Get Your Mango On!

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Mango season has just hit its peak, and the surefire way to tell that is by the price of Alphonso Mangoes. For the last 3 months, those obsessed with all things mango have only been dreaming about their favourite fruit, but finally now their dream has turned into reality, with prices dropping from an unthinkable Rs. 2500 plus to a saner Rs. 400-600 a dozen.

alphonso-mango-indiaYou really can’t miss the lovely sight of the beautiful, ripe, yellow fruits piled precariously high on roadside carts, nestled enticingly in straw-lined baskets at wholesale bazaars, or staring alluringly back at you from the plentiful shelves of fruit shops and supermarkets. Yes, they are everywhere, and we can’t get enough of them!

ut8l1euxgnbxxagofbxuThat’s why mangoes are not just going into milkshakes, smoothies, lassis, yoghurts, ice creams, sorbets, pies, puddings, tarts, mousses and cakes but also into savoury dishes like salads, soups, molès, wraps, curries, salsas, grills and even new-age cocktails with mango foams, vapours and infusions! Of course no one will stop you if you just pick up one, hurriedly peel off the skin and bite into the aromatic orange-yellow flesh, not caring if the juices run down your palms or face, immersed in your own mango heaven!

IMG_9544A less messy way would be to extract the pulp, make a puree out of it and gulp down chilled spoonfuls from a bowl. Little wonder why this, the Aamras, is so popular in the hot 40-plus summer temperatures here. And there are some really cool ‘recipes’, actually quite common in the western part of the country, to make the Aamras bolder and more exciting. In Maharashtra, a sprinkling of fresh Elaichi (Cardamom) powder is added to the pulp for a subtle flavour before blitzing into a smooth puree. In Gujarat, it takes the form of a complete dessert with dried ginger powder (Soth) added with the pulp while blitzing, and then topped off with a dash of hot Ghee. And then there are the Rajasthanis who add a royal touch to the king of fruits by mixing in a few precious strands of Saffron to the the pulp and then hand-churning it to bring out that heady and rich aroma.

IMG_9542Someone wise said ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Similarly, with a great Aamras comes a greater challenge… of pairing! Ask anyone in the West or North and they will say Aamras goes best with Puri. The South loves it in their puddings. In the East though, the preferred way to have mangoes is Aam-Doodh (just a hand-mashed mix of milk and mango pulp) combined with Muri (puffed rice), Cheerey (flattened rice) or Khoi (popped rice) – sometimes with mashed banana and jaggery to add body. This is heartily consumed for breakfast, as a quick and simple dessert after meals, or sometimes just as a snack!

But there are some pretty nifty pairings with Aamras that are definitely worth trying before this seasonal fruit runs out. Here are a few serving suggestions:

  1. A bowl of cold Aamras with hot fluffy Chapati, or flaky ghee Paratha
  2. Aamras mixed with a little milk and sugar spread over crisp, hot wholewheat Toast
  3. Thick, cold Aamras drizzled liberally on a stack of fluffy Pancakes, and for more indulgence, a little blob of coconut cream on top.
  4. A warm saucy Aamras spread over steaming hot Idli (seriously!)
  5. A bowl of Aamras spiked with a little chilli flakes accompanied with crisp Jeera Mathri

SONY DSCSo go ahead, pick up a few pieces (or dozens, depending on your obsession!) of mangoes and get your (creative) juices flowing! Its time to get your mango on:)

 

 

 

 

5 Clever n Unbelievably Tasty Salad Mixes… plus the best-kept salad secrets you gotta know!

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Summer temperatures are soaring like never before, and very early on in the season. While we are all trying to keep ourselves and our sanities intact at 40 degrees plus temperatures, with air conditioners, water coolers, ceiling fans, hand fans and fan fans (read ShahRukh Khan), and taking multiple showers (for those who have the luxury of water, and the energy to budge!), we also need to switch on our internal fans to cool our body from the inside. That’s where salads come into the picture. And if you are already groaning thinking about the boring old pieces of tomato and cucumber hastily thrown together with a little bit of salt, pepper and an occasional squeeze of lemon, groan no more my foodie friends. Here are a few quick combos to make your salads perky, quirky and yes, slurpy too!

  1. Pick out 2 or 3 different types of in-season mushrooms. Clean, chop, saute in butter and chilli flakes, mix up with a handful of boiled sweet corn, and add small chunks of fresh cottage cheese. Season with salt n pepper, and serve warm or cold with a simple lemon-oil dressing.mushroom-assortment
  2. Coat thin slices of aubergines with salt and oil and grill in oven, or toast on low flame in a pan. Toss in roughly-torn mixed lettuce leaves and a handful of halved, seedless black and green grapes. Season and serve this gorgeous salad with a light yoghurt dressing.
  3. Dry roast soya granules in a deep pan with a little butter or olive oil. Thinly grate carrots, mix in boiled peas and then add the roasted soya for a crunchy, juicy wonder of a salad with a dash of balsamic vinegar.salad-carrot-isolated-tasty-grated-background-32174926
  4. Slice cucumber thinly lengthwise, add peeled and deseeded orange segments, mix in  some chopped dill, season and serve with little pieces of lightly toasted old bread crusts.
  5. Prepare a bowl of couscous as per packet instructions, add slices of roasted bell pepper, little blobs of feta cheese, a pinch of cinnamon powder, a few pine nuts and a couple of roughly-torn mint leaves to make a hearty, middle-eastern style insalata!

And my THREE bonus, best-kept salad secrets :

  • Always dry your leaves. No fancy salad spinner, no problem! Just line any plastic bag with tissues, pop in the washed drained lettuce, and give the bag a good spin over your head.drying_lettuce_leaves_l1
  • If your salad is a beautiful, layered centre-piece, season every layer with salt, pepper, olive oil and a bit of salad dressing. Not too much so it becomes too salty, not too less so the bottom layer tastes like raw grass ;) IMG_8722
  • In a bowl-tossed salad, always mix in the hard ingredients like the seeds, nuts, corn etc. first, and just before serving toss in the leafy and soft ingredients, with a flash of good olive oil on top for that fresh, bright look.

All set to take on the summer? Go get it!

 

 

 

Rediscovering Delicacies… Look Ma, I found Tilapia again!

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So I am back with another ingredient on my rediscovery radar… the Tilapia fish!
It seems to be quite THE thing now. When I googled it out of curiosity for a fish name that sounded familiar, I was amazed by the tons of recipes it threw up – from grills to bakes to taco bowls to what not!
Although not the preferred option because of its undesirable habitat (labeled ‘trash fish‘ due to frequent off-flavours), it would be Mom’s Plan B for those days when the Rohu or Katla were not fresh enough – or of the right size! – in the local fish market. As a result, I remember having this fish many times back home, made the Bengali way with Kaalo Jeere (Nigela seeds) or Kalia (spicy tomato gravy) or even Shorshe Bata (Mustard Sauce). It is a mild-flavoured fish, and so would take on the flavours of the curries beautifully, and, of course, with Ma’s magical cooking, would be lip-smackingly delicious!


Nowadays, the Tilapia is hot property in the west. It is not only one of top 5 favourite fish fillets on American dinner tables (read more here…), it is also the topic of heated debate due to unhygienic breeding practices. A recent study even labeled the Tilapia as ‘worse than bacon’! As if that’s going to stop me from having either 😜
So, last night I decided to make an easy 10-minute Blackened Tilapia dinner, rubbed with a Cajun Spice Mix (here’s Kitchen Magpie’s quick home recipe) and pan seared, and as a homage to my first encounter with the fish many years ago, added a ‘home’ twist with slices of the fragrant and unique Gondhoraj lemon 😃Version 2IMG_8619
The fish tasted great, with a nice crispy-flaky texture, and cooked very quickly. Add these benefits to the joy of rediscovering an ingredient all over again, and it definitely calls for the Tilapia being a staple on my ‘no-brainer dinners’ list now onwards.

Note to myself – Need to check on the source of the fish before buying 👍

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