Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Change of Pace and Flavor Tones.....

It's been a bit of an up and down time for us, what with the weather taking us for quite a ride lately.... lovely, sunny mornings when the sunbeams give us bright days and make my "Kitty" have difficulty choosing under which warm beam she will take a nap under; yet as the day progresses and usually around the 4 pm hour, rumblings make you take note announcing the rapid change of pace to the weather.

We love the weather here in the Valle de Mexico since it's spared us from the heavy humidity we lived under in Yucatan, but I must admit that this too takes some adjusting which is funny to us now that you have to consider, if you're going out, to take an umbrella or even a sweater (sweater? the first afternoon I got cold it took me a while to locate it after being packed away for over three years of living in the tropics!) along for your outing. You will need it surely as the changeable weather makes for an interesting and cool time. These last few days we've had the warmth and sun in the mornings and have been having violent hail storms in the afternoon which leave the terrace, neighboring rooftops and the streets, literally white with "snow"... it's really amazing!

Anyway, I'm going on a tangent and this is not a weather blog after all but a food one so let's get back on topic.... with regards to change. I love change in all ways, I love shaking things up and not staying the course, I love the challenge that comes with adapting and mastering a new project - this, for me at least, is really great when applying it to food since it means an ever changing food spectrum and avoiding "ruts".... anything is fair game and everything is allowed, how's that for variety? the problem is there's too much to choose from, but here's where personal preferences take hold.

My family loves strong flavors: spices, bold tastes, strong cheeses and such - no wimpy flavor notes here. Sure, now and then there will be creamy sauces but always with undertones of additional flavors to enhance it all. Can be a simple dish with great ingredients but it will always have crisp and clean flavors.

Following these thoughts while trying to decide on a menu bring with it the inevitable discussion of what to prepare.... sometimes it's hard but it's always creative. I love looking at the pantry and trying to create something new and exciting with whatever is available, a kind of "Iron Chef" at home but with many secret ingredients.....

We've been kind of blah for a couple of days, getting over a flu, but now we need something great to get us back on track. Once you see what's on for today, you'll be able to guess what's usually kept in the pantry.....

Indian Butter Chicken.- Butter chicken or murgh makhani is an Indian dish from the Punjab region that is one of the best known dishes of Indian Cuisine. Flavorful, exotic and fantastic! Don't let the list of ingredients deter you... it's worth trying.... You'll need:

1 Chicken, cut in pieces
1 tbl Lemon Juice
1 tsp Red Chili Powder
Salt to taste
2 tbl Butter

1 cup Plain Yogurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Garlic Paste (or cloves from garlic press)
1 tsp Garam Masala -or- a mix of pepper, clove, cumin, cinnamon, bay leaves,
cardamom, nutmeg and coriander seeds, in a dry pan toast them first until fragrant then put in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder, keep in a tightly sealed jar for future use....
1 tsp Red Chili powder
2 tbl Ginger Paste
2 tbl Lemon Juice
2 tbl Mustard Oil (or use what you have like chili oil..)

For Gravy.-

1/2 stick of Butter
1 tbl Ginger paste
4-5 Green Chilies, chopped
1 tbl Red Chili Powder
salt to taste
3-4 Bay leaves

1 tbl Garam Masala, just the spices mentioned above
1 tbl garlic paste
2 cups Tomato Sauce
2 tbl honey
1 cup cream

Make incisions with a sharp knife on breast and leg pieces of the chicken. Apply a mixture of red chilli powder, lemon juice and salt to the chicken and set aside for half an hour. Hang yogurt in a muslin cloth (or in a fine colander) for fifteen to twenty minutes to remove extra water and make it thick. Add red chili powder, salt, ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, garam masala powder and mustard oil. The marinade ingredients are ready. Apply this marinade to the chicken pieces and refrigerate for three to four hours.

Put the chicken onto a skewer and cook in a moderately hot preheated oven (in a roasting pan or on skewers on a rack) (200°C) for 20-30 minutes or until almost done. Baste it with butter and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Even better if you've got a grill!

Heat butter in a pan. Add spices. Sauté for two minutes, add ginger-garlic paste and chopped green chillies. Cook for two minutes. Add tomato puree, red chilli powder, garam masala powder, salt and one cup of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes
. Add sugar or honey.

Add cooked chicken pieces. Simmer for five minutes and then add fresh cream. Serve hot with naan or parantha.

Note: This is especially good with tandoor cooked chicken or done on the grill.

Brown Rice.- Traditional Parsi Rice with Caramel:

1 1/2 cups Rice
4 tbl Ghee (clarified butter)
2 large onions, sliced
3 tbl sugar
6-8 whole cloves
2 inch stick of cinnamon
salt to taste
4 cups water

Soak rice in sufficient water for thirty minutes. Drain and set aside.Heat ghee in a pan and sauté sliced onions till brown. In another pan heat sugar and one tablespoon of water on medium heat and allow to caramelize. Add cloves and cinnamon to the browned onions and stir. Add rice and sauté for two to three minutes.

When the caramel is ready add four cups of water to it. Mix and add the caramel liquid to the rice. Add salt to taste. Mix. Reduce heat, cover and cook till done.


But you still need a fantastic finish to this wonderful meal.... how about.... a terrific chocolate souffle you can make in a coffee cup in 5 min? You won't believe this recipe (and you've got to try it, it works) and you can make it for yourself (while the coffee's brewing) or for guests.... it's amazing, super easy and fast! And it won't get the kitchen dirty either.....

5 Minute Chocolate Souffle.- Here we go! These quantities can make 2 regular ones or 1 large one, depending on the cup you choose:

4 tbl flour
4 tbl sugar
2 tbl cocoa powder
1 egg
3 tbl milk
3 tbl oil
the tip of a small spoon of powdered yeast
a pinch of cinnamon or vanilla extract (optional)
1/8 tsp Expresso Powder (optional)
Fresh berries (optional)
Whipped Cream (optional)
Chocolate shavings (optional)

Put the ingredients in the coffee cup and mix well with a spoon. Put the cup in the microwave and cook on high heat for 3-5 min depending on your oven, usually a minimum of 1000 watts is needed. Adjust for your microwave. Remember if you put two cups in the microwave to allow for this.

Take the cup out of the microwave (use an oven mit) and turn the cup over on dessert plate to get the cake out. Now it's ready for the toppings you choose, like the ones mentioned: berries, whipped cream, fresh fruit, chocolate pieces, ice cream, etc. Done!
Note: I would make 1 as a trial so you know how your oven cooks. The more you cook it, the more solid and dry your cake will be. Less cooking time means a moist, liquid center... just depends on your personal taste, we like ours with a liquid center and expresso powder, plus with a side of expresso ice cream and whipped cream...WOW!.....

Well, there you have it.... an exciting menu for a great day! Hope you'll try these soon and let me know what you think.... In the meantime, I'm off before the afternoon shower hits and get my errands done.... Talk soon!

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