Monday, August 26, 2013

Meeting Matt Moran

There are very few of us that aren't aware of the hit TV cooking show MasterChef and we quite unanimously like the Australian edition the best. The three dapper judges, their benevolent nature, ever smiling faces, friendly guidance and constant encouragement to the participants have made them household favourites. As nice as they are none of these three are my personal favourite. Oh no. For me it was Matt Moran all the way!

So you can imagine my absolute delight when my friend Rushina invited me over to her studio for an informal brunch with Matt Moran himself! I felt like a teenager meeting the rock star of her dreams and yes, for me he is the rock star among chefs. So I was in full fan girl mode and I couldn't wait to meet him. 

Saee and I coordinated and decided to go together. She was nearly as excited as I was though she was not as hysterical ;) 
We arrived nice and early and the first thing we saw was the gorgeously set table. Rushina had out done herself completely. 

We were sat around this beautiful table and Matt took a seat somewhere in the middle of one long side. It was a packed house with bloggers, journalists, and media persons and soon our session began. Rushina introduced Matt and then we had a fun session bombarding Matt with all sorts of questions. He was equally curious and we had plenty of questions to answer ourselves! 

I've been following him on Twitter, reading his updates about his upcoming show Paddock to Plate and it was great to sit across a table and talk to him about it! I'm hoping we get to see this show here in India soon. 

(Photo credit -  APB Cook Studio)

I was happy to meet a few of my blogger friends like Nikhil and Prachi and popular young chef Saransh Goila.

As we chatted with Matt a delectable spread was laid out as a buffet with a few of Matt's own recipes being served. The staff were nice enough to serve us at the table so we could chat on undisturbed. We also had some lovely Australian wines to go along with our meal. 

A spiced up prawn cocktail 

Potato salad with Curried Mayonnaise

Chicken with chorizo and chickpeas


Chocolate Fondant with ice cream and raspberries

I've been to a fair few celebrity chef events but this is one I will always remember. I could never have imagined I'd sit across a table and happily chat away with a chef I'd seen on a top rated international show, let alone one I have a crush the size of the Himalayas on! The hubby had great fun teasing me about this extreme fan girl avatar I'd taken on and yes, I provided him with plenty of entertainment. If you can imagine me hopping around in anticipation the night before you've got the picture spot on! 

Here's what my friend Appu wrote about my Matt Moran.experience. She had a ring-side view of my enthusiasm and has put it down quite perfectly!

I'm still floating around a couple of inches above the ground :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cup Cakes Conquered!

Sometimes the simplest things can seem like an intimidating mountain. Cup cakes seemed like that to me. I saw friends churning out cup cakes in a jiffy for their kids' lunch boxes, for gal pal parties, for the neighbour's kids birthday party, as gifts on special occasions... it seemed effortless for them and I was always awestruck at how easy they made it look. And here I was, never even tried making a basic cup cake, let alone the beautifully iced and decorated confections that are all over the Internet.

Over the years I had amassed muffin pans, cup cake liners, decorating nozzles for frosting and even sprinkles to decorate with. But no cup cake ever emerged from my oven. Sigh.

I was chatting with two of my dearest friends yesterday (both expert bakers) and I finally demanded a fool proof basic recipe for cup cakes. I couldn't believe how simple it was! With much encouragement and a whole lot of enthusiastic cheering from both I finally took the plunge and made cup cakes.

Here's how

Ridiculously Easy Cup Cakes

In a mixing bowl take

100gms powdered sugar
100gms butter
100gms flour
1tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract

Beat them all together with your electric hand mixer till it's mixed into a batter. Add a little dahi/curd if the batter is too thick. Don't over beat.

Prepare a muffin tin with your cup cake liners. Drop in a dollop of batter into each cup cake liner and bake in your preheated oven for 15 - 18 minutes at 180C.

Voila! That's it. To think I wasted all these years wondering about the mysteries of cup cakes and how everyone else churned them out so easily! Well, now I know ;)

I didn't get a chance to decorate these babies because the hubby and I couldn't wait to eat them. Well, since they're so easy to make I'll decorate the next batch. Saee and Medha, I promise! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chicken in Bahraini spices

Like most other food bloggers I love trying out new ingredients and spices. My friend Jubal told me about a garam masala mix from Bahrain that he'd got and was willing to share with me. It seemed like a regular mix of powdered garam masala that also included turmeric, coriander and pepper among other things. The different spices were layered beautifully in the bottle adding greatly to its charm!

It was with quite a twinge that I emptied the contents into a large bowl and mixed up the spices so we could divide it between he two of us. The streak of black that you see near the top of the bottle is what puts this spice blend apart from other garam masala blends. That's powdered preserved lemons and it adds a fabulous flavour dimension to the mix.

I had to cook dinner and there was chicken thawing in the sink. I decided to try out this newly acquired spice mix and I have a winner!

Chicken in Bahraini Spices

1 chicken, cut into pieces
2 large onions, sliced
20 almonds soaked and then ground to a paste
2 generous tbsp Bahraini Spice mix
7-8 cloves fresh garlic
quarter cup fresh dahi/curd
olive oil
2 potatoes, cut in long thick chips
2 bay leaves

Marinate the chicken in salt, Bahraini spice and curd for a couple of hours.

Heat olive oil in a large cooking pan/pot and fry the potatoes till they are lightly browned. Remove to a plate and then fry the onions. Sprinkle a little sugar to help them caramelise.

Pound the garlic in a mortar and pestle and add the fresh garlic to the cooking pot. Once the onions start going pink add the chicken, leg pieces first. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring once in a while. Then add the rest of the chicken pieces reserving the marinade. Add the potatoes now. Bhunno for a bit and then cover and let it cook for another 10 minutes or so.

Add a cup of water to the reserved marinade and add it to the pot. Let it all come to a boil and then simmer it till the gravy is reduced a little. Add the almond paste and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Check that the potatoes are done.

Remove to a nice serving bowl and serve with plain steamed rice, rotis or a simple garlic and olive oil focaccia. Garnish with a few flaked almonds if you like, to make it look pretty.

The spice mix has a heady lemony scent and results in a robust spicy gravy - flavourful, not hot. The almond paste gives the gravy body and richness making this dish one I'd be happy to serve at a party.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lau Chingri - Prawns with Bottle Gourd

Bottle Gourd or Lau always put me off when I was a child. I also greatly disliked prawns in those days. I never imagined I would ever cook either of the two myself, let alone together in the same dish! And here I am, after 30 odd years showing off the Lau Chingri I have cooked :)

Lau chingri is an eternal favourite among Bengalis and, as is always the case with such preparations, recipes vary from family to family. I got this recipe from my cousin's wife. What surprised me is the incredible simplicity of this preparation and how frugal the list of ingredients is. See for yourself -

Lau Chingri

10-15 prawns, shelled and deveined
1 medium bottle gourd or Lau, peeled and cubed.

chilli powder
tej patta or bay leaves
1/2 tsp whole cumin or jeera
2 dried Kashmiri chillies
mustard oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp pure ghee

Add salt and turmeric to the prawns and fry lightly in hot mustard oil for a minute, turning frequently. Let them turn just opaque. Remove to a plate.

In the same oil add the red chillies, tej patta and jeera. Let it sizzle and then add the cubed pieces of Lau. Add turmeric, a little salt and some chilli powder.

Stir it all well and fry the lau pieces nicely with all the spices for a few minutes. add some sugar and fry some more. Add a very little bit of water, less than quarter cup, and stir again. Once it starts to boil cover the wok and reduce to a simmer. Let it cook for about 10 minutes till the lau is cooked through.

Add the prawns now and cook covered for another 2 or 3 minutes.

Add a generous teaspoon of ghee once the cooking is complete. Leave it covered for a minute. Remove to a serving bowl and enjoy Lau Chingri with gorom bhaat or steaming hot rice.