MID-WEEK TREAT: BOMBAY DUCK FISH PIE

I bought a bright, shiny red pie pan approximately a year and a half ago in the hopes of becoming a regular pie-baker. I don’t know if that’s the right term, but you get the drift. I did look up some sweet pie recipes, but was so intimidated that I didn’t venture out into that territory.The tin just sat on the rack where I store my baking supplies calling out for a spin in the oven. Until, one day when I had a crazy day at work and just couldn’t make the time to cook a full Indian meal for lunch.

I looked in the freezer – there were two kinds of fish – Pomfret and Bombay Duck. If Bombay Duck being a fish confuses you, I can relate to it. When I was little, I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept either. It’s a lovely, soft, delicate fish, native only to the waters along the western coast of India. For a seafood junkie, it is love at first bite but it may well be an acquired taste for others.

I’ve always had it the traditional way – shallow fried with a crispy, masala-batter coating. I wondered, if I could make a fish pie out of this delicious catch. A savoury pie didn’t seem as scary. I Googled ‘fish pie’, and chanced upon a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Now is probably a good time to tell you that am a big fan of JO. He is responsible for my obsession with attempting to grow fresh herbs, tomatoes, lemons, strawberries and what-have-you. So far I have succeeded with coriander, mint and a lemon tree is spreading it’s branches in my balcony. Hopefully we’ll have some lemons to sample this summer.

Back to my pie though. JO’s recipe looked so easy (one of the reasons we love him so much), included veggies and was topped with a delicious potato mash instead of a pastry. Looked like a wholesome meal to me. Here’s the original recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Fish Pie.

While JO’s recipe calls for a variety of seafood, I used about half a kilo of Bombay Duck and veggies. Also, you can poach the fish for a few seconds in some boiling water and tease out the bones easily. Since Bombay Duck tends to have a lot of water content, I tossed the meat in some rice flour to avoid a soggy pie. From there on, I pretty much stuck to the rest of the instructions in the recipe.

The baked potato mash on top is glorious. If you do bake this wonder, be sure to coat it with some olive oil to give it a lovely golden finish. We really enjoyed our lunch that afternoon and the leftovers made for a cozy dinner.

What is your fave simple, one dish meal?

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FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY: GREAT TIPS FROM A PRO PUT TO USE

Over the past month, I have been obsessing over the decision to buy a DSLR that I’ve had my eye on for a while. It’s the Nikon D5100. Every few days I trundle over to the Nikon India website and wonder what is the one thing that will push me to place the order for one. And a couple of lenses while am at, I mean why not, right? Okay, the lens I start with will actually be the kit lens, but no harm in a little daydreaming…It’s not that I cannot afford to buy the camera, I have been saving up money for one. But something is just holding me back from making the commitment. Somebody (my rational voice) is whispering in my ears, what if am just another one of the many untalented enthusiasts toting a fancy piece of equipment? I have looked at some perfect, yet uninspiring stills clicked with high-end cameras and been really, really worried that I may be on the same path myself.As always, common sense dawned upon me a little later, and I realised that I just had to believe I could get to a place where I could be good at photography. I may be far away from that benchmark yet, but I would never get there unless I tried. I have decided to take baby steps, instead of rushing head-on (which I was running away from doing anyway).

Now, I have decided to learn as much as I can both theoretically and practically. Am going to stick with my point-and-shoot Sony Cybershot for the time being. Am going to explore the several buttons, knobs and settings to see what all this little miracle can pull off. At the same time, I have begun to read up, watch videos, look at great photography and dig for pearls of wisdom from the pros.

A few days back I came across this excellent collection of tips from Penny De Los Santos on the National Geographic website – an eternal fount of inspiration. Head over here now if you’d like to learn a few interesting details about how you can bring a plate of food to life. I simply love how every picture tells a story and gives you a glimpse into a new culture. Penny has shared her inspirations and how she feels about her work giving impetus to my desire to fiddle around.

This evening, I baked a batch of banana muffins using a recipe by Kanan from her blog Spice up the Curry. My friend Bhakti who blogs at Lifestylerr.com, recommended this recipe a couple of weeks ago and I was waiting to give them a go. The only change I made to the original recipe is that used the natural sweetness of the bananas and didn’t add any sugar to sweeten up the batter. My muffins came out just like freshly baked muffins should…fluffy, fragrant and divine!

Have I told you how, whenever I cook something new, I have to click pictures of it before I even try it? It is a just-in-case measure. If the dish turns out great and share-worthy, I want to share it with all of you. Must spread the love. Always.

So armed with my newly learned theory about great food photography, I got going and clicked until the sun went down. Here are the results for you to see. And judge. I’d love to know what you think.

 

BROKEN WHEAT/DALIA SALAD RECIPE

Every once in a while, N and I go on this mad salads and soup spree. Usually it’s triggered by an extended period of carefree indulgence, which bites us in the bum eventually. I love a salad meal, not only is it light, fresh, nutritious but also super easy to whip up in no time. It also means loads of experimentation, since it’s unlikely that you will go terribly wrong with a salad.I came across the idea of using broken wheat (dalia) in a salad on some food site, which I have lost track of. So, unfortunately, I can’t give any links to the original recipe. I’ve adapted and experimented with the ingredients for this one several times, and now it has taken on a new avataar.

This salad is a quick and easy summer-time meal when chilled and a winter one when slightly warm. The broken wheat and vegetables give you a range of flavours and textures, so even a non-lover of broken wheat will be happy to sit down to this meal. I know this because N, who is a fussy eater, loves this salad every single time I’ve made it. In fact, it was a big hit at a dinner party we hosted for 15 carnivores. The bowl was empty and the recipe was shared with several enthusiasts.

Here’s how you can make this lovely salad as a meal or as a first course.

Serves Two | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 2 minutes | Cooling time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup broken wheat (Dalia), preferably the coarse variety
3/4 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 medium green capsicum, chopped. You may use any other peppers that you may have on hand
1 onion sliced into half moons
1/2 cup roughly chopped coriander leaves
2 tablespoons honey mustard salad dressing
1 green chilly, finely chopped
Salt to taste
2 cups of boiling hot water
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons of grated cheese of your choice

Method

Pour your broken wheat into a salad bowl. Sprinkle the salt and pour the hot water over this until the grains are fully submerged. Cover with a lid and leave aside for 20 minutes.

Soak the sliced onion in ice-cold water for 10 minutes. This will get rid of any pungency the onion may have. Keep all chopped ingredients in the fridge until the broken wheat is soaked, so they remain crisp and fresh.

After the grains have fluffed up a bit, drain the remaining water from the bowl. Don’t worry if a little water stays back in the bowl, we intend to cook that out. Now heat a non-stick pan, drizzle some golden olive oil into it and swirl around to cover the surface of the pan. Once the oil is hot, tip in the drained grains and stir gently. It’s easier if you fold the grains in rather than stir vigourously. Over handling the grains will release the gluten and make them sticky. So just toss about gently, for approximately two minutes or until you feel them puffing up a bit.

Turn off the heat, transfer contents onto a metal tray and chill in the fridge if it’s summer. In winter, just bring it down to a cozy warm temperature. Tip the cooled broken wheat back into the now-wiped salad bowl, drizzle the honey mustard dressing and mix gently. Add the vegetables and toss everything together.

Adjust the seasoning and serve with a generous sprinkling of cheese. For honey mustard lovers like myself, add an extra drizzle on the plate!

 

MIDWEEK TREAT: LOW FAT BROWNIES

I firmly believe that chocolate, ice cream or brownies can fix anything.

A few days ago, I had a super high intensity craving for brownies. Now, I can’t get my hands on any brownies, living where I live. Thankfully, I had on hand all the stuff I needed to bake some and a nice Sanjeev Kapoor recipe too. I improvised a little tossing in some walnuts and adjusting the flour ratio.

Since they turned out pretty yummy, I had to spread the love! So here’s the recipe with some modifications and tips.

Makes about 16 brownies | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 25 mins or more


Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup wholewheat flour
3/4 cup refined flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda bicarbonate
3/4 cup caster sugar (Original recipe calls for a cup, but I cut down on it for a less sweeter version)
2 egg whites, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 tablespoons oil (Original uses 1 1/2, but I found this makes the brownies too dry and flat)
1 tablespoon butter, melted or a blob will work too
My own little fourish, 1/2 cup of walnuts broken into tiny pieces. Avoid the temptation to chop or bash the walnuts, you will end up with quite a bit of crushed powder.

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F. Grease an 8 inch square tray or line with butter paper.
Sift the flours, baking powder and soda bicarbonate into a bowl.
Melt the butter over very low heat. Add the cocoa powder to this and slowly stir over the low heat for two minutes. Make sure the mixture doesn’t boil or burn. You can also add some of the milk to this, to prevent the chocolate from burning. Melting the butter and cooking the cocoa powder makes for a better tasting, non-doughy batter.
Beat the caster sugar with the eggs until combined and fluffy.
Divide the flour up into three parts. Start with folding the egg whites and sugar into a portion of the flour. Alternating between dry and wet ingredients mix in the remaining ingredients until everything is well integrated. Be careful not to over beat the mixture. If you’re using an electric blender, keep it to low speeds.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until it’s firm to touch and an inserted knife comes out clean. Leave in the tin until completely cooled.
Use a sharp knife to cut into 16 odd squares and remove from tin using a spatula.

These low fat brownies are a real treat, especially if you have been on a diet. The walnuts add a crunchy texture and crank up the health quotient too. A perfect excuse to stuff face.

They are great as a dessert after a scrumptious lunch or even better as a midnight snack. You can wash them down with some chilled milk.

Have you ever been consumed by a craving so much that you’re willing to do anything to satisfy it?

Cupcake Gluttony: Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon filling

A friend sent me a link to drop-dead gorgeous cupcakes (30 of them!) and thankfully the pictures were accompanied by recipes. The baker-writer has done a fabulous job, even though she claims to have never baked before, her cupcakes look like they belong in a cupcake shop. Her generous effort of cataloging 30 of the best recipes from friends and family is truly commendable. You must stop by here, even if to only indulge in visual gluttony of Ming’s creations.

I really wanted to try out a recipe, and from the long list, I picked Cupcake 23: Vanilla cupcakes with Lemon filling (there was no way I was gonna manage the meringue frosting) based on the access to ingredients and my desire to try my hand at whisking a lemon curd. Do you follow all those heart-wrenchingly lovable Masterchef Australia series? If you don’t, you must look them up. In India they are running the Junior Masterchef series, and it makes me feel quite ashamed, really. Am blown away by the sheer talent, technique and palate of the competing kids. Even though I can’t taste a single thing, I can tell how delicious those whip-ups are!

Lucy, who is a third generation cake queen and all of 11 years old, was whisking together a lemony yellow lemon curd the other day. And I thought, I must try this someday. Then, along comes Cupcake 23 and I have the chance to get my wish granted. I grabbed it with both hands, put pen to paper and jotted down the recipe in my lil recipe book (thank you Hammie for the Daydreams Nightdreams notebook. It is rapidly filling up at both ends).

Here’s a snapshot of what I attempted. If you read on, you’ll pat my back for the delicate choice of words.

When I tried my first batch, I wanted to cry. Mine came out too short to even peek above the cupcake wrappers! But they tasted divine. So I decided to give them another go (in any case, the 8 I made vanished before you could say Jack Sparrow and my craving wasn’t done yet).

No, I have no amazing story to tell of how I conquered a batch of cupcakes. The second time was only slightly better looking, however, I came nowhere close to the creation above. I bemoaned my ambitious spirit, wondering why I didn’t settle for some bun-butter-sugar (which is my go-to treat in times of sugary cravings) instead. At least that looks neat and edible.

But when they taste so good, who cares about how rustic they look, right? My story does have a happy ending after all. The cupcakes came out soft and fluffy, sweet and tangy, and we all lived happily ever after. Not the cupcakes, those were gone and the crumbs were dusted.

I urge you to give one of them a go too. They look deceptively difficult, but with a bit of patience, am sure you’ll manage a super yummy set.

P.S. You’ll thank me someday for sharing the link with you.
P.P.S. Try to send me some, when you try any of them. I have no favourites, or let’s say, they all agree very well with me!

Infectious Creativity: Pinterest Delights

If you’re new to Pinterest, then let me shine the spotlight on this wonderful social sharing platform. It has tons of inspiration in the form of pictures and videos, all put up by people like you and me. You can create your own moodboards and go nuts (like I have done).

In all fairness, there is a bit of trend spotting on the agenda for about 20 of my Pinterest boards. Some of us at work thought, ooh, how do we make all this pinning of beautiful stuff legit. Bam. Our Signbanking boards were born.

But getting back to my original point, this is the place to go completely loony about everything your eyes desire. If you’re a closet hoarder, you can come out to the world here. After all, you’re only spreading some joy. It’s easy to sign up using your Facebook profile,Twitter handle or email id. Be sure to add the ‘pinmarklet’ button to your browser, so you can pin all the lovable things you see from any page online.

There is some gorgeous edible art that I have been pinning onto my Tuck Box board and thought it would be wonderful to give you a peek at it. Just looking at these creations makes me pine for delicious treats.

1. Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Mousse from The New York Times via Chloé Douglas
2. Mr. Egg from a bit of pilli pilli via Anne Louise
3. Van Gogh Cupcakes from Kate’s Cupkery via Akanksha Khatri
4. Dragonfly Cupcakes from Disney family.com via Brenda McGuire

If you’d like to see the rest of the drool worthy stuff I’ve been pinning, just head over to my Pinterest profile.

Infectious Creativity: Illustrated Bites

In a sea of beautifully styled food blogs with glamorous pictures of vittles, here comes a delightful blog with illustrated recipes and cooking tips. Heather Diane is an artist who has combined two loves – image making and food. A wonderful idea, isn’t it?

Head on over to her blog Illustrated Bites to dive into a world where your imagination will get a high and your stomach will rumble with desire.