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While most of us tend to pile ketchup or mayonnaise on stuff we eat, I have a strong aversion to these somewhat artificial condiments. The term ‘condiment’ was originally coined to designate anything that imparts a particular flavor to enhance or complement a dish but I unfortunately find that it detracts from the authentic flavors so much so that I usually go without them most of the time. Pesto alla genovese, however, steers clear from this group as it retains its fresh, bright green colour as long as you take the trouble to make it from scratch all by yourself.

Not well known by the average Mauritian, this Italian preparation is traditionally made by grinding basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil [ideally by hand in a stone mortar or on your faithful roche carri]. You can now find jars of the readymade sauce in large retail stores but they are only weak imitations of the real thing. It does take a bit of elbow grease to pound everything into a smooth paste, as per the recipe from David Lebovitz, before you can enjoy your homemade pesto in a grilled sandwich or spooned over fresh pasta but no doubt well worth the effort.

HOMEMADE PESTO

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

3/4 teaspoon coarse kitchen salt

1 cup (20g) loosely-packed basil leaves

5 tablespoons (75ml) best-quality olive oil

2 ounces (60g) grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup (30g) pine nuts, lightly toasted

Method:

  • Smash the garlic and salt together in a mortar and pestle until smooth. Coarsely chop the basil leaves.

  • Then add the chopped basil leaves to the mortar and pounding them into the garlic as you add them.

  • Once it is well-mashed into a fairly smooth paste, pound in the olive oil, adding it a spoonful at a time.

  • The olive oil should be well-incorporated. Lastly, pound in the Parmesan cheese, then the pine nuts.

  • Continue mashing for a few minutes until pesto is as smooth as possible. Makes about 1 cup of pesto.

  • Fresh pesto should be served within a day or two after it is made or it can be frozen for a few months.

Homemade Basil Pesto

My apologies if this blog is turning more into a cooking blog than as baking one [as the name leads you to believe]. While it’s true that I dnt bake every single day, my excuse is that I also feel like sharing these everyday dishes with you.

It’s just as important to know how to put a simple meal together as to whip up a fancy dessert. Bouillon is one of my fave things to make if I need to get lunch/dinner ready within 1/2 hour.  Something I call a genuine comfort food, bouillon can be as versatile as you care to make it.

Throw in carrots, mushrooms and bits of shredded chicken to make a wholesome meal. Or combine your fave mine apollo with bouillon cresson.  Whatever you chose to do, bouillon remains a light healthy and flavourful dish that I bet you’ll make over and over again.

BOUILLON CRESSON – WATERCRESS BROTH

Ingredients:

2 bunches watercress/ brède cresson

2 cups rice water

2 cups water

1 tsp salt

1 small red onion, sliced

1 medium tomato, sliced

1 tbs vegetable oil

Method:

  • Clean watercress to remove grubs and dirt. Shred into 2 inch pieces.
  • Wash several times in a colander to remove impurities. Drain.
  • Cnt find brède cresson? Substitute with any available brède.
  • Heat oil in a large pan and sauté onion and tomato over medium heat until onions become transluscent for about a minute.

  • Pour rice water slowly into pan and dilute with an equal amount of plain water. To collect rice water, you should obviously cook rice and drain before you start with your bouillon.
  • If you dnt have rice water, dnt fret. Simply use plain water or substitute with water + 1tbs thickening agent like cornflour.
  • Season with salt and bring to a boil. Do not cover pan.

  • Dump watercress in bouillon and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Serve hot in small soup bowls as entrée or part of a main dish.

I recommend bouillon with along with boiled rice, rougaille poisson salé [salted fish rougaille] and satini pistas

. This is often featured as part of the menu in restaurants boasting of a cuisine creole but you can very well customise it according to taste and budget.

Health Considerations: The rice water content of bouillion makes it a choice source of nutrients and fluids especially for children. 

 SATINI PISTAS – PEANUT CHUTNEY

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted peanuts, shelled

3 garlic cloves

2 dried red chillies

3 tsp fresh mint leaves

1 tsp tamarind paste

1/2 tsp salt

1 -2 tbs water

Method:

  • Place garlic, chillies, mint leaves and tamarind paste in the bowl of mixer/grinder. Add 1/2 tbs water and grind to a paste.

  • Add peanuts and another 1/2 tbs water. Grind coarsely for a minute or two if you like bits of peanuts in your satini.

  • If not, continue grinding until you have a smooth paste. You may need to add a lil more water for this.
  • Dnt forget to stir in salt before you serve.
  • Can be stored in fridge for a few days.

Sorry for the poor quality of pics in this post. It was a bad ‘camera’ day 😦

The whole business of pickling has developed strong links with the Petites et Moyennes Entreprises sector. You’ve got to be blind if you attend a SME fair and fail to see a single marchand zasar.

Pickles, however, have a very ancient history as one of the oldest methods of preserving food. It used to be common practice in every household but not seen as often in working families where cooking comprises a fried burger or a boiled mine appollo.

I was lucky to pick up the science of making indian pickles from my mum and auntie. I think my auntie makes the best I’ve known so far. With fruit trees in adundance around her house she can try different combinations at different times of the year, my favourite being achard fruit de cythère – also known as pomme or prune de cythère – or simply, fruit de cythère pickle.

I dunno if you get confused between the terms achard/zasar and kouchia as they are often used interchangably. Kouchia is commonly made from green mangoes or fruit de cythère where the pulp is removed, pounded and squeezed to remove most of the juice. It is then ready for pickling and can be stored for about a month.

Achard requires a lengthier procedure as the fruit has to be split in quarters along with the seed and sun dried for days before it is ready. The shelf live is comparatively longer; over a year in properly sterilised jars. Hope that was not too technical.

SPICES FOR ACHARD – STEP 1

Ingredients:

1/3 cup [20 g] mustard seeds

1 tsp fenugreek seeds/ methi, roasted

1/2 cup dried red chillies

1 bulb garlic, peeled and cut into pieces

1-2 tbs turmeric powder/haldi

Method:

  • Grind mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds together into a fine powder. Add a little water and grind again into a fine paste.
  • Grind garlic and dried chilies with a little water into a paste.
  • Combine mustard paste, garlic-chilli paste and turmeric to get a thick paste that is uniformly yellow in colour.

The best way of preparing the spices paste is by manually grinding them on a roche carri or grinding stone. This traditional kitchen ‘equipment’ consists of a large stone slab and a smaller cylindrical one which is rolled over the slab such that the spices get ground between the two stone surfaces. It may not be as easy as operating an electric grinder but the end result is much more superior.

You can prepare your spices and store them in the fridge in advance. The same spice paste is used for the next 3 recipes.

ACHARD FRUIT DE CYTHèRE

Ingredients:

10 green Fruits de Cythère

5 green chillies, chopped

2-3 tbs spice paste, as above

1/2 tsp salt

3-4 tbs vegetable oil

Method:

  • Peel fruits de cythère and cut flesh into large chunks. Use a sharp knife but be careful as you may have some difficulty to cut through the tough fibrous parts.
  • Discard the core. Coarsely pound the chunks on your roche carri or in a large mortar with pestle.

  • Collect it in a clean cotton cloth and squeeze to extract as much juice as you can. Some people like to leave this hanging and let the juice drip off.
  • Your fruit de cythère is now ready for pickling.

  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add spice paste and salt to it. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Add fruit de cythère and chillies. Stir till well combined.
  • Store in sterilised jars in fridge for upto 1 month.

APPLE & CARROT PICKLE

 

Ingredients:

 3 Granny Smith apples, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

5-10 green chillies, chopped

2-3 tbs spice paste, as above

1/2 tsp salt

3-4 tbs vegetable oil

Method:

  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add spice paste and salt to it. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Add apples, carrots and chillies. Stir till well combined.
  • Store in sterilised jars in fridge for upto 1 month.

PICKLED GREEN CHILLIES

 

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped green chillies

1 tbs tamarind paste

2-3 tbs spice paste, as above

1/2 tsp salt

3-4 tbs vegetable oil

Method:

  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add spice paste and salt to it.
  • Add tamarind and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Add chopped chillies. Stir till well combined.
  • Store in sterilised jars in fridge for upto 1 month.

In response to my friend Nema’s request, I’m also including the recipe for achard legumes/pickled vegetables here.

ACHARD LEGUMES

Ingredients:

2 medium carrots, cut into thin sticks

1 cup french beans, split lengthwise and cut into strips

1/2 of a medium sized cabbage, shredded

1 large bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 small cauliflower, cut into small florets

3 tbs spice paste, as above

1/2 tsp salt

4 tbs vegetable oil

Method:

  • Bring water to boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 tsp salt.
  • Dump carrots and french beans in boiling water for a minute.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon. Place in a cotton cloth and allow excess water to drain.
  • Blanching causes the veggies to soften slightly and lose their raw taste. Repeat for cabbage, pepper and cauliflower.
  • Make sure they are all moderately dry before next step.
  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add spice paste and salt to it.
  • Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Add vegetables and stir till well combined.

Use your homemade pickle to add extra punch to any Indian meal. Makes a great housewarming gift in an attractive package.

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PrerrnaMirchi
Mauritius

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