Sunday, February 09, 2014

Easy Whole Wheat Focaccia

Life is made up of experiences; some sweet, some not so good, some which you just want to lock up in a treasure chest and keep close to your heart and some you wouldn’t want to touch even with a barge pole. These little and large, bitter and sweet memories come together and form the screenplay of life. We may not remember every one of our experiences but most of us have pretty vivid memories of the various ‘firsts’ in our life… the first crush, our first job/ paycheck, our first drive may be. Only the thought of them is enough to make you smile. This post is about one of my first experiences, my first attempt at baking bread.
I have always been a breads person. Give me bread and butter for breakfast and I’m sold. Bandra, where I grew up is famous for numerous bakeries where freshly baked bread is available round-the-clock. So, for all this self-professed affinity to bread, I never attempted to bake it. The reason?  Baking, my Achilles heel. Somehow, my baking attempts have not been satisfactory. I have a pretty decent oven who behaves himself most of the times, I grill, I toast, I even managed to get the perfect roast chicken but when it came to baking, a cake or muffin was only as far as I got. So baking bread which I was told was an experts domain, remained a distant dream. I always wanted to bake bread but somehow never got myself to do it. Much like the shy, introverted good guy in college who secretly aspires to ask his lady love for a date, but doesn’t have the courage to do so. Not that I didn’t try, I did make the occasional prep but backed at the end moment; just like the shy guy in college would have his fears what if she snubbed me? What if she refused? I had my doubts, what if it didn’t come up as well as it should?  What if it didn’t sound hollow when knocked. Amongst all this one thing was for sure, she was his lady love and he had to win her over.
The moment of truth came in when on a very lazy Saturday when I happened to walk to my kitchen and began to scan the cabinets to search something. There it was, yeast and flour cheekily peeping at me. Which One? Focaccia was the easiest to make. That was it. I will make bread I thought. I started kneading the dough; gently cajoling and caressing it. With each gentle caress, she responded more eagerly. I learnt to handle her. Handle her well. She moved from being a powdered mess to a a gentle dough. First part done. I was happy. Now it was time for her to respond. I gave her the space and time she needed. She responded by doubling in size. A few more gentle caresses later, she was ready for another rest, before the final test of fire. Literally. I gently laid her in the tin drizzled her with olive oil and Salt. Then, with a prayer on my lips, adjusted the settings of the oven. The wait would  be a good 35 minutes. I picked up a book from the shelf and started to read. The oven timer went off after almost an eternity. I rushed to the kitchen and there she was; resplendent in all her glory. Shiny crust, nicely risen and a very satisfying hollow sound when tapped at the bottom. I was ecstatic. My joy knew no bounds. That evening we had bread and chicken stew for dinner.  Pure sensory delight.
That night, I went to bed a very satisfied man. After a lot of time and effort, I had mustered the courage to approach my lady love. To my surprise, I got to know that she loved me back. We confessed our love and promised to be together. Forever.
Easy Whole Wheat Focaccia
  • 500 grams, whole wheat flour (You could even use all purpose flour) + some more for dusting
  • 5 grams yeast (+ 2 teaspoons sugar and some lukewarm water)
  • 150 ml, extra virgin olive oil (please don’t use any other oil) + some more to sprinkle on top of the bread.
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • A generous helping of rosemary
  • salt to taste
  • Active the yeast by combining it with the sugar and warm water. Leave aside for 15 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt together. Now make a well in the center and add the yeast solution. Knead till it just about comes together.
  • Add the olive oil bit by bit and knead in stretching motions till the dough has formed a single smooth mass.
  • Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave it in a warm place to prove. This will need about 45 minutes to an hour.
  • One the dough has risen, knock it back gently, and deflate it. Then, give it a knead for about 8 minutes.
  • Grease a square or rectangular baking tin and put in the dough.
  • Gently create small dents in the dough and put in the tomatoes, garlic and sprinkle the rosemary.
  • Once again leave it in a warm place to prove for about 30 minutes. Your dough should have doubled by now. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes at 150 C
  • Sprinkle salt and olive oil in on the dough and bake at 180 C for 35 minutes.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Stollen Bread (Germany)- The World on my Plate series!

In the concluding part of “The world on my plate series”, we travel to a land far, far away from India. Germany. What do I make? Stollen Bread. Let me tell you a little bit more about my fascination for breads.
If you have been reading my blog; you would know that I don’t bake much. I did try a butter cake sometime back but that was it.  Baking breads, seemed a distant dream. I was told its only for the professionals. But, I always loved eating breads, perhaps because I’m a Bandra boy;  and we all know how famous bakeries in Bandra are across Mumbai.  But I was wanted to make (or should I say bake) my own bread. It  was  very therapeutic I was told.  Sigghhh.. Didn’t work with me.. But, I knew I wanted to culminate the series with something sweet. Something that we all could cherish.
I happened to be reading on various breads made in different parts of the world which was when I came across the ‘Stollen’ made in faraway Germany. This bread bears an uncanny resemblance to the Christmas cake. The difference being this is Stollen is leavened with yeast, stuffed with candied fruit and baked. The bread is shaped to look like the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. I had found the bread I’ve always wanted to make. I decided to jump into the battle field and tame the proverbial yeast monster. It yielded quite easily. After a while the yeast did the trick and the dough had risen…first part of the mission accomplished. Next step followed suit and my confidence grew.. I knew this was going to be something good. Second proof too passed the test and then it was time to test by fire. Off she went into the oven to be baked. She was out after some 40 minutes. steaming hot like a lady fresh out of a sauna ;). Almost seducing you to have a peck :).  What did she taste like? Ummm… delight in every bite.. the soft dough provided a solid base to the candied peels and slight nudge from the spices right the down your throat. An experience that you need to have.
All through, I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing you this series. There has been much learning about the different cultures of the world and food. As you would have seen, there is no other universal language than the language of food. I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I did bringing it to you

Stollen Bread
  • 250 grams all purpose flour
  • 150 grams (I used a mixture of Tutti –fruity, finely chopped glazed cherries, finely chopped dates, raisins) + some almonds hazelnuts and almonds for garnishing
  • 7 grams fresh yeast + some warm water and 1 and 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 125 ml warm milk
  • 80 grams caster sugar
  • 60 grams butter
  • 2 large tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Marzipan for garnish (optional, i skipped this)
  • Activate the yeast, by dissolving it in the warm water  along with the sugar. Leave aside for 15 minutes till frothy.
  • In a sufficiently large vessel, combine the flour, caster sugar, salt and butter and combine gently.
  • Now make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Knead with the milk to form a smooth, but pliable dough. Knead for some more time till the dough is slightly more softer and you are comfortable working with it.
  • Place the dough in lightly oiled vessel and allow it to rest till it has doubled in size. This should take approximately 40-50 minutes.
  • Once the dough has risen well, gently deflate it b y knocking it with your fist lightly.
  • Give it a another knead for about 5 minutes.
  • Roll out the dough to about 1 inch thick square
  • Place the mixed fruit in the center and roll up the sides and fold the dough to cover it. Seal the ends by pinching it.
  • Leave it for another 30 minutes to rise until it is double in size.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven for 10 minutes at 100 C
  • Bake at 170 C for 35 minutes or till it has a golden crust.
  • Once done allow it to cool for a while. When cooled, roll out the marzipan (if using) on the bread. 
  • Else, sprinkle with icing sugar and garnish with almond and hazelnuts.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Middle Eastern Meatballs- The World on My Plate series!

There is nothing more pleasurable than dunking into a plate full of meatballs also known as kebabs on a chilled winters afternoon. The other day, i had a few guest for lunch and they disappeared as if they just weren’t there. Happiness for the cook :)
Meatballs or Kebabs are usually served as appetizers in the Middle Eastern Mezze Platter. Unlike cutlets, that require a boiled potato to bulk it up; meatballs use just meat and are shallow fried. The trick is in getting meat with a little bit of fat on. This fat is rendered during cooking and gives the final product a nice kiss of fat while helping to retain the moisture.
It may also be a good idea to make an extra batch and store in the freezer. Just take out whenever you want them and fry. Hot and fresh!!!

Middle Eastern Meatballs
  • 400 grams minced meat (feel free to use any kind of meat you like. Also, make sure to buy meat that has some fat on it.)
  • 1 small bunch spring onions, finely chopped
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 small green chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons, paprika Or 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon, sumac Or 1/2 teaspoon, lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon oregano flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • A fist full of Corriander and mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Oil for shallow frying
  • Salt to taste
  • A nice helping of freshly ground pepper.
  • In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients (except flour) and mix well so the spices are well integrated into the meat.
  • Refrigerate for about 20 odd minutes.
  • Once done, add the flour and once again give it a good mix. Meanwhile heat the oil in a shallow pan
  • Shape the mince into quenelles or desired shape and fry till rustic brown on each side.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pad Thai (Thailand)- The World on My Plate Series!

Almost two decades ago, when Chinese food first came to the country; there was a barrage of dark red carts all over the streets. Over the years, the Indian palette was bombarded with MSG coated dishes. Then came Thai food, which some of my friends described as "Kooch Chinese Jaisa" (Something like Chinese), but very spicy. Thankfully, with the internet coming in and the advancement in travel, that trend changed. Today, fine dines and even normal restaurants are trying to replicate authentic Chinese and Thai food. 

Coming to the point, I have tried my hand at many a Chinese dishes and with a reasonable amount of success. But I always believed that cooking Thai food is an art. Literally. Achieving the right balance of flavours, the texture and some of the ingredients, which until recently were exotic and purchasing them would mean you pay and arm and a leg. Made sense to actually drop by at the nearest Thai restaurant or takeaway and grab a bite. But then, it left you with a sense of void, a feeling that this same bowl of curry should be replicated at home. It should be!! I waited for an opportune moment.

The World on my plate gave me the opportunity. As I read, spoke, tweeted, I realised there was a dish that is symbolic to Thai street food as the two versions of curries.The choice was made; the dish that would be Pad Thai(pronounced Pud- Tha-e). Strangely for its status symbol is very rarely cooked in Thai homes. It is more of a street food and is available for as less as a dollar. So, I decided to go the entire way and make it with prawns. Personally, I have faith that prawns can single handedly make anything taste good.

The path was not as difficult as I thought.  All went as per plan and the rice noodles which I was making for the first time, behaved like a well mannered school kid, turning out just the way I liked. How did it Pad Thai fare? All of us wished there were more noodles that night. 

Give it a try, It will be fun. And whatever you do, dont break the noodles, they represent long life.

Pad Thai

  • 1 Pack Glass Noodles (or rice Noodles)- Refer Note 1 below
  • 5 tablespoons Pad Thai Sauce- Refer Note 2 below
  • 3 teaspoons oil
  • 7-8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 small bunch, spring onion,  sliced
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1 Thai Chilli, finely chopped Or 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 100 grams firm tofu, cut into fine pieces OR use 100 grams of Cottage cheese, Shredded chicken or prawns to suit your taste 
  • 50 grams, sprouted beans
  • 2 teaspoons, oyster sauce
  • Juice of Half a lime
  • 80 grams unsalted peanuts, crushed.
  • Few coriander leaves, for garnishing

  • Cook the noodles as instructed on the pack and keep aside.
  • Heat oil in a wok and when the oil is smoking hot, add the garlic and saute till it is aromatic.
  • Next add the spring onions, chillies, bean sprouts and carrots do quick stirs. Then add the tofu (or chicken, prawn, cottage cheese) and mix well.
  • Add the noodles, the oyster sauce and the Pad Thai sauce and give a good mix so that all the vegetables are coated well with the sauce.
  • Sprinkle the lime juice and toss the peanuts.
  • Garnish with corriander leaves and serve immediately.
Important Notes
  1. Cooking the rice noodles: Most packs available at super/ hyper markets will have instructions on cooking the noodles. Please follow the instructions carefully, as the rice noodles tend to get squishy very quickly. Incase the pack doesnt have instructions, all you need to do is heat sufficient water to boiling point. Then take it off the heat and immerse the noodles in the water, till they are soft and a bit chewy and not mushy. The rest of the cooking will be done in the wok.
  2. Pad Thai Sauce: This Sauce is actually the base of this dish and this is what gives the right balance of all flavors. Ready made Pad Thai sauces are available at online gourmet stores and super/ hypermarkets. But, if you like me, prefer making your own seasonings, here is how to make it. Soak tamarind (about the size of a tennis ball) in 100 ml warm water for a few minutes. Discard the seeds and squeeze the juice from the pulp.  Add in 2 teaspoons fish sauce (or soya sauce), 1 teaspoon palm sugar (or brown sugar) and 1 teaspoon chilli flakes (or chilli powder). Heat the mixture in a small sauce pan till it simmers. Remove from flame and cool.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Spaghetti Alio E Olio (Italy). The World on My Plate Series!

The dish was simple, the post was going to be even simpler. But in about thirty odd minutes of dinner last night, we were in a spell. A spell that made us drool with ecstasy. Each bite appealed to each and every sense, leaving you with a nostalgic “morning after” smile. Let me tell you how it happened.

When I had planned “The world my plate series” I was clear that there would be Italian and it had to be spaghetti. Probably, because spaghetti is my favorite variant of pasta. A few days ago, while gallivanting through the supermarket, I picked a pack of spaghetti. Then a few search attempts on Google threw up a rather strange sounding dish “Spaghetti Alio E Olio” translated to Spaghetti in garlic, chillies and olive oil. There had to be some merit I thought. More reading told me it was an Italian nonna classic.

On face value, this seems a very simple dish, one that has the regular Italian superstars garlic, chilli, olive oil and pasta. Each playing his part perfectly yet consummating every other component of the dish perfectly to form a masterpiece. I added a dab of butter just to give it that salty complexity. The rest just fell into place like the perfect dance moves of a ballerina.

I once seen an Italian chef say on TV “If you cook Italian food well, it sings”. If that was the benchmark, I promise, sing it did.

Spaghetti Alio E Olio
  • 1 pack Spaghetti (The one I used was about 400 grams, refer notes)
  • 20-25 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 8-10 medium sized prawns (optional)
  • 100 ml olive oil (do not substitute with any other oil)
  • 1 tablespoon, butter
  • 1 teaspoon, red chilli flakes
  • 2 sprigs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt- use some more than your regular amount
  • Water- to cook the spaghetti (refer notes)
  • Cook the spaghetti as instructed on the pack. Drain and keep aside. Drizzle some of the olive oil and mix.
  • Keep about 3 tablespoons of the olive aside and heat the rest along with the butter till you hear a sizzle.
  • When the oil is hot, add the garlic and allow it to cook till it is reddish brown. Add the prawns and the parsley and cook till prawns are pink and getting done.
  • Now add the red chillies and the herbs and stir well.
  • Lastly add the spaghetti and mix well so that the olive oil coats each strand well.
  • Just before you serve, drizzle some olive oil over the spaghetti.
  • Spaghetti needs a lot of water to cook. A safe ratio is 1 liter water for every 100 grams. The same goes for the salt. Add enough salt to make the water more salty than you usually prefer.
  • Unlike noodles, do not add oil while cooking the spaghetti or any pasta for that matter. Adding oil prevents pasta from absorbing the flavour of the sauce.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chicken Yakitori (Japan)- The World on my Plate Series

As a food writer, I am often asked “What is my favorite dish?” or “Which is my favorite cuisine?” Well, if it’s the Mangalorean Chicken Sukkha that perks me up, I go weak kneed over the Japanese Miso Soup. From Pavlovas to Tiramisus, I have a tough time choosing desserts to round off a wholesome meal. Frankly, it is quite difficult to stick a finger and name a particular cuisine or pick a particular dish. That’s why, when I was thinking of ways and posts to celebrate the blogs first anniversary, the idea of doing a series of posts titled “The World on my Plate” came up, i couldn't help but take up the challenge. Then, as I sat brainstorming with chefs, co-bloggers and friends we collectively concluded that while the Indian palate has accepted global cuisine with open arms, there is a deep disconnect in the understanding of global cuisine. The vast range of home cooking across the world is virtually unknown. This series will (hopefully) try and bridge that void.
If you are reading this in India, there is no better time to be a foodie. Especially when restaurants and chefs are going beyond traditional Indian cuisines and exploring cuisines otherwise unknown to the Indian palate.  Even for the globetrotting Indian, there would be times when you've tasted something abroad and aspired to create those dishes back home. Now, it will be possible to recreate that magic in your very kitchen. So what’s the menu for this amazing series? I promise you will be spoilt for choice. Japanese Yakitori, Spanish Patatas Bravas, Pad Thai among so many others. I urge you, try them all.
Now, the question is where do we begin from such an amazing line up. Then I thought I would highlight a cuisine that is just beginning to make it way to restaurant menus across India. Japanese. Dive deep and you will see there is so much more to Japanese cuisine than the sushis, shashimis and tempuras. These homestyle, melt-in-the-mouth chicken yakitoris are Japan’s answer to Indian Kebabs. The crunch from the spring onions complements the chicken texture just right. If you like you could replace chicken with beef, pork or mushrooms to suit your tastes.
Dive in, to a world of food sans any frontiers. My way of expressing my love and cravings for flavours from across the world.

Chicken Yakitori (Japanese Grilled Chicken)
  • 500 grams chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite sized cubes
  • 5-6 Spring Onions, cut lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon, red chilli flakes
  • 4 tablespoons, soya sauce
  • 2 tablespoons, mirin (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 teaspoon, white pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon, brown sugar
  • salt-to taste
  • Wooden skewers, as required
  • Dip the bamboo skewers in water and drain.
  • Pat dry the chicken and rub the salt and pepper powder to coat each piece well. Keep aside for 10 minutes
  • Meanwhile, make a mixture with the soya sauce, mirin,  sugar, red chilli flakes. Heat on a medium flame till the mixture comes to a boil. Once it begins boiling, reduce the flame and cook until the sauce is thick. Remove from heat and cool.
  • Line the chicken and spring onion on the skewers alternatively. Brush a little bit of the sauce
  • Heat the grill and place the skewers on the grill. Keep alternating the sides so that the chicken is cooked evenly. While turning the chicken, keep basting it with the sauce.
  • Serve immediately

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Citrus and Chilli Cheese Cake-Celebrating one year of blogging!

Every once in a while, life gives you an opportunity; that tests the extent of your extreme potential. Once in a lifetime, comes an idea so inspiring that it gets deeply rooted into the very core of your being, that it fires every cell in your body with such enthusiasm and excitement; because all you can see at the end of the road is that little signpost that says ‘Happiness’.  My dear friends, for me Tummy Tales is that one idea, that one such journey.  It all began a little more than a year ago, when I cooked something one lazy Sunday afternoon and much unlike me, posted a picture on facebook.  Seeing the picture a friend called me asking for the recipe, which I happily shared with her. She called again, a few days later asking for another recipe. This was when she had a flashbulb moment and suggested I start a blog.  I made the best excuses I could. Honestly, I was happy cooking on Sundays or whenever the opportunity arose. Blogging never occurred to me. My friend though remained undeterred; she pursued with her follow ups; until one day, I decided I needed to get the monkey off my back.  I  thought I’ll just blog once and that would be it. So, up went my first post. But deep down, I was happy, I had shared a recipe to the world. My recipe. I don’t remember, but I think that post got about 5 views. Excitedly, I put up another post. One post followed another, slowly, followers signed in and today, 61 followers and roughly 10,000 page views later my blog turns a year old. There couldn’t be a more happier moment and how I wish I words could express the joy my heart feels. Simply, on the top of the world.

I did try very hard writing a  blogversary speech; but I realised that I had a long list of people to thank. That would make it seem like one of those glycerin drenched film award shows, but here’s a toast to each and every one of you, my readers and all others who have walked this path with me.. I am hugely humbled  to know that so many of you spend your precious reading the blog and sharing my world. Thank you once again. For sure, in the coming times you will see more interesting and innovative recipes on the site. In fact, how about kicking off a series titled “The World on my plate” where we savor the best of world cuisine from the Yakitori of Japan to the Spanish Potato Bravas  and the works. Drop in a line and let me know what you think. I shall wait to hear from you.

A birthday celebration incomplete without a cake right? And yes, a special cake was made for the blogs birthday. A cheesecake but I wanted to spruce it up a bit and yes, deviate from the traditional New York cheese cake. Then, it had to be healthy. Ahh, so many briefs to fit into one final cheesecake. So finally, I came up with “No bake, Citrus and Chilli Cheesecake”. Did I hear you swoon already. I have recently been intrigued by chilli. That robust flavour, that subtle back of the head kick. And then, the ever so dependable and very refreshing citrus. How can you ever go wrong when you have the goodness of oranges in it. All this held together by the rich, creamy, smoothness of cheese. This is going to be a cake to remember.  When I tried this one for the test run, I found it had a very intense chilli taste; to the extent of the citrus being overpowered. So, I had to go back to the drawing board and rework on the ingredient quantities. The point here is you only need the chilli flavour and not the taste. Citrus and chilli are my recommended flavors; go berserk with  your choice of flavors like ginger-honey, citrus-cinnamon, or the more adventurous whiskey and nuts or vodka and star aniseed.

Its been a fabulous year in blogging, and here's to many more of the same. And finally, A big “Thank you”. This would not have been possible without your support, inputs, comments and the so many other ways you show your love to “Tummy Tales”. I do hope we share  an even bigger camaraderie and the love of food we always had.

Keep smiling and happy cooking.

Citrus and Chilli Cheesecake

For the biscuit base:

6-8 digestive biscuits
1 tablespoon, brown sugar
2 tablespoons, butter

For the Cheese layer

200 grams, hung curd
80 grams, mozzarella cheese or cottage cheese
100 ml condensed milk
1 green chilli, de-seeded
1 teaspoon, citrus zest (use a combination of orange and lemon zest)
2 teaspoons, edible gelatin

For the Citrus reduction

Juice of 2 oranges
1 teaspoon, brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon, red chilli flakes


To make the biscuit base:

  • Combine the biscuits, sugar and butter in a zip lock bag and pound using a pestle or a rolling pin until the mixture resembles coarse wet sand. Alternatively, use could use a mixer.
  • Now, place a circular mould on a sufficiently large plate and empty the mixture on the inside of the mould. Level this out using the back of a spoon.
  • Keep this in the refrigerator for about half and hour till it sets well. 
To make the cheesecake layer:

  • Prepare the gelatin as per the instructions mentioned on the pack. Keep aside to cool.
  • In a bowl, add the hung curd and the grated mozzarella and whisk together, till evenly combined.
  • Add the condensed milk in small batches and mix well to combine. 
  • Next add the chilli and the citrus zest's. Mix well.
  • Add the prepared gelatin and combine.
  • Pour this mixture over the prepared biscuit base and refrigerate for about 2-3 hours. If possible, allow it to set overnight.
To make the citrus reduction:
  • Add the orange juice in a saucepan along with the sugar and chilli flakes.
  • Heat till the juice reaches a boiling point. Then lower the heat and boil till the juice has reduced to half in quantity.
  • Take out from the heat and allow to come to room temperature.
To serve:
  • Demould the cheesecake and pour the citrus reduction over the cheesecake. Chill for about 15 minutes.
  • Serve immediately.