Sunday, October 25, 2015

Patatas Bravas

I came across this Spanish dish, Patatas Bravas, when I was watching something on youtube. It seemed complicated, but doable - in just the right proportion to capture my attention. I have since been wanting to try this out, and I finally made it today.

Salsa Bravas
Patatas Bravas, literally translated means "brave potatoes", but actually mean "fierce potatoes". It is a starter, and is a simple two fold process - salsa and the fries.

I watched and read a few recipes for this dish and found they have been customized mildly, but the core is the same - a tomato based spicy salsa. I used 3 red tomatoes, medium in size (medium as per Indian sizing), cut them into eights and dropped them into a blender cup. On a frying pan, with only a tsp or so of oil, fry chopped onions and garlic for a minute or so, turn off the flame and then add them to the tomatoes. Also add 2 green chilis, chopped (it doesn't matter much, we will be blending them soon) a couple of tsp of powdered red paprika / red chili powder. Add a pinch of sugar and a little bit of salt. Then, add two spoon-scoops of mayonnaise to it. Close the lid of the blender cup and blend the ingredients until you see a thick paste with no solid lumps. Taste the salsa and check if the heat is as per your taste. The salsa looks beautiful - the mayo lends a white shade to the red tomatoes and paprika, so the final result is a bit creamy looking; and the taste is spicy hot, you can see the heat. You can now refrigerate the salsa until you need it.

For the fries, it is intended to spice up the potatoes as early as possible. Take a sufficient water in a heating vessel to hold the potatoes you plan to use. Bring the water to simmering heat (but not a boil). Add red chili/paprika powder to the water and then put in the potatoes (unpeeled) and let them soak in the simmering water for 20 minute. Now, turn off the flame, remove the potatoes and peel them. I found this part tough, as I am used to peeling boiler potatoes - easy as. These are tough, be careful not to mash them if you are using a peeler. Cut the potatoes into bite size cubes. Take generous amount of oil in a fry pan and bring it to a med-high heat. Deep fry the potatoes in batches until they turn golden brown and are penetrable through a now crispy surface. Remove them from the oil onto paper towels to soak the excess oil. The outsides are crispy, slightly brownish and the insides are soft. If the cubes are very big, the insides come out hard. Sprinkle some salt over them once the oil wears off.

When all batches are done, transfer them on to a serving plate, hot. From what I have seen/read, the salsa is randomly poured over the plate of fries - just enough to top each potato fry in an imperfect manner, but not too much as to soak the potatoes in the salsa - and served to be eaten with the help of toothpicks. I served the salsa in a separate cup for each to pour in as much as s/he wishes. Patatas Bravas, ready.

You can feel the softness of the fries with the toothpick, the crunch is coated with the salsa dip which is spicy hot. It seems to be a nice party snack, a starter. It gets over in a jiffy, too. The heat also would bode well during the winter, I guess. Only 20 % of the salsa that I prepared got consumed today - I had used 4 medium sized (Indian) potatoes for the fries. The rest of it is back into the refrigerator and we plant to consume it along with the parathas, idlis and dosas during breakfast.

Notes: The sauce can be made well in advance and stocked, while you can make the fries when you want. So, in a way, you can make this in short notice (provided you have the salsa).
You can add the tomatoes to the pan while frying the onions/garlic, and saute for a short while before going to the blender.
Also, a couple of things that other recipes mentioned but I didn't have - vinegar, and tomato paste.
I ran out of garlic cloves, so I used a garlic-ginger paste instead. The ginger would be spicy, but will not lend to the heat.
Salsa Bravas might be a nice side to parathas, idlis, dosas because the spicy heat is kind of matches the purpose of chutneys that the mentioned Indian breakfasts go along well with. I have never had an idli with something that contains mayo, though. There is always a first time, like the first time I made Patatas Bravas.

Honey Chili Cauliflower

The single most favourite dish that I had tasted while in Punjab is the Honey Chilli Cauliflower, something that is very hard to find outside of the great land. Only recently though I have wanted to try and make it, and today I did. Of course, youtube ki jai for the lessons. This is how I made it:

This is a two-part procedure - one to fry the cauliflower and the second to make the gravy.

Cut the cauliflower into small flowerets, bite size. Take a few spoons of maida/all-purpose-flour in a bowl and add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to it. Also add a bit of oil. Mix the flour and add water to it as you do, to make a semi-thick batter that has no lumps in it. Now add the cauliflowerets to the batter and mix it well, but softly, so the batter covers them all but not break them into smaller portions while mixing. Now, deep batter-fry them on med-high flame until brownish in colour. Remove them from the oil and set them aside for use later.

Now, for the gravy. Add a tablespoon of cornflour to a cup of water, mix it well, and keep it aside. Take a few of tsp of oil in a frying pan, on med-high flame. Add to it garlic-ginger paste, chopped garlic, chopped ginger, chopped spring onions (and julienned capsicum if you have, I didn't). Let this fry for about a couple of minutes. (In my case, the home-made garlic-ginger paste started sticking to the pan floor, and I didn't know how to go around it, except stirring it clear.) The ingredients must be changing their colours a bit by now. Add the cornflower-water mix to this. Turn the flame to high. Add a tbsp of soy sauce, chili paste, tomato ketchup and ground black pepper to it. I didn't have chili paste, so I used chili powder/paprika, and some hot & sweet sauce. Add a spoonful of sesame seeds and a tbsp of honey. Keep stirring once in a while and allow the liquid to reduce to half, to a thick paste. Once it has, turn off the flame.

Wait for 5 minute after you turn off the flame and then mix the fried cauliflower to the paste and mix them well till the paste has coated all of the cauliflower. Transfer to your serving dish, sprinkle sesame seeds on top for aesthetics, and serve.

The dish should be crispy when prepared, with a sweet-spicy taste lent to courtesy the chili, the sauces and the honey. Soft onions and cabbage, julienned, marinated in lemon juice go well on top of this as a fine compliment in taste, texture and colour - that I know out of my dining experiences in Punjab.

Notes: I need to get better at batter frying (or as I later found out in the day, any kind of deep frying). I had some trouble finding the right thickness of the batter so that the cauliflower could hold on to it, I had to add a bit of cornflour to help thicken the batter. I need to hold myself back better in trying to not eat up the fried cauliflower and save them for the dish :-D . As of today, it's the best fried stuff.

There are two videos that I referred to while making this, and picked up steps from both:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Roti/Paratha noodles

It's a weekday-holiday today, Happy Dussehra and all. I was served methi paratha for breakfast, but I wanted to try out something else, with a kitchen and time at my disposal for the morning. I decided to experiment, and try out "paratha noodles" inspired by this video (with whatever ingredients I could find):

This is how it went:
Stack up your parathas, or rotis (bonus points if lachha paratha) and then roll them up together. Now, cut through them, making thin strips out of them. You should get a plate full noodle-like strips of rotis at the end of this activity, and keep it aside. (refer the video)

Heat (medium) oil on a pan, ajwain/mustard seeds sprinkled into them. Just when they start spattering, add chopped garlic and onion to the heat. Allow them to turn into whatever shade you like them best. Add into them julienned carrots and diced capsicums if you have them (I didn't, sad trombone), and the diced tomatoes. Allow them to cook for a minute or so, so the oil works on them all. Lower the flame. Now, sprinkle some chilli powder and salt over them. Here, you may add garam masala and/or other spices too - each give the dish a unique end result. Add crushed black pepper and salt "as per taste". Also add chilli sauce, ketchup (or just the hot and sweet ketchup instead of both). Stir them up quickly.

Before the vegetables get cooked too much, add into them the rotis that you had shredded into strips earlier and mix them well with the vegetables. The rotis must be cool/cold after all the waiting by the side. So, the mixture should cook with the parathas such that the parathas are now hot on the pan but the vegetables don't get overcook to become too soft by the end. Garnish them with coriander leaves for the aesthetics. Serve hot.

Like all things Indian, this can also be customized as per taste and liking, or as was the case with me - as per availability, so try them out. (vegetables - cabbages work fine too, also beans, coloured bell peppers, peas; sauces - soy sauce can be added but not for breakfast; spices - as you like/want) This is a dish to get out of the boredom of the simple roti and paratha with dahi/achaar/ketchup routine, so make it fun.

PS: The South Indian variant - chilli parotta - is the boss of this division, something I hope to master some day (tummy approves).