Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5 Issue 8, Tuesday, February 23, 2010



A true taste of asia

BY Tommy miah

Picnic recipes

There's no time like spring for having a picnic. Good food can make or break a picnic (in my opinion), so you've got to plan well and carry stuff that is tasty, filling and healthy, all at the same time. If that seems like a tall order, think again.

Traditional recipes can be easily converted into simple and delectable picnic treats; using fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients. Preparing and packing food for picnics is equally fun and exciting. Picnicking gives the opportunity to bring out hidden gourmet ideas in people. Popular and easy picnic recipes include sandwiches, salads, fresh fruits, finger foods and cold meats. Picnic food is best served with cold drinks.

Picnic recipes must be colourful, fresh and exciting. Planning in advance ensures a delightful outdoor meal that is simple to pack and transport. Packing the food is just as important as planning the menu. Kebabs, potato salad, burgers, and baked beans are well-liked choices among picnic recipes; they are also popular among children.

Pack food in tightly sealed containers
Keep salads, drinks, meat, sandwiches, cheese and other perishable items in a chest full of ice. Stow this chest away from direct sunlight.

Pack heavy food items at the bottom of the chest and delicate food items on top of the ice chest.

Do not carry full containers of condiments like mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, etc. Instead carry them in small packets.

Store cold food in an insulated container like a cooler, lunchbox or insulated backpack.

Store warm food in an insulator; do not store cold food along with warm food in the same insulator.

Ensure you freeze drinks the previous night; this will keep your drink cool on the day of the picnic.

Make sure the drinks are sealed well before you pack them.

While travelling make sure the cooler is transported in the car and not in the trunk.

Store food on one side of the cooler and store water and juice on the other side, top them with ice filled re-usable plastic bags. By doing this you can remove the drinks and water without disturbing the food.

Do not pack food containing mayonnaise; spread the mayonnaise at the picnic spot just before you eat the food.

Cool dairy products thoroughly before packing them for picnics.

3 cups puffed rice
A handful of roasted and salted peanuts
2 potatoes, boiled, peeled and chopped into tiny cubes
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 large tomato, chopped finely
Half a bunch of coriander, chopped finely
2 green chillies, chopped finely
Tamarind chutney to taste
Mint-coriander chutney to taste
A handful of coarsely crushed papad/papdi (savoury biscuits made from flour)
1 cup sev (vermicelli-like snack made from gram flour and available at all sweetmeat stores and confectionaries)
Mix the puffed rice, peanuts, potato, onion, tomato, coriander and green chillies together in a large bowl.
Add the tamarind chutney and mint-coriander chutney according to your own taste preferences (that's the beauty of bhelpuri!), mix well, garnish with plenty of sev and papdi. Serve and eat immediately.

Barbecued tandoori chicken
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp water
4 chicken breast fillets, skinned and de-boned
Oil for brushing on grill hotplate
Preheat barbecue to high.
In a medium bowl, mix curry powder, chillies, salt, ginger, paprika, cinnamon and turmeric with water to form a smooth paste. Rub paste into chicken breasts, and place them on a plate. Cover, and allow to marinate for 20 minutes.
Brush cooking grill hotplate with oil. Place chicken on the barbecue, and cook 6 to 8 minutes on each side, until juices run clear when pierced with a skewer.

Almond and celery chicken salad
60g blanched, slivered almonds
4 tsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
315g cooked chicken meat, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
Place almonds on a non-stick frying pan. Toast over medium-high heat, shaking frequently. Watch carefully, as they burn easily.
In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise, lemon juice and pepper. Toss with chicken, almonds and celery. Serve atop lettuce leaves or in a sandwich.

Sandwich for the roads
2/3 cup Cheddar cheese
12 slices white or wheat bread
½ cup chicken (completely cooked), chopped coarsely
Cream cheese with chives
1 Sweet or dill pickle (medium size), chopped coarsely
1 celery stalk, chopped coarsely
1/3 cup green or ripe olives (optional)
1 carrot (medium), peeled and chopped coarsely
Blend the vegetables, pickle, chicken, olives and cheese thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Keep it aside.
On one side of the bread, spread the cream cheese.
Take about 1/3 of the vegetable mixture and spread it on the cheese side of the bread.
Cover this slice of bread with another slice.
Remove the crusts and sliver each of the sandwiches into four pieces.
Store in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.

Brownies for picnics
3 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1½ tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp vanilla extracts
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1¼ cups Semisweet chocolate chips
1 peanut butter chips
½ cup salted peanuts, chopped
1½ tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Take a 9-inch square metal baking pan, apply butter and dust flour in it.
In heavy medium saucepan, mix the semisweet chocolate chips, butter and unsweetened chocolate.
Stir over low heat until the chocolate mixture melts and becomes smooth.
Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, beat 3 eggs, 1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, vanilla extract and instant coffee granules. Beat until they blend well.
Stir in the warm chocolate mixture; beat thoroughly.
Cool it to room temperature.
In medium bowl, beat 1½ teaspoons baking powder, 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, and ½ teaspoon salt. Whip into the chocolate mixture.
Stir in the peanut butter chips and peanuts. Pour this batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for about 35 minutes. Cool completely.
Cut into squares.
Brownies can be made a day ahead of the picnic. Store brownies in an airtight container at room temperature.

For the love of food

By Kaniska Chakraborty

Tea trauma

Two very dear friends decided to meet up with me over lunch. This is a recurring theme. Dear friends meeting over meals. I thoroughly enjoy them; both the food and the company. The only problem was that we had nearly exhausted all possible lunch destinations that are convenient, tasty and affordable.

One of the friends is a vegetarian. It does make a lunch venue selection a little complicated, as you would want her to have as many choices as you, being an omnivore, are getting. A caveat was thrown in by my vegetarian friend- no Chinese. That immediately took out a lot of possibilities. All this was too mind numbing. I just wanted food and good company. And I do not intend to get all stressed about any of those.

I left the choice to them.

I was informed that we would be meeting at a venerable bookstore in the heart of Calcutta. A veritable Calcutta institution, it is not entirely known for the culinary delights. In fact, people often ignore the quaint little eatery on the first floor, up the creaky wooden stairs, past the bookshelves.

Many good bookstores around the world do have cafes in them. There are fewer comforts in this unkind world as a good book and a strong cup of coffee. But this is Calcutta and we are talking about a good old Calcutta institution. It had to be tea that held the spotlight. Coffee was merely a side act. Relegated almost to the footnotes of the leather bound, artfully created menu card.

And it was the menu that first warned me of an impending disaster.

It had not a single item of food. An entire menu dedicated to beverages. Hot and cold. More tea, less coffee. But no bites. Then, very unceremoniously, a flimsy triangle of a menu card was placed in front of us. It boasted the treasured combination of vegetarian or non-vegetarian sandwiches, vegetarian or non-vegetarian salads, vegetarian or non-vegetarian quiches. I lost interest. My friends were bewildered.

Obviously, food is not the point here. Unless you order a thyme tea or an organic South Indian coffee, you are wasting your time. But we were there and the lunch hour, however liberal, does not stretch beyond a point. So we proceeded to order a vegetarian salad and a non-vegetarian salad, a vegetarian sandwich, a non-vegetarian sandwich and a non-vegetarian quiche.

My friends ordered some green tea and some iced tea. I stuck to my guns and ordered organic South Indian coffee. Food came in spurts. First came the non-vegetarian salad. Diced cucumber, bell peppers and tomatoes with little chunks of chicken strewn about. A thin mayonnaise sauce covered the mess.

Then came the vegetarian salad. Diced cucumber, bell peppers and tomatoes without little chunks of chicken strewn about. A thin mayonnaise sauce covered the mess. You get the picture. The sandwiches were no better. Cold boiled and shredded chicken slapped between stale bread served with, hold your breath, barbecue sauce!

The vegetarian version looked better with alternating white and wheat bread. And why should vegetarians be spared of the barbecue sauce? My organic South Indian coffee, instead of the deep aroma and the rounded flavour, came smothered in milk. All I could taste was the usual milky concoction that you get in any coffee made from instant powder.

All in all, a fairly miserable experience. We split that day promising to meet up at a decidedly “food” place the next time, even if that means Chinese. And why am I writing this piece? Misery loves company.



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2010 The Daily Star