Chocolate, Chillies & other Culinary vulgarities
I am a working woman with a busy lifestyle. I come back tired in the evenings and don’t have much energy to cook. Can you suggest a one-pot healthy meal?
I love one-pot meals. They are a bit of an everyday staple at home, so I will keep this one simple... full of vegetables, some protein and a bit of starch. You can pretty much use any vegetable you have in your fridge for this but I think basics always work well for flavour, so I am suggesting around 500g of diced onion, carrot and raw papaya, around 200g of diced chicken, 30g of rice (I love gobindobhog for this), 300ml of water, a stock cube (chicken or vegetable is fine) and even a little bit of powder if you have, and a little salt and pepper. Then bang it into a pressure cooker and cook for about two whistles. Once it’s cooled a bit then you can take off the lid, add some fresh or frozen peas, a little shredded spring onion and make sure you season it well. Give it a stir and put the lid on and let it sit for about 10 minutes. If you think it’s too thick, add a little extra water but I think it should be fine. If you like, finish with a good sprinkling of freshly chopped mint with maybe a little pickle of your choice on the side. Fresh, clean, simple and everything you need in a healthy meal. But just in case you fail to do that, you could go online and see what Swiggy has on their menu if you are that knackered like everyone else these days!
Hi chef, can you give us a recipe for an interesting, fruity, vegetable-protein salad for a vegetarian?
There are no rules for salads in my mind. You can pretty much make a salad out of any and everything like apples, grapes, watermelon, pineapple, litchi, mango and strawberry, any of your favourite, simple blanched vegetables like carrot, French beans, florets of broccoli and cauliflower would be nice too. And for a protein element, you can sprinkle over a few cooked chickpeas and kidney beans. To make it even more healthy, throw in a few sprouted grains, nuts and seeds, with a simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil, honey (organic if possible) and lemon with just some salt and pepper.
Be it in magazines or on Instagram, I see that flowers seem to be all the rage in food. Are they really that healthy and what edible flowers are there in India that I could just pick up from the local market?
So yes, edible flowers are as healthy as any uncooked leafy greens but I am not sure how edible are the flowers that you get in the market. They are really being mass-produced for the puja market, but for sure the most common edible flowers in the market would be hibiscus, marigold and rose.
With it being summer and me being a Bong, can you give me a really tasty steamed fish recipe that’s not too difficult to make?
Other than my wife’s paturi that I truly adore, I think the Chinese way of steaming fish, with all the fresh flavours, is by far the best and easy in India as we have all the ingredients in hand.
In order to feed around four people, you will need a 1kg flat round fish of your choice, roughly (I think Calcutta bekti would be perfect, with skin, bone and head intact). Make deep cuts into the flesh on both sides of the fish and place onto a deep plate. Next, throw some shredded spring onion, shredded carrots and ginger, roughly chopped coriander in a bowl... equaling roughly 250g in total. After this, add light soy sauce, some chopped green chilli, a little pinch of sugar, the juice of two lemons, a splash of wine if you like and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil if you have. Toss all of this together and season with salt and pepper. Place half of this into the cavity of the fish and the rest on top of the fish. Place the plate into your steamer. How I do this at home is with a large deep pot with around two inches of water and colander placed on top. Place the plate topped with a lid. Steam the whole thing for around15 to 20 minutes and eat while piping hot with simple steamed rice.
Chef, what kind of things do you like to eat when it gets hot?
Lots of dry food but primarily based around fish, chicken with lots of vegetables and dressings rather than thick heavy sauces. I love one-pot meals or a good, hearty soup with as many fresh salads and as much fresh fruits as possible.
Is it possible to make a cheesecake with mishti doi that you don’t have to bake and don’t require gelatin to set?
Soooo many recipes! And this one is a bit of a test but here it goes. I am warning you because there’s gelatin to set it. This is going to be rich, heavy and delicious.
To make the base, butter and line a 10inch loose-bottomed tin with baking paper. Then put 200g of digestive or ginger biscuits (I think the ginger nuts go great with this) in a plastic bag and crush to crumbs, pour these into a bowl and pour over 80g of melted butter. Mix thoroughly until the crumbs are completely coated and press firmly into your lined tin to make the base and refrigerate until needed. Next, into a bowl, beat 400g of cream cheese until soft with 20g of caster sugar and then fold in 400g of a good quality set mishti doi and spread this over your biscuit base before refrigerating. Allow it at least two hours to get firm, then to remove it from the ring, slowly push it up from the bottom and slip the cake onto a serving plate, removing the lining paper and base. Cut a slice and serve with freshly cut juicy mangos.
Since summer is here already, can you suggest some healthy options for smoothies that are rich in nutrients as well?
Smoothies are a healthy option in general with lots of fresh fruit yogurt but you can definitely amp them up with things like a handful of flax seeds, chia seeds, some dried fruits or nuts. You can easily add a handful of greens to any smoothie, from spinach to kale and celery. While for a protein boost, you could add protein powder. For a really good fat you could add some nut/seed butter or coconut oil.
I really like having cold soups in between my meals to keep myself hydrated and healthy. What are the easiest ingredients to make cold soups with?
I know I have given all manner of options but I think traditional Spanish gazpacho is dead easy to make and all the ingredients can be found in the Indian daily market. The Spanish also have a white gazpacho, made with white grapes and almonds and that is probably one of my favourites.
You could also make a yogurt and cucumber soup with maybe a pinch of cumin and a little bit of white wine vinegar and olive oil. And one of my favourite soups from when I first started cooking is a chilled apple soup flavoured with Madras curry powder, extra virgin olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar, salt and pepper and just blitzed like all the other soups, with the top sprinkled with raisins and shredded almonds and if you wanted to you could also add shredded chicken or shrimps... crab would also be delicious.
Is there an easy way to make hummus at home?
Throw into a mixer, 500mg of well-cooked chickpeas, the juice of two lemons, a good pinch of cumin, 50ml of extra virgin olive oil and a good tablespoonful of preferably tahini or pretty much any nut butter. Peanut butter tends to have way too much roasted peanut flavour but also adds a different twist but because the tahini that we get in India is never of a particularly high quality, cashew nut butter makes lots of sense. Throw in some salt and pepper and blend until nice and smooth. You can add a little water if you think it’s too thick. Correct the seasoning and you are good to go.
What is an ideal summer breakfast? Any particular juice that I can make at home?
When has a juice ever been a breakfast?! Asian breakfasts make a whole bunch of sense, particularly when there’s something rice, poha, sticky, or as a congee, and a combination of carbohydrate, protein some good fat then you could maybe throw in some seeds or nuts or dried fruit if you wanted to, but breakfast should really be filling and get the engines warmed up and burning for the rest of the day.
Can you suggest a simple, fruity, summery, easy-to-make cake no-bake, if possible?
Yes, I have a great one. It’s an apple upside down cake and you can cook this in a pan, which is brilliant. To start with, make a batch of your favourite cake mix... about 500g in total should be plenty. Then into a non-stick fry pan around 10 inches across, caramelise 60g, each of butter and sugar. Next, throw in three diced apples (you can leave the peel on if you like) and 30g of raisins and allow to simmer for three to five minutes or until the apple is cooked. While it’s still hot, spoon evenly over the top of your cake mixture and turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting. Place a lid on top and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes making sure it doesn’t burn at the bottom and until you see that it’s cooked and slightly firm to the touch. Let it stand for around 10 minutes with the lid on to make sure it cooks through fully. It should be nice and soft because it will have steamed. Place a plate on top and quickly turn it over and hopefully you should have a beautifully caramelised apple and raisin upside down cake. Serve with ice cream (vanilla preferably).