Saturday, April 25, 2015

101 alternative flours | polenta cakes made using makki ka atta, with arrabbiata sauce | quick recipe of arrabbiata sauce

Polenta is my favourite. I think I have said it earlier too, probably many times. I like polenta as much as I like my makki ki roti. I know both are very different from each other but I always found a similarity, the sweet nuttiness of cornmeal that is so characteristic and the way both can be served in so many different ways.

The polenta I used to make earlier with corn grits was a regular for some time and then I started adding fresh corn to polenta, see the gruel type polenta with mushroom goodness and fresh corn polenta with cheese. Check out the baked polanta sticks too.

But then I decided to use regular makki ka atta (corn meal meant to make makki ki roti during Indian winters) to make polenta cakes. The result has been very encouraging, the polenta cakes set well and I can toast them really well on the cast iron skillet too. It doesn't take too much time in preparation and tastes really good. And the best thing is, that it is great even at room temperature. A win win situation really.

This time I served it doused with arrabbiata sauce and sage butter infused vegetables on the side, sprinkled generously with Parmesan.

(2 meal servings with loads of stir fry vegetables)

for polenta cakes 
corn meal (or polenta, I used makki ka atta) 150 gm
water 300 ml
grated cheddar 1 tbsp
salt to taste
oil or butter to grease the skillet and the metal rings to shape the polenta cakes

*arrabbiata sauce (I used home made) 1/4 cup (recipe in the end)

for stir fry vegetables
cauliflower florets 2 cups
cabbage chopped in big chunks 2 cups
sage leaves (fresh or dried) about a dozen
butter 1 tbsp
salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of the platter


Mix the ingredients for polenta cakes in a deep saucepan (except butter) and whisk together. Now place the saucepan over stove and cook while whisking till the mixture becomes thick and soft dough like. Take the pan off the heat and grease the steel rings.

Now place the steel rings over silpat or a greased surface, spoon about 2 heaped tbsp of cooked mix into each ring and press down making a flat round cake (or tikki like shape). You can spread the whole cooked dough over a greased silpat and let it cool while it sets. Then cut into squares or triangles.

You can toast the polenta cakes while still hot as they set perfectly well and quickly. Or you can cool down completely to be sure, the cold polenta cakes can be refrigerated for later use too. Toast on a greased skillet to serve.

Since I make them fresh and toast them while still warm, it takes about 20 minutes to make two servings.

Smear the cakes with prepared hot arrabbiata sauce, grate Parmesan cheese over them and serve with meat or vegetables or whatever you like it with.

I made this sage infused stir fry for the side.

To make the stir fry parboil the cauliflowers and cabbage chunks separately in slated water. Drain and immediately dunk into a skillet with butter and sage leaves, toss on high heat for a couple of minutes, season and serve immediately.

recipe of arrabbiata sauce..

garlic cloves 10
fresh oregano leaves 2 tbsp or dried oregano 1 tsp
fresh thyme leaves 4-5 springs or dry thyme a generous pinch
fresh basil torn about 12 leaves
red chilly flakes 1 tbsp or as per taste
salt to taste
chopped tomatoes (preferably blanched and peeled) 3 cups
balsamic vinegar 2 tbsp
olive oil (extra virgin) 1 tbsp
Parmesan cheese grated 2 tbsp


Add olive oil, garlic and herbs in blender and make a coarse paste. Add the paste to a pan and place the pan over stove. Let the oil and herbs start sizzle, add the chilly flakes followed by the tomatoes, salt and balsamic vinegar. Stir and cook till it all gets saucy.

Add the grated Parmesan and let it get incorporated. Adjust seasoning and consistency as required and bottle. Keep refrigerated for about a a couple of months.

This sauce is a good condiment to keep in the fridge. You can toss a quick pasta or even boiled potatoes or cauliflower with this sauce to make a healthier meal. Never make this kind of sauces in small amounts, make enough for at least three to four meals for the family. I like the arrabbiata auce hot but you can always tone down the chilly heat a little bit.

With this polenta cakes the sauce doesn't taste so hot. Polenta tones down the heat as it is a bit bland in taste, with a nutty taste of it's own of course.

This is one of the most comforting meals one can have, that too very calorie efficient I must add. All the good fats, not an overload of proteins and all the carbs in the meal are complex and low glycemic index type.

Healthy meal.

Friday, April 24, 2015

noodling at Le Meridien : all kind of noodles with your choice of accompaniments...

I have always liked the soups and stir fried (wok tossed) vegetables at Le Belvedere, the 20th floor Oriental fine dining restaurant at Le Meridien Hotel. Apart from the beautiful view of Lutyen's Delhi, the top floor restaurant has actually impressed me with the consistency of the taste and presentation of the dishes, especially the seafood, the fresh vegetables stir fried minimally with just right seasonings, the way I like them.

Chef Balkishen Chauhan makes the best clear soups consistently.

And the fresh vegetables wok tossed perfectly to retain the textures and the taste. I always order a platter for myself whenever I am eating there.

This time I was there to get a taste of the Noodling festival, where they are showcasing different types of oriental noodles tossed up with seafood, chicken and vegetables. Among the noodles I liked the cold soba noodles tossed with seafood and vegetables and served with skewers of prawns.

Here is the festival menu to choose from. One can always order more from the regular a la carte menu too.

Pad Thai with chicken, Udon noodles with vegetables were also good. I wouldn't care for the crisp fried noodles with assorted vegetables, the texture doesn't work for me at all.

But it was not just the noodles, I tried crisp lotus stem tossed with chives and onions, crispy fried squares of Tofu tossed with spring onion, and wok tossed chicken. These were really good.

The taste of most of this food at Le Belvedere is fine tuned to suit the Indian palate that loves the Indian inspired Oriental food. Even the 'kimchi' served here would testify that. I have asked Chef Chauhan several times about the kimchi and this time he revealed people don't like soggy stinky kimchi here and ask for sweetish crisp 'freshly made kimchi'. And the taste of the patrons rules anywhere in the world.

I don't care much for the desserts but Date pancakes, Apple fritters, Toffee banana, Dark Chocolate pastry and a sugar free Orange mousse is on offer, served with ice cream and blueberry compote. Quite an unimaginative serving to say the least, but I like these dry triangular date pancakes in small doses. Desserts definitely need to be better here.

And all desserts don't need to be served with the same ice cream and the same blueberry compote. While the starters and main course dishes impress by the skill of presentation, desserts disappoint. Hugely.

Taste wise, the Toffee banana is actually well done with a hard crystalline coating of sesame encrusted caramel. Apple fritters are well done too.

If you love noodles, you would not want to miss tasting all this variety. The festival is on till the end of this month, go have a taste of a few of these Oriental flavours with your choice of noodles.