Monday, 27 June 2011

Cooking the Books

Interview of Ritu Dalmia Author of Italian Khana by Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal

Ritu Dalmia, entrepreneur, gourmet and consummate manager, has donned many caps in her 29 years. Best known for being the driving force behind Diva, one of Delhi's finest Italian restaurants which has won the Hindustan Times' HT City award for the last four years and The Times of India's Times Food Award for the last two years, Ritu also runs the extremely popular café at the Italian Cultural Centre and has been awarded the prestigious Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity.

At the age of sixteen, Ritu joined her father's marble business which I when her love affair with Italy began. Often travelling to Italy for work she fell in love with its cuisine and at the age of twenty one started her first restaurant in Delhi. MezzaLuna which offered Mediterranean cuisine with an Italian accent was in her words 'a wonderful disaster. She closed shop and moved to London, to open the acclaimed Indian restaurant Vama and hen returned to Delhi to open Diva.

Now she is all set to teach India how to cook yummy authentic Italian food in the Indian kitchen with what locally available ingredients in her stunning new book Italian Khana, almost apologetically because, "I have always said that when chefs start writing books and hosting TV shows, it means they aren't cooking enough. And here I am doing just that."

We got a sneak peak at the book (we love it!), and also got Ritu to take time out from preparing for the launch of Italian Khana the show on NDTV good times on the 16th of July to answer a few questions put forth by our very own Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal.

RMG: Why Italian Khana?  What inspired you? Why did you choose the subject you did to write about?

RD: Very simple. Italian is a cuisine I am most comfortable with, and we Indians like Italian but are intimidated by cooking it at home. I think it really is the simplest cooking in the world, and with this book every Indian can cook Italian based on ingredients available in the metros.

RMG: So, what do you have to say about Italian food in India?

RD: As I said in my book as well, all Indians have a little bit of Italian in us and vice versa. Italian food is close to Indian palate and really has come a long way since my first restaurant 15 years ago

RMG: How did you set about working on this book?  Did you travel, meet people? Experiment with local ingredients to cook Italian?  Would you share some of your most pleasurable moments during your research?

RD: I travel to Italy for work in any case and most of the recipes are given to me by friends, they are recipes of dishes I have eaten that have left a memory, recipes from my various restaurants and travels from the past. So to answer your question, for this book I did not specifically travel. To be fair the only research part of this book was checking what ingredient are available, the rest came from my memory bank. But the best part about the book was, this great sense of reminscing, specially when I wrote comfort me with zuppa (a chapter in the book).
RMG: What's your favorite recipe from your book?

RD: Ela's Caesar  salad, Risotto with beetroot and Panna Cotta.

RMG: What were some of the things you were uncompromising about as regards to your book, that you think should be given more attention in other cookbooks? (Language, recipe testing etc)

RD: I was not willing to Indianize the recipes, that was the most important thing. Secondly I wanted a well produced International quality book. I think pictures are as important as content and Random house kept their part of the deal and really did produce a beautiful book.

RMG: Anything you would have done differently?

RD: Sorry to sound so arrogant, but if I really am honest.. no I would do nothing different about this book.

RMG: Favourite regional Italian dish? Why?

RD: Ahhh many.. from Sicily I love the Caponata. What I call the (Italian) baingan achaar, I also love the Gnocchi Alla Romana and the Artichokes from the Jewish quarters of Rome

RMG: What about YOU, the cook? What are your favorite foods to cook with?

RD: Well, I love to cook Italian , because it is simple, I also like cooking simple home food like Sindhi curry, etc. I cook some Asian, but I have to admit even at home I end up cooking mainly Italian.

RMG: What is comfort food for you?

RD: Kadi Chawal, Spaghetti with Pomodoro, and Aloo Matar Toast.

RMG: Any favorite cooking gadgets?

RD: Blow torch

RMG: Are there any traditional/community cookbooks that you have depended on through the years?

RD: I am a Marwari and in my house there used to be this set of Books called "pak Pranali" printed in the 60s, as a kid that was used a lot by me, even Tarla dalal and Anna Tasca Lanza's book "heart of Sicily" has been always a point of reference.

RMG: Which book gets you cooking ? (besides your own)

RD: The river Cafe cook book

RMG: If you were asked to describe yourself as an ingredient what would you be and why?

I am dark chocolate.. grainy, smooth , melts in your mouth.. sweet, but with just the right amount of bitterness and yes... of course sensuous!

RMG: What would you like to eat for your last supper?-

RD: Matar Kachodi, Aloo pethe ki sabzi with panchphoran followed by Malpua rabri.

RMG: If you were allowed a dream dinner, who would you invite to it and what would you eat and drink?

RD: I will get into trouble with this one, so I better shut up. I can tell you what I will cook and drink, but will not tell you who I will invite. I would drink Bollinger, I would eat a simple meal- ravioli with bettroot and goat cheese, tossed in butter and sprinkling of toasted sunflower seeds and then a perfectly cooked carrot cake or even maybe a Panna cotta, I am a simple girl with simple tastes.

RMG: What's the most outlandish thing you've ever eaten?

RD: Donkey - in Modena when we were shooting for Italian Khana the TV serial. I was an ass to eat a donkey!

RMG: What's next on the menu? What can we, look forward to next from your kitchen/pen? I know it is a little soon, but do give us a hint...

RD: Italian Khana has been made into a TV series (for which I travelled extensively, it will be telecast from the 16th of July. That was exciting I think. For the first time in India, a book and a TV series based on the book went hand in hand. I am a chef, my main job is to stay in my kitchen but yes, I am thinking of a second helping of the book, in what form I still do not know…

RMG: Lastly, is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the profession that would be interesting or helpful to others in the food business?

RD: I am a self trained cook.. all you need is a large ego, a curious mind and a sense of adventure. You can go to all the fancy catering schools in the world, but if you lack these, you will never be a cut above the rest.

Cremino di barbabietole

Cream of beetroot and berries

There is a quaint restaurant named Alla Torre in Romagnano Sesia in north Italy which serves the most amazing food. We were there during a grand trip to Piedmont to celebrate Gita’s birthday, and for me the entire menu was pure poetry. This dazzling dish was a part of the eight course meal we had there.

1 kg beetroot

200 g strawberry or any berry

2 tbsps olive oil

1 tbsp rosemary

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

A few drops of balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to season

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200 °C.

2. Peel the beetroot and boil till tender, about 20 minutes. Slice the beetroot.

3. Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add the beetroot and mix well so it is evenly coated. Arrange on a baking tray and roast it for about 20 minutes. Let it cool.

4. Blend the beetroot with the berries well in a food processor. Add some water if you need to obtain a consistency of single cream. Adjust the seasoning again and chill in the fridge.

5. Serve with a little sprinkling of chopped parsley.


Monday, 20 June 2011

Cheesy is Desirable!

Experiece the gastronomic delights of Italy at your nearest Nature's Basket Store. As part of our month-long celebration of  Italian cuisine,  this blogpost features the popular International cheese brand-Zanetti and recipes showing you how to make your food as decadently cheesy as possible!



Zanetti fulfills all your cheesy desires with products ranging from Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano, Asiago, Mozzarella, Blue Cheese, Gorgonzola, Mascarpon in as many usable forms as blocks, grated/shredded, triangles, cups and much more!

These are just a few excuses to validate your cheese tooth!
1. Nutrition - There is a very high concentration of essential nutrients cheese including high quality proteins and calcium. There are also other elements in cheese such as phosphorous, zinc, Vitamin A, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.2. Cavity Prevention - Cheese is extremely high in its calcium content. This is the most important thing when it comes to strong teeth. In addition, cheese has a very low content of Lactose. Lactose is a substance that comes from food and can harm teeth.

3. Cancer Prevention - Cheese contains substances called Conjugated Linoleic Acid and Sphingolipids that help prevent cancer. In addition the vitamin B in cheese is good for maintaining body functions and protecting the body from disease.



5. Bone Strength - Cheese is high in calcium content and rich in vitamin B. This is especially good for the bones of children, elderly people, and pregnant and lactating women for strengthening bones and cartilages. the vitamin B in cheese helps the body absorb and distribute calcium.


Visit your nearest Nature's Basket store, pick up your favourite cheese varieties and use the following recipes for a delectable cheese experience.

Four Cheese Sauce
Time 20 mins, Serves 4-6


Ingredients

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp fresh green chillies minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

Method
In a medium saucepan combine whipping cream and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until butter melts.

Add Green chillies and stir well. Gradually stir in grated Parmesan cheese, grated mozzarella cheese, grated provolone cheese, and grated Romano cheese. Reduce heat to low, and continue to stir just until all cheese is melted.

Serve immediately, over gnocchi, fettuccini, or your choice of pasta. Please note the sauce will thicken upon standing. I serve it with garlicky French bread, and a selection of antipasti such as olives, brined vegetables and vinegared pearl onions to cut through the cheesyness.

Spicy Chorizo Dip
Time 1 hour, Serves 4-6
Ingredients


2 cups  shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups  shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tbsp jalapeno peppers, chopped, or more to taste
10 slices Chorizo sausage, or as needed
1 tbsp chili flakes

Method:


Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. In a bowl combine mozzarella, cheddar, mayonnaise, onion, and jalapenos and mix till thoroughly incorporated.

Spread this paste on an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish, sprinkle with chilli flakes and top with a layer of pepperoni slices. Bake in the preheated oven until the dip is bubbling (about 30-40 mins) and serve hot with crusty bread or tortilla chips.

Cheese melts

Time 20 mins, Serves 1 or 2

Ingredients:

4 slices whole wheat or 7 grain bread,
1 cup shredded Scarmozza
1/2 cup jalapneo slices

Method

sprinkle cheese on bread slices, top with Jalapeno slices, place in toaster oven and toast or fry with a little olive oil or butter in pan till bread is crispy at the edges and cheese has melted.

Four Cheese Sauce
Time 20 mins, Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp fresch green chillies minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

Method
In a medium saucepan combine whipping cream and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until butter melts. Add Green chillies and stir well. Gradually stir in grated Parmesan cheese, grated mozzarella cheese, grated provolone cheese, and grated Romano cheese. Reduce heat to low, and continue to stir just until all cheese is melted. Serve immediately, over gnocchi, fettuccini, or your choice of pasta. Please note the sauce will thicken upon standing. I serve it with garlicky French bread, and a selection of antipasti such as olives, brined vegetables and vinegared pearl onions to cut through the cheesyness.

Spicy Chorizo Dip
Time 1 hour, Serves 4-6
Ingredients

2 cups Lemnos shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups Lemnos shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups Kewpie's mayonnaise
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tbsp jalapeno peppers, chopped, or more to taste
10 slices Chorizo sausage, or as needed
1 tbsp Keya chili flakes

Directions
Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. In a bowl combine mozzarella, cheddar, mayonnaise, onion, and jalapenos and mix till thoroughly incorporated. Spread this paste on an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish, sprinkle with chilli flakes and top with a layer of pepperoni slices. Bake in the preheated oven until the dip is bubbling (about 30-40 mins) and serve hot with crusty bread or tortilla chips.

Roasted vegetables with Spicy Haloumi

Time 1 hour, Serves: 4

Ingredients
250 g mushrooms halved
180g capsicum in all colors, cut in chunks
2 red onions, peeled and diced
100 gms baby corn, cut into chunks
4 tbsp EV olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 pkt Lemnos Spicy Halloumi cheese, cut into chunks
2 tbsp toasted nuts (pinenuts, walnuts or pistachios)
Fresh basil leaves to garnish

Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C, place vegetables in a large roasting tin. Drizzle the vegetables with the olive oil and coat well. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until slightly charred at the edges. Remove and sprinkle with the vinegar. Scatter Halloumi chunks over the top and cook for a further 25 minutes or until the halloumi is golden. Sprinkle with nuts and basil leaves over the top and serve piping hot with a full flavoured red wine.

Cheese melts a la Rushina
Time 20 mins, Serves 1 or 2

Ingredients:
4 slices whole wheat or 7 grain bread,
1 cup shredded Scarmozza
1/2 cup jalapneo slices

Method
sprinkle cheese on bread slices, top with Jalapeno slices, place in toaster oven and toast or fry with a little olive oil or butter in pan till bread is crispy at the edges and cheese has melted.


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Antipasto

The whole of this month, we shall be celebrating the delectable taste of Italian cuisine at Nature's Basket with new Italian products lining our shelves and Italian food workshops  and events to cater to the ever increasing popularity of Italian cuisine in India.

This post is all about antipasto- a mini meal before the entree. Antipasti are Italian starters or entrees, the beginning of a traditional Italian meal. Antipasto need not be complicated; in fact it can be as simple as a bowl of olives, some bread, and good olive oil for dipping or as complicated as a platter of gourmet cold meats, cheeses and bottles pickles like olives, capers, peppers and the likes.



Antipasto platters look and taste spectacular and are simple to put together. Though they're traditionally served as a prelude to a meal, they can often be turned them into the main event itself, either as a casual supper or a party tray with wine and beer. They also work well as a casual meal option since the lack of cooking required (most of the stuff can be outsourced) makes them ideal for relaxed weekend fare. Just add good bread and a green salad. It is now easy to put together an Anitpasto platter in Mumbaias Nature’s Basket outlets around the city carry everything from basics like Olives in brine to a selection of gourmet antipasti including marinated Olives, Mushrooms, Artichokes, Grilled vegetables in Olive oil. You can also supplement your platter with a variety of cheeses and Salamis.


Eggplant Relish Recipe


Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplants, cut into 2” cubes

  • 3 tbsp sea salt

  • ½ cup bell peppers, red and yellow

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 medium onions, chopped

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 2” cubes

  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped

  • ½ tsp sugar

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed (do not substitute cilantro leaves)

  • 1 tbsp capers, drained

  • black pepper, freshly ground

  • ¼ fresh basil, chopped

  • ¼ cup green olives with pimento

Method

  1. Put the eggplant into a bowl and add salt. Stir gently to cover.

  2. Cover with paper towels and set a plate inside the bowl. Place a can on the plate to weight it. Let sit for 1 hour.

  3. When the eggplant is almost ready, cut the peppers into strips.

  4. Heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions aretranslucent.

  5. Drain the eggplant cubes and rinse with water. Dry with paper towels.

  6. Heat ½ cup of olive oil in the pot and raise the heat to medium.

  7. Add the eggplant and peppers and fry them until they are just turning brown, about 10 minutes.

  8. Add the zucchini and ¼ cup olive oil. Cook until brown.

  9. Add the tomatoes to pot and lower heat.

  10. Stir in the sugar, basil, black pepper, and coriander. Bring the pot to a simmer. Stir frequently, until the tomatoes have begun to reduce, about 15 minutes.

  11. Stir in the capers and olives, and simmer about 15 minutes.



Goat Cheese with Basil and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Recipe

Ingredients

  • Chèvre goat cheese

  • 4 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, chopped

  • 4 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

  • 1 tbsp slivered almonds

Method:

  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor.

  2. Place in a bowl and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

  3. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.



Antipasto Platter
Ingredients

  • Iceberg lettuce

  • 1 tbsp garlic powder

  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

  • 1  bottle Italian-style salad dressing

  • sliced provolone cheese

  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms

  • 1 cup roasted red peppers

  • ½ cup sliced black olives

  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes

  • 5-6 asparagus sprigs-char-grilled/roasted

  • ½ cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives

  • 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

  • 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Remove large outer leaves from the heads of lettuce. Arrange approximately 1/3 in a layer on a large serving platter. Sprinkle with 1/3 garlic powder, 1/3 crushed oregano and desired amount of Italian-style salad dressing. Layer with Provolone cheese.

  2. Repeat layering with remaining lettuce, garlic powder, crushed oregano, Italian-style salad dressing.

  3. Layer with mushrooms, roasted red peppers, black olives, pimento-stuffed green olives. Sprinkle with more Italian-style salad dressing, as desired.

  4. Top with Gorgonzola cheese, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until serving.

  5. Serve with breadsticks or fresh bread.