Friday, February 12, 2016

Crispy BBQ-ed pork

BBQ-ed pork on a bed of lettuce
I suppose everybody has a go-to store-bought favourite sauce or seasoning that they like to turn to. And even though theoretically I want to make everything from scratch I don't always do it. In fact I have a few standards that save the day each time. One of them is the good old BBQ sauce. Its one of those party savers and weeknight mood-lifters when a little bit of BBQ-ed chicken wings can make dinner seem oh-so perfect each time! 

Weather-wise February is the perfect month in Delhi. The sun is shining and there's just the right amount of chill in the air. It is however notorious for spreading the flu - the ever persistent, nagging, and annoying as hell cold and cough that siphon off the joys of spring. Needless to say I have been bitten by the flu bug a few times this season. The other day sitting at home and generally too lazy to cook lunch for myself I decided to skip the usual curry routine and try some BBQ-ed meat. The only snag - no chicken. There was however some pork belly that has been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of days. So I tried it out and it was a successful attempt! My favourite BBQ sauce came in handy yet again. Yippie! 

What you need

300gm pork*
5-6 tbsp, BBQ sauce
1 onion, small-sized, chopped
1 tbsp, olive oil
Pepper, to taste
Dry BBQ seasoning, to taste

* I used pork belly but I think anything works, just as long as it has a bit of fat.

My favourite!

How to

Clean and dry pork with a kitchen towel. Transfer to a baking dish and rub in the olive oil and a generous seasoning of black pepper.

In the meantime, heat oven to 180 degrees. Pop in the pork in the middle rack and roast for 20 minutes.

The pork would have lightly browned by now and all the excess fat would have come out. Drain the fat out completely and then coat the pork with the BBQ sauce. Put it back in the oven for 15 more minutes, first at 180 and then at 220 degrees for the last couple of minutes. Check if the sauce has caramelised in bits. BBQ-ed pork is now ready to eat.

The sauce at the base of the dish is really delicious. You could take it out and dunk in your pieces as you eat. Yum!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Red-white-green: Pizza Margherita

On a picnic plate

When fast food from the West first descended upon urban India there was just a single name to reckon with. Growing up in the nineties we all knew of Nirula's - their Big Boy Burger, pizzas, and hot chocolate fudge were immensely popular. Coming to pizzas I think I was in high school when the bigger brands - the MNCs - opened shop: I think it was mainly Pizza Hut and Dominoes, and very quickly they caught on. The rich kids threw birthday parties at either, and ordering in pizza on week-nights, weekends, special days, and anytime you didn't want to have daal-chawal for dinner, became the done thing. Pizza cheese was the stretchy cheese and extra oregano seasoning was always saved. In fact for the longest time I thought oregano wasn't just a single herb but the dried salty mix that came with pizzas.

But times have changed and thanks to the internet and greater awareness of Italian food, there seems to be a general shift in marketing strategies in the Indian food market. From American fast food to Italian gourmet. The thick bready dough has given way to thin crust and freeze-dried oregano to fresh basil.

So, when my cousin Shruti (check out her on-going project here) was over last weekend, she got me the best gift ever. A basil sapling and a fistful of sweet smelling basil from her garden. We decided to go partially gourmet! Pizza Margherita :) And even though I had been making my own pizza sauce for a long time now I had always used freeze-dried herbs for the lack of a better alternative. It worked nicely in the past but I never knew I was missing out on such an incredible flavor that fresh basil adds to any tomato sauce. Sweet and fragrant this pizza sauce perfectly complemented the salty mozzarella. In fact, I loved it so much that I made it again for a birthday picnic lunch with Rupak. Sadly though Caramel turned up her nose at my pizza preferring to run around on the grass and munch on her chew sticks and dog bones instead :)

Ready for the oven

What you need

This recipe makes enough sauce to spread over four ten-inch pizzas.

8 ripe tomatoes, medium-sized
1 onion, small-sized and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp, olive oil
10-15 fresh basil leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried basil)
Baking soda, a large pinch
1/4 tsp, sugar
2 tbsp, water
Salt and pepper, to taste

How to

This is probably the easiest pizza sauce I have ever made and yet the most flavourful!

There are two ways to prep the tomatoes. This time around I used the first technique. Stick a fork into a tomato and hold it directly over the gas-stove turning it from time to time. This loosens the skin and once slightly burnt, it can be easily peeled off. This needs to  be done for all the tomatoes. Once the skin is off, roughly chop them. I like to do this for a chunky tomato sauce but if you want a smooth puree, try this second one: cut the tomatoes half and place on a slightly oiled baking tray at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes. Once cooled, they can then be pureed and used for the sauce.

In a pan, pour in olive oil and heat slightly. Add the onions and sauté till slightly pink. Now, throw in the chopped garlic and cook till the raw smell of garlic disappears.

Now add the tomatoes (whichever variant you choose). They need to be cooked for about ten minutes: then add the baking soda, salt, pepper. Cook for another 10-15 minutes. If it gets too dry, add a sprinkle of water and cover.

Add the sugar before turning off the heat.

Lastly tear the basil and add them to the sauce. Cover and allow it to cool.