Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home |Volume 5, Issue 49, Tuesday, December 14, 2010




Earning the stripes

By Kaniska Chakraborty

I have been baking, broiling, boiling, stewing, sautéing, frying, roasting, even not cooking at times. I have been using my frying pans, my pots, and my baking trays. But none gave me the deep satisfying pleasure of grilling that I have recently taken to.

Grilling, strictly speaking, needs an open fire and a grate. Open fire is to apartment living the same that Virender Sehwag is to bowlers dangerous to say the least.

Well, the solution was there in front of my eyes all along. In various cookery shows, kitchen gods and goddesses have been turning slabs of meat, fish, poultry and occasional vegetables into nicely striped and cooked dishes with what is commonly known as the grilling pan. Essentially, a square or round non-stick corrugated pan allows the heat to create lovely searing marks on whatever you are cooking. The corrugation ensures that the food does not stick to the surface. And whatever bits get stuck to it, you can always use some acidic liquid white wine, citrus juice, vinegar to loosen them up and turn it into a saucepan of substance.

I always wanted one. But given the fact that I live in a culinarily backward city, finding such equipment was no mean feat. I scoured the markets, the malls. All in vain! And the few specimens that I could find were so flimsily lightweight that any hope of longevity needed to be banished.

Lady luck finally smiled on me. I was waiting for my wife to come to a mall where we planned to do our groceries. To kill time, I was wandering about in a department store when this nice shiny thing caught my eyes.

Thick deep red base, the bottom fortified with stainless steel, handle firmly riveted in place, shiny non-stick corrugation ending in stainless steel edges. All things told me that I had finally hit jackpot.

I was told by the very smart salesperson that it was the “last piece” left and they were not expecting another one soon.

Something told me that he had sensed my desperation. There I was, like a child in a toy store, with a new toy in my hand, waiting for my wife.

She being the super practical one, went on to admonish me for unnecessarily spending money on another piece of kitchen utensil. I hung my head and stood there, admonished. True to my wife's words, the pan was not used for another month or so. We were all caught up in our busy lives and devoted no time to culinary experiments.

Till our friends turned up!

It so happened that our friends decided to come one Saturday evening, their day of being vegetarians. Our usual three-card trick of pasta, salad and fish or poultry would not have worked. And to top that, we both had to work till late afternoon.

As I was rushing through a quick supermarket trip on my way back, I ran out of ideas and bought some paneer, much to my own chagrin. I consider paneer to be the nadir of vegetarian cuisine, to be used as an absolute last resort.

I also bought some nice winter veggies - cauliflowers, peppers, shallots, carrots.

When I got home and it was time to get cooking, I decided to be heretic and treat paneer with some deference. I sliced the paneer in steaks, seasoned it well and marinated with ginger and soy sauce. The veggies were nicely cut up and tossed in a bit of oil and lightly seasoned.

As an afterthought, I threw in a little sugar in the paneer as well, hoping to balance the sharpness of soy sauce. Then I took out my shiny new grill pan and put it on very high heat. And I slapped the paneer steaks on.

A nice sizzle welcomed me. The moment of apprehension hit. What if the panner got stuck? I gave the pan a gentle shake. Much to my relief, the paneer steaks wobbled and moved. No sign of sticking.

I turned them over to reveal lovely deep brown singe marks. The sugar was helping caramelise the paneer to a nice light brown. The ginger soy mix was sizzling away to a glossy reduction. The steaks had an unctuous, creamy, earthy look to it.

I took out the first batch and bit into one. I can only describe the taste as complex. The natural tang of the paneer, the sharpness of ginger and soy, and the caramelised sugar all balanced with the seasoning created a nice palate. The steaks were nicely streaked with grill marks.

The veggie pieces followed, their natural tastes heightened by the grilling. If this could happen to low life paneer, I could only imagine the possibilities with a fillet of fish or a de-boned leg of chicken. This certainly calls for more experimentation.


By Simon Monsoor

Prawn with garlic, butter and lemon rind
1 kg uncooked medium size prawns
80g butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1½ tbsp chopped lemon rind
1½ tbsp oregano

Peel prawns, leaving tails intact. To butterfly prawns, cut halfway through back, remove vein, then press flat. Melt the butter in small saucepan; add garlic, lemon rind and oregano. Remove from heat.

Barbeque the prawns until browned on one side, turn, spoon over some of the butter mixture, grill until just grilled through. Serve with remaining butter mixture.

Barbeque whole red snapper or koral/bhetki
One whole fish (2kg)
½ cup fish sauce
1½ tbsp ginger paste
1½ tbsp garlic paste
½ cup limejuice
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste

After cleaning the fish, with a sharp knife slash the fish 3-4 times on each side. Place the fish in a bowl. Mix fish sauce, ginger paste, garlic paste, limejuice, vinegar, soy sauce and salt. Marinate the fish in the mix for at least 2 hours. Grill the fish over charcoal until brown on each side. Brush with olive oil during grilling. Serve with coriander chili paste to taste.

Chicken Yakitori
500g chicken breast
¼ cup teriyaki sauce
¼ honey
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ ginger paste
Small bamboo skewers, soaked
Olive oil for dressing

Cut the chicken in cubes and place in a bowl. Mix marinade ingredients together and pour over chicken. Cover and place in refrigerator to marinate for several hours. Thread chicken on each skewer, using weaving motion. Heat barbeque grill to medium heat. Grease bars lightly with oil. Place skewers in a row and cook for 2 minutes or until brown on each side, brushing with the marinade as they cook, and when turned. Remove to serving platter and serve immediately.

Marinated grilled tomatoes
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
½ clove garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
White pepper to taste
3-4 large tomatoes, sliced 1 inch thick
6 lettuce leaves

In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, thyme, garlic, salt, and white pepper. Place tomatoes in re-sealable plastic bag. Pour marinade over tomatoes, seal bag, and marinate for 1 hour. Remove tomatoes from marinade; reserve marinade. Place tomatoes in centre of cooking grate. Grill for 2 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time. Dip lettuce leaves in remaining marinade. Top each lettuce leaf with a grilled tomato slice.

Crab barbeque with spicy coriander and chili dip
1kg crabs without claws
½ cup fish sauce
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp limejuice
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp olive
Salt to taste
Ingredients for spicy dip
250g coriander
50g green chili
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp vinegar
¼ cup of water

Mix all the ingredients in blender for the 'coriander spicy dip' and refrigerate for a while. Wash the crab shell properly with warm water.
Marinate the crabs for at least 2 hours. Preheat the charcoal and place a still grill over it. Grill the crabs for 2 minutes on each side and keep turning with a tong until they turn pink. In the meantime brush the crabs on the grill with the crab marinade mix. Serve instantly with the dip




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