Bacon caught your attention, didn’t it? I’ll take that as a yes. Crisp bacon strips with eggs sounds like the perfect hangover curing breakfast. Yes, bacon does make anything better. But even you know it’s not good for you (such a buzzkill). That’s why I rarely pick a small packet of it at the supermarket. This time around, I wanted to try my hands on bacon jam. Sweet, salty and sticky bacon and onion jam.
It’s not always restaurants get pesto right. Not that they don’t know how to do it – because it’s pretty straight forward. But it’s probably because restaurants here are used to making pasta ‘sauces’ quite creamy. So they add a load of cream in their pesto and call it ‘pesto sauce’. That’s certainly not how I like my pesto. There’s nothing snobbish about it. Basil tastes great when it’s not cooked and diluted with cream. Just some cooked pasta tossed in pesto enough to coat it is perfect.
Remember that peanut sauce that comes with satay dishes in restaurants? This one’s like that. It’s a 5 minute job to whip it up and can be used as a sauce for a stir-fry or for dipping chicken and veggies. It’s sweet, spicy and has a strong peanut taste (of course!). Using peanut butter as a base, you can get really creative with this one. I simply love it and will keep making it as and when I need some quick fix Thai style comfort food. Just toast some vegetables or even chicken, and slather this sauce on them. Simple. You can make it ahead and keep it in your fridge. I say this with the hope that you’d use it all up in 3-4 days.
Remember my recent trip to the hills? Yes, Saattal it was. I brought back a bunch of jams. One of them was an apricot jam. Turns out, it’s my favourite. But how long will I just spread it over bread? That’s why I used it instead of honey for my sweet and spicy chilli sauce. This one’s a 3-ingredient sauce – chillies, garlic and apricot jam. Since there aren’t any other ingredients to give it volume, I used a lot of chillies. Don’t be alarmed, they were all deseeded. Except 2-3 I guess, for the heat.
When I made roasted pumpkin soup a couple of months ago, I had a revelation with roasted pumpkin. I don’t know why I never always made a batch and refrigerated it. Correcting that now. I roasted a kilo of pumpkin cubes to use multiple times. Just cube pumpkin into bite sized pieces and roast in an oven at 180 degrees C for 45 minutes. Coming to this dish, I started off making a basic marina (tomato + lots of garlic) for spaghetti. While I was pureeing the tomatoes I realized I didn’t have enough for two portions of spaghetti. I quickly remembered I had the pumpkin in the fridge. I added two cups of the roasted cubes into the tomato puree and then cooked it out some more with some basil and paprika.
Sambar and rice in a bowl is my favourite comfort food, among other kinds. Everybody likes their sambar different – sour, spicy or even sweet sometimes. I like mine a tad sour and loaded with veggies. However you may like your sambar, one thing has to be consistent – your sambar powder. Like many people, I would buy mine too. MTR, Everest and other companies do have some really good spice mixes for sambar, rasam and other south Indian favourites. But I’ve always wanted to make my own powder to see how different it would taste and if it was something I could sustain doing regularly. Again, most households have their own version of sambar powder. Turns out, I can.I looked up a few recipes, asked a few people, read a few pointers and tweaked it accordingly. And now I’m wondering why didn’t I do this sooner!
Carrot and lemongrass soup recipe
After my roasted pumpkin soup, I’d decided go try on different kinds of soups that can work as a meal on its own. Hearty and nourishing is what a soup should be for me. It’s also a great way to get some veggies into my diet. As far as soups go, I like vegetable soups that are thick and hearty, broth style clear and full of flavour if they’ve got meat. This soup has all the aromatics it needs to fill your home with fragrance – coriander stems, ginger and lemongrass.
Soup is bubbling away
Serves: 3 people (the hungry kinds)
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 15-20 mins
Carrots – 2 chopped to small cubes (roughly 2 or 2.5 cups)
Onion – 1 chopped
Garlic – 3-4 cloves
Ginger – 2 inch piece (alter according to your preference)
Lemongrass – 1 stalk chopped
Green chilli – 1/2 chopped (omit if you don’t want any heat)
Coriander stems – a handful chopped
Coconut milk – 1/2 cup and 1 tsp for garnish
Chicken/vegetable bouillon cube – 1 (adds good flavour but it’s optional)
Water – 1 cup
Oil to cook
Heat some oil and saute the chopped onion till soft and translucent.
Add ginger and garlic.
Now tip the carrots in and saute.
Pour the water and coconut milk, and add the rest of the ingredients.
Turn the flame down and let it cook for 15 mins, covered.
Take it off the flame and puree it in a blender or use a hand blender. If you’re putting it in your blender, wait for it to cool down a little.
Once it has been pureed, put it back on the flame. Check if the consistency is right for you. If you want to thin it, add some more coconut milk or a splash of water. Bring it to a boil and take it off the heat.
Now you can serve it as it is or run it through a sieve. I didn’t use a sieve and got bits of ginger in my mouth while enjoying the soup. I didn’t mind it, but I’m sure some of you would.
Garnish with a spoon of coconut milk (or not) and some coriander leaves.
Sticky honey chilli chicken recipe
Remember the Chilli honey paste recipe from a while ago? This was sitting in the fridge since then and I needed to use it before it found itself a permanent spot at the back of the fridge. I had some boneless thigh pieces marinating in ginger garlic paste sitting in the fridge as well. This is the best thing I could do with them. I simply pan fried them till they were nice and browned and cooked through and then tossed them in the chilli honey paste mixed with soy and fish sauce. Makes for a great appetizer as well.
Yield: 2 portions
Boneless chicken – 4 thighs cut into pieces (you could use 2 -3 boneless breasts as well)
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Soy (dark/honey soy) – 1 tbsp
Chilli honey paste – 2 tbsp
Fish sauce – 1 tbsp (if you don’t have it, leave it out and add salt to taste)
Sesame oil – 2 tsp
Honey – 1 tbsp
Marinate chicken in ginger garlic paste overnight or for a couple of hours.
Heat oil in a nonstick pan and cook chicken in it till browned and cooked through – say around 2-3 mins per side depending on the size of the pieces. Keep aside.
Mix sesame oil, soy, fish sauce, chilli honey paste and honey together.
Heat the pan again and pour the sauce mixture into it.
Let it bubble up for 2 mins.
Toss the cooked chicken in the sauce till coated well.
Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and coriander leaves.
Recipe for chilli honey paste
Supermarkets today stock isles full of readymade pastes and sauces to make your life easy. Once you have a sauce or paste as your dish’s base, then all there’s left to do is to bring the veggies/meat together. Your meal is done in just a few minutes. I made such pastes and sauces at home so I know what’s in them, unlike the bottled ones with ingredients that sound like they belong in a lab! If you make them at home, you can do small batches for one time use. Or make bigger batches and freeze till your next meal.
Yield: 1 tbsp (for one time use)
Dried red chillies (I used Kashmiri) – 3 large or 4 medium ones
Cumin – 1 tsp
Garlic – 3 cloves
Honey – 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Dry roast chillies and cumin. I deseeded one of the chillies because I wanted more colour and less heat.
Blitz together in a blender with the rest of the ingredients.
Use in a stir fry or noodles like I did.
Note: If you want to make a bigger batch, save it in a jar and in the freezer so it lasts longer.
For twenty rupees I got myself a relatively big bunch of amaranth leaves. No, inspiration didn’t hit me like a wave or anything to make pesto out of it. It was only because I didn’t know what else to do with leftover leaves after making upkari out of most of them. This amaranth and basil pesto though turned out to be pretty damn good – texture and taste wise. I didn’t add any cheese though, because I didn’t have any.
Amaranth leaves – 2 cups chopped
Basil leaves – 1 cup
Cashew nuts – handful
Olive oil – 1/4 cup
Salt to taste
Blitz all ingredients in a blender till smooth or rough paste.
Toss pasta in it or even as a sandwich spread.