Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Greek Chicken(or not) Pizza/Tossing up a weekday wonder.

I promised you a to-die-for pizza recipe on Monday. And Monday, like my fitness levels, has been long gone. Monday doesn't mean Monday. What it stands for is any insipid, tiring, manic-in-a-bad-way weekday. Which today definitely counts as, for me. A day that needs melted cheese to soothe away the crappy-ness of the morning. Here's where my weekend experiment with pizza dough comes in handy.

Or you could stop in at French Loaf after work and pick up half a dozen of their wholegrain pizza bases. Will make life that much easier for you. And from all the whining (in a non-Akon way) I hear from friends, we could all stand for life to get a little less difficult.

The first pizza I wanted to make was this Barbeque-chicken-ranch-cheddar cheese pizza. One of those things that confuse and blow your mind at the same time. Is it a burger? Is it a pizza? No, it's Super-freaking-deliciousness on a plate.

Alas. Time wasn't on my side, so I got to marinating and grilling some chicken (used my Chicken Gyros recipe) and put some pizza sauce to bubble away merrily on the stove. The toppings weren't that demanding to prep for, except for the unpitted olives, half of which ended up in my mouth, any way.

And you can skip the chicken altogether, making it a completely vegetarian pizza, but the whole lemon-oregano-olive oil Gyros wasn't something I was going to pass up on. Maybe you could try the same with mushrooms? Let me know!

Greek Chicken Pizza


1 recipe of the pizza dough (or 6 medium sized bases)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
6 cloves of garlic, minced
250 g grilled chicken (Chicken Gyros).
1/2 cup sliced pitted olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 recipe pizza sauce (or open up a bottle of the same)
2 onions, cut into slices
2 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 bunch spinach, washed and drained.
2 tsps Extra Virgin olive oil.


Roll the pizza dough out onto greased foil or parchment paper (NOT BUTTER PAPER).
Alternatively, you can use a readymade base.

Brush the circumference with a teeny bit of Extra Virgin Olive oil. Strew minced garlic, pushing it into the dough.

Spread the tomato sauce on the pizza base.

These are the toppings that I used.

Make sure the spinach has been washed and scrubbed!

Top with tomatoes, onions, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, olives and spinach. Add a drop of olive oil over the onions, so they caramelize as they bake.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celcius. After the edges become brown and the cheese bubbly (it took me 12 minutes), take the pizza out.

Top with the shredded chicken. I prefer to do this after the baking is over, so the chicken won't dry out or go rubbery due to overcooking.

Sprinkle with oregano, and enjoy/attack!

Recipe source: barely adapted from Food Network

And while this is Mmm-Mmm-Mmm, I can't wait to try the Ranch-Barbeque thing.

Make this, don't think about it. You know you want to. Don't blame me if you can't eat at the Hut again, though.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Homemade Pizza Dough/Get your fingers in the pie!

Weekends. Movies at Sathyam, catching a match (where Chennai Super Kings lose again) at one of the coffee shops/pubs/MAC-Chepauk and maybe driving down to Temple Bay Resort for some R-and-R with colleagues?

I'll tell you how mine went. Dealing with critically-ill patients, women in labour and testy gastroenterologists/gynaecologists/MediInsurance. Hearing that my convocation and weekend trip to Pondicherry were cancelled. And making pizza dough. Redemption comes in various doughy ways.

You need your Biceps to be at least semi-toned, in order to make Pizza Dough from scratch. All that kneading and punching and tossing. You also need a healthy dose of anger, dejection and disappointment. It'll all dissipate when you're done kneading. You can then top your pizza with anything from pineapple to Nutella to Jalapenos and reconsume lost calories. It might even be the highlight of your weekend.

You can make two to three batches pizza dough in the weekend and stow it away in the freezer for a good couple of months, wrapped in three layers of cling film (and put into a Ziploc bag for good measure).

This isn't something for the weekdays. Pizza dough rolled out and topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella and basil and baked until golden is for the weekdays, though. I'm not making stress-eaters out of you. I'm merely stating the obvious.

As for the flour, I'd suggest bread flour. If you live in India, All-purpose flour or maida is the closest substitute. It'll give you good old-fashioned pizza dough, the kind you'd find Luigi/Mario tossing. (Explanation: I am child of the nineties. Pizza=Pizza Hut; Italian names=Super Mario Bros).

You can work up to whole wheat dough, cheese stuffed crust, Chicago deep dish style with furthur experimentaion. The recipe hunt takes me straight to Baking Illustrated's classic pizza dough recipe, and furthur Googling takes me to Heidi Swanson's post on aunthetic pizza dough.

So, stash your flour in the freezer a couple of hours before Project Pizza Dough begins. Cold flour reminds me of Tempura, and that is yuMmmy in my book, so the start is auspicious enough for me. Another tip that floats around the internet is to cling film the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours/overnight, so the flavour deepens... but if your Yeast does more than it is paid for, you might have some huge Robin Williamsque goop that you'll have to punch-punch-punch down.

Speaking of yeast, it has to be in working condition, whether you're using Fresh yeast or Active Dry or Instant. It has to practically foam/bubble in the warm water; if it doesn't, start over with better Yeast.

And now. Enough talking, let's get to the actual kneading.

Homemade Pizza Dough:


1/2 cup warm water (40 to 45 C or 110 F)
2 1/4 tsps Instant Yeast or 1 packed tbsp fresh yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups bread flour/All-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Semolina(rava) or cornmeal for sprinkling


In a medium-sized bowl, combine the warm water and yeast.

After all the yeast is dissolved in, let it stand for 5 minutes and become foamy.

Add the remaining room-temperature water and oil into it. Mix until combined.

In a large bowl, combine the cold flour and salt.

Add in the yeast-liquid and combine with a wooden spoon or your hands until a cohesive mass forms. Add a few tbsps of flour if you find it too sticky to deal with.

At this stage, you can use your hand mixer with your dough hook to knead the dough into a smooth, pliable ball. Or take the cohesive mix out and knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, like you would with chapati dough.
Once you have a dough ball, place it in the well-oiled bowl. Turn it around so the whole ball is coated with oil. Cover the bowl with cling film/plastic wrap and let it rise in the warmest part of your kitchen for two hours.
The dough would have risen. Punch the air out of it.

Divide it into two equal-sized smooth balls. Cover them with either a damp kitchen cloth (I used an old, clean chiffon dupatta). Let them rise for 10 minutes, but no more than 30 minutes. Your dough is now ready to be Rolled-and-Rocked, in that order!

 Alternatively, wrap the risen balls in a couple of layers of cling film and freeze the dough. In order to use the frozen dough at a later date, you'll have to remember to take it out of the freezer and stash it in the refrigerator in the morning if you want to have pizza for dinner that day. The refrigerated dough can be taken out and furthur thawed at room temperature for 30 minutes.

The dough below isn't ready yet, because the indentations I make keep springing back.

 When it's fully thawed out, the dough won't be springy. If you make dents, they'll actually hold the shape in the dough. Exhibit B.

On a clean work surface that's been floured and sprinkled with semolina/cornmeal, place your dough ball. Punch the dough out some more and shape it into a rough circle with your hands.


You can also work on it with a rolling pin for neater results, but it doesn't seem as authentic. Make sure it's only as thick as paranthas, because it will rise some more in the oven.

Transfer the prepared dough to a greased Aluminium foil or parchment paper. BUTTER PAPER DOES NOT WORK. Epic fail, to have used butter paper, it just lead to a gigantic sticky mess.

Add sauce, toppings and cheese to the prepared crust. Bake in a preheated oven until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly!

I know the post seems blah and there's nothing to salivate over except a pain-in-the-ass dough. This is just the template. I might have the perfect pizza to blow Monday blues away. You can fully cheat and use pre-made pizza crust, I promise to not make snide remarks. Arrivederci!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sea Shell Arabian Specialty Restaurant/The Mundu and The Abaya.

I'm going to behave, for a change.

All my restaurant reviews have been posted on Mondays or Tuesdays. Who does that? Unless, of course, you live in a lovely, alternate reality where you get to dine out (or be wine-and-dined) on weekdays. Incidentally, if you live that kind of a fancy life, do mail me on how to get there. Like a 12-step programme or whatever. I'll give you cupcakes in return.

Normal people, who socialize during the weekends, rejoice. I know this doesn't apply for doctors, but sorry, guys. You dug your grave, now you lie in it.

So. The rest of you, listen up. For you, I've eaten, re-eaten, drunk digestives such as mint tea/zeera water and eaten out some more. Only so you know where to go right away, instead of taking the long, unsavoury and horrendously expensive route.

You know of my love for the Mediterranean and Greek food, I'm guessing? My family opposes of this love affair (again, guys?). It simply does not suffice for them to cut a piece of artfully arranged steamed fish and dip it in the tiny drizzle of lemon-cilantro sauce and chew on it for an hour and a half. On the other hand, their palates have been spoilt silly... they can't have mass-produced, chain-restaurant-y food either.

So all day Sunday, we scour the Sunday newspaper supplements and We read reviews, we call other foodies, we draw up a shortlist of new places to eat out at. We slick on our lipglosses, spray on Chance by Chanel, get into the car, full of preprandial glee... and we land up at Seashell Arabian Speciality Restaurant.

Before you smirk, NOT the one on Greams Road (that would be Seashell Cafeteria, same people, less posh). Yes, I do go there to pick up quboos (pita) when I'm too tired to make them at home. W and I used to religiously eat there at least once a week, during my internship. Usually on Fridays, after Jumah prayer, when he emotionally blackmails with his stories of childhood days in Saudi Arabia, when Friday would be a mini-festival of sorts.

I'd do my song-and-dance about the wastage of money and the usage of calories, but, seriously. Canteen chapatis and dubious kurma or grilled chicken and LOTS of it?

Grilled chicken, it is, and if you plan on going there with the family or with friends, don't go to the one on Greams Road. It's named Cafeteria for a reason. It's packed, loud, serves quick-and-delicious food, but won't do for a peaceful night out. Instead, head to Anna Nagar.

The interiors are repetitive. Wooden tables, velvet-lined chairs, yellow lighting, Aquafina bottles, tissue papers with their name printed... the regular shebang. It does not aspire to be "different", thought provoking or invoking or controversial. You don't have to be on your best behaviour, smile extra wide or be extra polite. It's the kind of place where it's OK if your nephew decides to shed all his clothing until he looks like John Abraham in Dostana (given that said nephew is under the age of 2). It is even OK, and smiled upon, if your sister decides to put on an impromptu dance show for all the people in waiting. Not OK if she says "Sanjeevanam Herbal soap valangum Maanaada Mayilaada, After the Break!!" at the end of it, though.

And yes, this is still a food blog. Moving on.

Do me a favour and order only the Arabic or Malyali dishes, OK? If you plan on getting Chop Suey or Kashmiri Pulao, you can't blame me if it tastes bad. This restaurant is run by Malyalis who've returned richer from UAE and other parts of the Gulf. And I presume you're not the type to go to Mainland China and ask for Saffron Prawn Risotto, so do me this favour.

The Arabic dishes we had were...

Repeat after me. Arabian style Grilled Chicken.

The ARABIAN-STYLE grilled chicken. Not the violently-red tandoori chicken that they also serve, but the ARABIAN grilled chicken. They've brought the wrong thing many, many times, so you might want to spell it out/describe it to them. With a side of pita bread, hummus and thoum (garlic mayonnaise, not unlike an aioli). It's tender, juicy, spiced just right... make pita pockets, and dive in.

This would be the chicken shawarma, with a side of pickled radishes/carrots and chilli. Don't leave without ordering at least one. A smorgasbord of just-grilled chicken, heated with tomatoes, onions and mayo and tossed. The entire concoction gets wrapped in pita or a parantha (Yes, I know).

Why the heck am I describing shawarma to you? It's as ridiculous as explaining what white Modern bread is. Sounds like I just want to make you all jealous at some subconscious (and mostly conscious) level. The simple ones are priced at 50, but go on up to 120 bucks as they get more fancier and decked with more components.

And the one semi-flop of the day... The dish above. That would be the Grilled Fish Platter/Samak Tawa. Fish, that I have reason to believe, drowned in Masala and then was cremated, just in case. Far be it for me to criticize flaky fish that has been charred outside by fiery coals. It's the masala that's a downer. Too much of it, coating my mouth completely.. even spoonfuls of the garlic mayo or one of their famous milkshakes wont wash it away fast enough. It you like well-done meats on bread, this could be your thing.

And that would be Koji Rice/Qabsa. Or Redemption After The Grilled Fish, as I like to call it. You can call it a deconstructed Arabian biryani, I guess (but please don't).  Steaming, mildly-spiced rice that's serve with sides of tomato paste and caramelized onion in little cups. You need to mix the tomato and onion into the rice, spear a little grilled chicken/lamb and eat it all up. If it isn't steaming hot-hot, send it back, citing sacrilege. Priced between 140 to 160 bucks a plate, serves at least 3 people easily.

And now for the Keralite part of the menu. Appams (hoppers) would be a good start.

Fluffy little crepes that taste almost sweet, due to the liberal use of coconut milk. At 15 bucks a piece, I think they are a steal. I choose not to pay heed to Mum's stories of how appam would be sold fresh off the griddle at my native place, for mere pennies, during her childhood days. So last millennium.

Do you know what the perfect foil for the sweetness of the fluffy appams would be?

Meen curry! The spicy tangy (tamarind!) curry complements the Appams beautifully. Priced at 110 bucks a kadai. If I had to nitpick, I'd say that the sourness and spice of the gravy doesn't permeate into the tender fish, but I'm a big seafood lover, the type to even eat a blackened, overspiced fish, so I found this quite delicious.

On a completely unrelated note. Fish, crab, squid, prawns, lobster. Steamed, baked, broiled, grilled, Chowder'd, Calamari'd, Fish-and-chip'd, in a robust curry or a well-made biryani, I'll eat anything except shallow-fried, rubbery fish. Seafood=MMMMMMM!!!!

As you've probably surmised, I eat quite a bit of dessert as well. The folks here have a long, long Dessert menu. Remember Sharjah milkshake? Bananas, Malt, Vanilla ice cream? That and a lot of milkshakes that you've had at Fruit Shop on Greams Road feature predominantly. But since I've already made a Trifle for Dessert (it's always with a capital D) at home, we give it a miss.

Quite a feat, considering how the smell of the scalding hot chocolate sauce on the Sizzling Brownie the neighbouring table ordered wafted over to our table... What kind of a moron gobbles gargantuan amounts of food and shows off to the whole world, anyway?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls, creme de la creme style.

I seem to be on a bit of an old-school kick lately. It started with the Apple Crumble. I couldn't get over how the whole house smelt like when those apples were baking in the cinnamon-butter. Less than a couple of days later, I had one of those baking urges... it may or may not have been triggered by the fresh yeast I found at Nilgris.

Bread. Nothing like bread to help get over a stressful day at work. It feels like an accomplishment, when it's golden and soft and beautiful. When it flops, you'll feel like a failure, but that's just an occupational hazard.

How does one max the whole bread-baking experience to the extreme? Bring out the lovelies, of course-whole sticks of cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg; dark brown sugar that'll melt into the honey-butter to give out sizzling caramel and a bevy of nuts and dried fruit.

They all go and make the delicious wonder that are Cinnamon Rolls.

Cinnamon rolls are hard to come across in Madras. And when you do, they're an insult to cinnamon rolls. It makes you angry, almost, that these bakeries/shops can underestimate "uncultured Madrasis" and give us a sad, stale bun and call it a cinnamon roll. Eejits.

You can fight for your right for authentic cinnamon rolls. Or just make them yourself, already. Bet you knew that was coming!

So when it comes to searching for the recipe, I have two off-the-top of my head options. The Pioneer Woman has a kickass recipe for old-fashioned cinnamon rolls. Joy ups your regular cinnamon roll by dabbing on cream cheese. I took the goodness out of both the recipes, threw in my secret Spiced-sugar mix and used gorgeous, gorgeous fresh yeast in the place of Active Dry and oooh, baby. Bakery-style cinnamon rolls.

I made one batch healthy (relatively, at least), by cutting down the sugar and butter, replacing half the all-purpose flour with whole wheat and Nutralite instead of butter, the whole nine yards. The result was relatively delicious-a hot, fluffy bun you could enjoy with your morning cuppa that won't make you feel like your morning run went for a toss with two bites.

And the other batch, I went all out. Pecans, walnuts, raisins. REAL "cake" butter. Coorg honey by the spoonful. And white, white flour. Sticky, sweet cinnamon buns with caramelized nuts embedded between flaky bits of the roll. They need no frosting or glaze, but if you like Cinnabon and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, you could try coating it with glaze... And let me know once you crash from the sugar-high. I'm not judging; I'm a believer in the occasional sugar high.

I'll post the recipe for the uber-yummy batch. Mail me if you want the healthy one, don't be shy... told you I won't judge.

And the process might sound a bit complicated, so a full read-through could save you from potentially expensive disasters.

Cinnamon Rolls.


4 cups whole milk.
1 cup vegetable oil.
1 cup granulated white sugar.
9 cups All-purpose flour (maida)
2 packed tablespoons Fresh yeast (or 4.5 tsps Instant Dry Yeast)
1 tsp baking powder.
1 tsp baking soda.
1 tsp salt.

For the filling:

3/4 cup butter.
2 tablespoons honey.

1/2 cup brown sugar.
1-1/4 cups white sugar, powdered
1 whole cinnamon bark-roll (or loads of powdered cinnamon)
5 cloves.
1/4 tsp nutmeg, grated.
1/2 cup pecans, chopped.
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped.
1/2 cup raisins.


In a bowl, combine the milk, vegetable oil and sugar. Mix well and place over a medium flame. Just before it comes to a boil, take it off the heat. Cool it for 45 minutes to one hour.

Dissolve the yeast in a ladleful of the warm (NOT HOT) mix. Add it back into the pan. After a minute, add 8 cups of All-purpose flour and fold it into the milk. Cover the bowl, keep aside in the warmest area of your kitchen for an hour.

After an hour, it will look like this. Add one more cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir the mix together. At this point, the dough can be wrapped with cling film and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Making the spice mix:

Blitz the brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg together. To this powdered mix, add the chopped nuts and raisins. Keep aside.

Making the rolls.

Place half the dough on a well-floured clean work surface/marble-ish counter top.

Roll it out into a rough rectangle.

Roll the rectangle out some more until it's just a tiny bit thicker than you would roll for parathas.

Pour half the melted butter over it. Pour a tablespoonful of honey over the butter. Sprinkle half your sugar-spice mix.

Massage it all into the dough.

Start rolling the dough from left to right.

Cut it into slices.

Place the rolls in a well-greased and foil-ed baking tray. Leave enough space between the rolls. Let them rise for 30 minutes.

In the meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180 C or 350 F.

The rolls would have puffed up some more. Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden and puffy.

You can sprinkle extra sugar-spice mix over the hot rolls or dab some cream cheese on them or making a simple glaze with a little buttermilk and icing sugar.

The only downside is that these have to be eaten in a day. I refrigerated the plastic-wrapped, unbaked rolls for a couple of days (remember to let them thaw out for 30 minutes before putting them into the oven) and they came out just as good great.

I know I've been posting errantly, thanks to the unholy hours of my new job. But if leaking out my cinnamon roll recipe isn't saying Sorry enough, I don't know what is.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Coming very, very soon.

This is probably the longest I've gone without posting. It really sucks because I have a bunch of stuff I want to share with you.

I made you guys Cinnamon Rolls. They're golden and puffy and caramel-ly and all-around superstars.

I hacked down a sugar pumpkin to make Pepitas (toasted spiced pumkin seeds) and pumpkin puree for a Vegan Pumpkin Bread.

Oh. And I wanted to rave over this grilled chicken with pita and thoum (a garlicky aioli) and hummus. Only you'll understand how that plate could be the highlight of my week. I know you will. I wanted to rave about it for an entire blog post. Write a few couplets, maybe a haiku if I'm feeling particularly creative.

I was even planning to tell you where to go get some for yourself.

You know what sucks the most? I finally decided that the day had come for me to release the 'secret' behind these Fudge Brownies I used to bring to school.

And Google had to decide it'd be fun to torture me by not letting me upload my pictures. I no longer think they're cool; monopolizing corporations who decline credit cards left and right just because they can. And especially if you aren't in the US.

I'll find a way to circumvent it. I'm not leaving you in the lurch; not after showing you pictures of that brownie. Au revoir.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Apple and Plum Crumble/The way the Crumble crumbles-Mmm...

I owe you guys this recipe. Some of you try the desserts I've raved over and send me a nice little thank-you note to wake up to (thank you). Some of you give me kick-ass awards. It makes the seemingly-easy-but-actually-tough job that running the blog is, worth doing.

My way of thanking you back is to virtually cater to your requests. Some of you have been asking me for vegetarian recipes, especially pastry. So I'm giving you one of my trustworthy, prized recipes.. a delicious Apple and Plum Crumble.

It has no eggs in it. Pre-requisite for any pastry in India, whose vegetarians are invariably non-eggetarians.

It has just over couple of tablespoons of butter. Nothing that'll you have to pant on the EFX machine for hours together to burn. Just enough for giving off the glorious buttery smell that is a pre-requisite for me to qualify as dessert. Maybe fifteen minutes at Resistance 6, tops, for a normal-sized portion.

And did I mention brown/demerara sugar? The kind that melts to form luscious, gooey caramel? This recipe has brown sugar in it. Screw the EFX.

All it needs is some ice-cream or whipped cream on the side. Just so each bite will have steaming-hot baked apple, crispy caramelized oats sizzling in the cold, cold vanilla ice-cream. Mmm. I'm sorry to go all Nigella on you; but it is just so freaking delicious.

Expect people to come haunt the kitchen. There's something about the smell of cinnamon wafting around the kitchen. Amortentia (the Love Potion in Harry Potter?) for me would definitely smell of cinnamon. Cinnamon, Kenzo's Tokyo and just a bit of Sterilium (the antiseptic solution). Too much information, huh?

Back to apples. Go buy 3 or 4 of them. Granny Smith (the green ones) would be tart and crisp, but if you buy Fuji/Washington/Pink Lady/Shimla, you could cut down on the sugar. And plums! The market is rampant with plums. Buy just a couple of them. They'll cook down into a nice, berry-ish sauce that you can spoon over the ice-cream. If you want to do all apples, just serve some more softened vanilla ice-cream on the side

I had only 2 and half apples, but it didn't work out too sweet or anything!

Apple and Plum crumble.


3 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 plums, stoned and sliced.
1/2 cup powdered white sugar
2 tsps all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

For the crumble:
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3-4 tbsps unsalted butter

1)Preheat the oven to 350 or 175 F.

2Slice the apples and plums and arrange them in slightly greased baking dish. Mix the white sugar, spices and 2 tsps flour. Sprinkle it over the apples+plums. Massage the sugar into the fruit.

3)Prepare the crumble:
In a small dish, combine all the dry ingredients.

Cut the cold butter into the crumble. Mix well with your fingertips so it forms sandy clumps. Spread it over the prepared fruit.

Note: You can also double the crumble topping if you're fond of sugary, crispy things.

4)Bake for about 35-40 minutes.

Recipe source: loosely adapted from various recipes on

The ideal way to serve would be to have it piping hot with vanilla-scented whipping cream or ice-cream. Not that it doesn't taste fabulous cold. I have it on good authority (that would be me) that if you should choose to hide a chunk in the vegetable crisper or Milk Chiller (who even looks there?), you'll have yourself a merry, little midnight snack.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Breakfast Panini with Eggs, Mushrooms and Peppers/The CSK sandwich!

Yellow is the colour du jour. Why? Yellow is the colour of the Chennai Super Kings, who have undoubtedly proven themselves to be the most kick-ass cricket team, ever. In honour of them opening the first match of the season, I thought I'd do my bit by making tribute food and yelling myself hoarse when they win.

The natural choices would be lemon bars or cheesecake. But then I got this whole Breakfast-of-Champions idea in my head and set to making a panini. Not that I'm saying you can't have lemon bars for breakfast. Would I ever do that?

This panini has eggs, mushrooms, yellow bell-peppers and cheddar cheese between two glorious pieces of bread. You can close your eyes, and each explosive bite might fool you into thinking it could be a pizza or a taco (with a little bit of imagination).

But I strongly suggest you keep them open and enjoy the goodness that panini is!

I'm giving you the recipe for what I made. Play around with it. Change the cheese, change the spread. Throw in chillies or baby spinach, whatever makes your palate sing. If it isn't for breakfast, you can even add bits of poached or grilled chicken. And as always, a sandwich press or a griddle can sub in for a panini press.

CSK-inspired Panini:
(Makes 4 paninis)


8 slices whole-wheat bread
1 Yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
200g Mushrooms, sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil-1 tsp
Dried oregano & Chilli flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste.
Spread of your choice-Cheese spread, muhammara, mint chutney, mayo.


1)Place a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add in the olive oil. When heated, add the mushrooms and saute for a minute (just before the water starts coming out). Add salt, pepper and herbs to taste. Keep it aside.

2)Prepare the eggs to your liking. Simple sunny-side up eggs, an egg-white omelette, poached eggs, etc.

I did them sunny-side up, with a pinch of salt and black pepper. I kept yolks runny, so that when you cut into it, it makes a delicious mess.

3)Shred the cheddar cheese and keep aside. You can use feta or parmesan, but I like cheddar in this; it melts like mozzarella except that it's got some sharpness to it.

4)Assembling the sandwiches:

Dab on the spread of your liking on a slice of bread. I used Britannia's Coriander and Mint Cheese Spreadz. You can skip it altogether, to keep it healthy and add extra herbs.

Add a quarter portion of the mushrooms, cheddar cheese, yellow bell pepper and half an egg to each sandwich.

Sprinkle on some dried chilli flakes/cayenne for some extra heat.

5)Close with another slice of bread and put it onto the heated panini press.

Recipe Source: My own! Yay!

Serve hot with mustard (for the punch and an extra bit of yellow).

I do hope they win. And even if they don't (no!!!), maybe I'll whip up something else next time. Do you think a pineapple or mango dessert will be luckier charms?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Muhammara/An Arabian Romesco

Muhammara. I didn't even know something like this existed until a week back. By that name, at least.

Quite simply, it consists of roasted red bell peppers blitzed with toasted walnuts, pomegranate molasses and spices into a luscious spread that goes on toast or pitas. And as far as I know, no place in Madras makes it. Correction, I haven't been to Kefi at Taj Mount yet (maybe I will when I win the lottery or sell a kidney).

So I made it at home! Surprise, surprise. Substituting commenplace ingredients for the exotic. It won't taste the same, but we'll settle for pretty damn good, won't we?

Incidentally, everyone knows that Extra-virgin Olive oil is very healthy. Not if you are on a vague-ish diet, though. It has calories equal to that of butter or ghee or peanut oil. Good fat? Yes. But, it is still detrimental to your Summer-is-here diet, when consumed in large quantities.

Enter Muhammara. This is one of those rare Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern recipes that don't call for lashings of olive oil. You can argue that walnuts are calorie-laden, but they actually spike up your metabolism (negative calories) and you've got to get your Essential Fatty Acids from somewhere so your skin doesn't go all Phrynodermic(toad skin) on you!

Ignore the last two paragraphs. After polishing off half-a-batch of these cupcakes last night, I really have no right to deliver a righteous spiel on your nutritional requirements.

Let's just talk about the Muhammara. It tastes more sweet-spicy than hot-spicy, to my Indian palate. Pick up quboos at Sea Shell Cafeteria for ten rupees a piece or make some. Make the muhammara a day ahead so the flavours meld into each other. Whip up a batch of Tzatziki. Chips and dips, in a unbelievably healthy way.

Perfect spread for a game night. With the DLF IPL coming up (Chennai Super Kings-ku PERIYA WHISTLE podu!), you can rest assured that I'll be making plenty of nibbles to pick away at during commercials.



1/4 cup walnuts
1 tbsp tomato paste (I used ketchup)
1-1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1 large red-bell pepper
1 tsp cumin
3 slices wheat bread
2 dried cayenne chilli pepper (vathal/dried red molaga)
salt to taste.


1)Roast the red peppers. I inserted a big fork and roasted it directly over a gas ring (a skewer would be the most obvious and the safer choice).

You can also brush it with olive oil and throw into the oven and roast until bits of it turn black. Let it cool a little, and then peel the blistered skin off. Chop it roughly and keep aside.

Or you can used jarred roasted red bell peppers.

2)Shred the bread into little bits. Lay them out and bake in the oven at 180 C (350 F) for 5-6 minutes. Keep aside.

3)Toast the walnuts, either in the oven or over a tawa/griddle.

4)Pulse the walnuts in the food processor/mixie until coarsely chopped. Add the tomato paste, lemon juice, sugar, roasted red pepper, dried cayenne and cumin. Blitz/Pulse until it forms a smooth paste.

Add the bread crumbs, and give it one final blitz. Taste the mix. Add some salt according to your preference.

Source: loosely adapted from Desert Candy.

Let it sit overnight in the refrigerator before using it. In a tightly closed jar, it'll keep for a week, at least, provided it doesn't leave the refrigerator.

Spread it on your toast for an early morning blast of Vitamin C and chilli. Do the aforementioned chips and dips. Make a pizza out of pita, with Muhammara as the sauce, zome zucchini, olives and feta cheese as the toppings. Or. Spread Muhmammara on pita/roti. Stuff it with salty french fries and grilled chicken. Roll it up like a shawarma. EAT.

Just do the last thing. The shawarma thing. And EAT.