As the wedding season hits Dhaka with its onslaught of dinners and lunches that make you totter out of the door feeling like you consumed your life's worth of food, here are an assortment of items you can offer those in-between-wedding 'dawat' guests while keeping their palates craving for more. Wishing all my readers a very happy New Year and as the Italians say: 'Mangiare bene e sano' (eating health and being well).
BUTTON UP HORS-DE-OEUVRES
Bbq-ed mushrooms, button ones and layer of eggplant and tomato on it like a bruschetta.
250g button mushrooms (try to choose the smallest ones available)
150g diced egg plant
200g diced tomatoes
½ large red onion, diced
Pinch of cumin powder (zeera powder)
1-2 cloves garlic, diced
2 cloves of garlic, ground into a paste
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp thyme
½ tsp basil
Slice off the long stem from the mushrooms to leave the round top only. Saute this in half the oil and half the thyme with half the diced garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Saute for about 2-3 minutes but make sure the mushrooms maintain their shape. In a separate batch, saute the tomatoes with half the garlic paste, salt, pepper and rest of the thyme, adding basil towards the end. Saute till the tomatoes look cooked and the garlic is well absorbed. In the last batch, saute the egg plant with rest of the garlic paste, salt and a pinch of cumin powder.
Assemble the dish like a topsy-turvy pile, take the mushrooms and keeping the rounded side down, place a layer of egg plant, and a layer of tomatoes on top. Sprinkle generously with paprika and parsley. Stick a toothpick from the underside and serve it cold.
RISOTTO A LA THE FEARLESS OLIVE
250g Arborio rice or any thick grained rice that absorbs well. Sushi rice can also be used. In this recipe you are free to use grains like barley or oats.
200g each of round extremely thin (as thin as can be) slices of radish, zucchini and carrots.
150g parsley, finely chopped
3-4 large cloves of garlic, finely cut in round slices
2 large red onions, finely diced
½ cup olive oil
1½ cups mutton broth (about 1 kg mutton boiled in 5-6 litres of water with salt, black pepper, 1 tbsp garlic paste and 1 cup of celery)
1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parmesan or pecorino for sprinkling on top (you may put as much as you want although the suggested amount is 100g!)
1 small pressure cooker (up to 2 kgs weight maximum)
Mix the cut vegetables (carrots, zucchini, garlic and radish) together with some salt and a dash of oil and stick them into an oven for up to 15 minutes. The idea is to dry them out so ensure each piece of vegetable is sticking to the oven dish. Dehydrate them to a crispy level but make sure not to burn. Separately, dry the parsley in the sun. Leave it out for about 2 hours under a net or perforated covering.
Now mix these vegetables with the rice. Make a mutton broth using the ingredients above. Ensure the broth is watery but the meat is cooked through. Ladle out 1½ cups or more if you want. But make sure the soup is lean without any animal fat. Saute half the diced onions in olive oil until translucent, then add the mixture of rice and vegetables and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is all covered in the oil.
Add salt and pepper to taste and stir. Then add water and let it simmer. At this point add the broth and leave all this under pressure. Let the whistle blows twice. Now turn the burner off.
Let the cooker stay heated on the stove for another 3-4 minutes then take off and carefully open the lid after letting steam out. Dole it out in a dish and let it rest for about 2 more minutes.
Sprinkle with parmesan and a squirt of lemon juice. Serve with extra garnishing if you want. Buon Appetito!
Shrimp, wasabi, black sesame, or kalonji (if u want), and glass noodles.
250g glass noodles
1 tbsp nigella seeds or Kalonji
1 cup shrimps (headless, cleaned and de-veined)
1 tbsp wasabi paste or you can use ½ tsp of Kasondi paste mixed with 1tbs mustard paste
1 large iceberg lettuce (take off the thinnest leaves that could make the perfect wrap)
1 carrot, grated into short shreds (you can use a grater to get small shreds)
A sprinkle of fresh sesame oil
2 garlic cloves (cut up the garlic cloves and 1 small onion roughly and put in a small cloth sachet and knot it. Make it suitable for dipping into a pot of boiling water to add some flavours)
In a pot of boiling water, add the pouch of garlic and onion and after about a minute add the glass noodles till they are cooked. Fork them out and sprinkle some fresh sesame oil to keep them from sticking to each other. In the same water add the shrimp and boil for a maximum of two minutes. Take them out and a dash of sesame oil as well.
Dry roast the nigella or kalonji seeds. Take a thin leaf of lettuce and first spoon in some glass noodles, then place 2-3 shrimps in a line, sprinkle the seeds and carrot shreds on top of this and wrap the lettuce into a small 2 bite sized wrap. You may steam this for only 10 seconds or you may refrigerate this for up to 20 minutes before serving.
Serve it cold with a dip, preferably with chocolate-plum chutney.