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Archive for June, 2010

Berrily crumbled III

Ay yay ay yay ay yay yay!!!

Loved every bit. Berry Crumble experiment was a huge success.

When I first saw the berries bubble away, I wasn’t so sure it was going to turn out the way my colleague’s had. And when I combined the oats, bread crumbs & butter, a little bit of hope flared.

And when I transferred the berry mixture onto the baking dish and sprinkled the crumb mixture onto it, the picture started developing much better. But not there yet.

I let it bake for about 15 minutes when I got a whiff of the butter and berry aroma. Awww, what a warm and buttery feeling it gave. I took a peek in the oven and saw that it started taking semblance to the actual picture. Another 10 minutes, it was all ready. I took a couple of ramekins and put some warm berry crumble. And wow, yummy is the word for it.

And here you go ……the fruits of my labour….hmmm…I should probably say berries of my labour.

The berry crumble I made

The berry crumble I made

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Ragu - Pt Chevalier

It has been ages since we went to a fine dining restaurant. This weekend I actually wanted to drive down to our favourite haunt Mecca in Mission Bay for some Coffee and Baklavas. But life as we all know is unpredictable and takes different turns.

While taking the motorway, Ram asked -“Hey do you want to may be try out the new joint in Pt Chevalier- “Ragu”?. I remembered vaguely Ram talking about the review written by the popular food critic Nici Wickes on NZ Herald. I said -“Well why not?”

We changed course, and it sure didn’t leave us disappointed.

When we were approaching the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was the brick and cobbled path leading up to the door. Next came the signage, a picture display of a rustic iron saucepan with the word “ragu” on it. And I thought well that’s unassuming. I turned towards the door, I didn’t know what I actually expected. It was one of those doors without automatic swing hinges. Plain double wooden door like that of a really old hut. And I raised my eyebrows at the sight of it. We entered. We were welcomed with a friendly smile and asked whether we would like to start off with the bar and move to the table. And we thought lets start off with some pre-dinner drinks.

We took our seats at the bar stools. One of the restaurant staff gave us a wine list and left us to go over it. I was in no mood for alcohol tonight. And I thought I’ll ask for something non-alcoholic. When the staff came to take our wine order, I asked “what do you have that’s non alcoholic?”. And he immediately rattled off some a list of fruit juices and out came the last one a Hawkes Bay Ginger Beer. He said he did have Bundaberg too, but would highly recommend the Hawkes Bay Ginger Beer. I said I’ll go with his suggestion. Ram changed his mind and settled for the same as well.

While waiting for our drinks, I looked around at the interior of Ragu. The Interiors were warm and friendly, bordering on rustic with a splash of modern ensemble. The lighting was dim but just right, which allowed us to see enough of the people and food about to be served. To add to the charm, the waiter even lit tea lights in tiny candle holders which I though was cute.

Our ginger beer came and the waiter left us with the menu. I saw that the menu was split into two. Small Plate and Large Plate. I took my first swig of the Ginger Beer, the words ‘Smooth’ and ‘Delicious’ popped into my head. The fizz was just right and not overpowering and chilled to perfection. This Ginger Beer literally blew me away. Finest one I have ever tasted. To give you a parallel, it enjoys the position of a Glenfiddich in the Whisky League.

Then we placed our order from the Small Plate menu. We  ordered Smoky Babaghanoush with Ciabatta and Mushroom and Goat Cheese Risotto balls with Truffle Aioli. The babaghanoush was smooth and smoky living up to its name. I am yet to find a term so beautiful to describe the Mushroom and Goat Cheese Risotto balls with the truffle aioli. It was rich and buttery and the risotto balls were delectable, soft in the inside and crisp on the outside. What made it even more mouth-watering was the truffle aioli. The flavour was intense and nothing like I have tried before. And this dish definitely leaves you wanting more.

We then progressed to the main course, Ram ordered a Grilled Vegetable and Buffalo Mozzarella Ragu on gnochetti pasta. I chose a Marinated Chicken & roasted winter vegetables with Israeli couscous and Kasundi. The portions were huge and sumptuous. Both dishes were tasty however lacked the oomph that was present in the entrée.  We were so full that we took a rain check on dessert. But we might just pop in for more later.

On the whole, my verdict is Ragu is a very nice mediterranean-tapas style bar restaurant, offering a comfortable and cosy ambience, wih a friendly customer service. And if you are looking for somewhere new to go, this would be just the place you were waiting to try.

I rate them with a hearty 3.5/5. Hope the new kids on the block do well for themselves.

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Berries

Here’s the recipe as promised on the “Berrily crumbled” post. My friend emailed the recipe to me. And it seems easy. Will try and let you know how it turned out. But in the mean time if you have got a chance to experiment, looking forward to knowing how it turned out.

Berry Crumble

Ingredients

Frozen berries – 500 gms
Water
Sugar – 1 cup
Castor sugar – ½ cup
Bread crumbs – ½ cup
Oats (grated) – ¼ cup
Shredded coconut(optional) -2 tbsp
Unsalted butter – 125gms
Salt – a pinch

● Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Put frozen berries to the pan and add water enough to cover the berries
● Add 1 cup sugar and a pinch of salt and bring to boil.
● Take it off the heat and pour the contents in an oven proof dish.
● Combine the unsalted butter , bread crumbs and grated oats well in a food processor or blender and put it in the refrigerator to cool down.
● Sprinkle the bread crumbs mixture over the top . Bake for 10 – 15 minutes . Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

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Hummus
Hummus

Continuing with my experiments with Middle Eastern food, I told myself that the food that I was going to try out must be healthy in addition to it being tasty and flavourful. Ram and I did some weekend shopping and stopped over at the mall’s food court for a light lunch. We decided on falafel and oven baked veggies with hummus, garlic yoghurt & chill sauce for seasoning. It was yummy, no doubt and was guilt free too. And like a chain reaction, I had the urge to go back home and make Hummus. And this time, I wanted the right recipe.

Although I have tried doing Hummus a number of times at home, it never seemed right. It couldn’t hold a candle to the likes of authentic mid-eastern diners that served traditional hummus. So I finally figured that the variations of the recipe that I found on the internet were not so great.  And I finally stumbled upon a traditional hummus recipe that was a near perfect 10 for me. And apparently so for my own personal critic too, Ram, my husband.

Ram and I came back home and made oodles of Hummus and stowed it away in the refrigerator. That should tide us through for a good week or more. The previous times I tried making it, I had to do constant taste checks and adjustments. This time round I got lucky and the recipe was just perfect and can be followed blindly. The measures & consistency of the hummus were simply spot on. The taste hit all the right notes and had me humming eulogies on how it turned out finally. So if you are having that Friday night party, you needn’t look further for “that” awesome dip to go with your starters. Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup of tahini (sesame seeds) (roasted, not raw)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Pine nuts (toasted) and parsley (chopped) for garnish

Method

Combine the minced garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 cup water, and olive oil in a food processor. Process until smooth or if you are like me, a slightly crumbly paste. Add half a teaspoon of salt or to your taste. Spoon into serving dish and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley. You can also spice it up by sprinkling paprika/cayenne pepper.

Serving suggestions

Serve with carrots, celery, crackers, or with pita bread, or use it as a garnish for your salads/main course.

* This recipe makes about 3 cups. You can also use tahini paste instead of tahini.

Enjoy!!!

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The Predicted Face-Off

After weeks and weeks of anticipation I missed the final of American Idol. Couldn’t watch the last 2 shows with the best of the two battling for the coveted position. But glad it was worth missing when I caught up with the highlights.I don’t think I would have had the patience to sit through all those performances. Wonder how the hell Simon managed to keep up the pretence of putting up with that painstakingly long show. I guess he was just happy to turn his back on Idol. But I sure would miss his brute honesty.

Just as I predicted, Crystal and Lee were the finalists. I so wanted to know the results, I checked on blogs and polls constantly,during the weeks leading up to the finale to keep a pulse on how the scales were tipping. And boy were they even. It was anyone’s game at that point.

But in the end come to think of it, it was no surprise that Lee took the title given that he was a package deal for record companies wanting to sign freshers. And on top of it, a bonus for them what with Lee’s songwriting skills. Good for him.

Crystal although she hit the right notes and had an equally good talent, I can’t remember a single song that stood out of all her performances. For Lee, I could easily pick 2 of his songs off the top of my head. I loved Lee’s performance of Boxer and Hallelujah. To me Simon just won Idol for Lee by picking Hallelujah. I don’t think I can hear an improvised version of Hallelujah again after this. Here’s the link for the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=en&v=Te42ioevqnI&gl=US

Congrats to Lee on winning the American Idol. And wishing both Crystal and Lee have the best take off  of their careers. Hallelujah!!!

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Baked Pumpkin

My stirrings for something fragrant, colorful and untried came back with a renewed vengeance after a long long time of straying from flavourful food. But I don’t know what flavour it was that my palate was looking for. So when my colleague Ayesha said she was going to visit her daughter in Morocco, it was as if something clicked and fell into place. As she narrated how much she was looking forward to this trip, the beautiful scenes of Morocco which she painted made by brain turn into a projector playing out the scenes on a 70mm screen in Eastman colour. The effects were so real, the colours were glimmering, the sun shining and the dust rising off the dirt roads, I could literally smell the air smelling of sunshine, dust and spices. Scenes of rustic architecture, markets lined with colourful silks, mouth-watering foods and spices, people preparing food in traditional earthen ovens, mud houses, children playing on the street, the hawkers shouting out at the top of their lungs etc played harmoniously with some middle eastern soundtrack, that it felt almost as if I were witness to the things going around.

My fascination for Moroccan food began with Ayesha describing all these enticing foods that I could only imagine in my head. And I thought, I really have to try something out. And, soon!

And there came an opportunity. My aunt and uncle were flying out to India and were going on a two month holiday. So my aunt called me up and said, “We are leaving tomorrow, why don’t you and Ram come for dinner. We can spend time and it will be great to have a potluck before we go”. First thing I thought of was, I need to buy some vegetables. Nothing interesting at home except a pumpkin, some kumara and carrots.

I finished work, headed to our nearby grocery store. Damn! Out of luck, they had already closed as it was long weekend for the Queen’s Birthday. I was in panic mode, I called Ram on my mobile and told him the shops were shut. He said “I think we’ll just make some pulao and go”. I told him that I’ll figure something out.

I came back home, got onto the internet first thing. I googled some pumpkin based dishes. The search returned some recipes. Third link on the page, my eyes kind of zeroed in on it. Not sure how! But I guess if you have been thinking about that particular thing, your mind starts noticing things that are relevant to it. Well in this case, my eyes traced out the word Baked Pumpkin(Morocco). And I had it. The interesting recipe that I was looking for, for the impromptu potluck. Baked Pumpkin with Caramelised Onions and Almonds. The moment I read the heading, my mind went into a tizzy of craving.

I scanned through the ingredients and found that every last one was easily something we kept at home. And I got up immediately and started hacking away at the pumpkin. The recipe was so simple too. The recipe asked for Sugar Pumpkin. I didn’t have that, but it was too last-minute I resorted to using whatever pumpkin was available at home. And of course, I had to have another enemy too, right? Time. Barely an hour to go.  The recipe said that I had to bake the pumpkins in the oven with some water to make them tender for a good 40-45 minutes. Who has that time! I cut the pumpkin into square chunks and dunked them in the microwave steamer for a head start on getting the pumpkins tender for a quick 5 minutes. While the pumpkins turned tender in the microwave, I chopped up some 3 onions Julienne, and slivered some readily blanched  almonds(about 4 tbsp). Splashed a bit of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) instead of vegetable oil in a saucepan and threw in the onions and sautéed it until it turned deep brown and then added the slivered almonds. I got some raisins out and plumped them in hot water, drained it and added this to the onion-almond mixture. Then in went 3-4 tsp sugar, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of cinnamon powder. And the burst of aroma of the sugar and cinnamon melding hit the high heavens and reminded me once more as to why I loved food.

I wish I had taken some pictures of it. But I shall post some soon. Below is the original recipe for the traditionalists.

Moroccan Baked Pumpkin with Caramelised Onions and Almonds

2 pounds pumpkin, preferably sugar pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup seedless raisins,
plumped in warm water and drained
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the pumpkin into 2-inch chunks. Place them in a ovenproof dish. Add the water and cover tightly. Bake until tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and sauté the onions until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of the almonds, the raisins, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions are caramelised, 15 to 20 minutes. Spread the onion mixture evenly over the peeled pumpkin. Return to the oven and bake until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining almonds and serve immediately.

If you try it, do let me know how it turned out. Adios!!!

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