Saturday, November 19, 2011

With white wine roux

Though the white roux is the basis of many French dishes, I have avoided making it at home, because it reminds me of so many bad "Continental" fare smothered in white sauce, served here in India. Recently however I have revisited the many versions of white roux based sauces after reading Elizabeth David's "French Country Cooking. It had been on my cookery book list for a very long time. While most dishes in the book expect one to have bacon around, the Fish section is full of great ideas that can be incorporated on produce here. We had been provided by beautifully cut bhetki fillet by my parents. Normally, I use them to make the Fish Fry so beloved of Bengalee celebrations. I have been using them however this to try out a few ideas from the book because so many of the recipes ask for white fish fillet.

6 pieces bhetki fillets
1/3 cup white wine (I used Madera)
1/2 cup double cream
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
2 teaspoon butter

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Lay the fillets in a flat shallow dish greased with 1 teaspoon of the butter. Salt them. Sprinkle half teaspoon of tarragon. Pour 3/4 cup white wine and put into the oven. Bake over just about 10 minutes. Keep it in the oven. While the fish is being cooked, add 1 teaspoon of butter to another pan. Melt it and add the flour and mix it thoroughly in. Continue to stir and cook for 3 minutes. Strain the wine from the fish. Arrange the fillet on a plate and keep warm. Add the strained wine little by little and mix it into the butter-flour roux at very low heat. It must be without lumps. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and stir it in. A smooth sauce should be the result. Switch off the stove. Pour the sauce over the fish fillet.

The book has also inspired Sitabhra who actually fished that book out of a pile of discounted ones to new heights :). Below is another Elizabeth David inspired recipe of beef in brown sauce made by him, again using white roux !

250 gms beef, cubed
2 small onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 bayleaf
3 teaspoon salt
5-8 fresh basil leaf, torn
1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon flour
3 Tablespoon butter
1-2 teaspoon honey

Bring the wine, bayleaf, pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 onion to a boil. Let it cool down completely. Add the beef cubes to the marinade and let sit at room temperature for an hour or in the refrigerator overnight. Fry in a teaspoon of butter the onions until they start browning, about 4 minutes. Drain the beef cubes and strain the liquid into a cup. Add the beef cubes and brown them in the butter. This should be done at meadium heat to seal the meat but not burn the onions. Add half of the drained marinade and top it with another 1/2 cup water. Add a teaspoon of salt and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Cool pressure cooker. Once the beef is cooked retrieve it and set aside. In another pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the wine marinade slowly while stirring continuously. Add the gravy from the cooked meat. Add the honey and mix it in. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the sauce thickens. and becomes glossy. Pour sauce over beef cubes. We had it with potato mash flecked with scallions. It should go well with rice or bread too.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eggplant sauted in mint and vinegar

When I first started pottering with recipes and read about brinjals or aubergines referred to as eggplants, I was puzzled. In northern India where I grew up, brinjals though slightly rounded at one end, are hardly egg-sized. Or maybe they can be compared to roc eggs! They are large, shiny, and darkly purple or in winter glossy white. In southern India however, the local varieties, be they pale green or variations in purple are much smaller, even pea-sized. Brinjals, particularly, fried or sauted is everyday food. We used to get through stacks of bread slices or rotis with a few slices of deep fried, salted brinjals, as children. All they needed was a dusting with salt and turmeric before deep frying. Needless to say, sauted brinjals figure largely in my kitchen even now. I have featured pickled brinjal before. This recipe has distinct Mediterranean overtones. Its worth the extra effort since it can be stored rather well for a week or two. Great mixed with pasta, sandwiched between bread or rolled into rotis.

12 small brinjals, diced into 1/2 inch cubes and salted
1 and half Tablespoon red wine vineagr
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
10 mint leaves, minced
A few drops of honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Salt to taste

Salt diced brinjals. Heat the oil in a kadai. Drain the diced brinjals of any liquid and fry them. Cover for a couple of minutes and cook for 3 more minutes uncovered. In the meantime, make the dressing with the vinegar, anchovy paste, honey and mint. Taste and add honey and salt if necessary. Anchovy paste itself is very salty, so go light on the salt. Drain the fried brinjals. Mix them with the dressing. Cool and store in glass jar.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mushroom tomato sauce

Shortly after I moved to Germany for my Ph.D, I was visited by two close friends , Faaizah and Nadeem working in England. My artless comments about Heidelberg must have convinced them that whatever modcons of civilisation the charming town contained, it must lack the wherewithal to supply me with Indian spices. So my Christmas hamper (and it was a wonderful one, I can remember most items it contained even now) had half a dozen bottles of Indian spices, "packaged and marketed" by Sainsbury's. Among them was nutmeg. Nutmeg is not commonly added to daily fare in India, and it was certainly my first rendezvous with the spice. While many Indian spices can be put in spoonfuls, nutmeg MUST be used only in pinches . With the result that not only did my bottle of nutmeg last me my sojourn in Germany (four and a half years), but I carried that bottle with a couple of intact nutmegs back when I moved back to India! That bottle still serves me well, though stocked with nutmeg from Coorg or Kerala nowadays. Nutmeg comes wrapped in layers. Indeed it took me a minute to realise the first time I purchased nutmeg in India, that several layers would need to be removed before I saw something familiar to the original contents of the Sainsbury bottle. The following sauce uses nutmeg and can be used equally well with pasta, rice or bread. The bread that I ate with it was made by my neighbours, Amritansu and Anita. They have bought a bread machine. And using it to its fullest potential. The bread was handed over to me the moment I unlocked my door. They had timed it beautifully. May they continue their good work :). I have presently a wonderful cheese table at hand. My husband Sitabhra did a splendid job of stocking from Germany on his recent trip. I couldn't resist sprinkling some of the Schnittkase he lugged back to India. But really, the sauce is great even without such ornamentation.

2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
10 button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups Bak choy, coarsely chopped (spinach can be used as substitute)
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 basil leaves
1 Tablespoon grated cheese

Wash and chop the vegetables. In a dry pan cook the sliced mushrooms for about 5 minutes, until they shrink and brown a little. Keep moving them so that they don't stick. Remove from the pan and add oil. Lightly brown the garlic and add the tomatoes. Add salt and sugar and cook uncovered for 7-10 minutes. Add the Bak choy (or its substitute). Stir to coat it with the tomato sauce and let it reduce. This should not take more than 3-5 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste. Add ground pepper, nutmeg and basil leaves cut into chiffonade. Stir everything well, cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve warm.