Palm Hearts in Wine Sauce with Shredded Chicken

9 Jul

This has got to be one of the wackiest combinations I have come up with, but one that I am happy to add has turned out delightfully appetizing.

Let me take a moment here to talk about Palm Hearts, because really, these succulent yet crisp little melt-in-the-mouth things are quite spectacular. You might think they’re limp and unpleasant when you see the tin can they come in and the idea of eating palm hearts itself can be quite daunting, but I beg you to give them a chance. This was my first encounter with them, and I am completely bowled over by just how versatile and exotic they are. On the outside, they’re a bit crunchy, but on the inside (which is spiralled) they’re soft and creamy (like hearts!).

So anyway, here I’ve combined them with shredded chicken and wine sauce. Remember not to mess around too much with the palm hearts because they can be very delicate and pretty much have a taste of their own which would be cruel of us to mask.

Recipe for Palm Hearts in wine Sauce with Shredded Chicken

For the Wine Sauce

What you need:

250 gm  shallots, chopped

1 sachet of mulled wine spice

250 ml red wine

1 tsp garlic paste

1 cube of vegetable stock (you are welcome to use chicken or beef stock as well)

1 cup water

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

On a high flame, heat the olive oil and fry the shallots until golden brown. Now add the vinegar and mix it in till it evaporates.

Boil the 1 cup water and dissolve the cube of stock in it. Add this water to the mixture and simmer on a medium flame. Add the sachet of spice and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove the sachet, add the garlic paste and pour in half the red wine. Simmer until it reduces by a third. Now add the remaining wine and again reduce by a third. The sour taste will also reduce considerably. Add salt and pepper as required.

The sauce should be quite thick by now. Add the dollop of butter and swirl it in slowly till it melts.  Your warm, wholesome sauce is now ready to serve! Mmmm…

For the Palm Hearts and Shredded Chicken (serves 2)

What you need:

1 chicken breast

1 tsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp mixed Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp pepper

salt to taste

4-5 whole stocks of palm hearts, diced

1 tbsp butter

Water for boiling

What to do:

In a shallow pan, heat the butter on a medium heat and add the diced palm hearts and sauté gently for 4-5 minutes. Keep aside.

Steam the chicken in a double-boil arrangement. This ensures that the moisture is retained and the meat remains soft. Once cooked, shred it roughly with a knife.

Add the garlic paste, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to the chicken and mix. Now press the mixture into a sort-of circular cake.

Before serving, add the palm hearts to the plate and pour the doll a nice helping of warm wine sauce over it. Ah, delicious!

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Wimbledon 2011

1 Jul

Just last week, I had the chance to go to Wimbledon, one that would’ve been impossible if not for my aunt and cousin who came visiting. Initially, it wasn’t even part of my plans, but as fate would have it, I made it there on the second day of play. Now Wimbledon is one of those places which if you follow even a tiny bit of tennis, you would know is sort of like the Mecca of the sport and you have to consider yourself very lucky to get the chance to experience it. It truly is the experience of a life time.

Speaking of experience, we were part of this tour type of thing called, no surprises here, The Wimbledon Experience. We were picked up in a mini-van at Southfields Station (that was beautifully done up to look like a tennis court) and from there, we were taken to the Experience Club, where we were given loads of Wimbledon merchandise.

While we were at it, we could also make good use of the free drinks *wink wink* and snacks, which of course we devoured with much relish.

My cousin, as seen in this picture, is as obsessed with taking pictures of himself with food, as I am. Guess it runs in the family!

But as we got out of there and on to our way to Court 1, it started to rain, and  it wouldn’t stop. We were worried we might lose the entire day’s play. To cheer ourselves up, we of course had the Wimbledon classic – strawberries and cream. This has been my dad’s dream – to watch a match while eating strawberries and cream- and I felt like I was living his dream and missed him immensely : ) The strawberries were large and crunchy under the teeth and the cream, which was smooth and cold, was the perfect accompaniment with the fruit. I have to say though, that I wish the cream was a bit sweeter.

We then made a tiny visit to the Wimbledon Museum, which was an amazing experience in itself. There was so much about Tennis history that I did not know and it turned out to be an amazing eye-opener, and also a confirmation of my love of the sport. I especially loved the the presentation by a Vitrual McEnroe about the evolution of tennis from the time that he came in until now;  and the screening of the best Wimbledon moments according to the visitor’s choice.

After hanging around like refugees till about 2 in the afternoon, the authorities announced that they would begin the day’s play (yes!) and so we made our way to Court 1 and waited. The sun soon came out and was applauded and cheered by the crowd that was waiting so patiently. For the first few minutes it was hard to believe that I was actually there, watching a Wimbledon match live at Wimbledon!

We were lucky to see Andy Murray play  as well as Petra Kvitkova among the women, who won the Semi-finals today. To celebrate, we gluggled some tasty Pimm’s with summer fruits (just perfect to go with the scorching sun)!

We left at about 8 in the evening, tired but exhilarated by the experience. We ended with a filling and delicious meal at Wagamama in Euston, an appropriate ending, to an eventful day.

Mango Season

25 Jun

Hi everyone! So good to be back after the long hiatus (it doesn’t help if you have submissions on top of everything else).

To re-boot, I thought I’d go straight for the bang with the ‘king of fruits’, Mango! Where I come from, Mango season is a huge deal. We wait anxiously all year for it to arrive. Then when it first comes into the market, we turn away from vendors pretending we don’t want it (lest they try to sell it to us at anything more than a bargain price) and then when we can’t stop ourselves, we go in for the plunge. After that, its alphonso, payri, langdo, badam and the rest. The next few months are spent in consuming mango milkshakes, mango pulp, cut mango, mango juice, mango this, mango that and the other.

I had the *miraculous* fortune not to miss the mango season this year (despite being in England), because my dear aunt and cousin made a trip down here, and yes, that right, carted a whole dozen of alphonso mangoes with them for me! Of course I savoured them one by one and made all possible things with them including the mango pulp and yoghurt recipe that I shared with you guys at this time last year.

To add to this, she also brought me some mango burfi from Chitale’s in Pune, an Indian sweet made from mango pulp, loads of sugar and a form of solid condensed milk, called mawa. To my surprise I also discovered a seasonal tea by Twinnings called Mango Green Tea, which is lovely, both hot and cold.

As I post this, I realise I am in great danger of my friends raiding my stash soon, so I better run off  now for another mango.

Hope you’re making as much of the mango season as I am!

Lots of summer love 🙂

In Sickness and in Health: Sweet & sour Spinach soup with nuts

6 Jun

This is a wonderful recipe that belongs to my mum. I have never been an avid eater of spinach. Actually, I mostly try and avoid it. But this particular dish is so yummy that I can help but eat a few bowlfuls.

If you are somebody who cannot stand that distinct smell and taste of spinach, then this dish is worth a try, because by the end you will really not be able to tell that you’re eating spinach! It’s tangy-ness  hits the back of your palate, the balance of sweet and salty and the crunch of the nuts under your teeth, is a delight both taste and texture wise.

This is a great soup when you’re feeling sick (spinach is great for strength. Remember Popeye? Its full of anti-oxidants, vitamins and iron) or when you’re looking for something exciting to go with your meal.

(Although I’m calling it a soup, back home in India this is a ‘bhaji’ or vegetable to be eaten either with roti or rice.)

What you need:

300 gm of Spinach leaves (stalks cut)

7-8  cloves of garlic pounded/ finely sliced

a small piece of ginger grated / finely sliced

half a cup of cashew nuts (I personally prefer peanuts instead of cashews)

2 tbsp gram flour (if gram flour is hard to find, you can use regular flour instead, but it will compromise on the flavour a little)

2 tbsp tamarind pulp (or better still, a lemon-sized portion of fresh tamarind)

4 cups of water

Salt to taste

Sugar to taste

1 tsp fennel seeds

For the Tadka (or garnish)

2 tbsp oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp hing

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic paste (or 2 cloves of garlic pounded)

1/2 tsp dried corriander powder

1/2 tsp fennel powder

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

(when giving the tadka, try to follow the sequence in which the ingredients are listed)

What to do:

Boil the spinach leaves in 4 cups of water with garlic, ginger and fennel seeds in a pot until soft. Leave it aside to cool.

When cooled, crush the leaves with the back of a wooden spoon (or anything else that is strong) to make them  more fine. Add gram flour, tamrind pulp, cashews , salt and sugar. Keep it on sim till the cashews cook.

For the Tadka, heat oil in a saucepan until its really hot. Now add the ingredients in the same order as given above. Switch off the heat when the spices are sufficiently fried (this usually takes a minute).

Now add the the tadka to the soup. Done!

Serve it hot on its own, or as we traditionally do with plain steamed rice or warm rotis.

(Note: Since the soup tends to get thicker as it cools down, add sufficient water and heat the next time you want to eat it. )

Kazak Chak-chak!

29 May

I walked into the hostel kitchen the other day to find my Kazak flatmate Diana and her friend Anastasia (don’t both of them sound like princesses? : ) ) making a traditional Kazak dessert for their department’s final function to mark the end of the academic year ( 😦 ).

This dish is called chak-chak (I discovered that if you say Kazak chak-chak enough times, it becomes a tongue-twister) and is a bit complicated to make, but totally worthwhile.

The two girls pose for the camera.

What you need:

For the strips,

3 eggs

2 cups flour

1 tbsp vodka

1 tsp salt

Oil for frying

For the syrup,

300 gms honey (usually one squeezy bottle)

250 gms dried apricot pieces

a handful of raisins

almond powder (to go the extra mile)

What to do

In a deep mixing bowl, combine eggs, flour, salt and vodka and bind it into a dough. Divide the dough into tiny balls, and on a clean, flat surface, roll it into a thin round sheet using a rolling-pin. A good indicator of whether it is the right thinness, is to see if the rolled out dough is transparent enough for you to see the surface underneath.

Like in the picture below, for example. If I tried to roll our dough, I usually end up with the map of a country, as my mother likes to say.

Now make horizontal cuts on the circle to make strips, and further cut these to make really tiny strips.

(Such well manicured hands!)

(As you can tell, it’ll take a while to make this pile)

Heat oil on a high flame and once heated, reduce it to medium. Fry the strips in batches till golden brown and keep aside.

I love the smell of hot oil. It reminds me of home.

I could crunch on these forever...

In another pot, pour the honey and heat it on medium flame, till it boils.

Now combine the honey, the strips, apricot and almond powder into any shape you like. Remember to work fast, because the honey can crystallize very quickly.

Diana and — decided to spell out “Warwick” with the chak-chak. Cute isn’t it?

Once its cooled, you can cut it into pieces and serve. Enjoy!

Musee de beux Bouffe (The Museum of Fine Food)

18 May

While we were in Manchester the other day, we asked a random stranger in our dorm if we had visited the Museums.

“Do you visit the museums in your own country?” he asked, “Like, do you ever go there? So why should I go to a museum here?”

Totally flawed logic, but it did but a thought in mind. Personally, I haven’t visited even a tiny fraction of museums back in Mumbai. The only one I do remember is the Prince of Wales Museum, and that too because it was one of the most boring and tiring hot summer days of my child-life. When we’re abroad though, its a different story isn’t it?

Which brings me to my visit of the Birmingham museum. Of course I got the expected reaction – “Birmingham Museum? For what?!” I guess it was a bit odd and a little random, but I have to say that there was a lot to see in there and I really did enjoy myself.

But first, here’s a snapshot(s) of my short stroll through the Bull Ring market.

Birmingham Museum


Museums are a great way to get artistic inspiration and to see how trends keep recycling themselves. I remember going past the Jewllery section and thinking, “hey! I have something like that!” or “Wait, I’m going to get this made for myself when I get back home.”

There were some beautiful paintings and sculptures from the 17th, 18th and early 19th century that gave me a lot of story ideas, or just left me gaping at the artistry, skill and finesse of the work.

But most of all, I was really struck by this particular painting about an 18th century kitchen. It was supposed to depict the Biblical belief that God made all the natural bounty on Earth available for man to consume (not a bad though, eh?) and so the painter included every time of food there was, from fish to vegetables to poultry to meat to grains to what have you.

It made me wish I was there to see the ladies cook that in person. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off it once all the dishes had been prepared!

As you can imagine, the museum visit left me very hungry. Thankfully there was a nice little Greek restaurant called ‘Athens’ (no surprises there!) down the road from it.

Greek Cuisine

For starters I had this wonderful thing called Dolamades (plural for Dolma) which is basically a stuffing of vegetables, or in this case meat, rice and vegetables wrapped in a grape leaf and steamed. Because its steamed, the stuffing remains really soft and the leaf that has now acquired a silky texture cuts easily and has this slight sour taste that makes it a delectable bite. It was served with a sweetish tomato sauce that complemented the sourness of the leaf and the slight saltiness of the stuffing.

Along with this, we ordered a ‘meze’ of olives, salad leaves, cucumbers, tomatoes, haloumi cheese, hummus, tzatziki and some other very yummy sauces and dips that I don’t know the names of! Along with this, we were served flat bread, warmed with olive oil. Yum!

For the main course (here’s evidence of my bottomless stomach) we had succulent chicken kebab accompanied by potatoes, really sweet boiled carrots, lemon and rice,

AND Lamb Kleftiko, meaning ” in style of the klephts ” . Now there is a really interesting story behind the name of this dish and the way it is made. Apparently, these guys were anti-Ottoman insurgents (when Greece was under Ottoman rule), somewhat like rugged guerilla fighters, living in the mountains, and because they didn’t have any of their own lamb, they used to steal it and cook it in a pit for hours so the smoke wouldn’t be let out. These days its made slightly differently, but the result is the same. The herbs, spices and lime marinate to the very bone of the lamb and the meat is rendered fluffy, soft, and with juices intact (*talk about food porn*)

When I had gorged on all that, I sealed it with one of the most amazing desserts of all time – Baklava,which is of Turkish origin . Its made of very fine layers of pastry dough that get crispier as you get to the top. Inside these layers are crushed walnuts, and the whole thing is dipped in sugar syrup (kill me NOW!). At this particular restaurant, it was served with whipped cream on the side. Although I was told this is not traditional,there weren’t any complains from me!

This brings me to the final thought of the day. What if there were a museum of fine food? Imagine a place where they could actually tell you stories of how dishes originated and demonstrate for you!  I would totally live there.

Saxon summer and Feaster Sunday

8 May

The sun’s come out! I don’t know about you guys but I’ve been starving for some sunshine and as you can imagine, I am savouring every minute of it. In fact, the assurance that it’s here to stay for at least the next few months, even makes me love the rain we’ve been getting the last two days. It’s all so beautiful!

I’ve already had some amazing times in the sun, and here’s a few I’d like to share with you-

Picnic Shicnic

I especially like lying in the sun with my girl friends, curled up on a towel with a book in hand (study material, I promise!) and chomping on some share-friendly finger food -chips, grapes, chocolate, wafers etc etc

Keeping it light!

Easter-Feaster

Barbecues are a wonderful idea, especially if they’re done well. And because the sun goes down to so late, you have an excuse to make them go on endlessly!

On Easter Sunday, some friends made some wonderful Tandoori chicken and Lamb straight on the BBQ grill.

For Vegetarians, there was a skewered cottage cheese and vegetables option.

And if that didn’t satisfy your appetite, there were yummy poppadums, chicken curry and biriyani (just the thought of it makes my mouth water!)

Saxon Summer

If you are blessed with *good food luck* , you will often times discover the type of place that not only serves great food, but also gives you a great ambience. Fortunately for me, a couple of friends took us to a place just like that near Leamington called the Saxon Mill.

Apart from breathtaking views of castles and flowing rivers…

…they also make very yummy cocktails.

And if you’re looking for summery food, they can fix you something really light but really yummy!

Mediterranean Platter, or some such

Fish cakes with Mango, rocket and tomato salad

Hope you’re enjoying your summer too. I’d love to hear about some of your fun times!

 
Picnic and Easter pictures courtesy: Shuli Sud

Sit and drink Penny-royalty!

1 May

I want to pat myself on the back for my excellent timing. The year I come to the UK, I get to the see the Royal Wedding in the Queen’s own country(I pray I can carry off such bright colours at her age)! I know a lot of people will bash me about supporting royalists. But. And forgive the horrid pun, this is the most Royal spectacle of all. It had to be seen and done!  And so I unabashedly declare that I gushed over the dress, I laughed at the ring-screwing and I  clapped animatedly when the kissed on the balcony. AND, I also ate Royal Wedding  themed food!

There was excitement in the air for almost 2 weeks before the wedding. Of course there were flags and offers and things, but I was especially enamoured by these ‘crown and country’ cupcakes I saw at corner sweet shop called ‘Sweet As’ in Leamington. Aren’t they cute?

On the day, the Uni had organised a nice little screening and there was quite a crowd, cheering the couple as they took their vows. Here I must mention that the wedding would not have been half an entertaining without the commentator, who sprinkled his commentary with some valuable jems.

The Uni food outlets too came out blazing guns. There was Curiositea with its sparkly cupcakes and cream tea (love those tissues!)

And Bread Oven with their Royal Wedding specials – Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwiches (veg option) and Coronation Chicken (Chicken, Mayo, Mustard and Raisins)

With me were my peeps Shuli, Hilary and Gruff. To add to the hullabaloo, we got ourselves some celebratory bottles of wine and cookies!

Roisin, who couldn’t make it, baked us this delicious lemon cake complete with lemon icing and cream (Thanks Roisin!)

Hope you guys had a ball at the wedding too!

Idli-Dosa, garam Samosa ( I mean, Vadai)

27 Apr

If I was given a choice between eating North Indian food for 1 year versus South Indian food for 1 year, I would, without batting an eyelid, choose South Indian food. That’s just the way it is. Seriously, who can resist those perky idlis? And those crisp fragrant dosas that sometimes have a sense of humour( Read: “top hat” dosa) and those tongue-tingling chutneys and of course the gun powder (podi) that makes you feel like chaddi-pals with Rajnikanth.

To add to all that, its cheap. Hypothetically, for example, if I was to order one idli-wada plate and then 2 chettinad dosas and then a drink and then a biriyani, it would still come under 10 pounds!

I swear, I could go anywhere for South Indian. Even if its Birmingham.

Even if I have to trudge through the Bull Ring (where Jamie Oliver has opened a hee-uuge restaurant that I can’t wait to try)…

…And take a round through Starbucks…

…Its all worthwhile for South Indian food…

There’s an important notice you have to keep in mind, though 😛 :

Bang Bang Bangers

23 Apr

Recently released from my vegetarian restrictions, I am now prowling the streets looking for my next meaty fix. And what better way to start than bangers or sausages! This new place that I discovered not far away from my Uni is a pub that’s called The Sozzled Sausage and its got an amazing menu to suit both the palate and the pocket.

The decor is really funky, and they sell their product like they love it. Check out these cute sausages-on-wings 🙂

All sausages are served with mashed potato and onion gravy. I had for myself a Moroccan Lamb Merguez and a Thai Lime, Chicken and Coriander sausage . My friends were bowled over by the Venison, Redcurrant and Red Wine (that should tell you about extent of the variety that they serve).

They were so happy with their meal, I got them to fake-laugh for me.

We finished our meal in true style with Chocolate and Coffee Mouse and Red Berry Cheesecake for dessert. And all this for under 10 pounds!

So satisfying.