Flavor and spice booster for your mixed drinks – Stolichnaya with a kick!

This simple recipe will add bold flavor to your Margaritas, Mojitos and other mixed drinks:

A handful of Thai dragon Chilli peppers (or similar hot peppers) washed and chopped coarsely

CAUTION – these are very hot peppers and you should take care handling them, wash all utensils, chopping board and hands very carefully after you are done.

Stolichnaya or similar vodka.

Stolich

Add the peppers to the vodka and let infuse for a few days. Store the bottle in the fridge and add a tablespoon of spicy Stolichnaya to your Bloody Mary, Margarita or Mojito! No need for that Worcestershire sauce in the Bloody Mary.

Some shortcuts that save me tons of time!

Indian cooking involves lots of spices and fresh ingredients that are not always on hand or a chore to prepare each time. Here are some shortcuts from my mother that are really helpful!

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Ginger and garlic cubes: I use fresh young ginger that is not very fibrous. Usually local stores (like Indian or Asian grocery stores) have the best ginger. After peeling the ginger I chop it roughly into big pieces. Then I take about an equal weight of fresh garlic and peel the garlic cloves. Getting cloves separated, putting in a metal mixing bowl inverting another bowl over the first one and shaking really hard will peel the garlic! Try it, it is magic :) Next blend together ginger and garlic in a blender. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze overnight. Pop out the cubes and store in freezer in a jar or zipped bag. Next time you cook a curry pop in one or two cubes of this mix while frying the spices to get the fresh ginger garlic taste. The stuff can be stored for a long period of time. You can also blend and freeze them separately if you usually do not use both together. The ginger cubes are great for making ginger tea.

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Fresh tomatoes are a must in many curries, but very expensive in the winter time. When tomato plants are booming the summer, chop and freeze in usable quantities in ziplock bags, and then use a frozen portion to fry with the spices. I get a farm basket every week and all summer there are way more tomatoes and tomatillos than I can eat, so I always have frozen portions stashed away in my freezer. The same goes for onions, chop and freeze a big batch for use whenever needed. If you get a big bag of hot chilli peppers, you can chop and store them frozen for future use.

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Specialty juices, like cherry or pomegranate, can be frozen in ice cube trays before their use by date, and then added into mixed blended drinks, like margaritas.

Vege/Vegan culinary heaven – Roy’s!

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Admit it, if you are a vegetarian it is hard to find suitable food that tastes good too! So often I feel like a wet blanket when the first words out of my mouth are “Will they have vegetarian food?” when friends suggest a restaurant. And if you are a Vegan then life is very tough indeed. Sometimes it is helpful to do some research online, and sometimes you just have to ask at the restaurant if they have food that suits your dietary preferences. In Waikiki we chanced upon Roy’s, well known for its Asian inspired fusion cuisine, and online reviews said excellent things about the place. So we decided to go in and try the food out. However, except for one vegan sushi dish, most of the dishes praised online in vegetarian forums were not even on the menu. So we asked and boy were we delighted! Roy’s has an entire vegan menu, and they are extremely flexible with substitutions on those items.

Roy's Vegan Menu

Roy’s Vegan Menu

The place is pricey but the food is so scrumptious that of our three nights in Honolulu, two dinners were at Roy’s. The pride of place no doubt is the vegan sushi on the main menu. Containing all the usual sushi ingredients, it jumps to the top of the heap with its garbanzo based “fish substitute”. It is unique, flavorful and a meal in itself. Also on the vegan menu is a “poke” dish, made of fresh watermelon and bursting with flavor it is quite amazing.

Vegan sushi rolls, and "poke"

Vegan sushi rolls, and “poke”

In addition, the vegan menu has a hearts of palm ravioli that is is a visual and taste treat. The portion is small, and may not work as a stand alone dish to make a meal, but add the sushi to it and you have a great dinner.

Hearts of palm ravioli

Hearts of palm ravioli

The Cauliflower quinoa risotto is an interesting take on risotto, nicely balancing the carbs with some protein. It comes with asparagus and mushrooms, but you can easily substitute any one of these for the other. Both are wonderful accompaniments to the risotto.

Cauliflower risotto

Cauliflower risotto

By the time you are done with all this and groaning with over-indulgence there is still a desert to be had. The raspberries and almond tart with soy “gelato” is passable, but really not a star of this menu. However, on take two the staff happily substituted the vegan sushi for the dessert and we were all very happy with that! I know Roy’s can be found on every island in Hawaii, but also in other states – so find one and try it! You will love it.

This post focused on the vege/vegan menu items, but others in the party who had the real sushi, the duck and the rosted chicken were smacking their lips too and happily went back the second day. If you can keep the omnivores, vegetarians and vegans happy then what else does one need – so well done Roy’s!!!

Hotness overload – Thai Dragon Chilli Jam and Fiery Hot sauce

In Spring I bought some seedlings for my planter boxes. In the mix were three Thai Dragon Chilli seedlings and a Habanero seedling. The Habanero has decided to sulk big time and make no flowers, but the Thai Dragon Chilly plants went crazy and made so many fruit that I knew I had to concoct a plan for using them. A colleague who loves to ca stuff suggested Thai Dragon chilli jam and I was instantly on board. The canning paraphernalia was hers (though I am very tempted to go out and get my own set of equipment) and today we set to work. On the cards was a Chilli Jam, a Hot Sauce and some Hot Chilli oil. The final results are fantastic, and the jam is super hot and super addictive. I ate a bunch of it with walnut bread and cheese, and loved it.Image

Recipes follow:

Red Hot Sauce (from the Ball Blue Book)

2 quarts chopped tomatoes

1.5 cups chopped Thai Dragon peppers

1 quart vinegar

2 cans tomato sauce

1 cube garlic paste

1 cup sugar

1 Tbs salt

2 Tbs pickling spices

Combine tomatoes and peppers and 2 cups vinegar in a pot and cook until soft. Process through a food mill and discard skins and seeds. Add sugar, salt, spices in a muslin bag, tomato sauce, and garlic. Add 2 cups vinegar. Cook for 30 minutes. Ladled into jars that were boiled for 10 minutes, process for 15 minutes with lids on. Yields 4 half pints.

Thai pepper jam:

12 oz peppers

2 cups cider vinegar

2 red bell peppers

6 cups sugar

2 pouches liquid pectin

Prepare jars by boiling for 10 minutes. In a blender add Thai dragon peppers, and 1 cup vinegar and process until smooth. Strain into a saucepan. Reserve the skins, and seeds for making Hot Chilli Oil. Puree the bell peppers in half cup vinegar. Combine Chilli and pepper puree, add rest of vinegar and sugar and boil over high heat stirring constantly for 10 minutes. Stir in pectin, boil hard, stirring for 1 minute. Remove from hear, and skim foam if any. Fill jars, 1/4 in head space. Process for 10 minutes with lids on.

Hot Chilli Oil:

2 cups oil – Canols or other ( I used a Grapeseed, Canola and Olive oil blend)

Chilli chopped or remaining after straining from Jam recipe.

Heat oil, add chillies and cook for 5 minutes until oil takes on red hue. Ladle into jars with the chilli residue. Use to season pasta, pizza, or to lightly pan fry tortillas in a few drops of chilli oil on each side.

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And then we christened the products and feasted on them!

Rajesh Khanna – the end of a legend!

The man who mesmerized women of all ages for almost a decade, got letters from them written their own blood, and caused mass hysteria wherever he went, Rajesh Khanna, is the subject of this documentary:

BBC reporter Jack Pizzey managed to get exceptional access to Rajesh Khanna and the result is this fascinating documentary – Rajesh Khanna – Bombay Superstar. Continue reading

Playing catchup with films I missed – Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo, Sherlock Holmes A Game of Sahdows, We Bought a Zoo and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy!

Traveling in interesting. While I usually detox from the net while traveling, airplanes give me a chance to catchup on films I missed seeing in theaters. A long trip to Rome and back was so much fun (more on that in one or more separate posts), and also gave me a chance to see so many films. Here is what I caught up with:

1. Girl with a Dragon Tattoo: The Fincher version was no doubt edited for airplane viewing (though came with many strict warnings for parents) but it was a pale shadow of the original Swedish version. It did not help that Daniel Craig pouted his way through the film as Mikhael Blomkvist and either was unable to portray, or did not have the script direction to portray, the inner demons that plagued Blomkvist. Rooney Mara was not an adequate replacement for Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. But the film is recommended viewing for those who shun subtitled films, and are either unable to or reluctant to see the original. I know we were not supposed to sympathize much with the prickly Lisbeth, but the vulnerabilities in her and her inner strength never came through in this version!

2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of the stunning spy novel by John le Carre (his second best after The Spy Who Came in From the Cold) is highly recommended. Smiley has just been “retired” from the Circus, as we learn that there is a Russian mole in the outfit. The book (as all le Carre books) was not a thriller by any means, but the movie manages to thrill in ample measure, ably helped by an awesome cast of Gary Oldman (as Smiley) and Colin Firth, John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds etc. A complex tale, perhaps better appreciated upon second viewing, or by those who have read the book, highly recommended.

3. Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows: Only Robert Downey Jr. can make one NOT DETEST the turning of a cerebral detective into a buffoonish action hero. Ably assisted by Jude Law as Watson, the duo are again on the hunt to thwart the evil schemes of Dr. Moriarty and save the world from ruin. Noomi Rapace has a bit role and does well.

4. We Bought A Zoo: Based on the real life story of a man who bought a zoo to escape from the tragedy his wife’s death, this is a heartwarming tale, perfect for curling into a blanket and watching on a rainy day. Damon does well as the ordinary man you cannot help admire and like, and Scarlett Johannson manages to hide the oomph and portray an animal expert working at the zoo. Damon has this amazing ability to portray the ordinary, the action hero (Bourne series) and the skewed and crazy too (Talented Mr. Ripley, The Informant). Recommended if you want warm and fuzzy and feelgood!

Califlower and paneer curry with walnuts

Today we were inspired to use walnut in our curry. After looking up recipes for fesunjoon (the Persian walnut curry) and finding out that it uses pomegranates also which were not on hand, this variation was concocted!


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