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The Inevitable Coriander

The Inevitable Coriander…….

 

It took me a while to think of an apt adjective for this ingredient. Basically being a herb it does find itself more often than not in most of the savoury dishes cooked right from the Middle East to Latin America, hence inevitable. The role in each country’s cuisine is varied and different but most certainly a star ingredient from the herb kingdom.

 

Since ancient times herbs have ruled the kitchens around the world with their aroma, flavour, texture, colour and varied uses. They are one of the few ingredients who find a place in foundation stages as well as in the finale of so many culinary creations. This is a very unique quality of the god gifted herbs. Coriander is no exception to this. You will find in many recipes spanning across continents where coriander is used in the marinade/ Masala and also as a finishing ingredient. It is also a very common garnish especially in Indian cooking.

 

Often the best things in life are very simple and this is true in the case of coriander. It is very basic when it comes to looks, shape and structure, just like any other plant. It does not grow very tall and often can be found in backyards of houses, scattering along the lawn. Also once it grows a little old it starts growing flowers, which give an unpleasant character when used in cooking, so chefs always avoid coriander stems which have flower shoots.

 

A very unique facet of this herb is that most of the flavour is hidden in the green stems and not in the leaves and it is such a pity that many times these stems are just chopped off and thrown in the garbage. These are seriously underrated in terms of flavour and texture. It is only when it is chopped or trimmed that the captivating aroma spreads all around. In many Indian curries the sprinkling of coriander once the curry is done lets out this wonderful aroma which not only highlights the coriander but also brings out the flavour of other ingredients used. This is one of the reasons coriander is used widely in Oriental cooking also, where it is known by the name Cilantro and is used as an aromatic, often in soups, stir fries and stews.

 

The finest creation which I can think of is the Lemon Coriander soup. In this epic soup, the coriander is paired with the citrus lemon which compliments the herb so well and gives it an interesting dimension. The overpowering and manipulative citrus flavour is balanced off by the presence of coriander and the meat, fish or vegetable in the soup is taken to a different level altogether. This is the reason this soup finds a spot for itself in countless Oriental menu cards all across the globe.

 

A similar success is enjoyed by coriander in an Indian soup, the Tamatar Dhaniya shorba, which is the Indian take on the cream of Tomato with the twist involving use of coriander and as it turns out, it works wonders!!! More often than not you will find this soup featuring extensively on menus in weddings and banquets all over the country. It is the coriander along with the cumin and garlic tadka that plays the vital role of lending the Indianness to the soup and makes it into a Shorba.

 

Herbs have to be handled with utmost care, because of their delicate nature and the fact that they are basically tiny plants. The flavour is considered to be a high value asset. In case of the coriander, I have observed many a times that this herb is not handled so well. Unlike other herbs which are trimmed or plucked and then used, coriander is chopped most of the times. And if not used immediately it starts to lose its beautiful green and soon turns into black and also looses its beautiful flavour. In many kitchens coriander is first chopped and then washed, probably because it’s a little difficult to hold the bunch together when you try to chop it after washing, but this also affects the flavour and may change the colour too.

 

The expanse of the repertoire in terms of culinary use of coriander is incredible.

 

The emotional cook falls for the inevitable coriander…..

 

Here’s the recipe of the quintessentially Maharashtrian preparation celebrating the inevitable coriander, the KOTHIMBIR VADI

 

Kothimbir Vadi

Ingredients:-

1)      Fresh Coriander leaves – 3 cups

2)      Red Chilli Powder – 3 tsp

3)      Chopped Green Chilli – 3 tsp

4)      Cumin Seeds – 2 tsp

5)      Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp

6)      Asafoetida – 1tsp

7)      Oil –  for Frying

8)      Split Bengal Gram Flour (Besan) – 1 cup

9)      Rice Flour – 2 tbsp

10)  Salt to taste

11)  Water – ¼ cup

 

Method:-

1)      In a large bowl mix together Coriander leaves, green chillies, red chilli powder, turmeric, asafoetida cumin seeds, besan and rice flour.

2)      Add the water and mix it to form hard dough.

3)      Roll the dough into cylindrical shape (like a sausage).

4)      Steam the rolled dough in a pressure cooker for 5-7 mins.

5)      Remove from the cooker. Cut small circular pieces and fry in oil till crisp on the outside.

 

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Aside
The Magical Potatoes……

I think Potatoes are definitely one of the best things happened to me in my life. This is one ingredient that I cannot get enough of. I perceive this food to be very simple. Grown under ground, not very attractive to look at, sometimes unevenly shaped, muddy exterior, potato might not appeal to anyone at the first sight. But once having tasted a potato in any preparation, it is just not possible to pluck it out of any one’s culinary life. I remember in school, when I use to see a simple Potato Subzi in my lunch box, I use to feel very happy and since then the affection with this tuber began and which with time has grown to become an obsession.

 Mothers, cooks, foodies, chefs have done amazing things with potatoes and every creation highlights the flavour in a unique manner. This is the magic that has been done on potatoes. Take a moment here and think about a simple mashed potato. A good mash potato will always highlight the experience of the diner even if the meat or the main dish is not up to the mark. The act of supporting the main is executed so well by a simple mash that things seldom go wrong.

It is an emotional connect with the ingredient that drives the craving to consume it and potatoes are the ideal example to prove this point. Be it a simple mash or the complicated Kashmiri Dum Aloo, the presence of potato assures that the dish is going to be worth it. The structure and appearance of this tuber is mystifying. The uneven shape, brown muddy exterior gives an impression of a not very pleasing sight in the interior, but actually when it is peeled it unveils this shiny, off white, smooth interior which is magical. Nature has also plentifully rewarded mother earth with innumerable varieties of potatoes. The tuber also surrenders quickly to the hands of the cook and the fact that potatoes are a part of so many recipes attests this. Only care that a good cook takes is to keep it in salted water so as to maintain its colour, otherwise unwanted browning of the flesh takes place.

A Good potato preparation speaks for itself.  It is a one of a kind ingredient that renders a magnificent touch to a very simple recipe. The amazing croquet is an outstanding example of this magnificent quality. The Douchés apparel which is that silky smooth velvety texture after passing perfectly cooked potatoes with the starch removed by dry roasting on a pan, passed through a sieve can only be achieved b this ingredient. This list can go on and on and never end.

The emotional cook is in the awe of the magical potatoes………….

My version of the yummy potato and cheese soup, absolutely heavenly in these lovely rains.

Ingredients: –

1)      Diced potatoes – 2 cups
2)      Diced  onions – ½ cup
3)      Diced cucumber – 1 cup
4)      Chopped garlic – 2 tbsp
5)      Salted/ unsalted butter – 3tbsp
6)      Processed cheese (grated) – 1 cup
7)      Water – 5 cups
8)      Salt and white pepper to taste
9)      Fresh cream – 3tbsp
Method:-
1)      Melt the butter in a heavy bottom pan and sauté onion and garlic till translucent.
2)      Add the potatoes and cucumber. Season with salt and pepper. You can also add a fresh herb of your choice at this stage, just to give a different dimension to the flavour.
3)      Add the water and let it come to a simmer. Once the potatoes and cucumber are cooked turn off the heat and let it cool.
4)      Blend the soup together in a mixer and strain with the help of a soup strainer.
5)      Put it back on the heat and let it come to a simmer. Adjust the consistency with water if required.
6)      Add the grated cheese and check for seasoning. Finish with fresh cream
7)      Serve hot with a toasted garlic bread on the side.

The Magical Potato

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Efficient Apple……

THE EFFICIENT APPLE

If food was Hollywood, then the apple would be Clint Eastwood. This fruit has been enjoyed since time immemorial, actually it is the first food consumed by human kind. Adam and Eve ate the apple from the tree in the Garden of Eden. The apple can also be linked with one of the greatest discoveries in man kind, the gravitational force, by Sir Isaac Newton. The apple fell from the tree and inspired the work of the greatest scientist on the earth. These are the generic achievements of apple, however, in the culinary world; it is definitely a star performer.

Available in a numerous varied types, apple is the talented gift of the fruit kingdom to the world of food. It is definitely one of my favourite fruit. The fruit of the apple tree grows well in cold climates and the apple it bears is also a very sweet fruit. Defining the nature of the apple is a little complicated. The difficult task of giving that exciting crunch with the sugary sweetness on the palate can be managed very efficiently by the apple.  This is what makes the apple very unique. Sometimes the sweetness of the apple is also complemented by the pleasant saltiness that comes as an aftertaste when you bite into the fruit.  It is also one of the very few fruits which require no pre requisite equipments when it comes to consumption. All you need is a good set of teeth and the fruit surrenders.

These aspects of varied taste make the apple the ultimate talent. It shows different shades at the same time. To me, the colour of the apple is very inquisitive. The red or green skin of the apple show you a different picture of what could be behind them but when you bite into it and the white flesh reveals itself, it is astonishing. This quality has made this fruit a very common affair in the daily life of every one. Although, there is also the element of surprise when you bite into one and the crunchiness is suddenly replaced by a very coarse floury bite which upsets me a lot. But this uncanny trait of the fruit is seldom experienced.

In the kitchen, apple is an impeccable and very efficient artist itself. The way it adapts itself to different methods of cooking in the presence of other ingredients is absolutely amazing. This flexibility can be seen through the way it has been used in various recipes over time. Be it the apple sauce served with roast pork or the simple waldrof salad where it is paired with celery or the very traditional apple strudel from Austria. The involvement of the apple in the kitchen is very unfathomable. The adaptiveness and malleability of the fruit and its components into various dishes is very intriguing. Presenting itself so overwhelmingly in such varied dishes which involve usage of ingredients from so diverse background and character is a real achievement.

But again, as other good things we tend to underrate this fruit also. The negligence on our part is depicted through the fact that apple has become so common in everyone’s life that it just doesn’t matter to us. Good things in life are always there, we just have to pick them up. Whenever, I bite into an apple, I feel that goodness. And also the goodness of this fruit lies in the fact that it was chosen by god as the first food for man.

The emotional cook bows to the efficient apple……

My recipe of SWEETENED APPLE WITH CARAMEL VANILLA SAUCE
INGREDIENTS:-
1)      Sliced Apples – 4 Nos.
2)      Castor Sugar – 4 tbsp
3)      Cinnamon Powder – 1tbsp
4)      Demerara Sugar – 1tbsp
5)      Salted / Unsalted Butter – 2 tbsp
For the Vanilla Caramel Sauce
1)      Vanilla Ice – Cream – 1 Cup
2)      Grain Sugar – 1 Cup
3)      Fresh Cream – 2tbsp
METHOD:-
1)      Thinly slice the apples, (skin on) and place them on a baking tray greased with butter.
2)      Sprinkle the castor sugar, Demerara sugar and the cinnamon powder and bake the apples at 180 degrees for 30-40 min.
3)      For the sauce, caramelise the grain sugar in a pan. Beat the vanilla ice cream until it becomes creamy in texture.
4)      Mix the caramel and vanilla ice cream and finish with fresh cream.
5)      Arrange the baked sweetened apples on a platter and spoon the sauce over it. Chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour and serve cold.
 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Noble Onion

What is it about the onions that make them an integral part of world food? Evolving from the earth, it is the most used ingredient probably in every cuisine. According to me the simplicity of this bulb is a little underrated. I perceive onion as an eminent diplomat of the vegetable community.  It lends itself to innumerable dishes in innumerable ways.

Onions make the eyes water. It is not a pleasure for everyone to be with them. But no kitchen can survive without them either. It is said that all good things come with a price attached to it. Probably the tears are the price that we are paying to enjoy the onion services, if I may say so.

The flavour of the onions is very easy to recognise, but the assimilation is a difficult part. The smell of cooked or raw onion is very distinguished and so it is very easy to identify its presence. The appreciation however, is little neglected. We all say, “Wow, the gravy is really fantastic”. But very few realise and appreciate the presence of onions and their role in the evolution of the fantastic gravy.

The behaviour of an onion is magnificently simple. When it is exposed to heat, it softens and becomes translucent. It opens up so easily to the cook. The sizzling sound of onions communicate with ease and grace, that it is time to add the next ingredient or probably turn off the heat. Greatness in giving is preached utmost by an onion. A very interesting aspect I think is the caramelization of onions. When onion starts browning it gives off the sugar and starts caramelising in the pan, making it sweet in taste. Well, it is a scientific process, but let’s put it in a different perspective. Browning of an onion begins after it turns translucent. It is the basic indication of the minimal doneness of the ingredient. However, it is often further exposed to heat, mainly to brown completely (especially in Indian cooking). I am an emotional cook, I think the compassionate onion bears so much heat but still remains sweet in taste. Probably, the onion marmalade made in many parts of the world is an appreciation, created by some great chefs to salute the sweetness and greatness of the onion.

The colour of the onion also reflects its simple and elegant personality. It has a soothing light purple exterior with a plain white interior and a prosperous light green at its heart. The structure of the onion is also very intriguing. The almighty has given the world simplicity at its best in an onion as a gift to humanity.

Simplicity comes with a supplement of enormous power. This power is a result of the constant and conscious awareness about things and events. Onions bear that power in large quantities, and so large that they have been shaping world cuisine since time immemorial. It is an amazing thing that one bulb has the power to develop, sustain and deliver life to the world through food. Equally important and responsible are those people, who identified and induced this ingredient in cooking and eating.

This blockbuster star of the food world, has the largest fan following. Right from the simple plain onions of Lalasgaon, in India to the niche and luxurious onions form Lyon, it has become the most consumed ingredient. The tremendous connect with the consumers make the important character of the onion; look casual sometimes in the pan. But this simpleton is also quite a sulker. It will be sweet and nice till it caramelizes, but if heated further will burn with fury and turn into nothing but waste.

The emotional cook salutes the noble onion……

My version of the legendary Onion Marmalade
Ingredients:-
  • Onion (Big) – 1 No
  • Balsamic Vinegar – 1tsp
  • Grain Sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Butter – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – 1 pinch
  • Olive Oil – 2tbsp
Method:-
  • Melt the butter in a pan and sauté onions till lightly browned, add salt while the onions brown
  • Add the Balsamic Vinegar and mix well.
  • Add the grain sugar and let it caramelise. Cut the heat at this stage.
  • Finish with olive oil.
BON APPETIT!!!!
 
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Posted by on November 10, 2010 in Uncategorized