Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

One of the big lifestyle changes that I have made since I have come back home is in the food I eat. I have been on a diet for the past seven weeks. Well, its not a diet but rather mindful eating. I have been cognizant of the macronutrients of the food I eat, whether it’s processed or not and if meets my daily nutrient requirements. There are pros and cons to mindful eating. A big advantage is challenging myself to make healthier foods by coming up with new recipes. There are negatives to mindful eating too– mainly that for the most part I have had to give up alcohol, bread, and sugar. If you have been following my blog you would know that leaving sugar wouldn’t be hard for me at all (if you need context check this out). However, leaving bread and alcohol was very difficult.

Coming back home felt like a clean slate. This needed to be a new chapter and for that reason, I felt that this mindful eating exercise had to be a part of the process. I committed to the regime. Woke up every morning and did an hour of crossfit training followed by a 300 calorie breakfast composed of 6 egg whites, a bowl of oats in soy milk with dried figs; an apple and cold brew coffee for mid day snack; black chickpea salad for lunch; and grilled chicken with one carrot and one cucumber for dinner. This is what I have been eating most days day. This comes to about 1,400 calories with a good mix of carbs, protein, and fat. It took some time to get used to this regime but now it feels strange when I deviate. Of course, I change the meals a little every now and then but the end caloric intake remains about the same.

The high intensity interval training and diet have resulted in me losing a little more than 10 kgs (22.05 lbs) in 7 weeks. The transformation, while physically doesn’t look like much, has been great for me mentally. I feel more energetic and am getting to a point where I feel comfortable with my body, more so than I have been in a long time.

Every now and then however, I get cravings which usually land up conveniently on a weekend. I seize such opportunities to make what I would call a feast. A no holds barred meal wherein I throw mindfulness out the window and create something based purely on the pleasure of taste. This oven-roasted shawarma is a product of this weekend’s feast. Shawarma is a middle eastern preparation of marinated meat that is cooked evenly and eaten with pita bread and a host of delicious accoutrements. I have made this in the past but each time the spice blend I used didn’t do justice to food. It always ended up tasting a lot like chicken tikka instead. There are two big differences between Indian and Middle Eastern marinades. The first is that in Indian marinades the meat is soaked in yogurt as a layer of additional fat whereas, in middle eastern marinades that fat is provided by olive oil. Secondly, middle eastern preparations focus more on the taste than on the aromatics. Hence, they do away with things like cloves and cardamom and only keep spices that enhance the flavors. I made this dish in the most traditional way possible. I left the chicken in its marinade for almost 12 hours, cooked in an oven for twenty minutes sliced and further fried off half the pieces in a skillet to get a crispy outer coating. What I was left was a mix of tender and crispy pieces of meat that was accompanied with store bought pita and a homemade mint white sauce which I love so much that I plan to make a lot more very soon. The feast was absolute success. Both my dad I overate which resulted in a high that comprised of antacid and soda bicarb. No regrets though.

Spices_

Shawarma-3

I have loved making all these amazing recipes. I have been hearing back from a lot of friends and family  about the things that they have been making. Please share, like, and send pictures! Looking forward to the next feast day though I have been mandated by my vegetarian mother to make something for veggie lovers instead of just meat guzzlers. Hang tight for that recipe soon!

Ingredients

3 limes, juiced

1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon of olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons red chili powder (paprika works as well)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

A pinch ground cinnamon

Red pepper flakes, to taste

1 kilogram (~2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 large red onion, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Step 1

Prepare marinade for the chicken. Combine lime juice with 1/2 cup of olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, cumin, red chili powder, turmeric, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and chicken into a large bowl. Mix well, cover and keep for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 12 hours. 

Step 2

Heat the oven to gas mark 6 or (425 F). Grease the pan with some oil and set the chicken. Coat the onions in the marinade and place in the pan as well.

Step 3

Put the chicken in the oven for not more then 30 minutes or until the outer edges of the chicken begins to crisp and darken. Once cooked, let the chicken rest for 2 minutes. Slice thinly. If you want to make the chicken more crisp, add a tablespoon of olive oil on a skillet at high heat and cook until chicken begins to curl tight. Serve with Hummus, white sauce, fresh veggies, pita, and pretty much anything you desire!

 

 

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Pad Thai

Today I begin my first full time job. I will be working in digital marketing in a PR company and while four years ago, I wouldn’t even think of this as a potential occupation, my experiences and degrees suggest otherwise. One of the things people have started telling me is that “Oh, Archit now that you have started working you will have no time.” I found this constant opinion that in college I had time and now I won’t, hilarious. College was hard y’all! I’m not going to lie, my last semester was a lot less busy but every other semester, I was constantly moving from a class to a meeting to working on homework. In fact, because I lived on campus I didn’t even have commuting time which I could use as respite from constant engagement.

In all this craziness, I also had to keep myself fed which meant either eating the same food in cafeterias or actually cooking. While I love cooking, it’s a little time consuming: prepping, the actual act of cooking, and washing dishes all add up. Therefore, I had to think of recipes that needed less equipment and minimal prep time. Enter Pad Thai. All it needs is rice noodles, any (or all) of the veggies you have in your fridge, and a sauce with which to caramelize everything. The important thing here is the sauce. All the flavors are introduced by the sauce which means it needs to hit the three palette tenets of asian food- spice, sweet, and savory. The traditional pad thai recipe asks for tamarind paste but I substitute that with lime juice and rice vinegar which simulate the tang and acidity of tamarind.

I miss original thai food all the time. One of my favorite places to eat in college was a small thai restaurant called Royal Thai, which was run by this tiny but energetic woman that we called “Thai Queen.” She used to love us and always gave us free refills of thai iced tea. I do miss college, but food like this keeps those memories alive. This week I had an unique opportunity to head back to Denison and begin a life there but I chose against it. I do believe that I made a good choice of starting a life in a country that does accept me but I guess only time will tell how smart of a choice this was.

Anyway, I hope you like recipe and give it a try. I have been hearing back from people who have been making some of the recipes and I am excited that you seem to like them. Send me pictures so that I can blog about them!

Pad Thai

 

Ingredients

Serving Size: 2 people

4 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoons Sriracha

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic minced

2 red chillies or 3 green chillies

200 g of chicken breast or shrimp

2 well beaten eggs

15 large cremini mushrooms sliced thinly

1/2 red or green peppers

250 g of rice noodles (3 mins on boil)

6 Spring onions

handful of coarsely chopped cilantro

handful coarsely chopped peanuts

Preparation

Step 1

Boil noodles for 3 minutes or as per package instructions.

Step 2

To make the sauce: add sriracha, fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, and sugar. Mix well.

Step 3

In a wok, add oil and heat on high until oil begins to smoke. Add Shrimp or chicken and cook a minute under it’s done. Remove protein, and add garlic, ginger, and all the veggies. Cook well and add rice noodles. Add the Beat the egg whites in the center along with your pad thai sauce

Step 4

Reduce the heat and let the sauce caramelize. Mix well and serve with peanuts.

 

Summer Plum Galette

I spent Fourth of July, 2016 in Mungeli, a village in rural India where I worked as a public health intern for a grassroots level hospital along with other Denison students. For most of them, missing out on Fourth of July was a big thing (and rightly so). I have missed the past four Diwalis and I know how that feels. As a way to celebrate some of that American culture with our homesick friends, we decided to make some truly red, white, and blue dishes– Mashed Potatoes, Mac & Cheese, and a Pie. With some compromises, the first two dishes were made quite successfully. The potatoes were small, with very little starch but turned out quite creamy and buttery. The macaroni pasta was replaced by semolina wheat penne and the cheddar cheese was replaced with salty, processed Amul cheese but hey! It was better than nothing.

Sadly we couldn’t make the pie. Sugar was scarce, so were fruits, and well, we didn’t have an oven. However, the idea of making a pie stuck with me until I went back home to Delhi in August. I have always been scared of the oven. I feel like I have no control when I am cooking with an oven. I usually overthink the temperatures and either overcook (sometimes burn) or undercook my dish. But I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to conquer the oven. This is when I came across Mellissa Clark’s recipe of a galette. A free form artisanal tart, filled with fresh seasonal fruit that become a syrupy jam as they caramelize slowly under the even heat of an oven. She used peaches and cherries with a french cookie crust. The thing I loved the most about this recipe was how forgiving it was. Unlike a tart, or a pie this kind of broke the norms of french finesse by displaying a form of perfection in its imperfections.

Finding this pastry was SO exciting that I started thinking of how to adapt this recipe for the climate, fruits, and ingredients that might be available to me. I chose to change the crust from the french cookie style which would have been quite crumbly and thick to a more traditional pie crust that might add some depth in flavor, some creaminess, and most importantly something that can hold the weight of jammy fruit without ripping apart. The second thing I changed was the fruit. From peaches and cherries, I chose Plums. Plums are one my favorite summer fruits. They come under the category of stone fruits– a family of juicy fruits that tend to have a low sugar content. Plums look magical, with their deep burgundy, purple hues that are speckled with tan dots like stars in a galaxy. Additionally, they have such a unique taste to them. The skin is tart, a flavor spreads quickly over your tongue followed by a gush of sweet watery juice that annuls the millisecond of sour. It reminds me of a warheads or other sour candies that I had as a child (before I was allergic to citric acid and they burnt my tongue).

Plum

Add some blueberries and this will make an amazing Fourth of July dessert! The blueberries will increase the sweetness so adjust added sugar and cornflour accordingly. Additionally, I would top it with a vanilla bean ice cream and chuck the annual boring pie!

Have a try! Like, share, and let me know how it goes!

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour [can be replaced with almond flour]

1 Stick (8 tablespoons) of Salted Butter, cold and cubed [if you are using unsalted better then add 1/4 teaspoon of salt] {almond or hazelnut butter tastes good too}

2 to 4 tablespoons of ice cold water

For the filling:

3 cups of fruits (plums, peaches, blueberries, cherries)

3/4 cup of sugar (or to taste)

3 tablespoons of cornflour (add only 2 tablespoons if you are adding blueberries)

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

Eggwash and crust topping:

1 Large egg

2 tablespoons of water

3 teaspoons of sugar

Preparation

Crust:

Step 1 

In a food processor blend together the flour and butter until the mixture forms bean-size pieces. Slowly add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough just comes together. It should be moist, but not wet.

Step 2

Put dough on lightly floured counter and pat it together to make one uniform piece. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours.

Step 3 

Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius (400 degrees farenheit). Roll the dough out to a 12-inch (30 cm) round. Dont worry if its uneven. It goes with the rustic vibe! Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill while preparing the filling.

Filling

Step 1

Toss together fruit, the lemon zest, and the cornstarch. Use more cornstarch for juicy stone fruit and less for blueberries, and raspberries. Pile fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Gently fold the pastry over the fruit, pleating to hold it in. Again, imperfect is totally fine. Brush the crust generously with one beaten egg and 2 tablespoons of water. Sprinkle the 3 teaspoons sugar on the crust.

Step 2 

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling bubbles up vigorously and the crust is golden. Cool for at least 20 minutes (prime instagram picture time). Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

Chandini Chowk: A feast for all the senses

There was this article (2011) in the National Geographic Magazine commemorating the fact there are now 7 Billion humans on this planet. The author, Nigel Holmes talked about what it would be like to have a party where the whole world is invited. He said that an elevator allows about two to three square feet of space per person, however this is a party and he wants everyone to have some space to dance, giving them six square feet of space. This means that the party would need a space of about 1500 square feet. Holmes then said that such a kind of party space would be found in places like the complete city of Multan, Pakistan or all the 118 islands of the French Polynesia. After reading this article I spent the next week thinking how this party would be like, how it would be to party with so many people in such a small place.

Chandini Chowk is an apt example of how such a party would be like. Correction, its an exact example of how crowded it would be. Chandini Chowk is a small district in the older parts of Delhi. It overlooks the Red Fort and was and still is used mainly as a large marketplace for the masses. I have gone there thrice. The first time was when I was ten and we had to go meet some relative. I hated it. I was ten and forced to walk through crowded, poo infested streets and I didn’t even get a Mc Donald’s burger for lunch because there weren’t  any in a twenty mile radius (I was growing through a phase where everything was too spicy and dragging me out of my house to meet relatives costed my parents a burger).

The second and third time was quite different. Six years after growing taste buds and an increased temperament to the Indian sweaty crowd, my opinion about the place changed. In 2011 I went with my parents with no real agenda of my own. It was the winters and weather was perfect to walk around tiny lanes with the greasy smell of paranthas. Chandini Chowk was really the first place I took an interest in macro photography. We walked to a never ending strip of markets specialized for selling just spices. It was really an amazing sight. The heaps of raw spices were a visual, however they did give a good battering to my olfactory senses with that strong, pungent smell.

Chilies

I experimented quite a bit with such spices walking through the heavily scented area. Apart from the chillies another favourite picture among the spices is a picture of a bowl of mixed spices, the star of the picture being incidentally, a star anise.

Star anise

There is stark religious divide in Chandini Chowk. The complete shopping area is divided in a Hindu and a Muslim market. The Hindu markets are in close proximity of the Red Fort and is also where you would end up if you ask any local for the way to Chandini Chowk. The Muslim market overlooks giant mosque called the Jama Masjid. The two areas (the latter is called Chawri Bazaar) are different is some ways. The people in both the areas speak the same language but have different dialects, the colors that dominated the Hindu side were red and mustard, and the muslim side were white and hues of blue. I don’t know if the colors are really a difference, it was just an observation. India is known to have a somewhat deep religious divide even though on official paper we are “secular” nation. India is known to have fights based on religion. However, such a divide is not observed in the people residing there.

The most recent time I went to Chandini Chowk was with my school friends. We had gone there with the aim to take pictures though the heat and one friends insistence to buy kilos of sweets put me down. I did however enjoy going with them. There was no time limit being hounded on me by my dad my mum insisting me to put sunscreen due to the heat. I was truly allowed to get lost. It was also the first time I ventured into to Chawri Bazaar. I was able to click a couple of pictures. This one is of a trio of wheel barrows that are stuck in a traffic jam.

trio

Another picture I took was of a bowl of peppercorns. Those tiny black spherical seeds really were able to express nature’s ability to create colors. Each corn was of a different hue of black or brown. It’s beautiful to think how many different colors were actually needed to get that color.

Pepercorn

I have not seen a place thiscolorful, hot, noisy, dirty, and tasty as Chandini Chowk. I cant wait to go again, beat the odds and click satisfying pictures and meeting interesting people, be it in the Jama Masjid or in the newly opened Mc Donald’s.

Spice Street