Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thai Chicken Pizza.

It seems like any dinner-type recipe I post is of the pasta/pizza variety.

Not necessarily a bad thing, but since I've found my go-to recipe for tomato sauce and pesto, I'm looking beyond classic Italian flavours to incorporate into my pasta/pizza. Variety being the spice of Life and all.

Think Taco-style Mac-and-Cheese, Thai Chicken Pizza, Nutella Pizza and their tasty kind.

Making pizza dough seems like a daunting, Herculean task as a newbie but I humbly ask you to try it. Homemade pizza crust CANNOT be beat, not even by the likes of French Loaf. With some yeast and flour, you'll create something that belongs in the hallowed wood-fired ovens of gourmet pizzerias.

You can get Dry Yeast at any semi-decent supermarket. When you do, check the previous chatty post I've done on the perfect pizza crust. One recipe makes four LARGE thin crust pizzas, so I make pizzas out of half the dough and freeze the other bit for a rainy (really, any) day.

 Thai food was an obsession of sort with me four to five years back. This petered out due to frequent unavailability of kaffir lime/lemon grass/curry pastes... and the prohibitive prices of Benjarong/Lotus/HipAsia. I still love my Satays with peanut sauce, phad thai and this amazing Tom Yum soup that Masterchef Machi makes.

However, my parents took us to Bangkok at an age when we were too young to appreciate local food/culture (wasn't precocious like Today's ten-year-olds). At Pattaya, I was allowed precious little. No Parasailing for Rabia! I could draw on the sands, roasting away in thick jeans (no butterfly applique on my jeans! Mum shopped at the same Ruff'N'Tuff counter for the brother and I... girls' wear largely consisted of butt-ugly frothy frocks back in the nineties).

As for the food, I could slurp down oysters, wasn't-that-fun?! There was also the added pressure of not looking at the other beach-revellers strip down to their bikinis and sip on their Heinekins (my mum warned us that our eyes would rot like oozing spoilt grapes if we looked at Alcohol or scantily dressed women. I believed her for the longest time).

So I survived the trip on Kinder Eggs (nothing like the piece of plastic crap that's sold for 30 bucks at India), prawn crackers and coconut cake.

The coconut cake and the floating markets of Bangkok are what I still vividly remember. Both were insane and incredible. A dense-moist-yet-spongy cake sold by a lovely Thai lady on the Bangkok version of a "platform" (Challenge to self: replicate cake or better yet, go back and try it again before I hit *gasp* thirty).

The floating markets were loud, bustling, chaotic and beautiful rolled into one.

Which brings me to the Dish of the Day (That meant something else before the blog was born!)

Thai Chicken Pizza. A copycat version of California Pizza Kitchen's Thai pizza with a little help from Ms Rachel Ray. A mish-mash of flavours and textures, all loud-bustling-chaotic and most importantly, beautiful.

(Note: You can use any Asian Sweet Chilli sauce, including Maggi's Hot'N'Sweet sauce, but if you can't track some down, make your own. Have added the recipe for a not terribly authentic, but a easy and tasty Sweet Chili sauce!)

Thai Chicken Pizza:
(Makes two large pizzas)

1 batch pizza dough
or 6-8 small premade pizza bases

For the chicken:

For the marinade:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 rounded tablespoonful peanut butter
2 teaspoons red chilli sauce
2 teaspoons grill seasoning (which has salt)
300 grams boneless chicken, cut into 2" cubes 

For the sweet chilli sauce

1/4 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbsps honey or brown sugar
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp red chilli sauce
2 tbsp water
1 or 2 dried bird's-eye chilli, whole


1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
a bunch of coriander/cilantro leaves, chopped
a few Thai basil leaves, chopped
3/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped.
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup of scallions/green onion, chopped (can use sliced red onion)
2/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
dried chilli flakes


Preheat the oven to 250 C or 500 F for not less than 30 minutes. Make sure you preheat the baking tray in which you plan to bake the pizza, as well.

For the chicken:
If you have only crunchy peanut butter, you might have to pick out the big bits and throw them on along with the roasted peanuts at the end.

Marinate the chicken in the all of the ingredients mentioned for about 15 minutes. Grill the chicken until done, and slice it after it's been rested. You can also cook in a saucepan with all of the juices on medium heat. Do not overcook. Break up the chicken as it cooks.

For the sauce:

Use deep dark sugar or honey for a more caramel-ly taste.

Combine all over the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.

De-seed the chilli if you don't like very spicy food. Stir, as the sauce thickens, for about 7 minutes. Taste to see if it needs more chilli sauce or sugar, as per your liking. Add more water if you're using very pungent vinegar.

For the pizza:

Roll out the thawed pizza dough on a well-floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet/aluminium foil sheet that has been greased with oiled and sprinkled on with cornmeal or semolina/rawa/sooji. This prevents the pizza from sticking.

Kindly excuse my ugly-ass baking sheet. I tell myself that it's the mark of a true baker to have a burnt, overused sheet.

Keep all your toppings in one place so you won't forget to add one or the other.

On top of the rolled out dough, spread some of that sweet chilli sauce. Strew on the onions, peppers, bean sprouts and mozzarella cheese. I tend to not add the chicken, as it dries out and becomes stringy/rubbery in the oven.

Brush the edges with some Olive oil, some extra sauce on top and pop it in.

Bake for 10 minutes, until the edges are golden and the cheese has melted/is bubbly.

Take it out. Strew on cooked, shredded chicken, crushed dried chilli flakes, coriander, basil and peanuts. Add a few random drizzles of the sweet chilli sauce and you're done!

Absolutely delicious, was the unanimous verdict. Each bite was a revelation: you get the cheese, then the hit of the chilli flakes, the nuttiness of the roasted peanuts, the herbiness of the cilantro, the crunch of the onion. Even the pickiest of eaters wolfed it down with no complaint.

My brother did not notice that I had thrown regular sprouts instead of their traditional, infinitely tastier, crunchier white bean sprout counterparts. That, in my book, is a flaunt-worthy success.

Friday, March 23, 2012

No-bake Cheesecake with Strawberry Coulis and Chocolate Ganache-covered Strawberries.

I believe in hard work.

I do! If a certain something is too easy or inexpensive to attain, there has to be an obvious catch. I deviate towards elaborate recipes; the ones that call for refrigerating cookie dough for 2 days, roasting tomatoes for 2 hours and boiling cans of condensed milk for an eternity and a half.

I'm wired to believe that anything made the old-fashioned way is better. For example. Brewing homemade stock, shelling prawn, steeping porcini mushrooms in hot water, shaving Parmesan cheese and asparagus, zesting lime: all this and an hour's worth of intensive stirring and tasting to make an Entree-sized portion of Risotto.

At the end of this labour-intensive exercise, if somebody dares complain along the lines of "this was what all that noise and dirty dishes were about?", I would throw the mother of all hissy fits. And then some.

So when it comes to cheesecake, I'd believe the demanding-neonate-like recipe. The one that the asks for a waterbath, hours of cooling down with the oven switched off, then chilling in the refrigerator overnight, health insurance and pension. Only 5% of the above sentence is grossly exaggerated.

And then there's the no-bake cheesecake. With just a handful of ingredients (albeit pricey-pricey ones at that). No Masterchef skills, no hours of babying. Which, I've been told, tastes better than the baked version.

Don't let this put you off from trying the baked version (recipe coming soon)! I love my Creme Caramel to be dense (hello! Flan exists for a reason) and almost overcooked, so I prefer the heavier baked cheesecake. But more than half my testers loved the creamy, fluffy no-bake cheesecake, with the strawberry coulis, digestive biscuits and ganache-covered strawberries.

And even though Cheesecake has New York stamped all over it, this  dish is more British to me. Don't run away now, there's no lard-filled pastry crust or eggy lemon curds involved.

I know Philadelphia cream cheese belongs to Kraft, as does Toblerone. But Toblerone was originally made only in Switzerland and England. It's one of those things people coming back from London bring in their suitcases (along with McVities' Dark Chocolate Digestives, KitKats and Cadbury's Milk Tray/Quality Street chocolates. And a truckload of Tesco/M &S products, depending on their budget).

Enid Blyton has instilled the belief of strawberries being quintessentially British, in me. McVities is also spelt B-R-I-T-I-S-H. So I'll let Kraft and Nabisco do their mergers and buyouts and takeovers. And live in my strawberry-flavoured bubble. Big believer in blissful oblivion.

No-Bake Cheesecake with Strawberry Topping:


For the base:

3/4 cup Digestive biscuit crumbs (can use Graham crackers)
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

For the cheesecake:

180 g Cream Cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream (I used Amul)
1/2 cup condensed milk or 1 cup sifted/powdered sugar*
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla

*Since I used only 25% fat cream, I used the condensed milk for a richer cheesecake.

For the strawberry topping

1 cup strawberries, hulled and halved
2 teaspoons sugar (alter according to sweetness/tartness of strawberries)
1 teaspoon lemon juice/balsamic vinegar

For the ganache-covered strawberries:

10 large strawberries
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
1 tsp unsalted butter


For the base:

Bash/Pulverise the Digestive biscuits until you have fine, beach sand-like crumbs.

Add in the melted butter and powdered sugar.

Fill 5 cups (quantity around 200 ml) with the base mix. Press them well with your fingertips so you have a compressed base.

Chill these in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Make sure they are covered with either cling film/foil/random lids.

I go for up to 5 cm depth with the crust.

For the cheesecake:

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature before using.

In a chilled, clean bowl, whip the heavy cream until you get soft peaks. I chill the beaters, bowl and cream in the freezer for about 10 minutes before I do the whipping.

 If you're using the icing/castor sugar, add in around 1/2 cup of the icing sugar and whip until combined. Do not overwhip. Keep this in the refrigerator until needed.

In a mixing bowl, beat the softened cream cheese on Medium for about 2 minutes until you get a fluffy texture. Add in the lemon juice and vanilla essence and beat for 30 seconds.

Add in the condensed milk and whip until combined. If you're using icing sugar, add the remaining half-cup and beat it in until combined. Fold in the whipped cream.

Taste the mix to see if it needs more icing sugar/condensed milk. If you've run out of condensed milk, you can add in powdered/sifted sugar and the cheesecake will be fine.

Divide the mix into the prepared chilled bases. Smooth the tops, cover with cling film and stow it away into the refrigerator for another couple of hours until firm.

For the strawberry coulis:

In a saucepan, add the strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar and bring it over medium heat.

Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes until thickened. You can squish down a couple of strawberries and leave the others whole.

Take it off the heat and let it cool in the refrigerator until needed.

For the ganache:

Bring the 1/4 cup of cream to a simmer. Pour it over the chopped chocolate chunks.

 Add in the butter into the hot mix. Whisk with the fork until well combined. Make sure that neither the fork nor the bowl has any grease/water in it. Let the ganache cool down to room temperature.

Dip the whole strawberries in it. Lay them out on baking/foil paper. Refrigerate until set. You can also just cover these with melted chocolate, but I made ganache as I had 1/4 cup of cream left over from the Amul packet that I used.

Assembling the cheesecake:

Pour the coulis over the chilled cheesecake.

Serve with the ganache covered strawberries.

That's the cheesecake, all creamy and fresh out of the refrigerator. You can clearly see that I haven't smoothed the peaks down. I'm a free-form girl, I am.

This is easily one of the best desserts you can whip up in minutes. It amounts to about 50 bucks per serving, but any half-decent place with plasticky cheesecake would charge four times as much. Make it.

And I'm thinking that the photo above has to be rated at least PG-13. Sort of Dexter meets Valentine's Day. Colour me happy, happy Red!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Let Me Take You Down, 'Cause I'm Going To...


How I love thee.

I've made so many crazy things with strawberries this month, I don't know which one to post! Help.

We started off with those crepes. Baby steps into Strawberry Fields Forever.

The Strawberry Swirled Cheesecake with a Dark Chocolate Brownie Base? With a Strawberry Sauce to add fire to the whole thing.

W loves his Warhol-esque photowork!

Roasted strawberry-balsamic jam goes into it. So does brown butter and Milkmaid and a lot of fattening things that can only churn out Deliciousness on a plate.

Maybe the Strawberry Yogurt cake is a better place to start. It's easy, quick and one-bowl. And also the adaptation of the Spanish Orange Cake, which is one of the most popular recipes on the blog.

You know what's better than a rich, dense New York-style Cheesecake?

A cloud-like concoction of cream cheese, whipped cream and condensed milk. Very easy and disproportionately delicious NoBake Cheesecake. With a homemade strawberry topping, buttery graham cracker crust and chocolate-ganache covered strawberries.

They taste like bliss.

As do Strawberry Cheesecake Truffles. Dipped in Chocolate Ganache made with Toblerone.

And you know how I'm always mouthing off about brownies being akin to bread?

You know: putting Dulce de Leche into them, browning butter, drenching them with caramel?

Turns out that if you bake them with a Strawberry swirl, your olfactory mechanism might have the best party of their lives.

The smell of chocolate brownie baking, strawberry juices reducing and a tiny waft of brown butter?

You can't be an atheist if you've smelt this stuff. It is heavenly. Standing in front of the oven, with preprandial glee and a jackass-smile? One of the best five minutes of my culinary life.

And if you think all these calorific treats should remain rare treats, I'd suggest you make them all and often and Phone A Friend!

I'm properly confused. Time for a Strawberry-Cucumber juice. Let's hope my luck with the berries continue.
Stock your freezer with washed/dried/hulled strawberries in airtight freezer-safe boxes... the berry season is drawing to a close. This way, You Can Be Taken Down...

Strawberry Fields Forever.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crepes/Breakfast in bed.

Even if you've been reading the blog for only a couple of weeks now, or if you have the pleasure of knowing me in real life (modesty, begone!), you know I'm a big fan of food Breakfast.

However, on weekdays, even managing to throw down a Nature Valley bar (um, no) and a glass of milk (plain milk=hell, NO) is a luxury and a half. And nobody wakes up in time for breakfast on weekends. So what is the point of all these breakfast recipes, you might ask.

I'll tell you.
If you've ever been stone-broke, and you're obligated/bullied/coerced into giving someone a surprise, nothing beats Breakfast in Bed^(Trademarked). There's something decadent about waking up to a steaming mug of English Breakfast, Spanish omelettes and a stack of pancakes drenched in syrup. With a random roadside flower to top it all off.

Whether it's for the cousin who begs you for "fancy breakfast" in exchange for unlimited access to her Body Shop's Coconut Lip Butter. Or for the mum who gets off kitchen duty for just one day in the week. Especially if you're a guy, cooking for a girl (note: even if you can't cook very well, throw in some chocolate and it'll go from unedible to amazing).

Today, you can see how I made traditional French crepes. You will need a crepe pan for this, but you can totally make it in a saucepan/dosa tawa that isn't totally flat.

Use these crepes as blank templates, like you would with bread or brownies. Spread them with Nutella, serve with whipping cream, honey, whatever suits the pampered-person-of-the-day's fancy. You can even use them as savoury crepes, filling them with cheddar, sausages or even for Asian seafood rolls!

But. They taste pretty great the French way, hot off the griddle with a squirt of lemon juice and a dusting of powdered sugar. Yum.

Believe in breakfast. Eat it. I do, since it's the closest I get to being a champion of any sort.

French Crepes:


1/2 cup flour
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
zest of half a lemon/orange
1 tablespoon butter (melted)

Mix everything in a bowl.

Chubby two-year-old hands are best for mixing.

Do not overbeat, as you'll get gluggy crepes.

Heat a crepe/non-stick pan over medium. Add a pat of butter.

Spread it around with a tissue.

Pour in 1/4 cup of the crepe batter.

Immediately swirl so that the batter spreads over the entire circumference of the pan.

Cook for around 2 minutes.

Add some butter along the edges so it'll be easy to flip it.

Flip it over (I used a spatula). Cook for another minute.

Tip it onto the serving plate.

If you're adding any type of filling, don't flip it.
Instead add in the filling on the uncooked side and fold the cooked sides over the filling.

Use whatever is fresh and in season.

Mahableshwar strawberries and Malta oranges are yummy.

Simply chop up a cup of strawberries and soak them in 2 tbsps orange juice and 1 tbsp white sugar.

Serve with greek yogurt, cream cheese or whipped cream. Sweetened, of course.

Add bananas, peanut butter, honey, whatever your tastebuds adore.

Maintain a minute of mournful silence (for the absence of Nutella. Goshdarnit) and dig in!

Bon appetit, mes amours!