasta along with the other ingredients makes a nice light sauce. Check for salt and adjust if needed.

Stir in the cream cheese/ grated cheese, give it a nice mix and spoon out into bowls. Garnish with a sprig of basil and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve hot.

Last year, I attended a cooking demonstration at an Italian restaurant. One of the most valuable tips the chef gave us was to fry thinly sliced garlic in olive oil and stock it to use as a flavour enhancer in recipes. Added to the most simple soups, salads or even pasta, the fried garlic and the infused oil, gives the dish an intense burst of flavour. I used a teaspoon of this oil to drizzle on my pasta. It was terrific even if I say so myself!

Quesadilla ~ From Scratch

quesadilla

quesadilla

I used to stuff leftover rotis with whatever curry of the day was available, grate cheese onto it and pan toast it till the cheese melted, not knowing that they had a fancy name! Imagine my joy when I realised that it was a very popular Mexican preparation! I love quesadillas. Usually with nice warm melty cheese inside. They are easy to make especially if you have lunch/ brunch with friends as you can make the components ahead of time and just assemble toast on demand.

I had a girls night out a few months ago and we made a Mexican spread… needless to say, the tortilla wraps and these quesadillas were a huge hit.

I’ve slacked off on the blogging …. catching up!

spinach and corn quesadilla

spinach and corn quesadilla

Quesadilla (Makes 6 servings)

Flour Tortillas                       6

Spinach                                    1 large bunch, washed and finely chopped

Corn                                           ¼ cup (fresh or frozen)

Cheese (such as cheddar)  1 cup, grated

Salt and pepper                      to taste

Onion                                          1 medium, sliced

Cumin powder                        ¼ teaspoon

Red Chilli Powder                  ¼ teaspoon

Vegetable Oil                           2 teaspoons

In a hot pan, heat one teaspoon of oil and add the onion and sauté till translucent. Add the corn and cumin powder and cook till the corn is half cooked. Add the finely chopped and well drained spinach and cook for 4-5 minutes till the water from the spinach has evaporated but the spinach is still a bright green colour. Cool this filling.

Heat the flour tortillas on a medium hot tava. Add the spinach and corn filling to one half of the tortilla and spread a few tablespoons of grated cheese over it. Fold the other half over it and press down with a flat spatula or a steel plate for 10-20 seconds.

Turn the tortilla over, drizzle a little oil on the edges and press down for 5-6 seconds till the cheese is melting. Remove from the tava, slice into wedges and serve hot with a salad, salsa and guacamole dip.

Repeat with all the tortillas. You can use any spicy curried filling instead of the spinach and corn one. Mushrooms, sautéed peppers, chicken or even curried Paneer can be used.

Beat the Heat Series ~ Insalata Caprese with Basil Pesto

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So the summer in hyderabad is fully upon us on its way out (which must tell you how long this post sat in drafts) and as always, I have a reputation to keep and whining to do… remarkably this year tho, I handled the heat much better than the Kman… he was  whining more than me, and mine are some really big boots to fill…

Anyhow, this is a salad I almost always order when we eat at an Italian restaurant and that in Hyderabad means many many restaurants! every five star hotel worth its salt needs to have an italian restaurant plus the many stand alone ones… I marveled at the simplicity and freshness of this salad, where the few ingredients stand out and flavour and texture is everything…

I lamented (there is a pattern here, I am not cantankerous for nothing!) that there is no good buffalo mozarella to be had outside of pricey restaurants….that was till I found out this Punjab made fresh mozarella in water… at I ate most of it as it was… saving the rest to make this salad… at 230 rupees a box its a little pricey, but thats the most expensive component of the salad. Make this and feel like a domestic God/ Goddess!

While the temperature still is higher than we’d like, serve this and enjoy it as a nice quick appetizer

Insalata Caprese – Serves 3

3 Large Ripe tomatoes (choose the sweet variety, I used bangalore/ salad tomatoes)

100 grams of fresh buffalo mozarella

20 fresh Basil leaves, washed and drained on paper towels

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 cup basil pesto (recipe follows)

For the Pesto

1 cup of fresh basil leaves, picked, washed and drained

1/5th cup of roasted pine nuts (replace with almonds or walnuts if you dont have pine nuts)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated

a pinch of salt and pepper

1 garlic clove, peeled

Making the Pesto

Put all the ingredients except the olive oil and basil into a food processor and pulse till the nuts and cheese are pulsed evenly. Then add the washed basil leaves and pulse a few more times. Scrape down the sides of the jar and add the olive oil and pulse some more until you get a nice creamy pesto. I do this in 5-6 short pulses to get a fairly creamy pesto. Some people prefer some texture in their pesto, so check midway between pulsing the ingredients and stop when you like the consistency.

This makes 3/4 cup of pesto and can be used immediately. If you want to freeze the pesto, do not add the parmesan cheese. when you defrost the pesto and are ready to use it, mix in finely grated parmesan cheese.

To Assemble the Caprese Salad

Layer the sliced tomato and mozarella cheese. Add a freshly washed leaf of basil. Assemble over a plate till you use up all the sliced tomatoes and mozarella. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over it scantly (optional, I did not do this). Drizzle over with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Spoon over the pesto and enjoy it fresh.

Alternatively, make small stacks of the tomato, mozarella, basil leaves, season with scant salt and pepper, drizzle over some EVOO and spoon over the pesto.

Home made Cream Cheese Spread with Celery, Cumin and Chilli Flakes

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Too much milk on hand and a thick bunch of fresh celery gave me an idea. I started off making herbed cottage cheese using the milk, cumin and celery. I felt lazy and instead of draining it out and using a muslin cloth with a weight to make it into a block, I let the whey drain out in the colander. I ended up with a ricotta like texture. So voila cream cheese was born!

this is an easy recipe and can be made using whatever herbs and spices you have on hand/prefer. Use it with crackers/ breadsticks/ khakra/ vegetable crudites or as a spread for sandwiches.

Herbed and Spiced Cream Cheese Spread – Celery, Cumin and Chilli Flakes

(Makes one large cup)

1 litre milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice / vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh celery leaves chopped fine, reserve some for garnish

1 stalk celery chopped fine

1 teaspoon red chilly flakes

1/2 teaspoon cumin, lightly crushed

1 pod of garlic, peeled

In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a boil, add the celery leaves and stalk, cumin. Reduce the heat and add the lemon juice/ vinegar and simmer for a few minutes till the milk curdles and the whey seperates.

After about 15 minutes, keep a vessel underneath a cloth lined sieve and drain out the whey water from the curds. the whey water is high in nutrients and can be used to thin out gravies/ soups/ dal etc or to knead dough for rotis. You can keep this in the fridge for a few hours till all the water is drained out.

when all the water has drained out, add the garlic pod and the ricotta to a blender and whizz till smooth and creamy.  Add a few teaspoons of the whey if needed to get a creamy consistency. Remove into a bowl, add the reserved celery leaves and red chilly flakes and salt to taste and mix thoroughly. Chill till needed.

This stays in the fridge for a couple of days if stored in an airtight container. Serve with crackers/ breadsticks or vegetable crudites. Use as a sandwich spread.

Storing Fresh Herbs

I always go overboard at grocery stores when i see exotic herbs and buy bags/ bunches of them. the herbs sit in the fridge for longer than they need to and then get  trashed because they have gone bad or wilted or blackened. This time i chopped up all the celery stalks and put the chopped pieces into an ice cube tray. Filled it with water and froze it. Removed the celery ice cubes and stored them in a ziplock bag for later use. this way the herbs retain their colour and flavour. I plan to do this with all the herbs i now buy.

Recreating Bhutan thru food – Shamu Datshi (Bhutanese Mushroom and Cheese Recipe)

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One of my favourite posts to write was the one I did post returning from a wonderful holiday inBhutan. The beautiful landscape, colours and gorgeous people, not to mention the lovely food we ate throughout the trip was enough to inspire me. Something that is severely missing on this blog, when yesterday I realised that I’d last posted in September.

In fact, funnily I have been cooking and baking quite a bit. What with the extra hours I have on hand because of early rising due to the pooch. Somehow, never got down to making it here and am about to remedy that!

With the weather finally getting a nip and winter deciding to descend on our neck of the woods, memories of the food we ate inBhutanbecame so strong that it urged me to try and recreate it.

We enjoyed the vegetable and cheese preparations almost daily. Ema Datshi – Chillies and Cheese, Kewa Datshi – Potato and Cheese and my favourite Shamu Datshi – Mushrooms and Cheese.

It’s a simple recipe, the most time consuming aspect of this is the chopping of the mushrooms! Because the dish cooks itself in less than 10 minutes!

I found a recipe online and used that as a base, I omitted the tomatoes, because the version we had didn’t have tomatoes in it. I also used Amul processed cheese as that is the only one I had on hand. Am sure a combination of cheddar and mozzarella would be ideal. The taste was almost the same as what I recall. Pretty good for a first attempt at recreation!

Shamu Datshi (Serves 3)

Button Mushrooms – 200 grams, washed thinly sliced

Unsalted butter – 1 tablespoon

Water – ¼ cup

Cheese – 2/3 cup, grated (I used 3 cubes of Amul Processed cheese)

Spring onions – 3-4 sliced thinly

The cheese I used was  quite salty so I did not add any more salt.

Method

In a pan, place the sliced mushrooms, water, butter, and salt (if using) over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 5 minutes till the mushrooms are cooked. Stir in the grated cheese, and green onion, cover, and cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Pour into a serving dish and serve with rice.

That’s it! It’s a fantastic dish to serve for cheese lovers. Makes a great and easy addition to a party table. Can be eaten with nice crusty bread as well, but goes best with hot Rosematta rice.

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