Friday, November 30, 2012

Pleurotus or Oyster mushrooms | a simple stir fry with tomatoes and garlic...

I lugged back some Oyster mushrooms from Darjeeling Apart from all those exotic looking vegetables from Gangtok. There were many varieties of Oyster mushrooms available in vegetable markets in Gangtok, I resisted the urge to buy them as they would be spoiled in the 5-6 days we still were on our way. But when I saw them being on sale in Darjeeling too, I couldn't resit. Darjeeling was our second leg of travel and we had to return home directly from there. I took the risk to buy Oyster mushrooms probably growing wild or cultivated in a small farm around the hills. We saw many people tending to gardens and step fields that were just a narrow strip of land on a slope. Amazing sight to see how arduous a job is to grow something in such difficult terrain. But the climate is just perfect for anything green and the place is blessed.

I forgot taking picture of large bunch of this mushroom, this is when I washed it and broke into smaller pieces. Very fresh and meaty.

The recipe is simple. Just a few ingredients and a great taste.


oyster mushrooms 250 gm
good ripe tomatoes 200 gm (2 large or 3 medium tomatoes)
half a red bell pepper
chopped garlic 1 tbsp
red chilly flakes 1 tsp or more to taste
salt to taste
olive oil 2 tbsp


Chop the tomatoes and keep aside. Slice the bell pepper thinly and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a wide pan and tip in the chopped garlic. Let it get pinkish brown before you add the red bell pepper slices. Add salt and stir and cook till it wilts. A minute or two maximum.

Add the chopped tomatoes too and mix well. Cover and cook till tomatoes are mushy. Takes another two minutes.

Now add the mushrooms, broken to bite size pieces and keep stirring and cooking on low flame till you get a coated sauce consistency. Takes about 4-5 minutes, the mushrooms will wilt first, get soggy and then will start holding shape again.

A saucy mushroom stir fry is ready to devour. Have it with any kind of bread, spaghetti or as a side dish in a formal meal.

I didn't add any herb as the prominent flavor of the mushroom would be masked in that case. This sauce accentuates the meaty flavor and texture of oyster mushrooms.

I would like some meatballs added to this if I plan ahead. Next time when I find them at INA, I'll definitely add meatballs to this and chop the mushrooms smaller to go with them..

Are mushrooms your favorite too?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fingsya ; the Tibetan soup that has everything for a meal..

You can see how much I am still living my vacation. Especially the flavors that I loved there in Gangtok and Darjeeling are still tingling my taste buds. I befriended and sweet talked to almost all the cooks I met to ask recipes, to know the names of ingredients and instructions on how to use them. Fingsya is one recipe I learned from the cook of our Darjeeling hotel, a lady who cooked only the Nepali and Tibetan food, while there was a male cook who did all the touristy food, butter chicken, malai kofta, daal makhni et al..

Basically a rice noodle soup cooked with beef chunks of bite size, Fingsya is superbly flavorful owing to the slow cooked stock and the fresh herbs used. And owing to the absence of overpowering spices. Chicken and pork variations are also done and the meat has to be boiled ahead for making this soup. They use the same stock and chop the boiled meat in small bite size pieces and dunk into the simmering Fingsya. They use Yak meat too for Fingsya, may be the name of the soup changes a bit with different meats.

 I used ready chicken mince for ease. It's always better to make a stock with chicken on bones using a larger quantity and then use the same stock and some of the boiled chicken into the soup. Or boneless chicken breast and stock made previously. Whatever is suitable for you.

(2-3 servings)
chicken mince 200 gm
black dried mushrooms 3 pieces
Pleurotus (Oyster) mushroom 150 gm
minced onion 1/2 cup
minced ginger and garlic 1 tbsp each
minced Dallae khorsani (round sikkimese chilly) 1 no.
(use any other chilly or paprika to taste)
schezuan pepper powder 1/2 tsp
finely chopped coriander greens (Cilantro) 3/4 cup (stems and leaves separated)
salt to taste
oil 1 tbsp (I use Olive oil but any flavorless oil would do)

boiled, peeled and cubed potatoes (new winter potatoes only) as required and optional
chicken stock 2-3 cups or as required
one small pack of rice noodles (about 60 gm)

Soak the black dry mushroom in hot water for 10 minutes. It gets 4 times it's size. Cut it into thin strips and then chop into small bits. It's not easy to mince it but chopping is easy on a board.

Chop the oyster mushrooms also into small bits.

Now heat the oil in a deep pan and tip in the minced onion, ginger and garlic into it. Add the minced chilly and black mushroom too and fry till translucent. Add salt and mix well.

Add the chopped Oyster mushrooms , mix well and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the cubed potatoes, chicken mince, stock, chopped stems of Coriander greens and schezuan pepper powder. And let it all simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes.

In the last 5 minutes, soak the rice noodles in hot water til they get soft.

Add them into the simmering soup and add more stock or water if required. Add the chopped stems of coriander greens too to simmer along.

Your kitchen will be an aromatic island after some 5-6 minutes. Giving you an exact idea how the soup id going to be.

Check and adjust seasoning and serve hot. Garnished with the chopped coriander leaves.

One of the most comforting soups to have during winters. I think I wont mind it in summers as well. Try making some Fingsya next time you lay your hands on rice noodles. One or more types of mushrooms will be excellent but don't hesitate to use any local mushrooms you get in your part of the world.

The beauty of a comforting soup is, it should be made with the freshest of the produce available. Use regular red chilly, coriander greens are available everywhere and potatoes and chicken mince is no problem for most of us. Rice noodles, round or flat, will be found in Asian or Thai isles of supermarket. Mine was bought from Mcleodgunj few months back , was lying in my closet since then, the taste of Fingsya made me use the rice noodle promptly.. As soon as I learned the recipe.

Thanks to this woman who narrated the recipe lovingly, giggling all the time. This was in our boutique hotel in Darjeeling, a cozy dining room with a beautiful view of Darjeeling and a little kithcen where this team cooked only when you ordered the food within a specific time limit. Ensuring freshly cooked food. I liked the concept.

We make friends around food many a times...just like you and me...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A special dinner created by Michelin star Chef Baptiste at West View ITC Maurya...

I rarely talk about Haute cuisine at Healthfood desivideshi as good everyday recipes are more on the center stage, some friends and readers call those recipes gourmet but I beg to differ. Gourmet sounds pretentious to me and my everyday food is all about taste and flavors presented simply, more because I want it to be doable every single day. Taste wise, I draw inspiration from every cuisine I come across either virtually or when it actually tickles my taste buds in the physical world. There is so much more to learn and explore, making everyday food more and more pleasurable both by the sensory faculties and the metabolic faculties, is the primary focus on this blog. The inspirations are fueled by meeting the masters sometimes and that is precisely what happened last week when I was invited by Four Seasons for an exclusive gourmet evening with Michelin star Chef Baptiste Fournier from France.  An occasion for pairing fine French cuisine with excuisite award winning wines from Bouvet-Ladubey and Four Seasons. Hosted by Abhay Kewadkar, Director, Four Seasons and Anil Chadha, General Manager ITC Mourya. Venue was the West View restaurant of the hotel which is on rooftop with a nice view of the best green and serene parts of Delhi.

Voted as one of the top young Chefs in France by the famed Gault Millau guide, Baptiste took over as the executive Chef of his family owned restaurant La Tour, at the age of 29 and recieved his Michelin star in 2011. Having worked with 3 star Michelin Chefs including Guy Savoy, Pourcel brothers and also with one of the best Chefs in Paris Alain Passard, Baptiste garnered extensive experience. He also traveled around the world to Vietnam, Malayasia, Nepal and other countries discovering new flavors. Baptiste has taken the food scene by storm with his cutting edge style and use of fresh ingredients.

I was surprised to meet him when he himself walked to our table so simply and unpretentiously starting the conversation himself. Looking quite younger than his age and experience, he came across as an enthusiastic young chap who is passionate about his work. Very admirable.

We had already nibbled on some starters (hors d'oeuvre) arranged on the roof top, chatting with Chef Saby who had just returned from his award winning trip to New York, this time The best Chef of India by Varli awards NYC. Delhi blogger friends Deeba Rajpal, Ruchira Hoon and Rekha Kakkar were good company for this formal (five course) sit down dinner. The Cheeses, the salads, Olives, preserves and an array of cold cuts was laid out on the huge table in the center of the hall as well.

A pleasantly cool winter evening with Bouvet- Ladubay Saumer blanc, a bubbly white and a few plump green olives, some refreshing salads and cold cuts. The Mushroom and Asparagus salad was really nice, the right kind of bite in the sauteed mushrooms and crisp fresh Asparagus in a simple dressing that doesn't overpower.

The first course was Fresh eggplant and crunchy vegetables with French Clams paired with Bouvet-Ladubay Saumer Blanc Val de Loire. Very nice Nouvelle cuisine presentation that made me glad as I love crunchy vegetables with anything. Perfectly fresh, raw Broccoli, cauliflower and Cherie belle (radish) slices that I gobbled up instantly. The eggplant was in a thick creamy soup consistency that I found itchy on my palate. Chewy clams I didn't relish much. Washed down by the wine that was refreshing.

The second course came late and all of us on the table found ourselves nibbling on the breads, really nice fresh mini loaves and perfectly baked thin crunchy crackers. Breads and crackers were being refilled quickly. We had another round of the starters from the large table in the center, fresh figs, Shrimps, kalamata olives and cheese on my plate..some salad too...

Wines were poured again as the second course arrived. It was Steamed fresh water perch on spinach with lime court bouillon. This was paired with Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc. Steamed fish is one of my favorite foods and this was made perfectly.

The right kind of steamed fish, just as it should be. Spinach was flavorful and well done, the fish soft and succulent. It tasted like the Bhetki (also called as Asian sea bass  we love so much. It was so yummy I forgot clicking picture, this is what my plate looked like when I was almost done. I polished off everything on the plate, to the last speck of green.

The next course was waited eagerly. The menu card said it was Artichoke risotto with black truffle and that made me want it. Seemed like a flavorful combination  and I dug into it with the buttery-cheesy sauce and liked how it hit my palate. The butter cheese combination is pleasant to the palate always.

 By the second spoonful I was disappointed by the absence of starch in it. There was no Arborio in the risotto, just finely chopped Artichoke that made quite a tart astringent risotto on it's own. Canned Artichokes cooked and reduced with wine would do that. Not my thing. Four Seasons Souvinon Blanc couldn't save it.

The next course, though delayed, was the best. It was a Roast saddle of lamb with zuchhini and asparagus. Paired with Four Seasons Barrique Reserve Canernet Sauvignon.

Perfectly juicy tender meat that comes from quick searing from all sides and then roasting till it is just done. Loved every element in this dish.

There was a long delay before the desserts came and a few guests left without waiting for them. Deeba, Rekha, Ruchira and myself got an opportunity to chat up, shifted our seats and got together, hence the wait for the dessert was not regretted. But they took a lot of time delivering the desserts on our tables.

It blew my mind when a 'dessert' came to the table. It was all my favorite flavors done to perfection. All textures melded together well. Pineapple ravioli with passion fruit puree and foamed cream.

A scoop of basil sorbet and a thin slice of dehydrated pineapple slice. Every element was just so refreshing we all thought it should be a palette cleanser and not a dessert. It was not on the menu card too so we inquired and were told it was an additional dessert served. It was a huge dessert but all fruity, absolutely my type. Was demolished in about a minute, if not less.

The dessert mentioned on menu came a bit later, after the wines were poured. Bouvet Rose Excellence.

Nice refreshing bubbly wine. A very berry-fruity, dry and crisp on the palate. Great pairing for an absolutely fruity dessert as well as a nutty and chocolaty dessert as well.

Next dessert on the menu arrived and it was another burst of flavors. Hazelnut and white chocolate, ice and cappuccino. Perfectly roasted crisp hazel nuts, a strong whiff of cappuccino and mild white chocolate. I don't even like white chocolate but this was on another level. Absolutely perfect pairing of flavors here.

These two desserts made us forget how late we were, we quickly got up and rushed outside.

ITC Maurya folks were sweet to gift us a pack of macarons too. French cuisine it was and Macarons fit the bill. Deeba whimpered about broken shells, the passionate and perfectionist baker she is and Ruchira talked about how she cried when her Macarons didn't bake well. I thanked god I didn't try them :-)

Sweet endings are always good, especially if those are sweet gestures.

Thanks to Deeba for this picture. Couldn't resist sharing this with you all. Her pictures are just amazing and look like calenders. I am blessed to be with such talented people, and meet some more through this blog every day.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Haaq and tomatoes in a soup..

This is the most easy soup that gets ready in 10 minutes. One of the joys of winters in Delhi. We get a wide variety of greens during winters, all of them fresh and bright green. The winter heirloom tomatoes are also the best to pair with the greens if you are thinking of a soup. Haaq or haak is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to Kashmir but can be found in some parts of Delhi during winters. Sometimes well before winters too. Last year I had lugged a huge bunch of Haaq when I returned from my cycling trip from Leh. Having heard a lot about Haaq I was excited to cook with it. I loved when I did. INA market has been the place from where I get my Haaq thereafter. My friend Ruchira gets fresh Haaq closer to her home and she brought some for me a couple of month ago. This soup was made and enjoyed during October if my memory is correct.

Cooked it several times in 2 weeks as it took me some time to come out of this soup it was so yummy. And easy too. I have always been a stickler to easy quick recipes no points for guessing :-)

Let me tell you this is my favorite breakfast soup and please don't say soups for breakfast are weird.

One day I added a lot of cream and the soup looked all creamy...

Some other days it was white butter. Yummy nevertheless.

Have a look what all you have to do...

About 10 leaves of haaq and a large tomato is all you need...

Chop them both roughly...

Pressure cook with a cup of water and salt to taste...

And blend with the help of a stick blender in the cooker itself..

Start simmering the soup on low flame.

Next, break a couple of eggs and pour them gently into the simmering soup. Let the eggs cook covered as they would behave if there are only a couple of them :-)

Pour in soup bowls or cups and top up with some fresh cream or butter.. Malai is what I like.

Even the leftover soup will be in demand believe me..

I know Haaq is not an easily available green so I would suggest using Kale or mustard greens, even Turnip greens instead. The taste will be pretty close but you really can't imitate one green form the other as all varieties of the same species taste different.

I know you would grab a bundle of Haaq now if you see it somewhere. Do that, you would be a happy soul.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Fish steaks and vegetables in a Thai green curry...

Coriander and coconut make a nice combination together even in the common chutneys where both these are used in raw form. I also like them both cooked together with a few more ingredients to complement the aromatic flavors. Lemon grass and ginger (or Galangal if available) and some Kefir lime leaves make this green curry really very aromatic and well rounded up in wholesome flavors. I often stew chicken or fish in this curry and add a few vegetables to make it a complete meal. A very wintery warm meal at the end of the day. A Thai style green curry/stew is very simple to make.

And the most important feature of my recipes for daily food is that they have to be easy and not so elaborate in execution. So for this recipe you just make a paste, chop some veggies, clean the fish steak if you need to and just stew them all together into a pan. That simple.

Don't tell me you hate cleaning coriander greens and chopping the potatoes and cauliflowers. Delegate some of your work if so. Or get precut vegetables and sorted greens from the supermarket.

fish steaks 2 (200 gm each or more)
cauliflower florets about a dozen
one medium sized potato cubed

to make the green paste...
2 cups chopped coriander greens
2 kefir lime leaves
one fat stalk of Lemon grass
a cup of scraped coconut (or a cup of coconut milk)
2-3 green chillies
2 inch piece of ginger (or Galangal)
salt to taste


Make the above mentioned paste without adding muh water, a smooth paste will be greeat but don't fuss too much about making it creamy smooth.

The simplest thing to do after the paste has been made is to add a cup of water and all the vegetables to a pan, tip in the fish steaks, cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes or till the vegetables and fish is cooked.

The curry gets aromatic after cooking for about 15 minutes, adjust salt and serve hot with plain boiled rice or just as it is. Yes, it makes a complete meal in itself. Aromatic, light and so so flavorful.

This light aromatic curry will be a nice accompaniment to rice noodles too. Just something delicate to soak into it. Not bread at all.

Vegetarians can just make it using potato cubes, cauliflower florets and a few paneer cubes. I love it with chicken mince as well.

Any coconut lovers there?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

eating out and healthy at Cheri one ; is it possible to enjoy the food if you eat out?

I would say yes. I was myself a person who rarely ate out, more because of the severe illness of my late daughter but when I started going out for outstation travels and to have a good meal within Delhi too, I felt we can choose food with ease if we are aware of what is healthy for us. I am not talking about the kind of calorie calculation some people do, consider naans and plain rice or pasta low calorie and eat pizza without the cheese. Then have ice cream for dessert and have a diet cola for a drink. Don't you find it funny. I expect you do if you are a regular reader of my blog.

I have been getting numerous queries on how to eat out and still stick to our choices if following a specific regime. While I wont comment on the numerous types of regimes and diets in vogue, I would definitely talk about how to make the meal not causing a glucose spike and then an insulin peak in your blood,the first step of hormonal imbalance to make you feel horrible. If you are successful in choosing the food that releases glucose slowly in the blood, the number of calories you consume would not be of consequence as much as a junk meal with the same number of calories causing an energy crash within a couple of hours after a sudden spike in insulin and you would end up craving for some more food (read junk) again.

So if you are looking forward to enjoy a weekend meal with family and worrying about how you would manage to eat healthy, a few suggestions might help you. Chuck off any bread or naan or roti that comes your way and choose all the lentils, meats and loads of vegetables. All salads with dressing are welcome in large quantities, all kababs and tikkas are good as long as you have a generous helping of green salads with them. Grilled fish or chicken is great and a salad would suffice as an accompaniment, no rumali rotis to wrap a tikka or kabab.. I would show you how I recently chose food that kept me full for the rest of the day and we had just a light soup that was coconut milk based for dinner. We are talking about food that satiates you and doesn't make you binge and crave for more food.

Chef Raman from Cheri one-Qutub, invited me to sample their Sunday Brunch and I accepted readily because I remembered the place from my last visit, and how they do most of their food the healthy way, just if you are a little careful in choosing wisely. I Asked Chef Raman about the options for a person who might have unusual choices or dietary restrictions, he was glad to introduce me to the vibrant salads, elegantly presented detailed Antipasti tables, the Risotto and pasta counter, stews and grills and a nice mediterranian Kabobs counter where everything was kept marinated and was being grilled fresh. I was one contented soul just photographing all the variety on offer. There was a lot of Italian and mediterranian food to choose from, I strongly recommend the place even if you are on a restricted regime. You would be able to stick to your guns.

A pleasant Al fresco brunch on a winter's day in Delhi has all the capability to perk up sagging spirits, a perfect setting for a relaxed Sunday. Especially a couple of bloggers friends are also coming. Sushmita and Anupama were also invited and we were a good bunch for a brunch. Greenery at Cheri, some birds and the affable serving staff would make you feel very comfortable. Though being out in the open amidst greenery means some mosquitoes too but there was enough arrangement to keep them away with various devices. Interiors at Cheri are also very cozy and airy, very romantic with those modern chic glass chandeliers and table settings..

The brunch was a huge spread. Sampling each and every dish was impossible, more because of the things I normally avoid, but I must say there is more than enough variety if you are looking for good proteins, good fats and some complex carbs for yourself (without much bothering for them), good taste being guaranteed all this while.

Antipasti layouts are the most vibrant and intriguing for me personally as I find the most flavorful of colors in those vegetables, greens and herbs that are normally a part of presentation but I fill my plate with them. Yes, the cheeses, the preserves, the dressed up seafood, the crackers, fruits and the cold cuts all are liked and enjoyed..I found them all really nice at Cheri.

I liked the Smoked Salmon with papaya chilly salsa with an extra helping of Chipotle mixed peppers salsa, the pickled vegetables, the Poached Mussels (green lipped), Garlic and chilly Prawns with apple Remoulade were all really good.

Arvind liked the Chicken Liver Pate served on green apple slices and Chicken hearts served on Bruschetta too. I am not too fond of Bacon or Ham wrapped fruits so the melon balls wrapped with ham was not my thing.

But this Calamari salad on a bed of mixed salsa was very much my thing. Very flavorful.

All kinds of cold cuts were there to choose from, I had very little just to taste and it was good. I liked a Artichoke dressed with Balsamic, the feta stuffed peppers and preserved Lychee and the fresh and moist green lipped Mussels.

Look at the dips and vibrant salads they had on display. That Chipotle peppers salsa in a jar, Babaganoush, Hummus and Tzaziki, all very flavorful and very healthy options to choose from the spread. I loved the Mushroom pate as well, drowned in Extra virgin olive oil and smeared on very thin, crisp crackers.

 I couldn't help but taste all the salads and ALL of them were absolutely yummy as they are supposed be. Fresh crunchy ingredients and flavorful dressing. The cheese stuffed tomatoes were really nice and so were all the pickled vegetables.

But a very attractive looking Broccoli pate disappointed me. This when I love Broccoli very much and was quite intrigued by it. Certainly was a real stunner in it's appearance..well, for a Broccoli lover like me :-)

What I loved the most in this section, was a dip of hung curd topped with Passion fruit puree. I hade two helpings of it. Lovely tangy flavors and the crunch of Passion fruit seeds.

You would realise I always get stuck in the antipasti counter. But I'll pull myself and you too to the various counters they had in the open courtyard.

Pasta and Risotto being prepped up to your taste in small quantities. I loved the three mushrooms Risotto, perfectly creamy and glutinous..A few bits of pasta was tasted, that was good too. Asparagus and walnut Vol-au-vent was way better than my expectation. Loved the topping and a bit of flaky crisp pastry.

 Asparagus and walnut Vol-au-vent was way better than my expectation. Loved the topping and a bit of flaky crisp pastry.

The Aubergine thin crust pizza baked in wood fired oven we ordered for our table was okay, not very good. Few bites wont harm.

This grill station was a good choice if you are avoiding too much carbs. The puff pastry covered country style pie would lure you much when there are much flavorful options on the same counter.

Roasted leg of tender lamb, perfectly shredded, nice and succulent. A very nice creamy chicken Fricasse, nice delicate stew that would make you want more.  In a classic French Fricasse chicken pieces are first sauteed and then stewed with wine and herbs in a white sauce, this was delicately flavored and well rounded flavors for me, I wouldn't bother if it was authentic or not.

That red gravy in the collage above is a nice refreshing Moroccan vegetable Tagine, a great choice of vegetarians.

The baby potatoes were really nice as well. The new winter baby potatoes, perfectly roasted, succulent and nicely infused with herbs. This was my friend Sushmita's favorite thing there.

On the mediterranian Kabob counter I didn't like the vegetarian option when I took a bite of Falafel. But the beef kabob was really tender and succulent, very flavorful too. The pita bread that comes with such kabobs is something you would like to avoid though, for restricting your processed carbs intake, not because they made it bad. It was made well. Didn't take any pictures of that.

Now have a look at the desserts counter. Very diverse and a few really nice desserts to choose from. I liked a small serving of the warm Apple pudding and a bowl of baked yogurt.

Baked yogurt is actually a really good choice for you if you are on a restrictive diet. Lightly sweetened and really creamy absolutely yummy.

I tried the beautifully presented Poached pear in red wine too, it was good but something was missing. May be a dollop if whipped cream on it. Drunken Tiramisu was good, a very lemony Lemon meringue Tart, a Key lime pannacotta, a Basil brulee, a Jamaican chocolate mousse and a Vanilla Bavaroise.

 It was this Baked yogurt all the way for me, absolutely perfect. Took a few bites of Poached pear and Drunken Tiramisu. You can't have these many desserts right?

Vanilla Bavarois (a cream dessert that is softer than a panna cotta and firmer than a mousse) with raspberry was nice as Arvind reported.

A wood fired oven is a permanent fixture in their compound and a pancakes counter was set up for the Sunday brunch. You might enjoy those too, but not if minding your food.

We went for a walk to Qutub minar after the brunch with Sushmita and her husband and a Sunday was enjoyed to the hilt. It was a last minute decision to go for this brunch that proved to be really great. I would suggest this place for all those who struggle with 'oily fried food to kill ingredients if it is tasty' and 'bland food if it is healthy' options. This place has promise.

After all you want to enjoy the eating out experience more than stuffing yourself with empty calories right? Treat yourself with the best options I would say.

The cost of the brunch is INR 2095 per head, with unlimited drinks. It was an invited brunch for us.