Monday, 28 February 2011

Get Your Passport to Morocco

This week, why don't you invite a little exotica to your table? Moroccan cuisine is one of the most delicious cuisines of the North African region and we now add the Al Fez range of sauces, pastes and spice-mixes to our shelves that will help you recreate the flavours of Morocco with its rich spiced sauces, slow-cooked tagines and delicate, rose-scented pastries in your own kitchen. Like Indian Cuisine, Moroccan cuisine is incredibly diverse due to cultural influences from all over the world down the ages. But what makes Moroccan cuisine even more even more appealing is that it is fairly healthy using a minimal amount of olive oil and cooking techniques like braising, grilling and baking. And the ingredients it calls for are so easily found in Indian home kitchens; chickpeas, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggs and honey.
To serve up a delicious meal begin with a platter of olives from the extensive selection we have on offer. For appetiser serve some of our fresh Pita bread warmed up and drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive oil and nutty Al Fez Zahtar (an ubiquitous blend of thyme and sesame seeds so difficult to replicate that Al Fez gets theirs straight from Morocco) and spicy Harissa paste (hot chilli paste from Tunisia that blends chilli heat with aromatic spice notes.) Continue your journey through Moroccan cuisine by losing yourself in an aromatic Tagine redolent of spices, served over steaming hot Couscous. In fact you could consider picking up one of our Moroccan Tagine Kits that contain all of the essential ingredients - a delicately seasoned apricot couscous, aromatic spices and a deliciously thick sauce concentrate – required to make an authentic, Moroccan meal meal in minutes!

Serve a large Fatoush Salad for cool crunch, seasoned with Zahtar, generous drizzles of Olive oil and Lemon juice to round of the meal. And  - we insist - that you conclude this exotic journey for your palate in the sweet notes of a selection of exotic stuffed dates we stock or even more perfect would be some pistachio Baklava drizzled in sensuous orange blossom water. It's never been easier to go gourmet!

Tagines are slow-cooked Moroccan curries braised at a low temperature, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. It is traditionally cooked in the tagine pot, to which it owes its name. Try the Al Fez Honey & Almond Tagine, a sweet spiced sauce that combines the richness of honey with the nuttiness of almonds, It is perfect with chicken, lamb or even vegetables. For a more robust option try the Spiced Tomato & Herb Tagine sauce that has hints of Cinnamon. Or for really typical tangy Morocan oomph, try the Spicy Lemon Tagine Paste which is a wonderfully complex concentrate of spices with a rich & zesty flavour of lemons.

Apricot & Coriander Chicken Tagine:


Preparation time: 30 minutes; Serves: 2

Ingredients:





  • 2 chicken breast-cut into 1" cubes

  • 1 tsp Ras El Hanout

  • 1 tbsp Al’Fez Apricot & Coriander Sauce

  • 1 small onion-chopped

  • 1 green pepper/capsicum-deseeded and quartered

  • 4 garlic cloves-chopped

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp chilli flakes


Method:



  1. Rub the ras el hanout on the chicken cubes and set aside or 5 minutes.

  2. Heat oil in a pan and cook the chicken breasts over medium heat until sealed.

  3. Add sauce, cook for 2 minutes.

  4. Reduce heat, cover & simmer for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally.

  5. Serve on a bed of rice or couscous.


Alternatively, here is a vegetarian recipe for Moroccan Vegetable Tagine:


Preparation Time: 20 minutes; Serves: 2

Ingredients:



  • 1 aubergine-diced

  • 1 red pepper-deseeded and quartered

  • 1 yellow pepper-deseeded and quartered

  • 2 onions-chopped

  • 4-5 cloves of garlic-chopped

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tbsp Al Fez Spiced Tomato & Herb Sauce

  • Salt to taste

  • 1 tbsp pine nuts-lightly toasted and chopped

  • 1 tbsp almonds-sliced

  • Fresh parsley-chopped


Method:



  1. Put all the vegetables in a roasting pan and marinate with salt and pepper. Roast in an oven for 20 minutes at 180 C/350 F OR Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom pan. Sauté the onions and garlic first till they turn translucent. Sauté the vegetables till they become tender and glazed.

  2. Add the Spiced tomato and herb sauce and mix well.

  3. Add chopped dry fruits, chopped parsley, coriander and mint Serve hot.


Stock up on readymade tagine sauces to prepare a quick Moroccan meal. Use these tagine pastes as a base for casseroles, as cooking sauces, dressings or as dips straight from the jar.


Ras El Hanout: Ras el hanout is Moroccan spice blend with a spicy kick, a floral fragrance and subtle nuances within an overall robust flavour. It is extremely versatile, adding a golden colour and an aromatic and enticing flavor to chicken and vegetable tagines. Add a half teaspoon to a cup of rice or cous cous while cooking to transend the ordinary. Mix with oil, garlic & lemon juice to make a heady marinade or use it as a seasoning in salads, curries, stews, rice and dips.

Preserved Lemons: Preserved lemons are the quintessential condiment of Moroccan cooking, used to flavour a variety of dishes – from lamb and vegetable tagines to salads and savoury pastries. These are soft skinned fruits with a fresh zesty flavour. Add these to salads, marinades, sauces and dressings to perk up your palate.


Preserved Lemons: Preserved lemons are the quintessential condiment of Moroccan cooking, used to flavour a variety of dishes – from lamb and vegetable tagines to salads and savoury pastries. These are soft skinned fruits with a fresh zesty flavour. Add these to salads, marinades, sauces and dressings to perk up your palate.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Take the Orient Express

Natures Basket in association with Maido India launched a two month long celebration of Japanese products on the 29th of January, 2011 to showcase a whole new range of premium Japanese products through its select stores.  This “Premium Japan Shop” inside Natures Basket, Warden Road is the centre of much envied attention boasting over 30 exciting new ingredients (many of which are 100% vegetarian). Taste some of these offerings at the customised kiosk manned by a specialist. Head to Natures Basket and give your palate an exotic oriental treat.

[caption id="attachment_86" align="aligncenter" width="306" caption="Look for our Premium Japan Racks "][/caption]


Here are some of our favourites!

Aji Nori: Thin, crisp Japanese jack mackerel flavoured dried seaweed sheets that can be eaten as a snack with Asahi Beer or cut into strips to top noodles, mashed or baked potatoes and salads.

Ginger Lemon snack: A flavourful snack perked up with a hint of ginger and a dash of lemon to excite your taste buds and makes for an appetizing snack with drinks side dish.

[caption id="attachment_77" align="aligncenter" width="271" caption="Tobanjan Chilli Sauce"][/caption]


Tobanjan: This Japanese style chilli bean sauce is a more oomph filled alternative to Tabasco. The heat of the chillies is laced with the smokiness of fermented beans. Use it to spice up just about anything including Japanese stews, hotpots, soups. You can even stir it through noodles.

[caption id="attachment_78" align="aligncenter" width="272" caption="Spicy Miso Dip"][/caption]


Miso Dips: Try our new Miso dips with your dipables next time, not only are they spicy savoury and great as dips for breadsticks, crudités, to use as a spread in sandwiches and dress salads with but also extremely nutritious because they are made from soy based miso paste which is an excellent source of dietary fibre and protein as well as a good source of minerals.

[caption id="attachment_75" align="aligncenter" width="253" caption="Non-Vegetarian Instant Miso Soup"][/caption]

Miso Soup: Stir up a bowl of hot miso soup anytime with our new single serve packs! This traditional Japanese soup made from dashi, a stock of fried fish flakes, seaweed and softened miso or fermented soy bean paste is high on flavour and health. Have it as is or titivate it by adding vegetables such as mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, tofu or green onion. Instant miso soup is excellent to carry to work or while travelling for a high-protein, warming filler on the go. Vegetarians try our excellent vegetarian version!


Tonkatsu sauce: Similar to Western Worcestershire but with a different consistency and flavour, Tonkatsu sauce comprises apple, tomato and spices amongst other things. Also known as 'East-West Sauce,' this sauce with its subtly sweet caramel tones is most often served with Japanese pork cutlets but can also  double up as a steak or BBQ sauce for chicken, shrimp, fish and even mushrooms and potatoes. Why not try some Japanese style barbequed baby corn and mushrooms tonight?

Teriyaki Sauce: A sweet, savoury sauce made by combining sake or mirin (Japanese rice wines) with soy sauce, Teriyaki is used as a marinade in the Teriyaki style of cooking where the food is grilled and broiled. Use it as a dip, dressing or spread.

[caption id="attachment_79" align="aligncenter" width="203" caption="Macadamia Nuts"][/caption]


Macadamia Nuts: Nature's vitamin pill, the macadamia kernel contains Vitamins A, B1, B2, Niacin and essential elements such as Calcium, Iron, Phosphorous, Magnesium and Potassium. Their rich, sweet, delicate, buttery flavour can be enjoyed by themselves or in desserts and savour dishes.

Matcha syrup: Try this beautiful vibrant green tea syrup for a variety of Asian style puddings and desserts. Or drizzle over, anything from fresh fruit or vanilla ice cream to cheesecake and elaborate desserts for an exciting twist.

Furikake: This assertive dry Japanese condiment packs punchy flavours. Use it to season rice like the Japanese do or add zing to your regular meals on lazy evenings. Check our shelves for a range of furikake flavours.

Kinkon Sake: Sake is a rice based alcoholic beverage or popularly known as the Japanese rice wine, and happens to be Japan’s national drink.  It may be served hot, warm or cold depending on the weather and preference. Convenient 300 ml bottles are great to wash down sashimi, tempura, cheese or any miso or soy based dish.

Fruit Sake: The fruit in the sake lends its flavour and colour to the clear wine, naturally enhancing sake's fruity and floral qualities. Use it to make interesting aperitifs at home or as a precursor to Japanese meals.

Yuzu Kasho: A distinctive, bitterly pungent, addictive condiment made from the zest of yuzu (an extremely tart citrus fruit indiginour to Japan) chili peppers and salt. Use this potent condiment as seasoning in small amounts to flavour salads, soups or noodles for a distinctive new note to everyday meals.

Sakura Chocolate: Sakura or cherry blossom chocolate has an intense aroma and taste of Sakura. It will certainly make a pretty looking gift that will inspire pleasure!

Chestnut candies: These traditional candies make a perfect treat after a meal of sushi. These candies are part of the authentic Japanese dessert recipes from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Their sweetness pairs well with the contrasting flavour of Japanese green tea.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

A Culinary Getaway to Thailand

The thought of Thai cuisine brings to mind a bouquet of fresh aromas and sharp flavours, the tang of kaffir lime, the freshness of lemongrass or the heat of the spicy red chilli.  The essence of Thai cuisine is a harmony of flavours. Thai food is known for its balance of the five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: hot, sour, sweet, salty, and occasionally bitter.

Traditionally, a Thai meal is served all at once, allowing diners to enjoy complementary combinations of different tastes. A proper Thai meal should consist of a soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables. There must be an idyllic blend of tastes and textures within individual dishes per se as also the entire meal. The ubiquitous Thai Curry can be extremely satisfying at the end of a long day. It can be put together easily and is highly nutritious as it combines all the food groups.



Red or Green Thai Curry:



[caption id="attachment_64" align="aligncenter" width="285" caption="Thai Green Curry"][/caption]

Pictures courtesy Blue Dragon Website

Serves: 4-6

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp Curry paste (Red/Green)

  • 500 g assorted vegetables (Mushrooms, babycorn, white gourd, zucchini, long beans, pak choy) – uniformly chopped

OR

  • 500 g chicken or a combination of both - Chop the chicken into uniform cubes

  • Handful of basil leaves

  • 3-4 Thai red chillies - sliced

  • 1 stick lemongrass

  • 1 inch piece of Galangal - thinly sliced

  • Handful of pea brinjals (optional)

  • 800 ml coconut milk

Method:

  1. Heat a pan and add about 2 tbsp of coconut milk. Sauté about 3 tbsp of Thai curry paste in a pan with the coconut milk.

  2. When fragrant, add the remaining coconut milk. Allow the mixture to boil for a minute and add the cubed chicken pieces and/or vegetables and pea brinjals.

  3. Simmer for another 2 minutes to let the vegetables/chicken absorb the juices.

  4. Add some roughly shredded basil leaves, lemon grass stick and galangal and mix it well. Allow the curry to simmer for about minutes till the vegetables are cooked.

  5. Serve hot with steamed rice.

[caption id="attachment_66" align="aligncenter" width="328" caption="Thai curry with Rice"][/caption]

For a successful Thai meal, one must know Thai ingredients well and be acquainted with the art of combining flavours and textures. A note on the ingredients used.

Essential Thai Ingredients:

Lemongrass: Lemon Grass is an aromatic herb that looks like grass, smells minty and tastes similar to lemon (hence the name Lemongrass). Thai cuisine employs the thick white stem of the herb and not the leaves to add essential flavour to curries, soups and a wide variety of dishes. Try smashing a bulb and adding to stocks and the water for cooking rice or noodles for an interesting accent to the food. In India, lemongrass is added to tea and is known to cure common cold.

Makroot/ Kaffir limes and leaves: Kaffir Lime is a smaller, wild relative of the regular lime and bears a wonderful strong citrus aroma and a striking green appearance whereas the leaves, when torn, release a fresh fragrance. The rind or the zest of the lime and the leaves are used in a wide range of Thai cuisine. They come into full flavour when subjected to heat and are wonderful scented additions to Thai stir fry, curries, soups and salads. Look for fresh kaffir Limes and leaves in our exotic vegetables section.

Galangal: It is a relative of the Indian ginger but with a milder flavour and a slightly distinctive appearance. Galangal interacts well with the other essential Thai ingredients found on this page. It gives a characteristic Thai, lightly acid taste and helps reduce the smell of meat. Slices of galangal are added to many Thai curries and soups. It is widely held that crushing the bulb and boiling it in water cures indigestion or stomach upsets.

Basil: Some Thai recipes use Holy Basil (our own Tulsi) which has a clove-like taste but certain other recipes require Thai Basil or Thai Sweet Basil which is milder and sweeter. Thai Basil is used in large quantities and in many dishes in Thailand, including stir-fries, salads and soups and Thai red and green curries. It is not possible to substitute Holy basil for Thai Basil, although European Basil may be used instead. Look for them in our exotic vegetable section. They are also great added to salads and other Asian cuisines and deep fried they make a delicious wonderfully aromatic garnish.



Fish sauce: If there's any one key ingredient that is critical to cooking Thai cuisine, it is fish sauce--for that reason alone, it's difficult to find vegetarian recipes that actually taste like Thai cuisine. Fish sauce provides the salty dimension in Thai cuisine and is high in protein, minerals and vitamins. This is Thailand's equivalent to soy sauce or table salt. Uncooked it has an unpleasant smell, but it adds a subtle flavour, for which there is no substitute. It can also be used to add a salty accent to other Asian cuisines.

Thai Chilli Peppers(prik kee noo): It is impossible to imagine Thai food without chillies for “spicy” is one of the words which describe Thai food the best. Chiles come in different types and sizes but the iconic chilli and perhaps the most famous ingredient in Thai cuisine is the small fresh chilli, known as prik kee noo. Although not the spiciest chilli pepper in the world, it can heat up your taste buds in good measure. Look for fresh Thai chillies in our exotic vegetable section.

Curry Pastes (kreung-geng): Curry pastes such as red, green and masaman curry pastes are made by pulverizing lemongrass, chillies, kaffir lime and other quintessential Thai ingredients. Ready-to-use curry pastes are conveniently available on our shelves. Look for Red, Green and Massaman (yellow) Thai curry paste options and use about 3 tablespoons per cup of liquid to prepare Thai curries. You may also use these exotic pastes to marinate meat and seafood before grilling for Thai flavoured starters. We also carry ready Thai Curry in cans that simply require heating up prior to serving for quick meal options.

Coconut milk: Coconut milk is used as subtle base for many Thai curries and sweet dishes. Coconut milk or 'ga-ti' is traditionally made by mixing the fresh grated pulp of a ripe coconut with warm water and then squeezing out the juice to obtain the rich and counters the pungency of many of the stronger ingredients. Read-to-use canned coconut milk is a convenient option. We also have Coconut cream in Organic and Lite versions on our shelves.

Jasmine rice: It is also known as "fragrant rice" and it is graded as one of the highest quality rice grains in the world. Indeed, much of this rice exported around the world is from Thailand. Jasmine rice is a long grained variety and bears a subtle, nutty flavour pleasing to the palate. Jasmine rice is available on our shelves but be sure to use it within six months of purchase for optimal flavour and freshness.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Valentine treats from Kishi Arora!

Chef Kishi Arora was kind enough to share some gooey, chocolatey Valentine recipes in time for the day of love!  Savour them with those you love. We wish you a Happy Valentine's day!

Truffles

200g dark

80g mango pulp

10g cream

10g honey

15g butter

Cocoa powder for coating.

1. Add the chocolate to a steel mixing bowl and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, add the passion fruit pulp, cream and honey and bring it to a gentle simmer.

3. Pour this over the chocolate and stir it, until it all comes together – there should be no pieces of chocolate and the ganache should look thick and shiny.

4. Add the butter while still warm, and stir it until it has melted into the ganache, making it even shinier.

5. Refrigerate the ganache for 20-30 minutes.

6. Line a tray with foil and then spoon a teaspoon of the chilled ganache on it. Now, roll the irregular mass of chocolate ganache into a ball. Not too much, just enough for it to have a smooth surface area. Refrigerate it again for 10 minutes.

7. Next, sift a tablespoon of cocoa powder in a plate and roll the truffle balls in the cocoa powder. Toss the truffles in a sieve and shake of the excess cocoa powder.

8. Pop them into your mouth!

Heart Shaped Nutty Fudge

Ingredients:

400 gm sweetened condensed milk (1 tin Nestle Milkmaid)

¼ cup sugar

150 gm mixture of cashew nuts/raisins/almonds

½ cup cocoa

50 gm Unsalted butter

Method:

1. Pour Milkmaid into a thick bottomed pan

2. Add butter, sugar, cocoa and nuts.

3. Swirl gently on medium heat till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan.

4. Pour evenly into a buttered dish and allow cooling and setting.

5. Cut into heart shape with a cutter and toss in icing sugar.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Why don’t you ….. stir fry!!!


Today is the Chinese Lunar New year. And "Chi fan le mei you?" "Have you eaten yet?" Is a common greeting to guests as they enter your home to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Why don’t you celebrate today with a Chinese stir fry?

Stir-frying is a Chinese method of cooking thinly sliced meat and vegetables so that the inherent textures and flavors of the ingredients are retained, typically involving a quick sauté over high heat and sometimes concluding with a brief steaming in a flavored sauce.

A proper wok is the ideal utensil to stir fry in, but a medium sized shallow Kadhai will do in a pinch. A wok is designed (a combination of a certain depth that is hotter and sloping sides that are cooler) to allow one to move ingredients away from the hot centre as they are cooked. It is also a good idea to have everything you need ready before you begin because stir-frying needs to be fast and leaves no space for time to stop and chop broccoli while the onion is cooking. So it is a good idea to cut all your vegetables and meats and prepare your sauce in advance. We also carry a range of gourmet stir fry sauces from Blue Dragon that are excellent to have on hand for quick meals.

Vegetables and meats should be approximately the same size (bite sized is best) since everything should be small enough to cook through equally and without burning. When your wok is really hot, add oil and when it is hot, add the aromatics that will flavour it, such as ginger and garlic. Stir-fry these for a few seconds until their aroma is released and then go on to add your other ingredients, staggering them according to the length of their cooking time.

Ideally start with any meats, stir-fry until almost done, remove and set aside so you can add back at the end (this will ensure the meat cooks fully but does not dry out.) Then add harder vegetables like baby corn and carrots, stir-fry for about 2 minutes, add vegetables like beans, onions and others. Broccoli florets, peppers and greens, all vegetables that require minimum cooking time can be added at the end and briefly cooked or just steamed. You do need to exercise a little judgment here - you are aiming for crunchy but cooked vegetables - so at this point if you think they need just a little more cooking time then just continue to stir fry but if you think they are more raw than cooked, cover and steam until done. Practice the basic technique of lifting under the food in the wok with a spatula or other flat utensil and moving it to the side.

The sauce would ideally go in when the ingredients are two-thirds cooked.

Here are some versions of stir fry.

For delicious stir fried chicken and vegetables Chinese style heat 1 tsp oil add 500 gms. chicken in batches and stir fry until browned, remove and set aside. Now in same skillet, heat 1 tsp of oil, add 4 cups assorted vegetables with lots of finely chopped garlic and stir fry  until tender but crunchy. Reduce heat to medium and add Black Bean with Roasted Garlic & Chilli Stir Fry Sauce, a Chinese style black bean sauce with dark soy, roasted garlic and spicy green chillies and reserved chicken. Toss well and serve hot over steamed rice.

Or try a simple potato stir fry; heat one cup olive oil and add 2 cups potatoes cut into thin strips along with 3 cups of salami sliced thin. Stir Fry until golden. Add 2 tbsps Lee Kum Kee Black pepper sauce and 1 tbsp Lee Kum Kee Guilin Chilli sauce along with 2 cups assorted vegetables (carrot, beans, celery, colored capsicum) julienned like for noodles. Stir Fry until the colors of the vegetables brighten and they are crunchy but not overcooked, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately! Serve hot with noodles.

Another great idea is a spicy sweet tropical seafood stir fry with prawns; Heat oil, add 250 gms jumbo prawns and stir fry until pink, (about 2 minutes), remove and set aside. In the same pan, add 1/2 cup pineapple and 1 cup broccoli and red bell pepper. Stir fry to coat with oil and cook until colors are bright and vegetables are crunchy. Add Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli and Kaffir Lime sauce, stir fry, toss well. Add in the cooked shrimp and mix well. Serve hot with rice.

Happy Chinese New year and May you eat well in the Year of the Rabbit!

Buy chicken ham & salami from Natures Basket store at best prices !