I’ve been away this weekend in Bangalore to visit childhood friends, who have emigrated to lands more materially prosperous than ours, who are visiting India so that friends and relatives can meet their latest family additions. It did mean that I had to leave the DH and Abroozi to their own devices, but with a well stocked fridge I think they did OK. I returned with plenty of goodies one can only get in a big city and the feast we had last night is worth a post I thought.
Leaving home for a weekend without the family requires military like victualling precision. Sure, the DH can cook for himself but after a long day at work, if you’re not used to jumping straight in to the kitchen, then one tends to resort to Maggi noodles. Then there’s the added depression that comes with “amma” not being at home so a good stash of meals is always welcome. Plus, I like it. I think it’s a nice thing to ensure that ones family is well taken care of – perhaps I’m old fashioned that way and take my domestic duties seriously. While the DH is a very able cook, Abroozi however has no galley experience. So chapattis and meat have to be pre-prepared for him.
For the DH this time all I made was a big lasagna and extra white sauce (cos he can’t get enough of that and will eat it with rice if I allowed it). The frozen parathas by Sumeru is a fool proof stand by and this time the Rajdhani Parcel near the Nikon shop in Dwarkanagar provided the ever delicious gizzard fry. The word gizzard sounds slimy and unpalatable but in actual fact, it’s succulent as well as rubbery and bloody delicious. In our house, it goes by the name of “stymic” (although the origins of that word befuddles me). Something I’ve seen only in Andhra is hole in the wall shops that do “parcel” – buffet style vats of chicken, mutton, seafood and vegetable curries or dry fries in oily spicy gravies that are for take-away only. They are incredibly spicy in the true Andhra fashion and I always have to eat it with curd or literally wash off the masala. I was rewarded for my stocking up efforts as I returned home to find a fantastic kothu roti and Balaji potato chips breakfast, followed by cold Bournvita, all lovingly prepared by the DH. I am a very lucky girl.
Apart from spending time with family and extended family, my trip to Bangalore allowed me to visit The Foodhall at MG1 Mall. I’ve been reading about this supermarket stocked with gourmet ingredients in the Good Food Magazine and desperately waiting for my chance to stock up. Last night we feasted on these ingredients through a range of crostinis (or bruschettas as the Italians would say). Basically it’s oblong/half moon slices of French baguette or ciabbatta bread on to which you have a variety of toppings. Simple and excellent party food. My mother in law does a good anti-pasti display for impromptu parties of olives, ham/cured meats and cheese. This would be a great addition. If you are in to making your own bread, my ciabatta recipe is very simple and great for crostinis. If you don’t have any of these breads I recommend some dry toast cut on the diagonal. We had some funny shaped store bought bread but it worked.
So here’s some of the toppings we had with a brief description of how to make them. For much of it, I recommend going by eye and taste and adjust flavours accordingly.
Sundried tomatoes, parma ham, horseradish flavoured cheese, harissa paste.
I bought a jar of Jamie Oliver’s sundried tomatoes (although they did sell fresh ones at the anti-pasti counter), and chopped it up finely. You can make sundried tomotoes at home, which I plan to do because they are a hit with the DH. The horseradish cheese, which I broke off with my fingers and scattered on top, gave the sharpness of the horseradish but was mellowed by the creaminess of the cheese. Harissa is a spice paste of chillies, roasted red peppers, garlic, caraway seeds, cumin and preserved lemon that they use in North African cuisine, like Morocco and Tunisia. I absolutely love the stuff but have never made it at home. It’s a great dressing for salads, spread on bread, addition to soups and stews and goes very well with meat. They had tons of the stuff at Food hall – freshly made and packaged in jars.
For this recipe, spread the harissa paste on your baguette slices, top with the sliced sundried tomotoes, cheese and parma ham.
Peas, mint, garlic, olive oil, salt.
Boil a cup of frozen or fresh peas till they are tender. Put the tender peas in a pestle and mortar with 2 cloves of garlic, 3 tbsps olive oil, 1/2tsp of salt and a handful of finely chopped fresh mint. You don’t have to bash the peas to a fine paste, it’s nicer if they keep some of their shape, just squashed perhaps. You will not believe how creamy this is. Spread this on to toasted bread. THe addition of salami/ham is optional. I prefer this one without any meat.
Grilled aubergines (bringals/eggplant), garlic, salt and mint.
Slice an aubergine lengthways in to very thin slices. Salt each slice for about 30 mins to remove the extra liquid and any bitterness. Heat a griddle or any regular pan/tava till very hot. Dab the aubergine slices with a bit of oil and place on to the hot surface. Allow it to brown and char slightly on both sides. Remove and grate 2 cloves of garlic over the aubergine slices while it’s still hot. Chop up the aubergine finely and add a handful of finely chopped mint. Do not add salt as you have already salted the aubergine.
Sundried tomatoes, salami milano, mint, garlic, double gloucester cheese. Just mix all the ingredients together and press on to the bread.
Boiled eggs, harissa, spring onion, ham. Boil an egg till hard boiled. Slice the egg in half lengthways then on the diagonal. Spread harissa on the bread, press on the egg and ham and garnish with crunchy finely chopped spring onion.
With crostinins you really appreciate the textures as well as flavours. The bread should be thin, toasted and crunchy. The toppings should be a balance of creamy, sharp and fresh. If you get all your prep done, then all you need to do is toast the bread (on the tava is best) and assemble. I find it’s best to press on the toppings with your fingers as you get much better control than when using a spoon and the ingredients do not topple off.
As we don’t have the privilege of going to fancy restaurants in Vizag, we have to make do with fine home cooking. If you can get the ingredients, there’s nothing like kicking back in your pajamas, watching Charlie Harper’s sexual escapades and feasting on gourmet food without all the fancy shmancy of restaurant dining.