Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Behold! It is Parmesan

Home-made delights!

I have been watching food shows on the tele and on YouTube for the longest time now. And if there is any conclusions to be drawn or inference to be gathered, it is this - people love to finish off a dish with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan (or even better Parmigiano Reggiano).

All this while, it had remained a big mystery - what is this magic ingredient that transforms the ugly duckling into the beautiful swan every time? For the most part, when I visit the local grocery stores in the neighbourhood, I come across the ubiquitous processed cheese by Amul and a handful of other 'herby' cheese spreads that have erupted into the Indian market. I have nothing against these, I mean whatever works -  but I have to admit that when I bought that block of Parmesan I had to pause to soak in the accumulated glory of at least five years of watching tele food shows!   

The Cheese Ball at Meherchand market has been a favourite of mine ever since I discovered it four years back, but I had always only tried their own brand - Flanders. So mozarella - ricotta - gouda, all had their moments but Parmesan, well that was a different league altogether. My cousin Shruti and I hurried back home and we tried out our precious purchase in simple vegetarian pasta dish. Tomatoes, garlic, basil, and dried wild mushrooms. All that with a generous portion of grated Parmesan - and, it was delicious.

Needless to say, my favourite tomato sauce has just got better. This is the one I use for my pizza sauce - here - (although I have stopped using onions in tomato sauce after I realized that I like better with just garlic). One could add a pinch or two of sugar though to add a tinge of sweetness to the sauce.

For the pasta, we used spaghetti and boiled it along with the mushrooms. The mushrooms flavoured the pasta water and added a hint of a smoky flavour, which I grown to love so much. Once the sauce was prepared we added a generous portion of the Parmesan along with the pasta, the mushrooms, and a small cup of the starchy pasta water. We let it cook for five to ten minutes, tossing the pasta every now and then so that every strand was covered in that heavenly goodness of tomatoes and cheese and basil. By the end of it we were so hungry that we turned on the AC in the bedroom, plopped down on the bed, and devoured the pasta in big mouthfuls.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Celebrating summers: Gourd, mong-phung, and lemon leaves

Summer-time delight


The shiny new laptop is here finally. The updates are done, thanks to Len and I am now the proud owner of a really jazzy piece of techie goodness. This of course means regular blog updates - no more excuses now - along with a healthy dose of good cinema, music, and of course, more writing.

Summers are here in full swing, and its been almost scorching most days. But luckily since Thursday the temperatures have dipped slightly and it has been partially overcast during the day. The best thing about this is that the plants on my terrace get some respite from the heat, and watering them once a day is sufficient. And anyone who has ever lived through summers in Delhi would instantly know that potted pants requiring water just once a day, is as good as it would ever get this time of the year! 

I had made a gourd curry some time back but lack of a working computer forbade me from sharing this recipe. It didn't strike a cord with some people at work when I insisted that boiled gourd can indeed taste good, but perhaps there are others out there who also like this vegetable in its most basic form! :) Our very own mong-phung tree (that we brought all the way from Manipur) has grown in size and I used it to flavour my curry along with some fresh lemon and coriander leaves. I had written a post earlier about how much I hate eating/making kofte, especially using gourd, and this recipe just reinstates the fact that when gourd is cooked in a way that keep its flavour and texture intact it is delicious.

Shades of green

What you need

1 baby gourd, diced
10-15 baby potatoes, scrubbed clean, whole or cut into half
2-3 garlic, cloves, chopped4-5 cherry tomatoes
Mong-che, a handful*
Lemon leaves, a handful
Coriander leaves, a handful, chopped
Green chillies, chopped
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp, vegetable oil
2 cups, water

* Mong-che has a slightly tangy flavour and generally the soft young leaves are eaten. When curried they become very soft and almost melt in the mouth. As a substitute, any other leafy vegetables could be used, along with a squeeze of lemon. Also, the number of cherry tomatoes could be increased to balance the flavours.

How to

Essentially boiled, the only time one needs to really watch this curry is at the beginning, when you add the oil and garlic. The garlic should be slightly golden - not more. Then add the potatoes and gourd.

Stir fry the vegetables for 5-7 minutes before adding all other ingredients. Add water and cover. The curry needs to cook for about 20 minutes after which it can be transferred on to a serving bowl.

With its soft fresh flavours, this curry tastes great with steamed rice and a dried-shrimp pickle on the side.