Thursday, August 28, 2014

Memories of a Risotto




Goa is a funny place. With so many beaches and resorts, you would think it would be all calm and serene. But every time I head out there, I find myself in the middle of one big party. Now I'm usually the one to tag along with the group to whichever nightlife spot they are headed to, but I find it much harder to find food I can enjoy. After all, all the beach shacks are equipped to cook and sell seafood and a vegetarian dish is a rarity in Goan cuisine. So on one of the trips to Goa, I found myself in an Italian restaurant called Italie, just down the road from Baga Beach (it's now closed and has been replaced with a Russian restaurant). The hour was late, I was hungry and a tomato risotto seemed like a logical choice. It was the kind of comfort food that lingers in your memory long after you are back from the trip and finally, last night, I decided to recreate it.


The starting point was the tomato sauce I made a few days back. In addition to measuring out half a cup of tomato sauce, I defrosted a cup and a half of mushroom stock (but water will do if you don't have any stock at hand). I also roughly chopped 7-8 pitted olives and cut about 50 grams of mozzarella into cubes.


First step, heat the stock or water in a saucepan until it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and leave it to simmer. In another pan, heat a tbsp. of  olive oil. Add 1/2 cup Arborio rice and stir until the oil coats the rice. Now add the tomato sauce and mix well with the rice. Next, add enough stock to cover the rice. In a few minutes, once some of the stock has evaporated and you can see the rice again, add more stock. Keep adding the stock gradually until the rice is cooked though but still has a bite to it. Add the olives and the cubed cheese and let cook for another couple of minutes. Top with parmesan cheese when serving.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pao Bhaji Toasties



There is a new trend in Mumbai restaurants. Everyone is reinventing street food, putting their own twists and turns on age old favourites. "The Spare Kitchen" serves a Chowpatty platter that has some beautifully presented vada pao, bhelpuri and pani puri shots. "Masala Library" is putting a molecular twist on sev puri. My favourite reinventions so far are in the Juhu open air pub - Copa. Their ragda pattice redux is delicious and I have become a big fan of their pao bhaji toasties. But delicious as they are, these toasties come slathered with a huge quantity of butter so I tried making a healthier, yet equally delicious version at home.

First, you make pao bhaji. Next, you take two slices of whole wheat or multi grain bread. I am using a ciabatta here. Apply ghee or butter on one side of both slices of bread, as sparsely as you can. Spread a layer of pao bhaji on the unbuttered side of one of the bread slices. Next, grab a handful of arugula and cut it into thin strips with scissors. Arrange on the pao bhaji. Also take a small onion and dice it into small pieces. Sprinkle the onion all over the pao bhaji/arugula. Now if it was a real pao bhaji, you will add some lime juice before you eat it. In this case, grab a tsp of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle it over your sandwich. Top with the second slice of bread, buttered side up.

You can toast this in a Panini grill if you have one. If you don't (like me), what you do is heat up a flat griddle - a tawa - and reduce the heat to very low. Put your sandwich on the griddle and cover with a plate or a lid, pressing down a bit. A couple of minutes later, flip and cook the other side. Repeat until both sides are crisp and browned.

I serve this with some more arugula, parmesan and even more balsamic poured on the salad.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Holy Grail Tomato Sauce


A good tomato sauce is really handy to have around. It's obviously great for mixing in pastas and topping pizzas but once you have a batch in the fridge, you will be surprised at how many other uses come up. Like sandwiches, or eggs, or even a quick sauté of vegetables. I have come across many tomato sauce recipes in my life. And on at least three occasions, I have proclaimed a particular recipe to be the best so far. But this particular tomato sauce beats all of those hands down. In fact, this is so good that you should make it right now.

Start off with 4-6 tomatoes. Wash them and cut them into quarters. With a paring knife, take out the seeds - try and get as many as you can but don't kill yourself trying to get to every last seed. Also grab 3-4 cloves of garlic and peel them. Heat a non stick pan that is large enough to hold the tomatoes in a single layer. Add a tbsp of olive oil to the pan and swirl it around so it coats the base. Arrange the tomatoes on the pan and also throw in the peeled garlic. When the tomatoes start to char, turn them around one at a time and cook the other side as well until you see black roast marks on all your tomato pieces.

Let the tomatoes cool a bit, then take the skins off - at this stage, you don't really need to peel them. Just grab one end and the skin will skip right off. Pop the tomatoes and the garlic in a blender. To add to the tomato flavour, add 2 tbsp. of tomato paste/puree. Also add in a tsp of dried oregano and another tsp of dried basil, a swig (possibly a tbsp. but I didn't measure) of rice wine vinegar and salt to taste. Blend everything until it is of a consistency you like.