May 20, 2015

My Favourite Earl Grey Orange Marmalade with Ginger

M
armalade probably isn't something that children like in general and I found it odd that a children’s book character like Paddington Bear favoured Marmalade sandwiches. Then I found out recently, that Paddington Bear was something which was written almost accidentally and the author apparently never really wrote for children in particular! So that explains that.

Now I’m a lot like Paddington Bear in one thing and that’s my love for Marmalade, and it’s a preference I've had right from my teens. I must point out though, that my particular preference is for Orange Marmalade and that I don’t have quite the same fondness for the other varieties of it. I don’t know of anything that tastes quite the same as slightly runny Orange Marmalade on warm and crunchy buttered toast.





I don't know that I could tell what it is about Marmalade that makes it so special to me – maybe it’s that it’s not as sweet as jams and preserves in general, or the slight bitterness. Perhaps it’s that Marmalade embodies what I love about oranges – their citrusy fragrance and taste or their beautiful sunshine-y golden orange colour.

Funnily enough, my father was the only person in my family who shared this love of mine for Marmalade. Not that I complained because it meant that there was always more for me! One question that always puzzled me for a long time was why a jam made out of oranges or lemons or other citrus fruits was a Marmalade where as other fruits were made into jams or preserves. Why not a lemon jam or an orange preserve?





It turns out that we can blame this to some extent on the English or by some extension on the Portuguese. Apparently, the name “Marmalade” comes from a corruption of “Marmalada” a Portuguese word for quince paste. The Portuguese call the quince “Marmelo”. In the good old days, this Marmelo was imported into Britain and the British started making their own Marmalade only much later. It seems that the earliest Marmalades weren't jam-like but flavoured with rose water and musk, cut into squares and packed in round wooden boxes!

Marmalade can come in so many varieties – dark or golden and glistening, quite bitter or all the way to quite sweet, almost syrupy in consistency or set and paste-like, with fine shreds of peel or chunky bits, with or without spices (I've seen chamomile and vanilla in marmalade)– and all this would be acceptable as Marmalade. 
There are also different methods of making Marmalade including the old fashioned method where the oranges are boiled whole first.  I even came across one method which involved slicing up the oranges and cooking them in sugar to make extra chunky Marmalade.





As I understand it, the bitter and dimpled variety of oranges called Seville oranges are the fruit of choice for making marmalade because of their high level of pectin. While it’s not always possible to use the said variety of oranges, other oranges (and types of citrus) make equally good Marmalade. You need slightly thick skinned oranges for the peel while thin skinned oranges are good for their juice only.

I make preserves and jams on and off throughout the year depending on which fruit is in seasons but for some reason it never struck me to make my own Marmalade till now. I have enough reasons to do so, that for sure. For one we get really good oranges in India, and for another the store bought Marmalade (even the non-mass produced locally made ones) is way too sweet for my liking and making Marmalade at home is easy enough and no rocket science.




This Marmalade of mine is flavoured with Earl Grey tea and has no spices additions other than enough ginger to give it a bit of warmth without an overly ginger flavour. The Earl Grey tea should be fairly strong and fragrant otherwise the flavour will not come through in the Marmalade. If you refer a plain Marmalade then use water instead of the tea to cook the Marmalade.

Earl Grey Orange Marmalade With Ginger



Ingredients:


6 or 7 oranges

3 cups freshly brewed Earl Grey tea (or water if you prefer)

2 cups sugar (more or less depending on taste/ sweetness of the oranges)

1” piece of ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp butter (optional)



Method:


Wash and dry the oranges. Using a zester or a grater, zest or finely grate the skin of 3 oranges. Using a potato peeler, peel the skin off 2 of the oranges and using a knife, finely shred the peel. You may cut them into thicker slices if you like chunky pieces of peel in your marmalade. Also use the smallest holes on the grater and grate the ginger.

Line a large pot with muslin cloth such that the edges of the muslin hang over the side. Now cut all the oranges and squeeze out the juice into the muslin lined pot. The muslin will catch the pips. Once all the oranges have been squeezed, put them also into the muslin and tie them all up in the muslin cloth into a pouch/ bag and keep aside.

Add the 3 cups of water to the juice in the pot and add the shredded peel, the zest and the grated ginger as well. Put the muslin bag also into the pot pushing it into the liquid. Bring the liquid to boil, and then turn down the heat and let it simmer so that the peel is cooked, soft and translucent. This should take about 40 minutes to a little over an hour approximately and longer if the peel is cut thicker.

Take the pot off the heat. Now carefully lift out the muslin bag and keep it on a plate until it has cooled enough to handle comfortably. Squeeze out all the liquid from the bag back into the pot and discard the contents of the bag.

Now add the sugar, the salt and the butter (if using) to the pot and put it back on the stove. Bring the marmalade to a rolling boil (the marmalade will look like it’s “rolling” at the edges) and let it boil for about 10 to 15 minutes. If you haven’t used butter you will find froth forming on the top. This froth will make your marmalade cloudy if left in, so skim it off if you want clear marmalade.

The marmalade should start to thicken. Use the ‘wrinkle’ test to confirm if it has thickened enough. Take a little of the marmalade and put it on a cold plate. Leave it for a couple of minutes. If a thick skin forms and “wrinkles” when you move a finger through it, then it’s ready. Otherwise cook it a little longer. 

Let the marmalade cool and then transfer it to sterilized jars and store. This recipe makes one medium sized jar of Orange Marmalade.

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May 15, 2015

Indian Street Food - The Bombay Green Chutney Sandwich (Grilled Version)

L
ast week I came across a link to an article that listed 50 sandwiches in the U.S. that one should eat and discovered  that there were only a couple there that a vegetarian could eat. I would personally give them a miss though as one was the ubiquitous PBJ, another was Elvis Presley’s all-time favourite deep fried banana-peanut butter sandwich (there’s really no accounting for taste!) and then a sandwich with cheese which is technically not vegetarian because of the way cheese is made in the West.

When I remarked about this on Facebook (where else?), it set of a discussion which eventually moved on to a favourite Indian vegetarian sandwich and the Bombay Chutney Sandwich came up trumps! That set me off with the idea for a new post about it.





It was a revelation of sorts for me when I first discovered that sandwiches were eaten for lunch in many parts of the world! In India, where I come from, sandwiches are the stuff that we eat when we’re in the mood for snacking even if the sandwich is stuffed with all manners of delicious fillings which it invariably is. 
For us, a sandwich is meant to keep you going from one meal to the next, a sort of thing you eat to keep the hunger pangs at bay until you’re ready for “real” food.  Even then, there’s a whole world of non-urban Indians (and some city types too) who still will look down upon bread and eat it only as a desperate measure.

Coming back to the subject of this post, the Bombay Chutney Sandwich, a lot of people who grew up in Bombay (I refuse to call it Mumbai if I can help it because it will always be Bombay to me) will relate fond memories of eating Chutney Sandwiches. They will share stories of either carrying it in their school/ college snack boxes or subsisting on it at their college canteens. 
Others will tell of the numerous roadside food stalls or “Sandwichwallahs” (sandwich sellers) dotting street corners in the city and selling a huge range of sandwiches where the Bombay Chutney Sandwich is an old favourite.

Here are links to two videos worth watching, that show how the Sandwich makers on the streets of Bombay make their Bombay Chutney Sandwiches.





The Bombay Chutney Sandwich is, unfortunately, not one of my school/ college memories but I still ate my fair share of them (the plain/ basic variety) as a child on and off.  My memories are made of plain Chutney Sandwiches were almost always a staple at tea time or served at the informal parties thrown by our Indian friends.

This is a sandwich that’s a crowd pleaser (definitely with an Indian crowd or with those who have developed a taste for Indian food) and also one that’s so simple and easy to make. In fact, the Chutney Sandwich is a very popular street food in Bombay and you can also find variations on the basic vegetable filled one, and there’s also an equally popular toasted or grilled version of it. Like all street food, these sandwiches are also made fresh and they’re very affordable, delicious and filling.

The Green Chutney Sandwich at its most basic is nothing more than some of the popular Indian coriander and mint chutney between two slices of buttered white bread. It makes for a moist, spicy and tangy tasting sandwich that has to be eaten to be experienced.
The Bombay street food version of the Chutney Sandwich on the other hand, is a little more substantial with a vegetable filling and would be more of a meal than a snack though I know of many who would still consider it a snack.

This sandwich is usually made by slathering some butter and then the spicy and tangy Green Chutney on a slice of bread, topping it with some sliced onion and tomatoes, boiled potato, a sprinkling of some “masala” and then topping this off with another buttered slice of bread. The sandwich is pressed down slightly, cut into 4 squares with a sharp knife and slid onto a paper plate. Finally, it’s topped off with a squirt of tomato ketchup (don’t leave this out, because it really makes a difference) and perhaps a smear of Green Chutney and its ready!





Some people leave out the cucumbers, but what is absolutely essential in a Bombay Chutney Sandwich is white sliced bread, the green mint and coriander chutney of course, boiled potatoes, sliced onions and tomatoes and that sprinkling of the sandwich “masala” or the spice mix. This spice mix contains spices like cumin, black pepper, fennel seeds, clove, cinnamon, star anise, mango powder, black salt and chili.  This can be made at home, bought from the store as “Sandwich Masala” or you could use the more easily available store bought “Chaat” masala instead.

You can use brown bread, burger rolls or any other sandwich bread to make these Bombay Chutney Sandwiches and they will taste just as good or maybe even better, but if you’re going for authenticity then use the store bought sliced white bread.

The Green Chutney that is used in these Sandwiches is usually the same one that is served on the side with savoury and crisp snacking and street food like Samosas, Kachoris, Bondas and Bajjias (all filled and enveloped with pastry or batter before being deep-fried).
The Bombay Green Chutney Sandwich



Ingredients:


For the Green Chutney:

1 cup fresh coriander

1/2 cup fresh mint

1/2" piece of ginger

3 to 4 green chillies (or according to your taste)

juice of half a lime

Salt to taste


For the Sandwiches:

8 slices white sandwich bread

Enough salted butter (preferably Amul) to butter 8 slices of bread

Green chutney (from above)

2 medium sized cucumbers, thinly sliced

3 to 4 tsp Sandwich Masala or Chaat Masala

1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced

3 medium sized potatoes (boiled and peeled), sliced

3 medium sized tomatoes, thinly sliced

Some tomato ketchup




Method:


First make the Green Chutney. Put all the ingredients for the chutney into the blender or the chutney jar of your mixer/ grinder. Add a couple of teaspoons of water (as little as possible) and grind to a smooth thick paste. A runny Green Chutney will make soggy sandwiches. This sandwich will keep in the refrigerated for a couple of days, if stored in an airtight container.

The white Sandwich bread I get here has a pretty soft crust, so I don’t trim them for this sandwich. On the street, Indian sandwich sellers tend to vary between keeping the crust on their sandwiches, or else trimming the corners off.




Start by buttering one side of all the eight slices of bread and then spreading a thin layer of the Green Chutney over this. 
Build the Sandwich on 4 slices of the 8. Start by laying a layer of sliced potatoes, a light and even sprinkle of the Sandwich masala, then a layer of sliced cucumbers, another sprinkle of the masala, then a layer of the sliced tomatoes, a sprinkle of the masala, and then the sliced onions. Sprinkle some more masala lightly and then drizzle some tomato ketchup over the top.

Cover each of the four built up Sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread, with the buttered side down. Slightly press the Sandwiches down (don’t squish them down) and grill them in a sandwich press/ sandwich maker to a golden brown.

Cut each Sandwich diagonally into two and your Bombay Chutney Sandwiches are ready to be served warm, with a little Green Chutney and tomato ketchup on the side, if you like. This recipe makes 8 half Sandwiches and serves 4.


For variations on the Bombay Chutney Sandwich:


For the original, non-grilled version of this Sandwich, after adding the tomato ketchup, cover with the other slice and just lightly press down. Cut the Sandwich into 4 equal squares and top/ garnish each square with a little Green Chutney and a squiggle of ketchup and serve.

For a toasted version of the Sandwich, put the Sandwich in an electric Sandwich maker or a handheld Sandwich Toaster and toast it to a golden brown.

For a Cheese, Tomato & Chutney Sandwich fill the Sandwich with only sliced potatoes and tomatoes, then grate generous amount of cheese over the tomato layer and grill it. You can also substitute the cheese with crumbled paneer, if you prefer.

In India we also have “Jain” versions of many popular street foods. The Jains are an Indian community who are vegetarians but also don’t eat onions or root vegetables. So to make a Jain version of this Sandwich, leave out the onions, potatoes and substitute with more of the cucumbers and the tomatoes and proceed to make it as usual.

Sometimes these Sandwiches are also topped a a little more butter and sev (crunchy, deep-fried chickpea flour vermicelli) for some delightful crunch.


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May 11, 2015

Fresh Fig & Onion Chutney

I
really, really like figs and I prefer the fresh fruit to the dried figs which is all we used to get for a long time as we have always lived very far from the fig growing areas of India. We all know that figs spoil very quickly and given the lack of good transportation methods in the good old days, dried figs was all we had, and even them they were exotic stuff that we only saw occasionally if someone from the Northern part of the country came visiting and brought them as a gift.

Luckily for me, things have changed a lot since then and I get to enjoy fresh and beautiful figs in plenty every season. Unfortunately, I’m the only one in my home who has this love for fresh figs though my husband loves the dried/ dehydrated kind but doesn't mind what kind if it’s fig ice-cream. Our daughter tends to avoid them as a whole.





That means that I’m always on the lookout for good recipes that will use fresh figs and transform them into something that everyone likes. This time, I decided to preserve them a little differently from my usual Spiced Fig Preserves and cooked the figs into Chutney.

Generally, traditional Indian Chutneys can be divided into fresh ones which are usually uncooked and have to be consumed the same day, or cooked Chutneys which are usually preserved with a lot of oil. 
The Chutneys of Indian origin which the Western world is generally familiar with, are a legacy of the British and other European colonials and use vinegar as a preservative. This style has endured and has become the way to pickle or preserve food in many parts of India, but where I come from in South India a Chutney is usually made fresh with coconut in it most of the time.





We don’t use vinegar to preserve food in our traditional cuisine and I still haven’t quite acquired a taste for the rather strong and astringent taste of vinegar so I usually give it a wide berth in my pickling and preserving methods. This time, however, I decided to use vinegar (a bit judiciously though) to make a Chutney.





You will find a few recipes using figs on this blog and recently I added to my repertoire a fresh Fig & Onion Chutney. Figs and onions, especially when they’re caramelized, are an excellent combination as I first discovered with this pizza and so I knew this Chutney would be good. 
My husband has fallen in love with this one despite not being a fan of fresh figs, and keeps asking if there’s any left in jar! It’s so good that you can eat it straight out of the jar. If you’d rather be more polite, then have it on crackers or on small pieces of toast with soft cheese, or really any way you think a slightly tangy, spicy and sweet jam/ chutney should be served.
Fresh Fig & Onion Chutney



Ingredients:


1 tbsp oil

2 red onions, finely sliced

1/2 kg fresh figs (about 12 to 15 small to medium sized figs), cut into quarters

1/3 cup Cider vinegar (plain vinegar is fine too)

2/3 cup powdered jaggery

2 tsp grated ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 lemon, juice and zest

1 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp powdered coriander

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground



Method:


Use a heavy bottom/ thick walled pan to make the jam/ chutney. Heat the oil in it and then add the onions and sauté them until they turn soft and start caramelizing. Don’t let them brown too much.

Now add the figs and all the remaining ingredients. Let the mixture come to a boil and then turn down the heat and allow it to simmer. Cook, while stirring occasionally, until the figs soften and become pulpy, and the mixture turns syrupy and thick.

Turn off the heat when the jam/ chutney is done and let it cool a little. Transfer to sterilized screw top jars. It’s a good idea to refrigerate them.

This recipe makes 2 small to medium sized jars of jam/ chutney.
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May 6, 2015

Goan Made Cheese And An Apple, Grape & Camembert Salad With Garlic Croutons

I
t was one day a couple of years ago that I was at the local supermarket looking through the cold storage section and I came across these little packets of cheese all with pictures of smiling cows on the labels which read Swiss Happy Cow Goan Cheese. Intrigued, I picked up one to check the other details only to find that this cheese was being made right here in Goa!

That was like finding a treasure of sorts because I love cheese (not the really stinky or mouldy types though) and am normally restricted to a choice between imported (read very expensive) cheeses or an unsteady supply of Indian made cheeses from Pondicherry, Kodaikanal or Nilgiris. My choice is obviously is Indian made cheese every time mainly because they’re vegetarian (made with vegetarian rennet). 
Unfortunately, living in Goa means that whenever I need a particular cheese I can almost be sure that the couple of local supermarkets that do stock cheese don’t have them on the shelf!





The thought of a cheese maker somewhere in my extended neighbourhood made me feel like the proverbial kid in the candy shop. The only problem was I had no way of getting in touch with the cheesemaker as there were no contact details or an address on the labels. A little investigative work and I finally managed to get a phone number, called and arranged to visit.

That’s how Revati and I ended up one afternoon in the village of Siolim, outside a gate wearing a sign featuring a “cool” cow wearing sunshades. A couple of vociferous dogs led us through to the house where we met Barbara Schwarzfischer, the German lady who makes and sells the Swiss Happy Cow Goan cheese. She walked us through the processes of how she sources the milk and makes sure it’s the right quality (which isn't easy here), how the cheeses are made and matured and then treated us to a taste of some of them.





Barbara, a qualified cheese maker from Bavaria, worked in the Swiss Alps making cheese but decided to move to Goa about 10 years ago. She started out making cheese at home for her friends and that eventually led to a larger home based business.

She started off making only fresh Swiss cheese but found the warm and humid climate here perfect for making more mature cheeses as well. Today she makes and sells a wide variety of cheeses including Ricotta, buffalo Mozzarella, Feta, Camembert, Mutschli, Blue Cheese, and a soft 'Tomme de Goa' with walnuts, or other additions like cumin, capers, olives or chili flakes. Since Barbara is a vegetarian, she uses vegetarian form of rennet which means her cheeses are vegetarian which is an added bonus.





I came back from Siolim with a small bag of cheese and must confess I had a tough time resisting the overwhelming temptation to empty my purse and come back with more. I love Feta and Camembert and I also fell in love with Barbara’s cumin flavoured Tomme de Goa. Of course, one can always eat cheese as it is but some cheese especially the fresh and less mature ones are excellent in salads.





Given below is the recipe for a salad I made using the Camembert I bought from Siolim. It’s a very easy and light summery and fruity salad to put together. The Camembert cheese lends a nice creamy texture with a contrast crunch from the garlic croutons. Serve the salad on the side or serve it just by itself for a very light summertime meal.





If anyone vising Goa who would like to try Barbara’s cheese, they retail in most of the larger supermarkets here in Panjim, Calangute/ Candolim and Anjuna under the name of Swiss Happy Cow Goan cheese.
Apple, Grape & Camembert Salad With Garlic Croutons



Ingredients:


2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp garlic paste

3 or 4 slices cut about 1 cm thick, from a baguette

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

2 firm sweet apples, cored, cut into wedges (not too thick)

200gm Camembert cheese, cut into cubes

1 cup green seedless grapes, halved

1/3 cup halved unsalted cashews or almonds, toasted

Baby spinach, mint or basil to garnish



Method:


Cut the slices of bread into small cubes. Heat the olive oil and the garlic in a pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes, and toss the bread in the oil till well coated. Stir on and off until the bread is golden brown and crisp. Let it cool.

Next, pour the other 1 tbsp olive oil, honey and orange juice into in a small glass jar with a tight lid and shake well to mix. Keep aside.

Now combine the apple, the grapes, the cheese cubes and the cashews/ almonds in a salad bowl. Just before serving, shake the dressing once more and then add to the salad and toss. Add the garlic croutons and lightly toss once again.

Garnish with the baby spinach, mint or basil. Serve immediately. This recipe should serve 3 to 4.
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April 25, 2015

Chembu/ Sepankizhangu/ Arbi Mezhukkuvaratti (Pan Roasted Spicy Colocasia)

T
hough this year has been quite good so far, quite a few things I had planned for just haven’t been happening quite in the way I expected. One of those things was getting back to blogging regularly. Unfortunately for me, two episodes of a very bad throat infection and all the stuff that comes with it have ensured that I haven’t even been able to clear out pending drafts on the blog!

So here I am, after an unintentional break from blogging, with a recipe that’s a traditional Palakkad Iyer favourite though it’s not one of mine. I’m a little different from some in my community in some of my food tastes in that I don’t like anything cooked with raw bananas, elephant yam and Colocasia, to mention a few community favourites. 
I’d go as far as saying the only tuber vegetables I like are the potato, carrots and the Daikon radish (only in Indian flatbreads called parathas, or this pickle) all of which are not traditionally endemic to Kerala or what is generally known there as “naadan”. Oh yes, I also like tapioca/ cassava which is a favourite in Kerala but that’s about it.




I dislike Colocasia because it has an almost sticky sliminess (for want of a better description) when cooked (though this disappears once it's been fried), I tend to avoid going anywhere near it when I’m at my local market. It’s a purely unintentional and almost unconscious habit but one that’s a fair one because my husband loves this dirty unappealing looking vegetable! So about once every couple of months, I make an effort to remember to buy Colocasia just for him.

There are more than a couple of ways to cook it, but my husband’s favourite dish with it is a simple “Mezhukkuvaratti/ Mezhukkupuratti” which is how we in Kerala, describe a dish that involves stir-frying certain vegetables in coconut oil so that they’re cooked soft inside but crisp outside with minimal use of spices. Mezhukkuvaratti or Mezhukkupuratti means just that – stir-frying or coating with oil usually with only salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and curry leaves as seasoning.




This recipe is pretty much the same as this recipe for Vazhakkai/ Raw Plantain Mezhukkuvaratti except in the way in which the vegetable here is prepared before it is stir-fried. 
As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog before, the Palakkad Iyer style of cooking (and language) is essentially rooted in its Tamil origins with heavy influences from Kerala. So Colocasia which is “Sepankizhangu” in Tamil, is pronounced as “Chepankizhangu” by most of us Palakkad Iyers who have adopted the Malayalam version. 
It is Arbi or Arvi for those who are more familiar with the Hindi name for it.
Chembu/ Sepankizhangu/ Arbi Mezhukkuvaratti (Pan Roasted Spicy Colocasia)



Ingredients:


1/2 kg Chembu/Seppankizhangu/ Arbi/ Colocasia

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)

Salt to taste

3 tbsp oil (preferably coconut oil)

1/8 tsp asafoetida

1 or 2 sprigs curry leaves



Method:


The first thing to do is to clean the caked mud/ soil from the Colocasia tubers if they are dirty. Either way, wash them well in water. If they have caked dirt then soak them in water for about 10 to 15 minutes to loosen it before washing them.

Then cook the Colocasia so that they’re done, but  are still firm and not mushy. I pressure cook them for a couple of “whistles” (short duration) like we usually do in India. Drain the water and peel off the skin like for boiled potatoes. Let them cool completely and then cut or slice them into even shaped pieces, but not too small.

Sprinkle the turmeric powder, the chilli powder and the salt over the Colocasia pieces and toss them lightly in a bowl so that they get coated with the spice.

Heat the oil in a wok or non-stick/ thick bottomed frying pan. Add the safetida and the curry leaves and stir a couple of times without letting the asafoetida burn. Now add the spiced Colocasia pieces and lightly toss them in the oil. 
Let them cook over medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, uncovered, until they crisp up. Toss the Colocasia a couple of times to redistribute and turn them, without breaking the pieces, so they’re evenly crisped.


When done, transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm on the side with rice and a curry with gravy like Sambhar, Pulissery or Rasam. This should serve about 4.


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