Break the monotony

There’s something about me and Asian flavours. I feel like I was born to like Soy sauce. Add this sauce to my rice, soup, noodles and even my salad, and I will eat with a big smile. So, last weekend, I was raking my brains yet again, as to what to cook! Seriously, there’s no dearth of inspiration on the net, but there’s just so much in my kitchen, and only so much I can make of it.

Cucumber is one thing you’ll always find in my fridge. English cucumber, to be precise. So, I  happened to scroll for some recipes on YouTube, and I found this weird recipe of smashed cucumbers. Chef John of Food Wishes is one of my favourite YouTube food vloggers, and I loved how he made this salad, and I went ahead and tried it.

You know, you always like the steps involved in a recipe, and the many ingredients that it calls for, but in reality, only simple recipes can save your day. Because when you’re really hungry, all that matters is how quickly you can cook up a dish.

Raw dishes like salads are something I’ve always enjoyed. Contrary to my weight, which is extremely low, I should be eating fat, carbohydrate, protein and high-calorie food items. But, who cares! There’s something about the freshness, crunchy texture and dressing that I’m always lured towards all sorts of salads, and recently, Asian salads have taken the focal light. No wonder, sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on my bowl, and I will never leave my salad.

Recipe: Chinese-style Smashed Cucumber Salad

Okay, first things first, it’s not compulsory for you to take only cucumbers. You can always take more veggies like bell peppers and spring onions, for colour. But I liked how chef John made it, and I don’t want to disturb his dish much. I didn’t have rice vinegar, so I added lemon juice. And you can always add more seeds like toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds to make it more healthy.

Ingredients

1 English cucumber, washed
1 tsp red chilli flakes
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp sugar
juice of half a lemon
½ tsp soy sauce
½ tsp toasted sesame seeds

Method:

It’s all about smashing the cucumbers. I covered mine with a muslin cloth, and lightly smashed the green boy with my pestle (copper hamam dasta). This is done to give you a taste of its natural flavour. Also, you don’t have to completely murder it. Just crush it from the middle and quickly cut it with a knife. Add the chopped cucumber in a bowl, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Garnish it with toasted sesame seeds, but believe me, do as you please. You don’t have to follow any rules!

Coconut diaries

IMG-20160228-WA0009For the longest time, I wondered how can I prepare coastal food in my kitchen. I know, this majorly covers sea food, but I wanted to try vegetarian coastal food. What were the options I had? Coconut is one such ingredient that is hugely consumed in coastal regions. And I started to get a few ideas. I still remember the first time I smelt cold-pressed coconut oil. Its aroma took me back to the sea, for some reason. And, so does grated coconut, that I use in my cookies. And, so does coconut milk for that matter.

My sister-in-law, who lives in San Francisco, recommended Thai cuisine to try, a few years back. Those were our early marriage days, and we never turned down an opportunity to step out of the home. So, we went somewhere at Palladium mall, in Lower Parel, Mumbai, and tried this cuisine. At the restaurant, I found the Thai Green Curry somewhat appealing, and somewhat bland. I knew I could make a better version of it. It was just a matter of convincing myself to do so.

Last year, I got my hands on a can of coconut milk at a gourmet store, here in Gurgaon. And I thought of the options, and, I put it back at the store’s rack. Later,  we went to a nearby Thai restaurant. It was jam-packed and meanwhile in the queue, we saw the menu card kept at the entrance gate. The prices made me think of that can that I left at the gourmet store, and I thought, it would be much better for me to try this green curry at home. We were no more that newlywed couple, and being at home seemed far more appealing to us. And, the restaurant didn’t seem to go empty anyway.

So, there I was. Looking at this can of coconut milk, and thinking, can I do this? I finally took the plunge to cook some Thai Green Curry myself. Quickly, I google-ed the recipe, and purchased the ingredients, and went home.

The process looked a tad bit long when I stood inside my kitchen with the bag of ingredients. “Please help me cook this dish,” I said to my husband. He was hungry, and so helping me make this dish was the best option he had. And then he went on with the list of ingredients. I chopped the veggies and herbs and did exactly what he said. I was way too doubtful and tired, when I reached the middle of the cooking process, if I can say so myself. But, it did give me a break from local flavours. For once, preparing something exotic excited me. Just when I added the coconut milk in my skillet, I knew I’m going to love this recipe. Which I did.

Last weekend, I prepared this Thai Green Curry again. Though I twisted the dish a bit with whatever was available in hand, it turned out to be good. And filling to the hilt. This nutritious curry tastes amazing, all thanks to coconut milk, the star of the dish. Although the whole preparation does need a bit of patience, as the ingredient list is long, I know it’s a matter of practice. All that said, the one thing I’m sure of is that I’m going to use coconut milk more often!

By the way, I have got a new job, and I’m finding it fulfilling too. What about you? What’s that one thing in your life that makes you feel accomplished?

Recipe: Thai Green Curry

Okay, so here’s a confession. I didn’t use all the ingredients mentioned in the usual recipes of this dish. Below is my version of it, where I have used a few local ingredients instead of the exotic ones. There are three basic steps to cook this dish. One, is making a paste in the grinding jar. Second, boiling the veggies and collecting its stock. And third, cooking it all with coconut milk. Lastly, it’s not compulsory for you to get all the ingredients. If you have coconut milk and a few veggies an herbs, you can go for it.

For the green paste
2-3 green chillies
1 tbsp coriander powder (or seeds)
1 tsp ginger, chopped
1 tsp dark soy sauce (optional)
a handful of basil leaves, chopped
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped (this will give a nice green colour)
3-4 lemon leaves
1 onion, roughly sliced (optional)
salt to taste
3-4 tbsp coconut milk or water

Veggies (cut them as you like it)
red capsicum (for the lovely colour)
green capsicum
broccoli (clean it well, cut it and soak in hot water for a minute and strain it)
a handful of French green beans
1 small carrot
1 small potato

Other ingredients
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
2 tbsp coconut oil
a handful of basil leaves
1 cup vegetable stock water
150 gm cottage cheese, cubed (you could use Tofu as well)
a handful of roasted cashew nuts (optional)

Method
1. Grind all the ingredients together, mentioned for the green paste. Keep it aside.
2. Boil all the veggies that you think needs it. You can skip capsicum. Also, don’t forget to save the vegetable stock.
3. Heat oil in a skillet. Once hot, add the capsicum. Roast it a bit.
4. Add the green paste, and cook it for 2 minutes.
5. Now, add the coconut milk and once it gives a boil, add the stock.
6. Throw in the veggies and basil leaves. Also, salt, if needed.
7. Lastly, add the cubed cottage cheese pieces.

Serve this fresh and nourishing Thai green curry with steamed rice.