International Food

Slow cooked beans and chicken casserole

Its been a rainy day.Its been a rainy week. The only thing to do on this kind of day is to put something on the fire to stew slowly and fill the house with its aroma while listening to music and reading. The anticipation of a warm, filling dinner makes the monsoon greys less dreary.

So out comes the latest cook pot, a handmade ceramic dutch oven which is unusual because it is flame proof , withstanding direct heat on the stove top and if necessary can be popped in the oven too.

Since I have friends from Mexico staying I thought the following dish would give them a taste of home.

This is a nice for solar cooking too . 1-IMG_1534

Ingredients:

125 gms dried mixed beans, (kidney beans, chick peas, black eyed beans, green peas) , rajmha, kabuli channa, green peas,black beans, chawlai

1/2 tablespoon vegtable oil

1 small red onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 green or red chilli

1 large green pepper/simla mirchi, cut into 1/2 in pieces

3 tomatoes , pulped into juice in a blender

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon chilli sauce

1 chicken bouillon cube or 1/2 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon brown sugar

200 gms minced chicked

 

Method:

  1. Wash and soak the dried beans in 500 ml of boiling hot water for an hour. Drain.
  2. Heat the oil and fry the garlic and chilli for a minute. Add the onion and saute till golden brown.
  3.  Add the green pepper bits and saute for a few minutes. 
  4.  Add the pulped tomatoes, chilli sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt.  Cook for five minutes.
  5. Add the beans and 400 ml water to the pot and cooked on very low heat for 3 hours. You can use a heat diffuser under the pot if necessary.
  6. Add the minced chicken and mix to seperate the bits. Cook for another hour.
  7. Garnish with grated cheese and chopped coriander.

Eat with crusty bread or a warmed tortilla. Delicious!


Making your own Feta Cheese in India

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If you like Meditteranean and Greek food as much as we do buying feta cheese for salads and other preparations in India digs a deep hole in the pocket and one is tempted to use it very sparingly when the only way to eat it is liberally.
I love a watermelon salad with feta especially in these horrifyingly hot days of summer.
The last feta I bought was half used and then got lost in the fridge for some days. When it was brought forth it had melted into a pathetic slurry.
I was emboldened to try making feta cheese when I saw that goats milk is not strictly necessary and that cows milk would do just fine. With rennet and culture now available through Essdee Marketing it seemed possible.
So I bought 2 litres of pasteurized Standard cows milk. Raw milk is better as the calcium required for curdling survives. But no matter, even without it was fine . I added one tablet of Shelcal 500mg , powdered, but if you have calcium chloride add some of that to make up for the calcium lost during pasteurization.

Started by washing the pans thoroughly and setting the jars, lids, spoons and utensils to boil in a large pan. Sterilise by boiling for 15 minutes. Then kept it all covered tightly.
In a large pan heat the pasteurized milk to blood heat. "Kosa" as we say. ( test by dipping your little finger in the milk and count to ten. The finger should not burn but stay comfortable) If you have a thermomenter heat to 37 degrees C
Take an envelope of culture and stir it into the milk throroughly.Turn off the heat and pour into a deep glass dish. Let this stand for 40 minutes. Now mix ten drops of the rennet into a 1/4 cup of water. Pour this mixture lightly over the milk and mix with deep stabbing motions with a stainless steel spatula or wide knife going right to the bottom of the dish. Do this slowly over the entire area. Cover and let it stand for 1-3 hours.When the whey has clearly seperated from the curds and the latter are quite firm its ready to work on.
Pour off the whey and reserve. Cut the curds in lines from top to bottom and left to right, as if making cubes, to release more whey. Line a strainer or large paneer maker with fine muslin and transfer the curds to drain further. After another hour hang the curds up over a dish and let stand for a few more hours.

Photo2

Making the Brine
Fill the whey into glass jars. For each 500 ml of whey add 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Let the salt dissolve.
Cut the drained curds into cubes and lower them gently into the jar of brine. Cover and keep refrigerated for 4 days - 1 week before using. The cheese will taste even better after 4 weeks as it it will get a stronger flavour and become crumblier as it ages.

I got about 300 gms of cheese from 2 litres.

If any whey is leftover keep it for making gjetost, a Norwegian creamy, caramelised cheese.( It probably only worth making if you are using 5 litres of milk as part of the whey goes towards the brine for the feta.) Small amounts of whey added to atta makes great soft chapathis by the way. :)  It also works well in bread dough.


MealTango - bringing civility back to the table

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Margaret Visser in her wonderful book "The Rituals of Dinner ", points out that one of the things that makes us different from animals is  that we share our food. We do not eat it on the spot .We carry it home and apportion it out between family members.

We have slowly made the sharing of food into an art form. refining rules and adding aesthetic. The mark of a civilized man is the manner in which he "breaks bread"; customs of preparing and eating food that brought pleasure ,culture  and even sophistication to the daily meal. 

In the era of fast food, these forms are fading. Ingesting a meal in the shortest possible time with the least effort minus any decorum , communion or civility cannot be doing us much good.
When we go to a restaurant we try to recreate the those practices of service and conversation but the experience has become ubiquitous  as has the food. It is not possible to create excellent food with fresh, locally procured ingedients for large numbers of people without losing out on quality and taste. 
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Luckily there  are many people out there who share the  love of convivality that goes especially well with food and who are willing to put in the effort to make great meals to share .  As Margaret Visser  said people who "remember that breaking bread and sharing it with friends "means" friendship"... and that the word "companion " means literally " a person with whom we share bread."
To meet those people take a look at a new site called MealTango. It brings together hosts and guests who share a love of food and company. It promises to make meals unusual and sociable anywhere in the world.
So if you are a traveller who would like an authentic taste of the place as well as meet a local family you can log in as a guest and find yourself an experience just up your street.
This experience is open to residents as well. Say I want to try appams and stew made in typical Kerala style and meet new people in the process I can find what I need in a few minutes. 
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MealTango is also a wonderful opportunity to anyone who has ever dreamed of opening a restaurant but does not have the financial backing or management skills . Its like having an informal restaurant in your own home where the host and guest sit at the same table . Its a perfect showcase for culinary talent and skills in an informal setting. And a chance to earn a  little or a lot for that proficiency.
What I like are the options open for all. Vegetarian , Non Vegetarian, Indian, International, Diabetic, Gluten free, Satvik Jain and  Kosher meals are some of the choices available. 
MealTango sounds like a blessing for the foodie, always on the look out for different tastes with a guarantee that only the best, freshest ingredients will be used . The site offers a hearty meal , breakfast , lunch , tea or dinner that can be had in the company of affable people with similar interests.
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I have already booked up for several meals in the next week  and will following up with feedback and reviews of the same.
Meanwhile if you want to be a guest or host log in to MealTango.com and sign up. It takes all of five minutes.