Shawarma like Habibi Ibrahim Hadla..well almost

I first ate shawarma or kebab/ doner as it is also called in Dubai ,in 2000 when I’d moved from Madras ( yeah was still called Madras then).There were a few places which used to sell Shawarma and the better amongst them was the Lebanese village / bistro , which unfortunately no longer exists . So for those who don’t know the Shawarma has come from the Ottoman Empire and each country from the Levant region proclaims that their version makes the bestest version.

So we have lots of chicken / layered with the skin on on a vertical spit/ thick skewer which either slowly rotates or is rotated by hand so each side gets heated and then is sliced of so you get thin slices of cripsy ( no it’s not a typo)chicken and some soft bits ..which then goes in a warm pita bread/ khaboos which is like a wrap but better tasting , a smear of garlic sauce( toom), sliced tomato( panadura in Arabic ), some mint( Nana), some pickled cucumber or pink turnips( don’t ask me why pink, they use beets apparently), and soggy french fries,

Chicken boneless skin on 1kg..this is important, we need the fat from the skin to melt out and keep the meat juicy.if you can get only legs that’s even better, they can stay better with the intense heat..

White vinegar 50ml

Orange juice from 1orange

Allspice powder-1tsp

Clove powder Pinch.

Cinnamon powder -1tsp

Chopped garlic/paste-25gm

Salt-8gm

Sliced raw onion 100gm

Green cardamom 2-3

Chicken stock powder 2gm

Olive oil-20mlSh

  • Mix all marinade ingredients and bash the chicken a bit to make all the ingredients penetrate better . In any case it needs to sit for a few days to to make it better..the vinegar almost half cooks the chicken..in most of the levantine countries they use a spice mix called Baharat shawarma, but you are better off making your own.
  • Next keep in the fridge well covered otherwise everything is going to smell of the spices and stuff.
  • Fast forward to day 3.. if you are stressed for time , atleast keep it overnight . Cook in the oven with a roasting pan lined with baking paper ( listen to me, it makes clean up simpler). Temp 200 C for 20-.move it around after about 15 mins ..and allow to rest in oven after turning it off.
  • then shred it up when cooler and roll up in the pita ( you can make your own, if you are slightly cuckoo like me), or go help your brother in need buy buying his pita bread in the packet , with all the paraphernalia i mentioned before..

Biscotti be like Tutto E bene

I had never ever heard of a biscotti till quite late .It was when we went to our flagship hotel in Jaipur called Rajvilas, a hotel which was built be of a palatial kind of opulence and luxury which was unimaginable at the time circa 1997

quite a bit later in maybe 2011 when I was in NZ teaching Culinary arts/ cookery at Whitireia Polytechnic ,in Auckland I introduced this to teach my students something which can be eaten as a biscuit ( cooked twice – that’s what the name implies).

Eggs 2 ea
.vanilla essence 2 ml
Orange flower water 1 ml
Plain flour 150 g
Almond powder 50 g
Baking powder 3 g
Orange or mandarin zest – 1
Cocoa nibs 20 g, don’t worry if you don’t have them..
Almond or cashew or pistachios if U are feeling rich – 50 g soak in warm water for about 5 mins.this is so when these are baked they are fairly easy to slice .
Whisk eggs and sugar and the 2 essences .
Sieve or mix well the flour ,baking powder and almond powder .
Add zest and nuts (nibs )and mix all the things together.easy peasy.
Form a log and bake at 160-175 c 15- 18mins.
Cool down and freeze for long term storage or
Cool down and slice thin, use a serrated bread knife for the job .(My favourite one is the Fdick one ,which I used to get from House of knives in Auckland. Go pay them a visit someday .The Fdick range of knives is awesome and Shannon one of main man there is very knowledgeable about knives .He will be able sort you out.)
Back to our biscotti which need the second baking to finish the job and be crunchy and very moreish.

Bake at 165 c for 12-15 mins.I love these as a crisp garnish for a dessert or a snack when you don’t want something very sweet

Samosa aka nightmarish nights at Bombay International Airport

With all my food there’s always a bit of a story or some witty banter or somesuch going on.

Makes it a more like a gripping potboiler with some hints of dark humour and stuff..Not embellished to be fictional but sometimes unbelievable and true.So our tale begins with the ubiquitous and humble samosa which is found anywhere in India . I worked once in a place where we sold the most expensive samosa in all Bombay..and it’s was priced so with good reason .Our restaurant part of the Oberoi airport services , had restaurants in all 3 of the airport terminals, NTB – new terminal building for all domestic private carriers,NDT- new domestic terminal and this was actually a newish building for Indian Airlines domestic flights and NIPT , new international passenger terminal or Sahar airport.

So I was posted there straight out of Oshm/Ocld the finishing school for Oberoi hotels where we went through boot camp of hotel chef life after finishing our Diploma in Hotel management.

So to cut a long story short I was posted to NIPT , the first and only graduate to go there and it was brutal .we would get 45 mins notice and had a to make a meal for 400 hungry passengers whos flight had been delayed.Thats a main meal we are talking about for smaller meals we would be cranking it out in 15-20 mins onwards ..LR ( light refreshment)meant one samosa and one sandwich triangle , so you would say Sheesh that’s easy why this guy is moaning so much. Ok so one night , I and one more commis chef made 1500 Lrs, and the breakfast for 500 . This is a kitchen with antiquated equipment and a walk in freezer which used to be +1-2 C.

I would work only night shifts when it used to busiest and we had two stalwarts who were out samosa production team Madhusudan Biswas ( who passed away unfortunately) and Keshav Ganguly. Approximately 1500 samosa made from scratch day in day out sometimes more..when we crossed the 3000+ mark we would sometimes order these from outside. When I landed there I had no clue what I was getting into..bright eyed and bushy tailed I was and soon had to get down to learning also from the more experienced guys even though technically I was their boss/ supervisor.

All the old guys there who I’m in touch with still remember samosas being cooked at all hours ..freakingly nightmarish..Ok time for a break

Ok Ok Here we go finally

Pastry/ outer cover

Flour -150 g

Whole wheat flour – 75 g

Fine semolina – 25 g

Baking powder-1 g

Ajwain seeds( carom ajowan) acts as an anti flatulent ..a small pinch lightly crushed between your fingers

Salt – approximately 5 g

Oil or fat- 35-40 g

Water – enough to form a semi stiff dough- approximately -125-150 g .This will largely depend on what kind of flour you guys are using.

  • To make the dough you mix all the dry ingredients together very well ( it’s good to sieve the flour also to take out bits of plastic etc ..)
  • Add the oil and 80%of the water and mix lightly .cover the dough and rest for about 15mins.then knead it well and add the water a bit at a time to make your stiff dough.if your dough is too soft won’t get crisp.
  • Then rest again .this has to be rolled out and folded into a conical pyramid shape and then stuffed and then slow fried. A video will explain how that happens .Writing about it just won’t be good enough.

For the filling

  • Potatoes boil and then peel and crush-150 GM’s( 2 medium sized ones)
  • Green peas – 25 g/1 T
  • Onion – 1 chopped /75 g
  • Carrot -1/2 peeled and chopped 40 g
  • Cauliflower – 50 g roughly chopped
  • Coriander sprig- 2 washed and chopped
  • Mint -1 sprig as above.
  • Oil -25 g
  • Cumin -1/4 t
  • Fennel seeds-pinch
  • Coriander powder-1/2 t
  • Turmeric powder-1/4 t
  • Red chilli powder-1/4 t
  • Garam masala powder- pinch best if you make yourself.
  • Lemon juice – 1/4 t
  • Green chillies-1 or as many you can handle
  • Ginger and garlic paste -1/2 t

Heat oil add cumin , saute the onion and then add the rest of the ingredients and saute till all vegetables are cooked . Reserve the herbs and lemon to add right in the end .

The most important bit is that it should be tasty so feel free to play with the ingredients and have fun while doing it..

Also slow fry so gets even shorter texture when U eat..enjoy with some green Coriander chutney or sweet tamarind one

Basic bread dough/ rolls / loaf

Makes one large loaf or 8 medium sized pizza bases .

You need a weighing scale which measures in metric , a good oven and a baking tray or loaf tin. Can bake in other random stuff once you get the hang of it.( I make one in a old coffee tin and comes out beautifully)

  • Flour 500 g
  • Active dry yeast- 10 g( I prefer to use this since I get most consistent results, sourdough is a different matter which we will discuss in another post). Yeast is an amazing living thing that needs warmth, moisture and time to multiply ..more or less of each will affect the activity of yeast and the springiness/ sponginess of the bread.
  • Sugar – 10 g / can use raw, white , brown or honey ..Yeast needs to feed on sugar and starches but there are a few breads we can make without.
  • Salt -10 g. Very important, this helps for us to taste the bread and is the most important aspect in the bread ,after flour and water . We can make bread without sugar and yeast but not salt. Salt controls the rise of the yeast as well if you don’t put any the yeast activity will be a like a racing car without a brake..so don’t forget it..You don’t need a fancy pants salt for inside the dough but if you are able to get salt flakes for the topping it’s great or as a table salt.
  • Water warm preferred – 325 GM/ ml..warm because yeast activity is best between 30-35 so should just feel warm to your hand.if it’s too hot you will kill the yeast , too cold and takes longer for the yeast to multiply and make carbon dioxide which gives bread the holey texture.
  • Olive oil or melted butter – 50 g

First sieve the flour ..this aerates the flour and removes any physical hazards ( paper clips, finger nails, bits of plastic, you will be amazed what all goes inside).

Then add the yeast, salt and sugar one at a time mixing in between ..if salt or sugar come in contact directly with the yeast they can kill it.

Pour the warm water in a bowl with the dry ingredients and stir together with a spoon and leave aside for about 15 minutes..grab a coffee or a glass of wine.This stage of the dough making is called as autolyse and was devised by a French chemist and bread enthusiast called Raymond calvel who is widely regarded as the Moses of artisan bread baking. How it helps is complex science but in a nutshell develops the gluten ( elastic rubber like protein ) which helps trap the CO2 formed by the yeast and gives bread it’s holes/ crumb.Dont worry about the terminology it’s just for bread snobs to pretend they know what they are talking about.

After the 15 minutes are up .start to knead the dough , it’s not hard to do and helps to develop the gluten further .( Go back to start if you missed that bit about what gluten does).

knead for about 5 minutesor so until the dough is nice and smooth then add the oil and knead some more .The oil and or butter helps shorten the gluten strands and make it’s tastier but can be made without…with some breads you can go upto 75%of flour quantity ..so for a kg of flour U add 750 g of butter , but that’s another twist in the tale and for another heart breaking recipe .

Then cover your dough with a damp clean cloth or some gladwrap / plastic wrap/ clingfilm. And keep in warm area..for maximum rise quickly. Can proof in the fridge too but takes longer.Proofing is a process where the yeast starts to eat the sugar and starches in the flour an makes CO2. This is like a rubber balloon filling with gas. And we need to control it otherwise it’s going the break.

So we knock back or de gas the dough and allow the gluten to relax. This U do by pressing down and either shaping into smaller pieces or leaving it whole but compressed.

Then proof again..same way like before .

Now preheat your oven to 190 C . Empty it first if your oven has lots of stuff inside .Mine does .

Divide your dough into 2/4/8 progressively or keep whole to make into a loaf.

I’ll put pictures down here of rolls and a loaf later .

Once you have these shaped ..you roll it between your palms or palm and table ..to be as smooth as possible .

Then final proof once you place it on a tray.

Once it’s proofed to the right degree .( How to check is tricky..u gently press down on the dough and it should not spring back but leave a small impression).

Bake then for roll about 10-12 mins..

A loaf will take about 25-30 mins.

Pizza approximately 7-10 mins.

In

Autolyse
Kneaded to form the dough
proofed for about 30 mins in warm area
Shaped and kept close to form a pull apart loaf
Baked to perfection

Sungtyachi Kodi/ prawn curry from the konkan region

Prawns whole -600 Gm peeled and deveined ,ndo not discard shell , I’ll explain later why not

Marinade with

turmeric – pinch

Red chilli powder – 1/4 t/ 2 GM

Salt- to taste

Curry paste for want of a better phrase

Shredded coconut – 1 T/ 25 GM’s

Onion medium- 1/2 about 50 gms

Teerphal/ Triphala or Sichuan peppercorns- 1/4 t /.5 gm

Black peppercorns -6-8 ea

Cloves -1

Roast above in a glass bowl in the microwave till lightly browned in 30 seconds. Should take about 3 mins and 90 seconds but depends on how strong your microwave is.

Add 1/4

Turmeric1/ 4 t/ .5 gm

Coriander seeds -1 t-/2,3 GM’s

Garlic cloves -4-5 / 10 GM’s

And water to soak..for about 15 minutes..not a whole lot just enough to soften everything and make it easy to blend.

Then grind to a paste and saute with

Oil- 10 ml

Curry leaves -1 sprig / 2 GM

Green chilli- 1 /2 GM or more if you want more heat …I wanted to be able to taste the prawns so put less.

Add coconut cream 100 GM

kokam / cambogia Garcinia / gorakha -1

And simmer .

Then add prawns and simmer for about 5-6 mins add some nicely chopped coriander and U are good to go..Always better if you cook let the prawns sit inside then reheat but don’t overcook.

stories of foods from the world over, laced with a hint of sarcasm and some black humour, its not for everyone, but then never was meant to be..