Taco for party

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I started writing this as a set of individual posts of all the elements of a taco party, then I thought it should all be in one place. In one ready to reference post. It is also time for Diwali parties and while you do the tikkas and the kebabs, a Taco Party is more fun, it is a welcome change to greasy Indian takeaway food used for parties and it somehow brings people to a table, which is what parties are for.

So if I have to entertain people at home, then I have an inclination towards tacos as party food. And I think its fresh. A lot can be made ahead, and very freezer friendly too. The leftovers are again freezer friendly . Think Guacamole on toast with a fried egg for breakfast.

So this post is about getting ready to set up a taco party. From scratch. Yes.

Another reason I like them is that they leave scope for a seasonal twist. So when it is the season of mangoes and I had to had to make a mango salsa. A combination off sweet and sour mangos, with a dash of chillies and salt and cilantro. Thats it. A surprise to the taste buds.

So from the salsa to the guacamole to the tortilla itself. All are customisable.
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For the tortilla:
1/2 cup maize meal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup (approximately) lukewarm water
2-3 tbsp oil/ ghee/ butter
1. Take a bowl and mix all the dry ingredients.
2. Slow add the warm water and knead. The warm water helps in the binding and rolling of the tortillas. Once the dough is smooth, divide into approximately 6-8 balls.
3. Heat a flat bottomed pan, and grease it with oil/ ghee/ butter.
4. Roll out the dough into chapatti like discs. If you are not good at that, don’t fret, just use a roti maker or tortilla maker.
5. Place a rolled tortilla on the pan and cook both sides. Cover with a cheese cloth to keep it soft. For freezing, let it cool and freeze with butter paper in between each tortilla.
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For the Tomato Salsa:
1/2 kg ripe red tomatoes
1 onion minced
1 handful cilantro/ coriander leaves chopped
2-3 green chilies minced
3-4 tbsp olive oil
To taste salt

1. Roast the tomatoes on an open flame. Instead of boiling them to remove the skin I like to roast the tomatoes. It just imparts a smoky flavour to the salsa.
2. Cool and peal the tomatoes. Mince the tomatoes by hand or roughly in a mortar and pestle the idea is to leave it slightly chunky
3. Mix all the rest of the ingredients and the salsa is ready.
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For the Guacamole:
2-3 ripe avocados
1 onion minced
1 tomato minced
1 handful cilantro/ coriander leaves chopped
2-3 green chilies minced
3-4 tbsp olive oil
2-3 lemons juiced

1. Split just ripe avocados into two. Use a spoon to carve the pulp out of the avocados and use a fork to mush/pulp the avocados. Avocados discolour very easily so squirt the lemon juice and stir. Add the rest of the ingredients.
2. Store in the fridge till it is time to serve,
3. One more tip. Avocados are bland and sometimes require adjustment of the lemon juice and salt. So taste and adjust.
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For the Yogurt Dip (a great replacement of sour cream)
1/2 kg Yogurt
2-3 cloves Garlic
Salt to taste

1. Take a cheese cloth and hang the yogurt for about 3-4 hours.
2. The hung yogurt is creamier. Use a balloon whisk and grated garlic and salt to taste.

For the Kidney Beans
1 cup kidney beans
2-3 large Tomatoes
2-3 large Onions
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chilli powder (use the one whose heat you like)
1-2 cups water
2-3 tbsp chopped cilantro/ coriander leaves
2-3 tbsp oil/ ghee
Salt to taste

1. Soak the kidney beans overnight. Cook the kidney beans till tender. You can use a pressure cooker to expedite the process.
2. Add the oil in pan. Once the oil is heated, then add the chopped diced onions and sauté. Remember to keep the heat on low. Once the onions start to cook add the chopped diced tomatoes and cook. Its better to cover and cook to ensure that you onions and tomatoes sweat well. Add salt at this stage to hasten the cooking process.
3. Once the onion and tomatoes are pasty add the spices and water and bring it to boil. Then add the cooked kidney beans and cook till the means are coated in the paste. Add the cilantro/ coriander leaves and they are ready.

Add a Salad:
250 gms cherry tomatoes
2 cucumber
1 carrot
1/2 lemon juice
1-2 tbsp olive oil

1. Slice the cherry tomatoes and julienne the carrot and cucumber.
2. Add the lemon juice and olive oil
3. This easy salad is a great way to add a fresh crunch tot he tacos. You can vary it as per your liking and seasonal vegetables

Assembling the taco:

Cheese of choice

1. Take out all the best bowls for the guacamole, salsa and the yogurt dip and the salad and the beans. I like to use colourful bowls and mix an match them
2. Grate some Jack Cheese and Cheddar Cheese
3. Use a microwavable platter for tacos, so that you can reheat them.
4. Your work is done. Now allow your guests to stuff their face with tacos that they make for themselves as per their taste.

P.S.
Watch
Netflix – Riverdale – Mystery, drama – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5420376/
Movie – Ordinary People – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081283/

Listen –
Koop – Koop Island Blues – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W3MpOU3OUU
Radiohead – Creep – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFkzRNyygfk
Jem – Keep on Walking – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww5CYMI0V34

Read
Blog/ Webpage: http://inkimageideology.blogspot.in
Book: Old Man and the Sea – Earnest Hemingway – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2165.The_Old_Man_and_the_Sea

Poem

FINISTERRE

The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you had brought
and light their illumined corners; and to read
them as they drifted on the late western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that brought you here
right at the water’s edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you would still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.
– David Whyte

Charnamrita inspired breakfast bowl

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I vividly remember two occasions when I have had a Panchamrita/ Charnamrita. One was when my aunt had taken us two sisters for attending some Puja in an old haveli in Lucknow. I remember asking for a second helping of the 1-2 tablespoon serving that we were given. And the other time when a dear friend’s mother had summoned me to help mash bananas in a big pot of cold milk and yogurt mixture. I was then made aware that this has to be done by hand only.

Panchamrita/ Charnamrita is the offering to the Divine and then consumed also by those making the offering. Yogurt, milk, ghee, honey, sugar, Indian Basil. Dry fruits, and bananas are added by others.

Because it is so tasty I thought about using the same ingredients with the addition of roasted Amarnath and Foxnut, which is very popular food during this fasting time and making a breakfast bowl.
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Ingredients:
1 cup Yogurt
2 cup Milk/ Coconut Milk
1/2 cup Honey (you could use a combination of sugar and honey)
1/4 cup Ghee
2 Bananas
1/2 cup Dry Fruits of your choice
1 cup Roasted Foxnut
1 cup Roasted Amarnath seeds
2-3 sprigs Indian Basil

1. Soak the torn Indian Basil leaves in the milk for a few hours.
2. Peel and mash the bananas in the yogurt. I did it by hand, just for the memory. It is fun. You can try it.
3. Mix the milk, ghee and honey into the banana yogurt mixture. Once every thing is assimilated add the dry fruits, roasted foxnut and roasted amarnath seeds.
4. Divide into bowls and serve.
5. Its another great bowl of food post a morning yoga flow.
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Carrot Top-ped, nothing funny about this one

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A white rabbit with an orange carrot and we all think of Alice in Wonderland and childhood attempts at finding the rabbit hole.

Come winters and carrots flood the market. All 3 colours, orange, red and black. Sometimes the yellow ones as well. In india one of the most sought after winter desserts is carrot halwa. Carrots slow cooked in milk for upto 3-4 hours and finished off with some dry fruits, ghee and cardamom and a dash of sugar. Most households don’t make it anymore. The corner sweet shop caters to this childhood nostalgia.

Not to forget the love for carrot cake though. Slathered with a generous cream cheese topping and warm cups of tea. I use a small carrot always in my fresh tomato soup, or tomato pasata. It adds some sweetness which masks sour tomatoes if any.

While we all know that carrots are a rich source of beta carotene and vitamin A, carrots can be a boring vegetable, especially if you plan to feed the children or the carnivores who don’t find vegetables interesting at all. I am not a carnivore, neither a child but this vegetable I only enjoy, combined with my orange juice in the morning, carrot cake loaves or sometimes like this Roasted Baby Carrots with Herbed Yogurt Dressing with the flavours of dil all the way

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Roasted Baby Carrots with Herbed Yogurt Dressing

1/2kg          baby carrots
4-5             cloves garlic
1bunch      fresh dil (I love dil, especially with roasted potatoes)
2tbsp         olive/ sunflower/sesame oil
2tbsp         lemon juice
1pinch       salt
1cup           greek yoghurt

  1. Wash and clean the carrots. I hate grit in the mouth and therefore I keep the heads with the leaves on only if the baby carrots are from my own vegetable patch, freshly uprooted and cleaned. If brought from the market I remove all the greens. Here too the baby carrots are whole (sans any greens), they have not been beheaded and they have been very thoroughly washed.
  2. Prep the carrots. Spread the carrots on a large tray (line the tray with parchment if not using a non-stick tray). Drizzle oil, lemon juice and mix it all on the tray, ensuring that the carrots are coated with the oil and the lemon juice. Sprinkle a few sprigs of dil and garlic on the tray
  3. Roast the carrots. Put the tray on the top shelf of the oven at 190 degree centigrade and roast for upto 40 minutes. The outer skin on the carrots will shrivel and will make them sweeter.
  4. Prepare the dressing. Mince the roasted garlic from the carrot tray into the yoghurt. Chop finely a handful of dil and add to the yoghurt. Season with a pinch of salt.
  5. Serve. Tumble the roasted carrots on a platter, I used a wooden slab. Pour the dressing on top of the carrots and enjoy.

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There ain’t no such thing as too much fruit

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Banana Fruit Cake

I have forever had the 5 O’Clock hunger. PM of course! Always. Whether as a child when this was around the evening play time or now when its time to slow down in the day over a cup of tea or coffee.

Most of the times I reach for the usual almonds, fruits, rice crisps, chips, the works. but there are times when I crave Cake. For me though its never, ever, very very rarely about the creamed cakes. Its usually about a flavourful tea cake. Barely sweet and usually resounding with the season’s fruit.

And top among the list of loves is the banana bread. Almost fool proof and always perfuming the house with the most splendid aroma of cinnamon, banana and vanilla. Sometimes an added touch of coconut.

The more stale it goes, the crumblier it gets. I think I could say that its different in flavour when sliced through warm straight out of the oven, different if had cold with warm coffee or milk, very different when slightly toasted through with a dollop of butter as morning breakfast, great as a post work out energy slab (of cake of course, why else do we work out, to eventually indulge ourselves).

So here is the version that I make and it is basically to reduce all guilt, the flour is blended with whole wheat flour, the sugar is packed brown and very less making the most of the natural sweetness of the bananas. For this specific time I also made some cherry compote to go with it, probably because i wanted to just try out my new cherry pitter, or for want of a tart contrast the cake. If you have the cherry compote left over, use it on toast, pancakes, crepes etc. I finished mine on the cheese board, served with some crackers and Camembert.

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Banana Bread:

125 gms butter
150 gms dark brown sugar (if you like yours sweeter make that 200gms)
2 eggs
6 mashed bananas
100 gms all purpose flour
155 gms whole wheat flour (atta)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla extract
100 ml thinned yoghurt (whisk a little water, about 20ml to 80ml yogurt)
150 gms dry coconut powder (optional)

Cherry Compote:

250 gms pitted cherries
50 gms sugar
1 lime (zest and juice)

  • Mash bananas. Thats simple, peal and use a fork to break the bananas. Line a 3 inch deep 10X3 inch loaf tin with parchment paper. and preheat the oven at 180 degrees centigrade.
  • The wet ingredients first. Cream the butter and sugar, which is about a 2 minute whisk job. Add in the eggs one at a time and whisk again. Add the vanilla extract and the thinned yoghurt and whisk again.
  • The dry ingredients. Run everything through a sieve. Both the flours, the baking powder and the baking soda along with the cinnamon.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Do not whisk too much but ensure that you combine thoroughly. As we have added yoghurt to the cake batter, it will immediately activate the baking powder and backing soda. So we will have to work quickly without over working the mixture. Use a spatula and pour the mixture in the lined loaf tin.
  • If you are using the coconut powder then sprinkle it on the top after you have evened the cake mix in the tin with the spatula. This coconut forms a heady aromatic flavourful crust on to of the cake.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes in a 180 degree centigrade oven. Ensure it is cooked through by checking if a knife passes through the cake and comes out clean with no ingredients sticking to it.

Enjoy the smells wafting in the house and take out your favourite tea and china for the afternoon treat if you will. And while you are at it

  • Macerate the cherry. Add the sugar to the cherries and let it sit for an hour or so.
  • Gently cook. In a heavy bottomed pan, tumble the sugared cherries. Add zest of the lime. Simmer. Cover. And allow the fruit to release its juices and bubble away. Cook for about 10 minutes or so and then add the juice of 1 lime and let it simmer for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat but continue stirring till the pot starts to cool down. The compote is ready.

Once the cake is done. Let it rest and cool off slightly. Thats the toughest part though but don’t loose patience, you don’t want to break the cake so wait for 15 minutes.

Serve. There are many ways. But best thing, serve warm with butter and the cherry compote. Coconut cream works well too.

Enjoy!

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