Coconut Milk Pudding with Roasted Peanut Praline

Every once in a while, I go through a distressing and disappointing ‘blog comparison phase’. I am sure many other just-getting-there bloggers also suffer from the same disease (yes, it is a disease!)

It always starts off as reading and skimming through other well-known and top-notch blogs, simply as a way of getting inspired and motivated. But a few minutes into it makes me feel so disappointed and my head gets filled with what I have not achieved or will I ever get there. Instead of getting inspired and proud of my accomplishments, I get severely depressed wondering if I am doing anything right at all. I start finding faults by the dozen, even when there really aren’t any.

And quite ironically, in this past one year of blogging, every time this seed of self-doubt enters my being, I receive some kind of a blog/food related boost to reassure that ‘all is well’.

Last week was one of those self-questioning phases. Call it cosmic or divine intervention, I got a massive boost to my blogging ego when I was featured as one of the top 10 bloggers to look out for in 2015 as part of a cover story for SALT, a premium food, wine and hospitality ezine. Read the story here.

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It is an immense boost to your confidence when someone else places trust in your abilities. And though I have already mentioned my gratitude, I take a moment again to thank all at FBAI and SALT, especially Mr. Elson Sequeira, the editor-in-chief for this wonderful opportunity.

And what more, Elson even pushed this ‘savoury’ girl to publish her first ‘sweet’ recipe for the ezine, which is also our recipe for the day.

Today’s recipe is a coconut milk pudding with roasted peanut praline. This is one of those no-brainer dessert recipes which can be made in a jiffy. This one’s from my mom, who passes along simple dessert recipes especially when I am hosting a party.

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This coconut milk pudding is extremely light and just mildly sweet; the perfect finish to a big meal. It is a delicious dessert on its own but top it with a peanut praline and you have a winner on your hands. And if you don’t prefer peanuts, use any type of nuts that you would like or maybe some chopped mangoes….the options are endless!

So here’s a light yet indulgent Christmas dessert with creamy coconut milk pudding topped off with a crunchy sweet and caramelly roasted peanut praline.

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Ingredients:

For the pudding:

1. 1 medium sized coconut (around 600gm), grated
2. 600 ml plain milk
3. 2 tbsp gelatin powder
4. 2 cups raw sugar

For the praline:

5. ½ cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
6. 1 cup caster sugar
7. 1 cup cold water

Method:

1. Blend the grated coconut with milk. Strain through a muslin or cheesecloth to extract all the milk. This would yield approximately 1 litre of milk.
2. Add the sugar and mix well to dissolve. I have used 2 cups of raw sugar but the quantities might vary if you are using ordinary white sugar. So add 1 cup of sugar, dissolve, taste and add more as required. The milk should taste very sweet at this stage as the sweetness will decrease once the pudding sets.
3. Dissolve the gelatin powder in ¼ cup water using the double boiling technique. Cool slightly and add to the milk mixture.
4. Pour into glasses or any container you wish and refrigerate to set the pudding.
5. Roast the peanuts in a pan, cool and chop roughly. Spread on a baking sheet and keep aside.
6. To make the praline, add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup cold water to a pan and place over medium heat. Stir till the sugar dissolves and bring to boil. Stop stirring and boil till the sugar takes on a nice, golden colour. Remove from heat at this stage. (Sometimes, the sugar crystallizes around the edge of the mixture while boiling, use a pastry brush dipped in cold water and brush around the edges of the mixture to prevent the caramel going grainy).
7. Pour the mixture carefully over the chopped peanuts. Set aside to cool for at least 15-20 minutes. Chop roughly and store in an airtight container.
8. Spoon the peanut praline over the pudding just before serving.

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Karwari Fish Curry

This post was meant to go up 2 days ago. First I fell ill and then came the devastating news of the Sydney terrorist hostage siege.

It has been an emotionally overwhelming 2 days. Terror strikes and terrorist attacks are not new; coming from India, I have indirectly experienced much bigger blood baths than this one. But blame it on the age; I have become much more sensitive to these kinds of incidents than before. I know it is a good thing to be more sensitive because it makes me feel more alive. But I also feel emotionally drained when life becomes a roll of dice, every single day. I kissed my husband and son goodbye in the morning today, like every other day…..but till they reach back home in the evening, I don’t know.

You might read this as a defeatist attitude; but no….I look more positive to life than ever before. But I need to write, to give vent to the fears that lie dormant inside me or I know the darkness would consume my being sending me down the stairwell of depression.

I have felt like this before, a long while ago, when a dear friend died rather too quickly…..a beautiful, vivacious girl who enjoyed life to its fullest. I questioned life then too, struggled with my spirituality…but common sense and an unshakeable faith in my Lord prevailed in the end keeping me sane.

And today’s dawn brings me the news of Pakistan’s blood bath. Over a 100 innocent children…..

Are we ever going to stop or are we going to kill ourselves to extinction?

#illridewithyou continues to make headlines on social media so why aren’t we practising it more in everyday life?

Yes, life goes on…which is why I decided to put up this post today. Returning to my semblance of normality but taking a moment here to pray for every single person who has been directly affected by these attacks.

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Today’s recipe is a fish curry, from the region of Karwar, often referred to as the Kashmir of South India for its scenic beauty. With miles of unspoiled, picturesque blue beaches, tropical forests, hills and valleys, Karwar is a breathtakingly beautiful piece of land in Karnataka. If you would love to visit this region, then check out the details here.

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Its close proximity to Goa has largely influenced the Karwari cuisine as symbolized by this Karwari fish curry. A generous use of coconut, seafood, tamarind, kokum are all part of the daily diet, enjoyed along with rice and feni (the drink of Goa!). And you can read more about the Karwari cuisine here.

This Karwari fish curry is a traditional preparation of the Karwar region, except that brown tamarind was used as the souring agent instead of kokum. But if you have kokum at home, go ahead and use it by all means. Again, mackerel is used traditionally but I would recommend this curry with just about any fish or even prawns.

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Absolutely flavourful and best paired with boiled white rice; this Karwari fish curry is resplendent with the flavour and aroma of spices, aromatics and tamarind, all married together by the rich, creaminess of fresh coconut milk.

Recipe Courtesy – Tara Deshpande

Ingredients:

1. 5 king mackerel, cut into medium-sized steaks (any fish can be used)
2. Salt, to season
3. 2 tbsp vegetable oil
4. 2 red onion, finely chopped
5. ½ inch fresh ginger root, peeled, julienned
6. 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
7. 1-2 tsp tamarind paste
8. 400 ml thick coconut milk

For the spice paste:

9. 1 tsp coriander seeds
10. ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
11. 8-9 black peppercorns
12. 8 dried red Kashmiri chillies, stalks and seeds removed
13. 1 tsp turmeric powder
14. 4 green chillies, roughly chopped
15. ½ inch fresh ginger root, peeled, grated
16. 2 tbsp roughly chopped white onion
17. 1 tsp flour

For garnish:

18. Juice of ½ a lime
19. 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

Method:

• Wash the fish and drain thoroughly.
• Dry roast the whole spices for the spice paste in a skillet on medium heat for about 2 minutes, till fragrant.
• Switch off the heat, cool and stir the turmeric powder into the hot spices. Grind to a fine powder.
• Add the green chillies, ginger, onion and rice flour and grind again to a fine consistency…
• Heat oil in a deep pan or wok on medium heat. When hot, sauté the onions, ginger and green chillies for about 1-2 minutes, till the onions are lightly browned.
• Add the ground spice paste and tamarind paste and continue to sauté on low heat for another 1-2 minutes. Add the thick coconut milk, fish pieces and season with salt. Simmer for 5-8 minutes or till the fish is tender.
• Add lime juice and coriander leaves, mix and remove immediately from heat.
• Serve hot with plain, boiled, white rice and pappadums.

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Cherry Tomato Salad

This is the perfect summer salad for me! Simple, delicious and pretty…

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I love cherry tomatoes; the burst of slightly tangy, slightly sweet freshness when you bite into these red beauties. The wonders of nature so delicately captured!

This cherry tomato salad is perfect with your summer barbecues, a much needed freshness to grilled meats or seafood. It makes the perfect antipasto too or sitting enticingly on your cheese platter. So if you are entertaining this festive season, then this one is a must-try.

Simple ingredients yet when bought together produce magic on a plate, but then the best food is always the simplest…..

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The only indulgence to this already perfect recipe was that I used Macrobiotic sea salt, a sample of which was given to me by ‘The Spice People’. This is a natural and extremely healthy sea salt that has been hand harvested from the Great Barrier Reef. But you could use any salt that you want to, even the humble table salt is good enough for this amazing cherry tomato salad.

Shallots, red wine vinegar, pepper, salt and chives….a delicious summery vinaigrette encompasses these perfect cherry red tomatoes adding a flavour dimension that explodes in your mouth, every single bite.

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This recipe is from Bon Appetit, a great online source for food enthusiasts.

Ingredients:

1. 500 gms cherry tomatoes; get the freshest you can find
2. 4 tbsp olive oil
3. 1-2 shallots, finely chopped
4. 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
5. 2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
6. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
7. Macrobiotic sea salt, to season

Method:

1. Leave half of the cherry tomatoes whole and cut the rest into halves.
2. Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan and add the shallots; sauté lightly till soft.
3. Then add the tomatoes and cook on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes; just get the tomatoes slightly soft but not really to turn it mushy.
4. Add 1 tbsp vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
5. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving dish.
6. Add the remaining olive oil and garnish with the chopped chives.
7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Egg Biryani

How can I even begin to explain what a biryani means to India? The singular rice dish which gets the nation into a culinary and cultural frenzy. The debates are endless…and democracy gets chucked out of the window! Is our biryani better or yours?

Every state of India has a biryani recipe or rather, a style of making biryani. It is amazing that a dish introduced to India by the Arab traders has become the national dish today. I really wouldn’t go into the history or types of biryani; there’s no dearth to online research materials on this topic.

Though you can find plenty of recipes for egg biryani all across the web, I decided to post this one because I loved the dish and wanted it to be a part of my collection here.

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The best thing about egg biryani is that it is the perfect crossover between vegetarian and non-vegetarian. More people are egg-tarian these days and this is a delicious way to enjoy it. It is also perfect for days when you want to go meatless yet want some bold flavours on your plate.

No biryani recipe will look simple; there’s usually a ton of ingredients and steps but believe me, if you systematically follow it, this is one of the simplest dishes to cook. And all that you need along is a bowl of curd or raita and a yummm dish is on the table.

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I am not very happy with the photographs; it has been raining here so improper lighting and I shot it in a hurry (a decision I regret as the clicks simply does not capture the beauty of this dish).

Anyway, here’s how you prepare aromatic and flavourful egg biryani!

I learnt this recipe from here.

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Ingredients:

1. 1 cup of basmati/long grained white rice
2. ghee/clarified butter
3. 1 inch cinnamon
4. 2 cloves
5. 2 green cardamom
6. 1 star anise
7. 2 dried bay leaf
8. ½ cup fresh coriander leaves/cilantro
9. ½ cup fresh mint leaves
10. 2 green chillies
11. 5 cloves garlic
12. 2 inch ginger root
13. 1.5 cups of large onions, finely sliced
14. ½ cup ripe tomato, chopped
15. 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
16. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
17. 1 tsp cumin/jeera powder
18. 1 tsp fennel/perinjeera/saunf powder
19. 1 tsp roasted coriander powder
20. 1 cups thick coconut milk
21. 1 tsp garam masala (adjust to taste)
22. 3 eggs, hard boiled and halved
23. ¼ cup roasted cashewnuts
24. ¼ cup raisins
25. 1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped, for garnish
26. 1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped, for garnish

Method:

1. Wash and soak the rice for at least 2 hours prior to cooking. Drain thoroughly before cooking.
2. Grind the coriander leaves, mint leaves, green chillies, 1 inch ginger and 3 cloves garlic into a paste and keep aside.
3. Grind the remaining ginger and garlic to a fine paste and keep aside.
4. In a medium-sized pan, heat 2 tbsp ghee and lightly roast the cashewnuts and raisins; drain and keep aside.
5. In the same pan, add ½ cup of sliced onions and fry till golden brown; drain and keep aside.
6. Add the remaining ghee to the pan, and add the whole spices
7. After about 15 seconds or when the spices turn fragrant, add the ground green paste and lightly fry on medium heat for a minute. Keep aside.
8. In another pan, add the rice, green paste with spices and 1.5 cups water. Season with salt and bring to boil. Once the rice is done, remove from flame and lightly fluff with a fork so that the rice does not turn mushy.
9. Hard boil the eggs, shell and cut into halves.
10. In a deep or heavy bottom pan, heat 2 tbsp ghee and add the remaining sliced onions. When the onions turn soft, add the ginger garlic paste and continue to sauté.
11. As this browns, add the powdered spices and sauté for another minute. Then add the chopped tomatoes and sauté till the tomatoes turn soft and mushy.
12. Reduce flame and add coconut milk along with ½ cup water. Simmer for about 5 minutes and add garam masala and season with salt.
13. Next, add the cooked rice to this pan and lightly mix so that you get a marbled effect to the rice.
14. Place the boiled eggs on top and garnish with the roasted cashewnuts, raisins, fried onions, coriander and mint leaves.
15. Remove from heat and keep covered for at least one hour for the flavours to blend and come together.

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Would you like to win a spice hamper in time for Christmas? Then go ahead and take part here.

Warm Summer Pasta with tomatoes, olives and salami

I am a late ‘wine bloomer’ being introduced to it in the right way only in my late 20s. Till then, my only experience of wine was the occasional glass of homemade ones my mum used to prepare annually in time for Christmas.

But living in India, it was not easy to experience wines on a frequent basis. Good wines are hard to come by and cost through the roof so wine-drinking was a very occasional affair exclusively reserved for special occasions. But thanks to friends living abroad, a good bottle of wine often made its way to our table which we would guardedly use making sure that we paired it with the right kind of meal and ambience.

Aussies are big on wine (but then they are big on beer, cider…basically big drinkers anyway!) and this is the best place to experience wine from across the globe, without having to burn a hole in our pockets.

With both of us having a real interest in wines, we began to experiment and learn more about it, in our own small way. We are no wine connoisseurs, but we are definitely beginning to understand and appreciate our bottles better.

One of the better known Australian wine brands is the De Bortoli Wines. And when I received a discount voucher, it was the best time to put these wines to the test.

We got two bottles, a Chardonnay and a Shiraz. The wines arrived carefully packaged along with a copy of the 2015 De Bortoli food and wine calendar. The calendar got my attention immediately with a bunch of amazing recipes paired perfectly with a De Bortoli wine. It is a beautiful calendar with amazing rustic food photography, notes on the De Bortoli family, information about wines and recipes. A well-thought of and put together calendar…..

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Today’s warm summer pasta recipe comes from this calendar and we paired it with the 2012 Windy Park Chardonnay from Yarra Valley.

This is a simple and classic Italian recipe; just perfect for the warm, humid summers of Melbourne. Not one of those sauce laden, heavy dishes, this warm summer pasta incorporates fresh tomatoes, olives, garlic, herbs, sun dried tomatoes and spicy salami.

It’s quick and easy to prepare; slightly cook the ingredients with some good quality olive oil and toss the tagliatelle through it. Ready in minutes and a boon for days when you don’t want to slave away in the kitchen heat, especially during this festive season.

I really cannot describe wines in the flowery wine language but I can say so much – this one was medium-bodied with fruity, floral notes. And it paired beautifully with this warm summer pasta.

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So, with wine or not, this warm summer pasta is a great family dish and so simple, that you must try it for sure;

Original recipe by Leanne De Bortoli

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Ingredients:

1. 500 gm tagliatelle (or any ribbon-type pasta)
2. 5 ripe, red tomatoes; peeled and chopped
3. 8 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
4. 60gm black olives, pitted
5. 10 slices spicy salami, cut into strips
6. 2 tbsp olive oil
7. 3 garlic cloves, crushed
8. 2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
9. 3 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
10. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
11. Parmesan cheese, grated
12. Salt, to season
13. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

Method:

(Slightly altered from original)

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water till al dente or according to packet instructions. Drain and keep aside, reserving ½ cup of the water.
2. In a deep pan, heat olive oil and sauté the salami strips for a minute or two.
3. Add the fresh tomatoes and garlic and sauté on high for one more minute or till the tomatoes are slightly mushy.
4. Add the sun dried tomatoes, sage, olives and balsamic vinegar; mix well and immediately add the drained pasta.
5. Season with salt, black pepper.
6. If the dish feels a bit dry, add a few spoons of the reserved water to loosen it up.
7. Remove from heat and add the basil and Parmesan; toss well to combine.
8. Serve hot with grated Parmesan cheese.
9. Enjoy with a glass of wine and your loved ones!

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Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored post; I received a discount voucher for De Bortoli wines at a blogging conference but paid the rest from my own pocket. All the opinions expressed are mine.

Amaranth Lentil Curry + a Spice Hamper Giveaway

If you have read my ‘Burnt Garlic and Ancho Chili Rice’ post, then you would remember Liz of The Spice People.

Recently Liz asked me to do a guest post for her blog, and I decided to create a dish using one of her best sellers, the Curry Lentil Dahl; a fragrant, flavourful and aromatic blend of cumin, turmeric, garlic, coriander, bell peppers, mustard and chilli.

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Liz had provided me with a sample of this blend to play around with and I have been using it quite a lot in my daily cooking. It adds just that extra bit of oomph to all my dal recipes. I even used it as a marinade for my fish fry; that’s how versatile the curry lentil dahl blend is.

The Spice People has also joined hands with me to give away a spice hamper as a token of appreciation to all our readers, a small gesture for the festive season. But before we get to the giveaway, let’s talk a bit more of today’s recipe.

Today’s dish is an amaranth lentil curry which is inspired by the dal recipes of Kerala. A protein packed dish, this lentil curry has an irresistible aroma from the spices and a rich, creamy texture from the coconut paste. Best teamed with steamed white rice, this amaranth lentil curry can also be enjoyed as a hearty soup.

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Amaranth actually refers to a group of perennial plants. These plants are cultivated as leafy vegetables in many parts of the world and are extremely healthy. The roots and stems are also consumed in many Asian countries. Amaranth seeds are a great source of protein and these are used as grains in Asian countries and Americas. The seeds are ground into flour and used to make breads.

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I used the amaranth leaves for cooking this lentil/dal curry; these have such a vibrant and beautiful colour, deep green and purple hues.

You can find the full recipe for Amaranth Lentil curry here – a rich, creamy yet rustic lentil stew from Kerala spiced with the curry lentil dahl blend, cumin and green chillies.

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Note – If you cannot get your hands on the curry lentil dhal blend, then use a mixture of roasted cumin powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder.

And now the most exciting part; the giveaway!

As I mentioned, The Spice People has very generously provided me with a spice hamper to give away to my readers.
This spice hamper contains;

1. Mexican Tex-Mex
2. Curry Lentil Dahl
3. Tunisian Harissa
4. New Orleans Cajun Spice
5. Moroccan Ras el Hanout
6. Ancho Chillies (Whole)

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This gift hamper is a true representation of my love for spices from across the globe. So if you would like to spice up this festive season, then all that you need to do is follow the rules below and enter the giveaway!

This is an international giveaway so that all my readers can participate. And do not forget to spread the word too…..

To take part in this giveaway, you need to complete all the four steps outlined below;

1. ‘Like’ the Spice Adventuress on Facebook.
2. ‘Like’ the Spice People on Facebook
3. Leave a comment below stating which is your favourite spice blend from this hamper.

Remember, it is mandatory to do all the three steps for your entry to be considered.

This giveaway will run till December 15th, 2014 and the winner will be notified through our Facebook pages.
All the best!

Aloo Kheema Masala (Indian style Potato and Lamb Mince Gravy)

Meat mince is one of the most versatile ingredients that I can think of. It can don a thousand delicious avatars; as burgers, cutlets, patties, tacos, curries, pies….the list is endless. And almost every cuisine in the world uses this ingredient in some form or the other.

Today, we are doing an Indian dish; aloo kheema masala or an Indian style potato and lamb mince. You can call it a curry if you want to, but I wouldn’t because for me, curries are dishes that have a rich gravy and this dish is not one of those.

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Scrolling down, you may think that this one has so many ingredients. But instead of getting jittery, especially if you make Indian food infrequently, just open up your spice pantry and you might have most of the ingredients anyway.

Though the list of spices is long, this aloo kheema masala is very simple to prepare. It is quick to make and can be paired with just about any kind of bread. I could eat this with a just a bowl of salad for accompaniment.

If you aren’t too sure of how spices work, you might think this dish is going to be ‘spicy’. But note that the amount of heat is very less in this aloo kheema masala; the dish is more about infusing the whole flavour of the spices rather than adding heat.

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Aloo kheema masala or Indian style potato and lamb mince gravy – a dish resplendent with the aroma and flavours of whole spices caressing the lightly fried potatoes and succulent lamb mince, cooled down with a touch of thick yoghurt.

And this recipe is from this delish blog!

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Ingredients:

1. 1 kg, lamb mince
2. 2 large potatoes, cut into cubes
3. 2 medium tomatoes, finely sliced
4. 2 large onion, finely sliced
5. 4 tbsp yoghurt, whisked well
6. 1 green chilli, finely chopped (you may increase or decrease based on heat preference)
7. 1 tsp ginger, grated
8. 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
9. 4 cloves
10. 4 green cardamom
11. 1 black cardamom
12. 1 bay leaf
13. 1 inch cinnamon stick
14. 1 tsp cumin seeds
15. ½ tsp fennel seeds
16. ½ blade of mace(crushed)
17. ¼ tsp nutmeg powder
18. 1 tsp garam masala powder
19. 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder (available at all Indian stores)
20. ½ tsp turmeric powder
21. 1 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and crushed
22. ½ tsp dried fenugreek(kasuri methi)
23. 1 tsp lemon juice
24. Salt, to season
25. 3 tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

1. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan.

2. Fry the cubed potatoes in oil till slightly brown; remove and keep aside.

3. In the same oil, add bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and lightly fry on low heat for a few seconds. This infuses the oil with the various flavours of the spices.

4. Add green chilli, ginger and garlic, sauté till the garlic turns brown.

5. Add sliced onions and fry till the onions get pink and soft.

6. Add minced meat and tomatoes, sauté on high heat for 2 to 3 minutes stirring well.

7. Lower the heat; add whisked yoghurt, red chilli powder, turmeric, crushed coriander seeds, mace and nutmeg powder. Mix well and sauté for another minute.

8. Add the fried potatoes, salt, garam masala powder and ½ cup of warm water. Cover and cook till potatoes and the minced meat are cooked. The potatoes should not get mushy.

9. Finally add lemon juice and kasuri methi, cook for another minute.

10. Dish out, garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with parathas, phulkas or pulao.

NOTE: Adjust the consistency of the gravy by increasing or reducing the warm water.

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Beletti Restaurant, Café and Bar – a Review

The day started off a little crazy for us. It was a Sunday and we woke up late (well, that’s fairly regular!). And since we were supposed to go out for ‘laptop’ shopping, had a meager and hurried breakfast so that we could get to the stores in time.

And the crazy timings meant lunch was skipped and it was almost 4 pm when the hunger pangs really kicked in. We live in Dandenong and since we were already in the vicinity, decided to stop for lunch somewhere in the area. Now Dandenong has a lot of restaurants and cafes, but not many good ones. We decided to take a stroll through Lonsdale Street to see if any place catches our fancy and Beletti, it was.

Situated on 159 Lonsdale Street, Beletti Restaurant, Café and bar primarily serves modern Italian cuisine.

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Given the time, there weren’t too many customers inside save for a couple enjoying a cup of coffee outside; there is an al fresco seating area too. We were courteously greeted by the staff, who after understanding our late lunch needs, seated us inside in a comfortable area. The ambience was sophisticated, inviting with comfortable seats and sofas. There were two dining areas, the larger, stylish and plusher one reserved for large groups, parties and events.

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Beletti has a good bar and the selection is really good; given the time of day, we settled for two cocktails. I went for the Cosmopolitan (vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, lime juice) and my husband had the house-special, Beletti Sea Breeze (amaretto, Malibu, cranberry juice, pineapple juice). I loved the Cosmo; it was refreshing, delicious and just what I needed to unwind. My husband enjoyed his drink but he felt that the cranberry taste was slightly overpowering.

Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan

Beletti sea breeze

Beletti sea breeze

And while we sipped on our drinks, my son was handed a colouring sheet and pencils which kept him occupied, a real simple trick to keep the kids silent and let the parents relax. The colouring sheet also had the kids’ menu outlined and he chose to have a cheeseburger and chips.

Cheeseburger and chips

Cheeseburger and chips

We started off our meal with a platter of fresh oysters, followed by a delicious, indulgent bowl of Beletti salad (mesculin lettuce, olives, feta, semi dried tomatoes, capsicum, carrots, onion with a balsamic dressing) with smoked salmon. The salmon was an extra topping.

Fresh oysters on ice

Fresh oysters on ice

Beletti salad with smoked salmon

Beletti salad with smoked salmon

For mains, I chose a duck breast with plum sauce and a wild mushroom risotto. I was a little skeptical choosing the risotto but it turned out delicious, perfectly done and flavoured. The plum sauce was sweet but flavourful and with duck, it was heaven on a plate. Totally recommend this dish.

Duck breast served with plum sauce and wild mushroom risotto

Duck breast served with plum sauce and wild mushroom risotto

My husband went with an aged porterhouse steak with a marble score 2 which was served with a red wine jus, fresh green salad and chips. He felt that the steak was a tad bit tough but the flavours were impeccable and he enjoyed the dish.

Aged porterhouse with red wine jus, fresh salad and chips

Aged porterhouse with red wine jus, fresh salad and chips

And though we couldn’t eat a morsel more, I still decided to get a dessert, something light to cut through all that richness we had just gobbled.

For dessert, we ordered the Passion fruit and Lime Bavouis with double cream and passion fruit lime jelly. And this turned out to be the most delicious part of the meal. We wanted something light and less sugary and this dessert was just that. The bavouis was light and creamy which went really well with the tangy jelly. The citrus flavours were refreshing and it was a beautiful end to the meal. I am definitely going back for this one.

Passionfruit and lime Bavouis with double cream and passionfruit lime jelly

Passionfruit and lime Bavouis with double cream and passionfruit lime jelly

So to summarize, we had a great time and a great meal too although, must admit that the prices were on the higher side.

Towards the end of our meal, the restaurant started getting busy so it would be a good idea to book ahead especially on weekends.

My ratings: 8/10

Details:

Beletti Restaurant, Café and Bar
159 Lonsdale Street
Dandenong, Victoria 3175
Tel. 03 9793 1600

http://www.beletti.com.au/Restaurant.html

Opening Times:
Monday – Friday: 7.00 am to midnight
Saturday, Sunday: 8.00 am to midnight

Disclaimer: All the food and drinks were paid for by myself.

Roasted Carrots with Citrus and Garam Masala

The crazy spring season of Melbourne is here. And the craziness of the weather here can only be understood by those who live in this city. The weather is unpredictable, especially in spring, and sometimes you get to experience all the different seasons in a day itself.

But I am not complaining at all; I love this city so much. I never thought I could feel so passionately about any other country than India. I am an extremely patriotic person and it is my opinion that in spite of all its idiosyncrasies, India is one of the most beautiful places to live in this world.

If not for destiny and the hand it plays in our lives, I would never have migrated to a foreign land to set up home. But one part of me is also happy that it is Australia that I chose to be my second home. This is the place where I discovered or rather stumbled upon my passion and what I really want to do for the rest of my life. This country inspires me and brings out the best in me, in all senses.

It is surprising how a single event can change our lives forever just like today’s dish, a single ingredient that changes the whole character of the dish.

Roasted carrots with citrus and garam masala! When I read this recipe for the first time, I fell in love with it for its ingenuity. It was a flavour combination that I had never experienced before, lest thought about.

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Roasted carrots is no big deal, we have all had it a thousand times. But to oomph up the sweetness of the carrots, a touch of garam masala and then balance it all out with a dash of tangy fresh orange juice and lime zest. I promise you, once you taste roasted carrots this way, you will never want to have the plain roasted ones ever again.

This recipe for roasted carrots with citrus and garam masala is from ‘India – The Vegetarian Table’ by Yamuna Devi, a pioneer of Indian vegetarian cooking. I totally recommend this book to all those who love Indian flavours and want to incorporate it in an un-Indian setting.

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So, let’s get on to making roasted carrots with citrus and garam masala;

Ingredients:

1. 500 gm large carrots
2. 1 cup fresh orange juice
3. Juice and zest of 1 lime
4. 1 ½ tbsp gujarati garam masala
5. 1 tbsp ghee/butter
6. 3 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish


Gujarati garam masala:

(If you cannot bother with making this spice blend, use regular garam masala)

1. ½ cup coriander seeds
2. 3 tbsp fennel seeds
3. 1 tbsp brown mustard seeds
4. 1 tsp cardamom seeds
5. 10 cloves
6. ½ tsp red pepper flakes
7. 2 inch cinnamon

This yields more than you need; the rest can be stored for upto 3 months in an airtight container.


Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
2. Slice the carrots diagonally, approximately an inch thick.
3. In an oven-proof tray, lined with baking paper, combine the carrots with ½ cup orange juice, ghee or butter, juice and zest of half a lime, garam masala and salt. Mix well so that the carrots are well coated.
4. Roast for 20 minutes, remove and check seasoning. Add more citrus if necessary.
5. Continue to roast till the carrots are tender and lightly browned.
6. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
7. Serve warm with rice, grilled meats, seafood….with just about anything your heart desires.

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Stir Fried Chicken with Sichuan Peppercorns, Chillies and Cashews

I hate eating alone. It has always been a depressing task to eat alone and I have noticed that I eat less, do not enjoy my food and also eat crap when I am alone.

I remember noticing this habit of mine during high school, especially during the exam times when I used to study late and had dinner at a different time to my younger siblings. Within a few days of eating alone, my mom noticed that I wasted much of the food and started looking dull and deprived. Initially, she blamed it on the studies (oh well! Only I knew the truth of that) but soon she realized that it is my dislike of eating all by myself that led to this. And from then, she made sure that she sat with me every time I ate at a different time to the rest of the family.

Today, I am a mother but this has not changed a thing. I still hate eating alone even if it is the everyday lunches when the others are at school or work. In spite of being aware I must eat well and healthy, I tend to backslide a lot when I am eating alone. The whole process is a depressing one for me and I try to nullify the damage as much as possible by watching television or videos to accompany me for lunch.

And this habit of mine has always made me ponder the thought of how interwoven food actually is with our souls. It is not just a means of sustenance; it has the power to affect our souls in the deepest manner possible. Food shared with loved ones transcends every other joy on earth and according to me, happiest are those who sit down together for a meal every single day.

For us, on weekdays, it is dinner that is shared and eaten together – the most joyous time of the day (especially for me, after long hours of being alone). Amidst endless chatting, laughing, fighting, teasing and sometimes even crying, we enjoy the meal with a real sense of togetherness and as a family.

And for this very reason, dinner is always the well-thought of and prepared meal of the day. Most of the dishes posted on my blog are also eaten by the family at dinner.

This stir-fried chicken with Sichuan peppercorns, chillies and cashews is what I prepared for dinner last week. A dish from the Sichuan province of China, this one is flavourful and fiery.

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The star of the dish is the Sichuan peppercorns which is an integral part of any recipe from the Sichuan province of China. Unlike other parts of China like the Cantonese or Hunan region, the food of the Sichuan province is high on the heat scale. This is mostly because of the bone chilling wet and clammy climate of the region which enables the residents to have a high tolerance for spicy foods.

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You can of course reduce the heat by cutting down on the Sichuan peppercorns and chillies but then that would take away the soul of the dish. In spite of the peppercorns, this stir fried chicken does not have a numbing heat, instead it has a rich depth and flavour that makes the heat bearable.

I wouldn’t recommend this dish to those who run away at the sight of chillies. This is not a subtle dish, it packs in a punch and is bold in terms of flavour.

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So, let’s get cooking stir fried chicken with Sichuan peppercorns, chillies and cashews paired with a simple egg and red bell pepper fried rice.

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Ingredients:

1. 500gm boneless chicken thigh
2. 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
3. Salt, to season
4. 2 tbsp chilli oil
5. 2 tbsp cornflour
6. 50 gm cashewnuts
7. 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8. 1 inch ginger, finely chopped
9. 8 dry red chillies
10. 4 tbsp chilli garlic sauce
11. 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
12. 2 tbsp sugar
13. 2 spring onions
14. Vegetable oil

Note – If you cannot get Sichuan peppercorns, then increase the quantity of dry red chillies and use. And for chilli oil, I infused red chilli flakes in vegetable oil and used it; you can also get the same in Asian stores or takeaways.

Method:

1. Marinate the chicken with cornflour, salt, chilli oil, Sichuan pepper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2. Heat oil in a pan and shallow fry the chicken pieces; drain and keep aside.
3. Remove excess oil and roast the cashewnuts in the same pan and keep aside.
4. In the same pan (add more oil if necessary), sauté garlic and ginger for a minute. Add dry red chillies and sauté for one more minute on low heat.
5. Add chilli garlic sauce, cooking wine, sugar and mix well.
6. Add the chicken pieces and cashews; mix to combine.
7. Remove from heat and garnish with spring onions.

Note – It is important to check seasoning after adding the sauces and adjust accordingly.

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