Monday, July 28, 2014

probiotic foods: pickled salad with tart apples, summer carrots and red cabbage

Pickled salads are nothing but salads marinated with some spiced vinegar for a while. Any crisp fruits and vegetables can be pickled with a spiced vinegar and stored for a couple of days till the salad remains crisp or can be kept longer if the salad is intended to get softer. Cucumber or cabbage pickled salad would taste great even if the vegetables become softer after a prolonged pickling.

In this pickled salad I used small apples from the hills that were slightly tart. Small pears and hard sweet and tart peaches also taste great in this salad so please go ahead and pickle some salad and see if you like it. Always use naturally fermented vinegar for the probiotic benefit. I will keep updating this post with more pictures as I have already made a few versions of it, more pictures are there in my home computer and I am writing this post from Te Aroha where this salad has been included in the menu too, using tart apples from their own orchard.


apples 1 kg (sliced or chopped into batons)
purple cabbage chopped in small shreds 200 gm
carrots chopped in batons or slices 200 gm
star anise 6
cloves 10
dry red chillies 3-4
black pepper corns 20
salt 2 tbsp
sugar 1 tbsp
water 1 L
natural vinegar, apple cider or sugarcane vinegar (I used coconut vinegar) 1 cup


Boil the water with the spices, sugar and salt for 5 minutes. Cool and add vinegar to it.

Sterilise a few jars and fill the copped apples, carrots and shredded red cabbage in them.

Pour the spiced vinegar in the jars and let the salad rest for at least 2 ours before serving.

The leftover liquid from the salad can be used to pickle baby onions once or can be had in shot glasses as a probiotic supplement.

You can cook the spices in just 100 ml of water and reduce the water further before cooling it down and adding vinegar to it. This will make just enough 'dressing' for the salad to soak in well and there wont be much leftover liquid once the pickled salad is consumed. This method works well if you want this salad made regularly at home.

breakfast ideas I am soon going to recreate | signature breakfast at Le Meridien

When you see an Indian touch to traditional cafe classics from all over the world you feel the food is your own. In my case I would always want to recreate it somehow if I have liked the flavours. Same was the case when we tasted the signature breakfast menu at The One, Le Meridien, New Delhi.

The first thing that bowled me over was this tall corn and masala brioche. Very well done, served with a drizzle of balsamic reduction on the plate. The brioches tastes great with a little butter and is really well done, I would have liked a little tamarind chutney drizzle instead of balsamic reduction. May be a small batata vada and some more chutney to convert it into a brioche vada pao of Bombay? I know I have weird ideas but I would try doing that myself. Bless the Chefs of The One to create such a lovely brioche.

This baked omelet rolled with lentil cheela and stuffed with tandoori chicken morsels served with mint chutney is such a good idea to get a gluten free protein rich breakfast or even meal. One could use any leftover tandoori or grilled chicken, fish or vegetables into this rolled omelet.

I found the taste really good, tender tandoori chicken and firm omelet wrapped with cheela. I wish there was some chutney smeared inside to make it a more juicy and flavourful roll. Although the chutney is served with it, it could have made the roll great otherwise. But I am not complaining.

Another option of the signature breakfast is this crepes stuffed with palak paneer scramble, served over makhni gravy and topped with fried carrot shreds. This was my kind of breakfast (or meal) as it was full of spinach done really well. Some people might find it too much vegetables for breakfast but works really well for me. Plated beautifully, this dish will please young kids I feel.

I loved the idea of rasam poached eggs served over a lentil gallete. A southern spiced raita was served on the side. I loved the idea of rasam poached eggs as well as the lentil gallette. Arvind didn't like the lentil gallette as expected but he did eat a little. He loved the rasam poached egg though.

Ah and they serve this wake up shots when yo arrive for breakfast. Lovely tangy shots of apple juice and tamarind extract and another is tomato juice and pepper. Both of them were yum and did wake up the palate for great taste coming ahead.

Enjoyed this breakfast while chatting with Arvind on a Saturday morning. We had 2 rounds of the really good Illy coffee while chatting leisurely at the restaurant. It is fortunate to get a few relaxed weekends in between and chat nonsense. Been traveling a lot these days and not getting time for myself. But I will be more disciplined I promise myself.

Friday, July 25, 2014

pan grilled chicken with mushroom brown sauce | recipe of mushroom based brown sauce

Grilled chicken meals are one of the easiest to rustle up and wholesome tasty as well. Although I always end up saying chicken is like potatoes and I can't eat chicken everyday just like potatoes, but if chicken is cooked differently everyday I might just give in to such easy meals. The most easy option would still be eggs for me :-)

The whole dinner platter in this case is more convenient because I had some boiled potatoes in the fridge. You see I wont complaint about these potatoes as I lugged them back from Dhanachuli. I am working at Te Aroha to pep up their entire menu and love those potatoes growing in the step fields around the property. This time I just bought a large bagful and lugged back home. Now I can have potatoes everyday. At least a couple of wedges do slip in here and there and I am loving it.

Pan grilling feels convenient sometimes when smaller amount of food is to be cooked and I can slide in the vegetables in the free space while the chicken or fish is grilling in the cast iron pan or skillet. In summertime it also heats up the kitchen lesser than the oven.

To grill the whole chicken legs I slash the flesh and rub salt and pepper into the pieces. Sometimes I add lime juice to this rub but this time I did not do it as there would be some tartness into the mushroom sauce as well. The chicken legs are rested for about an hour and then placed into a hot griddle along with 1 tbsp butter. The chicken cooks on low flame, the griddle covered so the juices of the chicken help cook the flesh. Chicken is grilled both sides till golden brown and crisp.

I slide in the potato wedges and julienne vegetables in the same pan during the last 10 minutes of cooking. The star of this recipe is mushroom sauce that peps up the meal by a few notches.

To make the mushroom brown sauce I have replaced white flour with powdered oatmeal. Taste wise I feel it made very little difference.

Recipe of the mushroom brown sauce
(makes enough sauce for 5-6 servings and more)

chopped shallots or red onions 1 cup
chopped carrots (English carrots) 1/2 cup
chopped button mushrooms 3/4 cup
Olive oil 1/4 cup
salt 1 tsp or a little more
black pepper powder 1.5 tsp
dried thyme 1 tsp
oatmeal powder 1 tbsp
Worcestershire sauce 1 tbsp


Heat the oil and tip in the chopped onions and fry till they turn pink.
Add the chopped carrots and salt and fry the vegetables till both turn brownish.
Now add the chopped mushrooms and stir fry till the mushrooms wilt and the whole vegetable mix reduces in volume, becoming brown and caramelized.
Take off the stove and add the thyme and black pepper while the mixture is still hot.
Transfer the cooked vegetables to a blender jar, decanting some of the cooking oil into the pan. Add Worcestershire sauce to the blender too.
Let the mixture cool down while you tip in the oatmeal into the remaining oil and cook while stirring it. Add half a cup of chicken stock and cook the roasted oatmeal for 2 minutes. Transfer the cooked oatmeal sauce to the blender and let the contents cool down before blending it all into a smooth sauce.
Reheat, dilute with more stock if required and serve as desired.

Poured over plain grilled chicken or chicken steak this brown sauce tastes really good. Sometimes I add bits of bacon while frying the onion to add more depth into the brown sauce.

This kind of a meal is a satisfying nourishing tasty way to health. I used broccoli or cauliflowers too many a times in this mix of vegetables but whatever is in the fridge works well most of the times. Wilted spinach in winters is my fave accompaniment to such a meal.

To make this mushroom brown sauce vegetarian, do not add any bacon or chicken stock. Use plain water or milk to dilute the sauce. The vegetarian mushroom based brown sauce can be used over paneer steaks and tofu steaks and tastes great.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lahm Bi-A'jin, Lahmajun or Sfiha, a middle eastern bread with mutton mince and purslane topping | the Arab pizza made my way

Arab pizza? Yes this flat bread is baked with a delicious topping and looks like pizza. Known as Lahmajun in Armenia, Lahm Bi-A'jin in Syria and Lebanan and Sfiha in Jordan, this flat bread with a meat mince topping is as good as the regular pizza although the flavour profile is entirely different. More earthy, more filling and completely a different experience than the regular Italian pizza, although the looks are similar. But then we know so many versions of flat breads around the globe that it feels very natural to find similar looking recipes in one corner of the globe with an interesting bunch of flavours. This Lahm Bi-A'jin is one of those recipes.

One can make a vegetarian version with crumbled paneer or a thick tomato sauce or mashed eggplants and cheese or with any topping one can imagine as this bread is quite easy to make. I found it here some time ago, adjusted it to my taste and have been making Lahm Bi-a'jin since then. Sometimes I fold the bread like a calzone for the ease of packing it into the lunch box of the husband.

This time I cooked it using the most nourishing greens of the season, Purslane. I have been using purslane to make pizza sauce sometimes but adding it to minced meat and flavouring it with Za'atar was such a brilliant idea. The minced meat and purslane mix was just too good to resist. Dusted generously with home made Za'atar.

Ingredients for the flat bread base will be similar to any standard pizza base recipe you use. I used my standard whole wheat bread recipe for the dough. Roll out flat breads of any size and spread the cooked mutton mince mixture over them and bake till the flat bread is pinkish brown on the edges and the mince mix is sizzling.

ingredients for the mutton mince and purslane topping of Arab pizza
(for 4 large pizzas, enough for 4 people)
mutton mince 300 gm
purslane greens (chopped finely) 250 gm
garlic minced 5-6 cloves (or as generous you want to be with garlic)
red chilly flakes 1 tsp or as per taste
fresh thyme leaves 6-7 springs
extra virgin olive oil 2 tsp
salt to taste
Za'atar 2 tbsp or more
toasted sesame seeds 1 tbsp
toasted sesame powder 1 tbsp


Pour the olive oil in a heavy base pan and tip in the minced garlic and red chilly flakes and then place the pan over stove. As the oil starts sizzling add the finely chopped purslane greens along with salt and stir fry till the purslane wilts.

Add the minced meat and thyme leaves, mix well and cook covered on medium heat till the mince is cooked, the purslane greens get almost homogenized with the mince, changing it's colour and appearance. Adjust seasoning and add the toasted sesame powder, dehydrate the mixture so it doesn't ooze liquids on the pizza base.

Spread a generous mince mixture over a rolled out thin bread base and bake for 10 minutes at 200 C on the middle rack. Keep an eye on the pizza as it can get burnt or stay raw in the middle.

Sprinkle Za'atar over the hot Arab pizza along with some more toasted sesame if you like and serve hot with some green salad on the side.

The minced meat and purslane along with Za'atar make a very interesting flavour base together. I have been cooking this purslane and keema scramble even as an everyday curry for ourselves. I keep it a bit moist or even runny if I am planning to serve it along with roti or paranthas.

I am sure Lahm Bi-A'jin will become a new favourite pizza the day you cook it. Especially if you have a carnivore family. Make it using paneer scramble with spinach or purslane if you are a vegetarian but don't forget to sprinkle a generous handful of Za'atar over it.

If you don't have Za'atar you can coarsely powder fresh thyme leaves, coarse sea salt, toasted sesame seeds and sumac (or dried limes). It works nicely with this recipe or on plain flat breads too.