Baked Honey Garlic Chicken

Chinese is one of my absolute favorite cuisines but I have always struggled with replicating restaurant preparations at home. The sad reality is that sometimes healthier versions of restaurant dishes don’t even taste as good. I put together the ideas behind my chicken nuggets and chicken wings to get this finger licking honey garlic chicken.

Breadcrumbs tend to absorb a lot of oil if you cook the chicken on a pan. Baking takes out all the guilt and saves you time from standing by the stove the whole time. The garlic in the sauce remains raw but the taste is still pretty good. You can cook it completely if you like but I suggest you keep it uncooked.

Did you know raw garlic helps reduce levels of your total cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol? Some amino acids, vitamin C, calcium, iron and other minerals are also components of fresh garlic.

For other tasty ways of incorporating raw garlic, try making some of this delicious guacamole or hummus!

Happy cooking!

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Serving suggestion:On the side of egg noodles topped with stir fried vegetables  Continue reading

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Vanilla-Rose Sugar

Recently I made some amazing Tiramisu with a traditional Italian recipe told to me by a dear friend. This was my first experience using a vanilla bean to get the flavour. After having used vanilla essence for many years I must say, the bean is so much more fragrant!

For your recipes you need the seeds or ‘vanilla caviar’ but the pod itself has a lot of flavour too! Making vanilla sugar is an excellent easy way to recycle the pod and add a bit of fun to your food. Rose pairs very well with vanilla but you can leave it out if you don’t have any.

Use the sugar in your desserts or simply in your morning coffee to make it more delicious!

vanillasugar3 Continue reading

Beef Ragù

Winter times call for some warm hearty food. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for Italian. And so I decided to cook up this version of Beef Ragù. One of the most comforting meals ever! It takes a considerable time to cook, but the results are incredible. You can make up a batch of this delicious mulled wine while you wait for the sauce to cook.

I love a tomato based sauce but I have always struggled to get it right. Some of my friends here informed me what the problem could be – The tomatoes (duh)! I have always used fresh tomatoes and on so many unfortunate occasions they have made my sauce orange unlike the rich red I expected. It also took adding a lot of sugar to cut down the acidity. Turns out, a lot of the times tomatoes may be harvested a little too early and artificially ripened later.

Tomatoes are best in season during summer which means that during winter they will never give the same results. Canning is done in peak season and thus ensures the best fruit quality. (Yes tomato is a fruit) So yes, if you want definite results, I would recommend tinned tomatoes for this sauce.

ragu7 Continue reading

Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Fresh Figs

I never thought I would ever use fruit in a savoury dish. But sometimes inspiration just strikes and has fantastic results. Sausage and tomatoes are a regular part of my pasta preparations and I wanted to try a different way to add flavour. Recently we visited a restaurant and I had pasta that listed fig as an ingredient. It was very good so I wanted to see if I could make something similar at home.

Tomatoes make a good base for the sauce but don’t really pair well with figs. So the thing that brings all the flavours in this dish is the cheese (because cheese is the answer to everything!).

I remember when my father used to travel to Europe for work and brought all kinds of amazing things back. Years ago, on a particular trip to France he brought back some Garlic and Herb Boursin. I was already a cheese lover, but this one really hit my taste buds. Since then, this was one item my father absolutely had to get whenever he travelled.  Luckily for me it is widely available in London and my fridge always has a box 🙂  I could literally eat the whole block in one go (I probably shouldn’t though).

You can use any cheese that is creamy in texture and will ‘melt’ well into the sauce. I also added balsamic vinegar just because it seems like something that will pair well with all the other ingredients.

My husband loved the pasta so much he asked me to make it again the next day! So here is a husband approved weeknight meal idea 🙂

Happy cooking!

Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Fresh Figs

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Serves :2

Ingredients

  • 150 gm dry pasta
  • 15 cherry tomatoes – quartered
  • 4 spicy herbed sausages (I used sweet chilli)
  • 4 fresh figs –cut into bite sized pieces
  • 4-6 tbsp soft creamy herbed cheese (I used Boursin)
  • 1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1/8 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Note: if your sausages are spicy enough, skip the chilli powder.

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Method

  • Cook pasta according to directions on the packet
  • Heat oil in a saucepan and cook the sausages till done
  • Take sausages out and roughly cut them up
  • In the same saucepan, add crushed garlic to the oil
  • When the garlic is cooked, add in the quartered tomatoes and cook till mushy
  • Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper
  • Add the sausages, balsamic vinegar, chilli powder and paprika
  • Cook till the vinegar smell is gone
  • Add in the cheese and mix to get a rich creamy sauce
  • Just before you put the pasta in, mix in the figs
  • Stir gently to combine everything and turn the heat off
  • Serve hot

Chicken Stroganoff

I took a trip to Austria in February with my husband and immediately fell in love with the place. On the trip, out of impulse we decided to make a day visit to Bratislava. It is the farthest I have ever traveled on the Eastern side of Europe.  A walk in the old town makes you feel like a part of history. The old stone buildings and stone paved streets are picture perfect. Along one of these streets we came across a restaurant that seemed quite crowded so naturally we decided to make it our lunch spot for the day. It was a lovely place with dark wooden interiors and old sewing machine tables to sit around. Pleasant chatter of the customers and a delicious aroma filled the entire space. This is also where I had one of the best meals ever. Garlic soup served inside a hollowed out loaf of bread and Beef Stroganoff.

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Isn’t it funny how you relate certain memories or places with certain foods? For me, the old town and the lunch I had will always complete the enchanting experience of Bratislava. Now months after the trip, one day I suddenly thought of Bratislava again. So I decided to cook up some Chicken Stroganoff for dinner to re-create my holiday experience a little bit. It is a hearty dish full of flavour and husband approved 🙂

Do you ever cook a dish that reminds you of something? What do you make?

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Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Egg noodle cakes or pasta noodles
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 300 gm mushrooms sliced
  • 600 gm boneless chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cube chicken stock dissolved in 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup sour cream (or sour cream dip)
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley (1 tbsp dried)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method

  • Cook noodles according to instructions on packet and set aside
  • Melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat
  • Add onions and cook till soft. Then add mushrooms
  • Cook till mushrooms brown
  • Add remaining butter, chicken, flour, salt, pepper and paprika
  • Cook till chicken browns on high heat
  • Add in stock, Worcestershire sauce and gently simmer on low heat till sauce thickens
  • Stir in sour cream
  • Season with salt and pepper. Cook till chicken is done

To serve, place noodles on a plate and top with chicken and sauce. Garnish with sour cream, paprika and parsley.

Broccoli and Goat Cheese Egg Muffins

Mornings are usually very busy in our house. Everyone has places to be and they need to eat a proper breakfast before the start of a big day. I love short-cuts to morning routines. And this is an excellent example. They can be made in advance and frozen to heat up when needed. A good way to make use of the muffin tray that lies unused for so long.

I read this recipe somewhere and just had to make it. I mean savory muffins? Come on, They have to be amazing! Eggs are so versatile, you can use any vegetables, cheeses and meats to customize your muffins and get a tasty breakfast out of it.  I am definitely making these more often. They are so tasty and filling that a couple of these ought to keep you going till lunch time.

Happy baking!

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Ingredients

  • 10 eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp Tabasco sauce
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 120 gm Goat cheese
  • 2 cups broccoli florets cut into small pieces

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Method

  • Preheat oven to 220°C
  • In a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk, Tabasco sauce, lemon zest, salt and pepper
  • Line a muffin tray with paper muffin cups
  • Pour a ladleful egg mixture into the muffin cups, crumble Goat cheese into the cups, ladle some more egg mix, then divide the broccoli evenly among the muffins and top off with rest of the egg mix
  • Bake for 15-18 mins till the eggs are cooked
  • Take the muffins out of the tray and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving

Note – To store, cool them completely. Then seal in plastic bags and freeze.

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Ghee or Clarified Butter

Ghee originated in India and is widely recognized in Hindu culture as a symbol of purity and for its health benefits. Along with being a staple part of Indian meals, it also has a significant importance in religious rituals. Consuming ghee is said to aid in good digestion and also helps the body absorb nutrients better.  It is good for the nervous system and brain function. Applied externally ghee is also good for the skin as a moisturizer of for chapped lips. Ghee is 99.5% fat so like any fat, moderation is a must. But fat is essential for the body and ghee qualifies as good fat so consumption in moderation helps get all the benefits of ghee. I personally love it for its amazing taste and aroma because it pretty much goes with any food!

Scientifically speaking, ghee has one of the highest flashpoints among all oils (about 250° or 485°F) and therefore doesn’t burn easily. When cooking oils reach their smoke points, it basically means the fats in oil start to break up and release a burnt sort of smell which also affects the taste of your food. In some cases if the temperature is too high, it could also cause a fire if unattended to.  As a general guideline, it is better to use oil that has a higher smoke point because then it is less likely to burn. This is also the reason why you shouldn’t re-use frying oil a second time.

Ghee is traditionally made from cow milk, although it is not uncommon for buffalo milk to be used.

It is made from cooking cultured butter.

This is butter that that is made by adding live culture to cream. This cream is skimmed from the top of milk every time milk is boiled and set aside. When this cultured butter is gently heated it becomes further concentrated and lose its milk solids resulting in pure ghee that has almost no milk solids. This can also make it suitable for those who are lactose intolerant provided the ghee is very pure.

Freshly made ghee warms up the entire house with its wonderful aroma pretty much like freshly baked bread or cookies. An aroma I have missed for so long since I moved to London. But finally after months of trying, I finally figured a way to make my own ghee. Most of the butter available in UK markets is churned from cream and not cultured. Cultured butter is more popular in Europe so availability is not an issue there. But I finally found one that suits my need and there’s no looking back! My taste buds are happy again!

Since there is no dairy component left in ghee, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can last for months or even years – although it may be over much sooner than that 🙂

So here is how you make ghee

 

Ingredients

  • Unsalted cultured butter – any quantity will do. You will get almost as much ghee from it. This brand is the only one I have found so far and it has worked very well for me. But any other brand should be just fine.

Make sure the butter lists lactic acid bacteria in the ingredients.

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Method

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  • Place the butter in a saucepan, either whole or cut into large chunks
  • Cook it on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally
  • I usually add a very small pinch of salt to get a slightly grainy texture but you can choose to skip this if you want

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  • Once the butter is fully melted do not stir – the milk solids should gather together and settle
  • Let the butter cook till you get a light yellow-caramel colour all over (about 15-25 minutes for 250 gm of butter. Few more if there is more butter) By this time it will have started releasing a delicious aroma too

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  • Immediately take it off the heat and gently pour into an airtight container through a sieve to remove all gathered solids. (It is absolutely ok if some part of the solids make their way into the container)
  • Let the ghee cool down before closing the lid. The container will be very hot, so handle with care
  • It will cool into a warm buttery yellow
  • Your ghee is ready! Use it to cook in place of oil(or butter) or top your curries with a spoonful

Note: the solid leftovers in the pan need not be chucked away. Simply top with a bit of powdered sugar and eat or add it to your cake batter.

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