Just Say Cheese

As a kid, I remember fussing over methi and palak rotis. Like come on! You’re meant to enjoy candies, chocolates, cheese and other fun stuff while growing up. Why methi and palak? But, my mother clearly thought differently. She had decided – no matter what happens, this fussing needed to stop. Cheese was probably one of the few things I would readily eat without any drama. The word itself would bring a smile to my face. So, she very smartly started grating blobs of it on my rotis and parathas and that’s how I learnt to eat them!

By now, I’m sure you’ve figured that I love cheese. To me, it is not just another dairy product, it is everything! You pair absolutely anything with the right kind of cheese and you’re good to go. It’s versatile and oh-so-yummy! But still many people find it intimidating. I wonder why? Maybe because of its countless types, hard to pronounce names, complex textures or due to lack of knowledge. Whatever the reason, I hope this and the coming posts will be helpful as I’m all set to share some easy-wheezy recipes and fun facts about my all-time favorite cheeses. Are you ready?

#FYI – Most cheeses are made from cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk and fall into one of the below mentioned categories:
– Fresh & creamy: Mild in taste, moist and soft with a creamy texture, great choice for salads
– Soft & semi-soft: Range from mild to pungent, can melt well, best choice for grilled sandwiches and fondues
– Hard & semi-hard: Salty, nutty flavors, can be aged for several months or even several years, texture can be semi-firm or firm
– Bloomy rind: These cheeses have a white rind on the outside but are super soft, creamy and yummy on the inside
– Blue cheese: Contains penicillium so the cheese will always be spotted or veined, has a distinct smell, strong, sharp and salty in flavour.

In this post, I’ll tell you about my favorite cheeses in the first category.

1) Feta:
A famous Greek cheese, traditionally made with sheep’s milk or a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk.
Flavour: salty, slightly sour
Texture & Color: crumbly and slightly grainy, white in color
Pairings: best enjoyed when crumbled upon salads or pies

2) Ricotta:
An Italian cheese made from sheep, cow, goat or Italian water buffalo milk.
Flavour: slightly sweet
Texture & Color: similar to cottage cheese but softer, smoother and lighter, white in color
Pairings: combines beautifully with sugar, cinnamon and chocolate so is mostly used in desserts. One can also make lovely, creamy dips with Ricotta or sprinkle some over pasta. In India, it is often used as a substitute for paneer (though both are not the same) while making ras malai.

3) Cream cheese:
Originated in Europe and is made from milk and cream, available in low fat or non-fat varieties
Flavour: mild, slightly tangy and sweet
Texture & Color: smooth, creamy, rich and indulgent, white in color
Pairings: easily spreadable when at room temperature and pairs well with crackers, bagels and sandwiches. Can also be mixed with other ingredients for dips and spreads.

4) Fresh Mozzarella:
An authentic Italian cheese that’s packed in water solutions to help last longer.
Flavour: mild and milky
Texture & Color: creamy and soft, pearl white in color
Pairings: This cheese is delicious just as is or with a pinch of salt, pepper, herbs and olive oil. You can also make yourself a version of Italy’s famous Insalata Caprese that includes fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato and basil.

Recipes:
1) Watermelon & Feta Salad:

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Ingredients:
1 packet roquette (to be cleaned and soaked in cold water)
1/2 iceberg lettuce (to be cleaned and soaked in cold water)
1/2 water melon (remove seeds and cut into chunks)
1/2 cup feta cheese
3 slices bread
5-8 toasted pine nuts
5-8 caramelized almonds/walnuts

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp rock salt
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp pepper

Method:
– Remove the water from salad leaves and keep aside
– Cut the bread slices into croutons, toast in the oven and keep aside
– To caramelize almonds/walnuts, heat 3 tbsp sugar in a flat pan and add a spoonful of water. Once sugar changes to a light brown color, add the almonds and mix until the sugar darkens a bit. Switch off the gas and drop them quickly on a foil paper
– To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients, shake well and keep aside
– In a bowl, mix together salad leaves and water melon chunks, then pour the dressing and crumble feta cheese. Serve.

2) Herbed Ricotta Dip:

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Image sourced from Pinterest

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh, creamy ricotta
3 cloves garlic (peeled & crushed)
1 tbsp snipped chives
1 tbsp mint powder
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste, preferably freshly ground black pepper)
Oregano (to taste)

Method:
– Mix all the ingredients together.
– Adjust seasonings as per taste
– Refrigerate for 2-3 hours
– Serve with sliced ciabatta or lavash.

3) Garlic & Herbed Cream Cheese Bagel:

Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic (peeled & crushed)
1/2 packet Philadelphia cream cheese
1 tbsp snipped chives
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
Thyme (to taste)
Oregano (to taste)

Method:
– Mix all the above ingredients in the bowl
– Adjust seasoning as per taste. Can also add some lime juice, if required
– Spread on bagel and enjoy.

4) Insalata Caprese:

Ingredients:
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 packet fresh mozzarella
1 cup fresh basil (washed well & dried)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Seasalt (fine, to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Method:
– Thinly slice tomatoes & mozzarella, same size
– Place on a flat plate with fresh and dry basil leaves
– Sprinkle with oregano, sea salt and pepper
– Drizzle olive oil and serve.

*All the above mentioned cheeses are available at Godrej Nature’s Basket & Foodhall in Mumbai.
*Part 2 coming soon.

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2 Easy-To-Make Vegetarian Summer Recipes

If you’re following me on social media, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of the two home-made dishes I recently posted. I was truly overwhelmed to receive such a positive response on the same – thank you very much for all the lovely comments and likes on the various Facebook food groups. Due to several requests, I’m sharing the recipe here. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I did (And don’t forget to share your picture with me/tag me in your social media post).

Easy-to-make and not very time consuming either, the following vegetarian recipes are great options for bite-sized snacks to serve when you have guests over.

MUSHROOM & SPINACH VIETNAMESE – INSPIRED SUMMER ROLLS:
A traditional Vietnamese roll also known as Gỏi cuốn consists of pork, prawn and vegetables wrapped in Vietnamese rice paper sheets.
However, the recipe mentioned below is of a basic, easy – to – make, Mushroom & Spinach Vietnamese – inspired roll.

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Ingredients:
1 packet rice paper sheets (available at most retail stores)
2 packets mushrooms (chopped)
3 bunch spinach (blanched & chopped)
1 tbsp garlic (minced)
4 green chillies (deseeded & finely chopped)
2 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup peanuts (toasted & coarsely ground)
2 tbsp oil
Salt
Water (for rice paper sheets)

Method:
– Heat the oil and add garlic, sesame seeds and green chillies and saute for a minute
– Add the mushrooms and let it cook till the water dries out
– Then add the spinach and cook till almost to a dry texture
– Add the peanut powder and the salt. Mix well. Keep aside until it cools down
– Heat water in a broad vessel and put one paper at a time and leave it for 5-7 seconds (until the texture and color changes)
– Apply some oil on a flat plate and keep it ready by the side
– Place the boiled paper on it and add the stuffing
– Once filled, wrap the rolls like a spring roll
– Serve with schezwan sauce or any other spicy sauce

ZUCCHINI & CREAM CHEESE BRUSCHETTA:
Bruschetta is usually toasted Italian bread drenched in olive oil and served with garlic or tomatoes.
The recipe below adds a twist to the regular version.

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Ingredients & Method:
Bread:

– 1 french loaf or baguette – sliced and toasted (can also use ready bruschetta for base)

Cream Cheese:
– 1 packet cream cheese (Philadelphia or Brittania)
– 2 1/2 heaps fresh rosemary (roasted and powdered in the oven)
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 lime – juiced
Method: Whisk cream cheese with rosemary, salt and lime juice and keep aside

Zucchini:
– 2 zucchinis (sliced round)
– A pinch of salt
– 1 tbsp olive oil
Method: Dribble salt on each side of the roundel. Pour some oil on a non – stick pan and grill zucchini until brown

Salsa:
– 2 tomatoes (chopped)
– 3/4 lime – juiced
– 3/4 packet basil (cleaned and chopped)
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
– 1 tbsp oregano
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp sugar
– 2 dashes Tabasco
– 1/2 tsp pepper
– 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
Method: Combine the above mentioned ingredients and refrigerate

Layer in the following order:
Bread | Cream cheese | Zucchini | Salsa

*Recipe Credits: Torel Mehta

Top Chefs From India’s Most Fabulous Restaurants Share Their Favourite Recipes For The Festive Season – Polka Cafe

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-2-47-03-pmOne of the grandest and most celebrated festivals of India is finally here – Navratri. The nine days of Navratri is a time when many people across India observe various rituals to purify the mind, body and soul, and to invoke the blessings of the Goddess. One of these rituals is feasting!

We bring to you healthy recipes chosen by talented chefs from some of India’s most renowned hotels and restaurants. Go ahead and indulge yourself in unique vegetarian dishes at any of these restaurants or within the comfort of your home. We promise you will have a culinary feast to remember!

JW Marriott, Mumbai, Juhu: Bengalo ChorChori

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Chef’s take: Chef Suman Nayak, Chef de Partie, JW Marriott, New Delhi Aerocity, who is currently in Mumbai for Ambrosia, the Temple Feast, recommends the Bengalo ChorChori. An important dish that is served on the Sattami day of Dussera during Navratri, Bengalo ChorChori is a vegetarian delicacy that goes well as a side dish with any meal. Chorchori is a combination of fresh vegetables with aromatic spices.

Recipe
Ingredients:
150 gm mustard oil
10 gm ghee
25 gm mustard seeds
25 gm cumin
25 gm fennel
25 gm onion seeds
25 gm fenugreek seeds
25 gm bay leaf
250 gm potato
250 gm cauliflower
250 gm brinjal
250 gm raw banana
20 gm turmeric
50 gm green chilli
75 gm ginger
300 gm coconut milk
Salt to taste
300 ml water

Method:
Heat mustard till it smokes, so that the bitterness goes away.
– Add bay leaf, cumin, fennel, mustard seed, onion seeds, and fenugreek.
– Add ginger and garlic paste and sauté.
– Add all the vegetables, salt, and some water. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.
– Add coconut milk. Cover again and cook for 10 minutes.
– Garnish with chopped coriander.

Howard Johnson – Bangalore: Khuskhus Aloo

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Chef’s take: Chef Dev Bose, Executive Chef, Howard Johnson, recommends the Khuskhus Aloo as it is healthy and easy to make. Khus khus also cools the stomach, and is not very heavy.

Recipe
Ingredients:
3 green chillies
6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Salt to taste
½ tsp turmeric powder
Chopped coriander leaves
3 dry red chillies
2 tbsp khus khus, roasted
3 tbsp oil
½ cup water

Method:
Grind the roasted khus khus along with the green chilies and a few tablespoons of water, to a very fine paste. Keep aside.
– Heat half of the oil in a pot for 2 minutes or till very hot.
– Shallow fry the potatoes in batches on medium heat, till they are lightly browned.
– Heat the remaining oil in the same pan.
– Mix in the whole dry red chilies and turmeric powder.
– Fry briefly.
– Now, mix in the khus khus paste and fry again on low heat for 5 minutes or till the oil leaves the sides of the pan.
– Mix in the fried potatoes.
– Mix in water and salt.
– Stir, cover, and keep on low heat for 15 minutes or till the potatoes are soft.
– Decorate with chopped fresh coriander.
– Serve hot.

Khandani Rajdhani, Mumbai: Rajgire Ka Thepla

Rajgira thepla - Khandani Rajdhani
Chef’s take: Maharaj Jodharam Choudhary, Corporate Chef, Khandani Rajdhani, recommends the Rajgire Ka Thepla as it is nutritious, tasty, and gluten-free. It is also extremely nourishing and keeps you from binge-eating during the days of fasting.

Recipe
Ingredients:
2 cups rajgira flour
2 medium-sized boiled potatoes
Rock salt to taste
1 ½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp jeera powder
Ghee or oil for frying
Water for kneading
Some rajgira flour for dusting

Method:
In a bowl, mash the potatoes and mix in with the rajgira flour.
– Add rock salt, chilli powder, and jeera powder in the flour. Make a firm dough.
– Add water if needed. Then, make lemon-sized balls and roll each ball softly like a chapati.
– Use a lot of rajgira flour for dusting, as the chapatti will stick to the rolling pin otherwise.
– Heat a non-stick pan, place the rotis on it, and cook on both the sides. Add ghee or oil as required.
– Serve hot.

Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon: Khatti Meethi Kaddu Ki Sabzi

Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon - Navratri Thali
Chef’s take: Chef Saroj Muduli, Chef de Cuisine, Courtyard by Marriott, recommends the Khatti Meethi Kaddu Ki Sabzi as it is easy to make and the tangy, spicy flavor pleases the palate.

Recipe
Ingredients:
250 gm pumpkin
2 gm fenugreek seeds
3 gm cumin seeds
1 dry red chilli
2 gm chilli powder
2 gm turmeric powder
2 gm dry mango powder
5 gm jaggery
10 gm ghee
5 gm fresh coriander (chopped)
Sendha namak, as per taste

Method:
Wash and dice the pumpkin.
– In a deep vessel, heat ghee, and temper with fenugreek, cumin seeds and dry red chili.
– Add the diced pumpkin to the pan, and the chili powder, turmeric powder. and dry mango powder.
– Sauté for 2 minutes, and add the jaggery. Add some water and salt.
– Cover the pan with a lid, and cook for 8-10 minutes.
– Cook the pumpkin till it is soft. Check the seasoning and adjust. Garnish with coriander leaves.
– Chef’s tip: Serve the pumpkin dish with kuttu ki poori.

April Rain, Pune: Phaldhari Tikki

April Rain, Pune - Phaldari Tikki
Chef’s take: Chef Milind Sovani recommends the Phaldari Tikki as it is made using all the ingredients that are allowed while fasting. It also provides carbohydrates and starch that help to sustain energy levels during the fasting period.

Recipe
Ingredients:
2 raw bananas
1 cup fresh coriander
2 sweet potatoes
3 green chillies
1 medium-sized onion
1 tsp chaat masala
Salt to taste
½ tbsp lemon juice
½ cup maida
1 cup oil
8-10 cashewnuts

Method:
Boil raw banana and sweet potato. Peel the skin and grate it.
– Chop chilies, coriander and onion. Combine this with the vegetables grated earlier. Add the seasoning and lime juice. Mix well.
– Divide the mixture into 8 balls. Shape them like pears.
– Dust each ball with maida, and shallow fry it on the tawa until golden brown.
– Garnish them with a fried cashewnut each.
– Serve hot with a sprinkle of chaat masala and a dash of green chutney on top.

Sofitel, Mumbai BKC: Undhiyu

Sofitel Mumbai BKC, Undhiyu
Chef’s take: Chef Jankidas Vaishnav, Indian Vegetarian Specialist, Sofitel, Mumbai BKC, recommends Undhiyu because it uses loads of healthy winter vegetables and is filled with nutrients.

Recipe
Ingredients:
100 gm surti papdi
50 gm vaal papdi
150 gm sweet potato
100 gm purple yam
100 gm brinjal
100 gm baby potatoes
100 gm raw banana
5 gm ajwain
2 pinches of hing
Oil
Salt to taste
50 gm tamarind
5 gm garam masala
5 gm coriander powder
Sugar
Ginger
Green chilli
Green garlic
Coriander leaves
Grated coconut
Sesame seeds
Green toor dal
Kewra
Rose water
Saffron
Pure ghee
Oil as required
Salt to taste
Wheat flour and water mixed into a dough, to seal

Ingredients for muthiya:
50 gm besan
½ bunch methi leaves
Salt to taste
1 gm coriander powder
1 gm chili powder
1 gm turmeric powder
10 gm sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 gm white sesame seeds
Pinch of hing

Method:
Cut raw banana, sweet potato, and purple yam into cubes to fry.
– Cut surti papdi and vaal papdi and keep aside.
– Slit brinjal and baby potatoes and fry.
– Mix coconut, coriander and sesame seeds. Stuff this inside brinjals.
– Heat oil in a pan, add ajwain, hing and green garlic.
– Add vaal papdi, surti papdi and ginger/ green chilli paste and sauté.
– Once cooked, add all the fried vegetables and add muthiya into it.
– Add coriander powder, turmeric powder and garam masala. Let it cook.
– Add sugar, lemon juice, coriander and tamarind juice.
– Add the remaining coconut stuffing and cook.
– Once done, add ghee on top.
– Serve hot with puri.

Method for muthiya:
Chop methi leaves and wash them.
Add sesame seeds, oil, salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, lemon juice and sugar.
– Keep aside for 2-3 minutes.
– Add besan in it and fry it till it acquires a nice brown colour.

Paatra at Jaypee Vasant Continental, New Delhi: Palak Akhrot ki Tikki

Palak Akhrot ki Tikki
Chef’s take: Vaibhav Suri, Executive Sous Chef, Paatra, Jaypee Vasant Continental, recommends Palak Akhrot Ki Tikki as it has a unique combination of ingredients and is very different from regular dishes. Usually, people like to eat Palak Paneer or Palak Ke Pakodey during Navratri. Paatra wanted to create something different, though, and thought this would be a perfect dish for vegetarians, with just the right amount of crunchiness and nutrient value.

Recipe
Ingredients:
1 kg spinach
200 gm walnuts
Salt to taste
20 gm chopped green chillies
10 gm chopped ginger
5 gm roasted jeera
Oil to fry
30 gm besan
10 gm kishmis

Method:
Blanch the spinach and finely chop it.
– Now heat oil in a kadhai and fry the spinach till it gets dry.
– Keep aside and allow to cool.
– Finely chop the walnuts.
– Mix the spinach with the walnuts, and add salt, finely chopped green chillies, chopped ginger, roasted jeera, besan and kishmis.
– Make six equal-sized patties of the dough, and shallow fry till golden brown.
– Serve hot.

Hoppipola, Mumbai: Paneer Bhurji Patty on a Ragi Crisp

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Chef’s take: Chef Anil, Brand Chef, Hoppipola, recommends this dish as it adds an unusual twist to the classic Paneer Bhurji. Served on a ragi crisp, this one is as healthy as it is tasty.

Recipe
Ingredients:
100 gm cottage cheese
15 gm chopped jalapenos
10 gm chopped coriander
10 gm sweet paprika powder
10 gm smoked paprika powder
15 gm chopped onions
Salt to taste
5 gm pepper

Method:
Grate the cottage cheese and keep it aside.
– Add all the above ingredients. Mix well with the cottage cheese.
– Make small patties out of the dough, and sear them on a hot plate.
– Serve hot with ragi crisps and mint mayonnaise.

He Said She Said, Mumbai: Desi Ravioli

Desi Ravioli
Chef’s take: Chef Anand Gomes, Head Chef, He Said She Said, Mumbai, recommends the Desi Ravioli as it is a delectable fusion of various cuisines. It is a goat cheese and mushroom ravioli, with bhuna keema, shahi korma. and almond raita.

Recipe
Ingredients:
For the keema
20 gm soya wadi
15 gm green peas
10 gm carrot
20 gm onion
10 gm ginger-garlic paste
15 gm zucchini
15 gm bell pepper
20 gm potato
15 gm French beans
15 gm cauliflower
15 gm spinach
2 tbp coriander
1 tsp green chillies
1 medium-sized chopped tomato
2 tbp tomato puree
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp Kitchen King masala
1/2 tsp chilli powder
4 tbp oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp cumin seed
2 pcs bay leaf

Method:
Take a cup of hot water and soak the soya wadi for 10 minutes.
– Squeeze the soya wadis to drain out the excess water.
– Finely chop all vegetables.
– Heat oil in a pan and add soya wadis. Sauté on medium flame for about 2 minutes.
– Remove the cooked soya on to a plate.
– In the same pan, add the remaining oil and heat it. Add cumin seeds, bay leaves, and chopped onions and fry till brown. Add ginger-garlic paste and tomatoes, and fry till the tomatoes turn soft.
– Add all the powders, and fry till the masala starts releasing oil from the sides.
– Add tomato puree.
– Finally, add the finely chopped vegetables, soya granules, salt, chopped coriander leaves, and 1 cup of water. Mix well.
– Let the gravy simmer on a low flame for about 10 minutes.

For the goat cheese mushroom Ravioli:
400 gm flour
4 + 1 egg for stuffing
A pinch of salt
100 gm goat cheese
100 gm mushroom
2 tbsp panko
1 tbsp olive oil

Method:
Place the flour on a board or in a bowl and make a well in the centre.
– Crack the eggs into the well, add a pinch of salt. and mix the egg into the flour with a fork.
– Keep mixing. When crumbs form, put the mixture on a flat surface and knead together. Once it is all combined, knead until you have a silky, smooth, elastic dough.
– Cover with cling film and let rest for 30 minutes.
– Meanwhile, in a bowl, take goat cheese, sautéed mushroom, parsley, panko, olive oil, egg and grind to a paste. Roll out pasta into round shapes, fill with the mushroom-cheese mixture. Blanch pasta and reserve for plating.

For shahi korma:
40 gm onion
10 gm garlic-ginger paste
3 cardamoms
3 cloves
4 black peppers
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp cumin seeds
20 gm cashew
400 ml water
40 ml cream
1 tbp oil
½ tsp green chillies
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Method:
Heat oil in small kadahi, add all the seasonings and stir for 2 minutes.
– Add onions and cook for a while. Add ginger-garlic paste, green chilies and cashew along with all dry masalas. Mix well.
– Add water and bring to a boil. Once water, evaporates a little, add cream. Check seasoning.
– Put fire on simmer. Check cashew. If it is soft, cool it and puree.

JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar: Makhaane ki Kheer

JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar - Makhaane ki Kheer
Chef’s take: Chef Vishal Atreya, Executive Chef, JW Marriott, Mumbai Sahar, recommends the Makhaane Ki Kheer, as it is a century-old recipe that goes well with the festivities. The ingredients are just perfect for the start of the winter season.

Recipe
Ingredients:
1.5 ltr milk
50 gm ghee
50 gm makhane
100 gm sugar
5 gm green cardamom
5 gm almonds

Method:
Heat ghee over low flame and sauté the makhane.
– Pound them coarsely after cooling.
– Put the coarsely pounded makhane and milk in a deep pan. Bring to boil.
– Simmer over low flame and stir occasionally till the makhane gets cooked and milk thickens.
– Add sugar and cardamom when cooked.
– Stir till the sugar is dissolved and then simmer for 15 minutes.
– Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with almonds.
– Serve hot or chilled as desired.

You can also read it on http://www.polkacafe.com/vegetarian-recipes-for-navratri-2013.html