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Yucantan Chicken with herb rice


Mexican chicken recipes are very appealing to the Indian pallet (at least to mine), they are flavorful, rich in spice and delicious. After going time and again to my favorite restaurant in London Wahaca and ordering the same dish time and again, i decided to try it at home and the results were pretty impressive!

Ingredients:

Chicken thighs – 3 (large)

For the marinade:
Oranges – 2
Lime – 2
Lemons – 2
Garlic – 5 cloves
Jalapeños – 2
Ground cumin – 1 tsp
Cayenne – 1/2 tsp
Dried Oregano – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste

For coriander rice:
Coriander/Cilantro – 1 bunch
Mint – 1/2 bunch
Lime – 1
Salt – to taste
Rice (dry) – 1 cup

To prepare the marinade, juice the oranges, lemons and lime also getting some orange and lemon zest. Add the dry spices and minced garlic and jalapeño. Marinate the chicken in this and let it stand for 2-3 hours. Preheat the oven to 450degs and then cook the chicken at 400 for about 35mins.  I had gone for chicken thigh pieces so I did not run too much chance of drying out the chicken. If you decide to go with some other part of the chicken you will need to adjust the cook time and temperature accordingly.

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After marinating for 3 hours

 

For the herb rice, clean and grind the herbs together with salt and lime juice. Then add it to the cooked rice & plate up.

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My achievement for this one was that I also tried to butcher the chicken and clean the bones (look at the clean sockets on top). I have to admit that it took me awfully long to get there but it was a fun learning experience. I decided to use freshly juice the oranges, lemons and limes. I even went to the extent of roasting and grinding fresh cumin. Because of all this it was quite labor intensive but at the end it was well worth it. I am quite certain if I had used ready made juices, it wouldn’t have tasted half as delicious as it did – all in all a Sunday well spent!

 

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Akdeniz Turkish Cuisine


I have a special fondness for Turkish food and after craving Turkish food for a few months we made a visit to Akdeniz Turkish Cuisine in midtown Manhattan. We went for the prix-fix menu and my favorite part about restaurants was that as soon as we entered after an exhausting day at work, we were promptly served some hot bread & olive oil. It was comforting to munch on some bread while I made up my mind on what to order.

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For appetizers, we went for Lebni and Spinach Tarator both yoghurt based and finger-licking delicious. Lebni is a thick homemade yoghurt with walnut, garlic, dill & mint; while spinach tarator is sautéed spinach mixed with garlic, cream of yoghurt and walnuts. To me the combination of yoghurt and walnut was new and exciting, there’s no Indian dish I can think of which puts the two together. I sure have a tweak in mind for the Indian yoghurt-based dishes.

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Spinach Tarator

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Lebni

For mains, we ordered Chicken Shish Kebab and Skewered Ground Chicken. Both dishes were similar with respect to the way they were cooked (char grilled) & the fact that they were both served with rice and vegetables. I personally liked the skewered chicken better as it was better seasoned, there were peppers and the skewers were nice and moist. The kebabs were also cooked well, although they could definitely do with a little more seasoning. The sides I wasn’t sold on, the lettuce seemed far from fresh & the grilled tomato lacking seasoning. The sweet kraut side, I am personally not a fan of, so I don’t think it would be fair for me to say anything about it as I probably wouldn’t even like the best kraut.

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Chicken Shish Kebab

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Skewered Ground Chicken

For dessert, came a slightly caramelized Turkish Custard. I guess because I was told it would be a custard, I wanted it to be not so firm, the spoon would just not slide through. Added to that I thought it was too sweet for me to deal with. Unfortunately just an average dessert…

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The other dessert was something that sounded extremely exciting on the menu but again was a sheer letdown. Kadayif, baked shredded wheat stuffed with walnut’s flavored with honey syrup, garnished with pistachios. I think it was the probably the bitterness from the wheat bran and the nutty flavor of the walnut itself which gave a slightly bitter aftertaste. Even the cloyingly sweet sugar syrup couldn’t mask this. This was the weakest link in the dinner for me.
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The dinner started off on a great note with the refreshing starters, decent mains (good owing to the chicken skewers alone) but disastrous desserts. But if a place charges you as much as Akdeniz does, it is a let down the lettuce on your plate looks like it was chopped a couple of days in advance. Despite all these nitpicks, there was nothing more they could do to make the skewered chicken any better… I would still say it is overpriced and you would be able to find a better meal in Manhattan for less.

Most favorite dish: A no-brainer, the ground skewered chicken
Least favorite dish : Kadayif

Overall Verdict : 3/5
Pocket Pinch : $35 per person

Shakshuka


Not sure how many of you are fans of savory breakfast, I sure am. I find the waffle, pancake and maple syrup a bit much to stomach in the morning. I am always on the lookout for breakfast recipes other than the usual omelette and eggs benedict. This Mediterranean savory baked eggs recipe seems to just fit the bill – its savory, tangy, spicy and healthy.

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Ingredients:
1. Eggs – 3
2. Onions – 2 (medium sized)
3. Tomatoes – 3 (medium sized)
4. Green bell pepper – 1 (large)
5. Garlic – 4-5 cloves
6. Cayenne – to taste
7. Salt – to taste
8. Cracked black pepper – to taste
9. Jalapeño – 1
10. Cumin seeds – 1 tbl spn
11. Coriander leaves (Cilantro) – 3 tbl spn

Heat some oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds and the onions & sauté till the onions are transparent. Next add salt, cayenne, chopped green pepper. Sauté until cayenne is cooked. Next add the tomatoes, jalapeño, garlic and cook until the tomatoes are cooked. Then add finely chopped coriander leaves. Finally add the eggs and put the pan into a preheated oven at 350degs for 10mins. Add some salt and freshly cracked black pepper on the eggs and serve!

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Zucchini rolls


Zucchini or Courgette is a very light veggie and goes well with pasta’s, salad’s and I personally think its lightness makes it a great starter for any party!

Here’s a quick (under 15 min) and delicious Zucchini rolls stuffed with olives recipe that is bound to be popular with any crowd.

Ingredients :
Zucchini – 1
Green Olives – 5-7
Oregano – a couple of pinches
Salt – to taste

Get thin ribbons of zucchini, I used the old school grater cum slicer that I have. Season the ribbons with a little salt. Ideally you need to grill these for a couple of seconds to get a lovely charred colour and taste but since I don’t have a griller I stuck to use a non-stick pan with almost no oil so as to get the charred effect. You can add a drop or two if your non-stick pan isn’t really non-stick anymore… Turn the ribbons and it would only take 30secs on an extremely hot pan. So you would need to be quick…

For the filling, throw some chopped olives, oregano and tiny crumbles of cheese or cheese shavings. Ensure the cheese is much smaller than the olives in size so olives dominate the flavour of the rolls and also you can make it that tiny bit healthier 😉

Next stuff your filling into the zucchini ribbons and roll away!

Zucchini rolls

Beechwood Cafe & Bakery


This is my first restaurant review for NYC (NJ) and I wanted to start with my absolute favourite, so here I am reviewing Beechwood Cafe and Bakery. I L.O.V.E Beechwood & I refuse to tone down the emotion just in case you are unsure about visiting this spot. 

Even when it comes to their decor there is hardly anything you can pick fault with. From the cosy feel, to their striped canopy, Marilyn Monroe poster to juice served in mason jars it’s all perfect.

Almost every component in the dishes I tried was spot on. Will start listing out my favourite dishes @ Beechwood.

The freshly squeezed orange juice in the mason jar was indeed fresh (no behind the scenes Tropicana I assure you!).
Orange juice 1

Berry Mix Pancakes – These are by far the best pancakes I have had with real berries even in the pancake. Cherry on the cake (or here pancake) was of course the berry compote. Loved the fact that there was no berry jam thrown in. With real berries and lovely (non-soggy) pancakes one cannot ask for much more…

Berry mix pancake 1

Fried Tofu Eggs Benedict – I was a little weary of ordering fried tofu as a lot of places serve rubbery chewy tofu in the name of frying it, thankfully that wasn’t the case here. The tofu was breaded, very light in texture & not oily. The soy based sauce with chillies for the tofu was another stunner. Eggs were of course done to perfection (as expected).

Fried Tofu eggs benedict

Home fries – This was the next surprise Beechwood had in store for us. They were crispy, perfectly seasoned with peppers and scallions, most importantly they were not oily or soggy. Though I have to confess that the home fries were not consistently as good on multiple visits… Sigh!

Home fries

Belgian Waffles – These looked welcoming like the other dishes but I just had a bite so I cannot tell you much more than my friend definitely ate her plate clean and claimed it was good.

Belgian waffle

Pecan pie – Spot on, the pecan nuts were perfectly roasted and caramelized. The pie itself wasn’t overpoweringly sweet which was a welcome change.
Pecan pie

Cranberry Walnut Tart – This was just an ok dessert. I guess it was the freshness that it was missing…

Cranberry Walnut tart

Overview :
Where : Grove St, Jersey City
Meal : Brunch
Pocket pinch : $$
Ambiance : Cosy
Links : Yelp (Please do not judge by the reviews on yelp alone as this place was recently renovated or so I hear)
Will I visit again: Having visited 4 times in 6 weeks I think this is a no-brainer… YES!

I was itching to give it a 4.5 but owing to the lack of consistency with the home fries, I had to hold myself back. 

Rating : 4/5  

Chicken with boozy mushroom sauce


Being accustomed to Indian food where there are a dozen or more spices in one dish it was difficult (baffling even) for me to imagine a meal with just salt and pepper as spices. But I guess that’s where you fall back on true flavour of the ingredients. So here is my attempt at working with just salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne…

Ingredients:
2 Medium sized Chicken breasts
Potato – 1 Small cut into half
Mushrooms 100 gms
Flour 1Tbspn
Vodka/White wine 1/4 Cup
1 Small sized Onion –  finely diced
Salt – to taste
Black Pepper (freshly cracked) – to taste
Cayenne Pepper – a pinch
Olive oil or butter – 1Tblspn

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Lets face the hardest part of this recipe first – its the choice between olive oil and butter. It translates into appeasing your taste buds vs going healthy. For me it was the former (clearly!) so I went for the butter but nothing stopping you from being good! 😉

Now that we are through that, lets get cracking. Take the chicken and add some salt, freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of cayenne and rub these in. Let it rest for 5mins until you chop the mushrooms and onions. Next, in a non-stick pan add some olive oil or butter put the chicken breast in till you get a light golden colour on both sides but do not fully cook! Put the two pieces of potatoes in the pan, sprinkle salt and get a nice golden colour to the base of the flat face of the potatoes. As earlier make sure you do not cook them fully. In a preheated oven, add the chicken and the potatoes to cook for about 20mins at 280 degs.

For the sauce use the same pan & oil you used for frying the chicken to not lose the lovely flavours, add extra oil/butter if needed. Add the onions & cook only till they are translucent do not wait for them to get brown/crispy. Next add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and let it cook till the mushrooms are soft. Next add the booze and stir till it evaporates. Here is where you can either add some chicken stock if you like, I personally prefer to stay true to the mushroom & booze flavour so I add a little bit of water and a already mixed flour-water mix to avoid any flour balls in the sauce. Simmer until the sauce till it thickens and its done ! 

Thai steamed Fish


Healthy, easy and tasty are things that everyone wants their meal to be but lets face it getting all three of them together is rare. Don’t those curly fries or sausages look way better than what the salad bar has to offer? Believe me you’re not alone, I have been guilty of picking sausages, mash & fried chicken over all those healthy looking not-so-tasty things.

Eaten by my guilt decided to look for any dish that was healthy (not a drop of oil) and tasty and most importantly something that would be hot. Thai-style steamed fish is just the thing that meets all of the criteria and the best thing is it is easy and takes about 15 mins only. Which makes it something you could try making on a weekday!

Ingredients:
White fish fillets
Chopped ginger
Chopped garlic
Light soy sauce
Sea salt
Coarsely ground red chilly to sprinkle
Some spinach or bok choy

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In a foil put all of the ingredients and make a package out of it making sure there is some room for the steam to escape. Steam for 15 mins and enjoy this with rice or cous cous if you want to go healthier!

Mission : Regret free 2014


So after a long long time I am back here! Considering I was speaking of new years resolution in my previous post, there is some level of continuity here…

I tried not telling people my new years resolutions last year and that dint get me very far so I am going to try the opposite approach this time around. I know I am late in updating these on the blog but in my defense I was still working on the finer details…

Moving on, here are my resolutions for the year :

Explore restaurants : Let’s get started with one of my personal favourites. If you know me, you’d not be surprised to know this is about food. My friends & I have decided to go to one restaurant we haven’t been to before every week. The key here is it needs to be our first time to the restaurant! This was so we could discover NYC and the food places here (Yes, I moved from London to NYC earlier in the year)…

Gym : After all that yummy food, its not hard to guess that gymming would be next on the list. I’ve resolved to go to the gym at least thrice each week plus an extra time for each meal that I eat outside (other than the one covered by resolution 1, come on I need to make it sound do-able!). Target is to to be able to do a 5K under 30 mins by the end of the year.

Say sorry : This one is a bit tougher, its about saying the first sorry… Its about making a genuine attempt to break out of cold-war’s you get into with close people. By the end you don’t even remember whose fault it was just that the outcome isn’t what you want. So say that first sorry and make the effort to amend those important relationships.

Travel : After one serious one, time for something easy to digest… My biggest regret when I moved over from London was that I dint travel enough in and around the UK. I was certain I dint want to harbour the same regret even in this new continent. So I have decided to travel around and not wait until all the factors are perfect. Travel alone if that’s what it comes to but travel!

Invest time getting dressed for work : To understand the next one, you need to know a tad bit about how lazy a person I am that I even dress sloppy to work. While people at my workplace actually dress like the characters in the show Suits! So I clearly am an aberration there, I hope to fix this… This would be the hardest resolution I think,  as I’d need to forego my sleep and spend that extra half hour blow drying my hair or finding the right shoes. Sigh! I am a bit skeptical this one would work but I think its worth putting in any way.

Learn how to dance: With my two left feet and 20-something years of moving like a robot I don’t think I can pull this off right away but I just wish I am no more that girl people can chuckle at when I ‘dance’ more like attempt to move when inebriated.

Read : I wish I had more time to read that I could commit to a book each week but I think it would be far from realistic. Sticking to at least one book a month is pretty much all I can with all my other commitments. Though I will do my best to read books outside of my comfort zone.

Connect with friends : Get in touch & meet up with friends and family in this part of the world. Something I decide to do ‘tomorrow’ for the past 6 months…

Update the blog regularly : The last and final one is to not ignore my blog! I must find the time to document each restaurant we visit weekly.

Now that it’s all in black and white, there is no escaping! Bring it on 2014!

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken


I was tired of having the regular grilled chicken recipes with ginger, garlic and herbs. Was craving a new kind of grilled chicken which wasnt very unhealthy. Came across this recipe (thankfully!). Made use of dates syrup – something I havent ever used before. Was quite hesitant about it at the start but am glad I tried it! The Mediterranean grilled chicken was absolutely delightful and a refreshing change! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Ingredients:

  • 3 Chicken thighs on the bone
  • 1 red pepper
  • 6-7 baby potatoes (I added more because I love roasted baby potatoes)
  • 1 large onion – chopped into big squares with the layers separated
  • 8tbsp date syrup or pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tspn Cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp Cumin seeds
  • 2 Green chillies – with seeds just slit from the center
  • 1 lemon
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Handful of chopped coriander
  • 2tbspn coarsely ground garlic cloves
  • 2tbspn coarsely ground ginger
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 30gms Butter
  • Olive oil

Instructions couldn’t be more straightforward – just throw the ingredients together and marinate for an hour. The only complexity while marinating the chicken comes from the use of lemon. Use the juice of half a lemon and the zest from it for the marinade. While the other half just cut into large pieces and add to the marinating chicken. This would give off a great fragrant freshness from the lemon. Also, dont shun away from adding the molasses even if you arent paricularly fond of sweet grilled chicken because it perfectly balances the heat from the black pepper, cayenne pepper and the green chilles (with the seeds). So you will be just fine! 🙂

Before grilling

An hour later in a preheated oven grill at about 200 degs for roughly 40mins or depending on how big the chicken pieces are. Before putting the marinated chicken to grill add some butter to the chicken pieces for a nice crispy coating. Do ensure that before serving you remove the whole lemon pieces.(Sorry, dont have a picture of what it looked liked once it was done – my energies were directed towards downing it 😉 )

You can have a couple of quick and easy sides to go with this. One can be olives drizzled with dried oregano. Another can be a yoghurt based mint sauce with some finely chopped cucumbers. If you havent really thought of what this would go well with and haven’t got the time to do a full blown bread to go with this, you could do a quick tabouleh which is a healthy salad made from coarsely broken wheat with parsley and a bunch of other veggies thrown in.

French genes for sale?


Being the food lover that I am I have these food addiction phases. One of the recent ones was a french croissant addiction. Every bakery, supermarket, cafe I went to I would unhesitatingly buy them;  a lot of my googling around was for their recipe – in short I spent a great deal of time and effort towards eating/learning about them.
 

One fine weekend I thought I am willing to take on the challenge of investing almost half my weekend (takes 12hours at least) towards baking croissants. Took up the challenge but was to no avail – what came out were bread-ey buns! Ah well, they weren’t bad so downed them as breakfast everyday of the week thinking to myself that the next time I will get this right!

Dying to cleanse myself from the guilt of baking bread-ey buns I set out the next weekend to salvage my soul. Another 12hour long mission this time I backed myself with even more reading, watching videos. After I baked them, I knew I got a little closer but it was a disaster nevertheless! How do you get fluffy, light croissants? Mine were heavy, not crispy on the outside and fluffy on the side. I wonder how they do it. I have come to conclude that French genes are a must to the process – know any place where I can have some french genes injected?

Just in case you are in London and wondering where you would find the best croissants, let me help you and tell you to head straighht to Paul’s.

PS: Not giving up on this French mission. Shall nail it someday and then put up pics of my croissants.

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