Le Gratin Dauphinois – Cooking Experiment #4

December 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

One of the common challenge that vegetarians face is eating out. You have to always make sure that there is a vegetarian dish on the menu (an overly priced salad for instance) if you want to spend some good time with your friends. When invited over a dinner you have to tell the hosts in advance that they will have to do some extra cooking for the herbivorous human being they invited to their house. I had a similar problem this weekend when I was invited for a late Thanksgiving Dinner.

The theme was Thanksgiving, definitely there was turkey sitting in the middle of table. But I couldn’t tell the hosts this time because this time the guests cooked some traditional Thanksgiving dishes and bought them to the venue. Now how am I supposed to let the twenty guests know that I don’t eat meat or fish ad they will have to cook something special, and I only know half of them. For sure not a good idea. But I wanted to go to this dinner and see my friends and discover the American tradition of Thanksgiving.

I came up with a slightly better idea. I cooked Gratin Dauphinois but a little more so that I can eat more of it with possibly some salad and sweet potato purée which I knew will be on the menu. And of course, there was no scarcity of desserts. Everything went according to the plan except that when I went to take a second helping of my gratin, it was all gone! I should have been happy as people really liked it and in a way I was. So I ate more desserts to fuel my stomach and thus fulfilled the Thanksgiving tradition of getting food coma the next morning.

Turning to the recipe now, which is quite simple. As for the photos, they are not at all good because I couldn’t serve the dish before taking it to the hosts’ house and there I was too busy catching up with friends to even consider photographing and showing off that I made a delicious gratin.

Cooking Le Gratin Dauphinois for Six Servings

What do we need?

  • 1.5 kgs Potatoes
  • 50 cl Full Cream
  • 5-6 tbsps Full Cream Milk
  • 100 gms grated Cheese (Emmental, Comte or Gruyère)
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Butter

Here’s how to cook the gratin

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into slices of 5 mm thickness(not too fine and not too thick).
  2. Take an oven dish and rub the garlic clove all over. (If you like garlic, you can also boil it with the cream).
  3. Butter up the base of the oven dish well.
  4. Pre-heat the oven at 200-220 degree Celsius.
  5. Start placing the potato slices until you get a layer. Pour the cream and add salt and pepper. Continuing layering and pouring cream until the potato slices finish.
  6. On the top most layer pour the milk. Cover well the dish with aluminium foil.
  7. Put the dish it the oven for at least one and a half hour.
  8. Remove the foil and check whether the potatoes are soft and the cream has cooked up well. If not, then cook for a few minutes more.
  9. Spread the cheese on top and put the uncovered dish again in the oven until the top layer becomes golden brown and crispy.

And voilà, the gratin is ready for serving as a side dish or a main, as you wish to gorge on this yummy dish.

It was hard to not eat it right at that moment.

It was hard to not eat it right at that moment.

Without the cheese layer on top, this is the traditional way of making le gratin dauphinois. A healthier version would be with other vegetables like carrots, courgettes, bell-peppers or whatever your imagination lets you think of.

Bon appétit!

Rice Cutlets with Mint Sauce and Chickpeas Curry – Cooking Experiment #3

November 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

When stressed, I start organizing stuff ranging from my files on the computer, to closet, kitchen cabinet, etc. Organization is great to calm down but it takes a lot of time and is never finished for a person like me. What’s the next best stress buster? Cooking, and cooking along with some music. I take a lot of time and pleasure even with simple recipes. The result is that I eat good food and I relax enough to get back to work.

This weekend I decided not to go out except for my dance class. I invited a few friends to share their November travel stories over dinner. On the menu we had Rice Cutlets, Mint Sauce and Chickpeas Curry.

Rice Cutlets and Chickpeas Curry

Rice Cutlets and Chickpeas Curry

Cooking Rice Cutlets with Mint Sauce and Chickpeas Curry for Four People

For Rice Cutlets we need

  • 250 gms boiled Rice
  • 100 gms diced Vegetables (Bell-Peppers, Onions, Green Beans,…)
  • 100 gms Tofu Cubes
  • 2 tbsps Corn flour
  • Oil to shallow fry
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For Mint Sauce we need

  • 100 gms Mint leaves
  • 100 gms Coriander leaves
  • 1 – 2 Onions
  • 3-4 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 inch Ginger
  • 1 Lemon
  • Green Chilli
  • Salt
  • Water

For Chickpeas Curry we need

  • 300 gms boiled Chickpeas
  • 250 gms fresh Tomato Purée
  • 3-4 Onions
  • 1 Green Chilli
  • 1/2 inch Ginger
  • 2 tbsps Cumin seeds
  • ½ tbsp Turmeric Powder
  • 2 tbsps Coriander Powder
  • Red Chilli Powder
  • Salt
  • 2-3 tbsps Oil

The long list of ingredients is over. Here’s how we cook the meal.

We start with Mint Sauce to warm up

  1. Chop onions, garlic cloves, ginger and green chilly into small chunks. To these add mint and coriander leaves. Use a mixer to make a paste of the above ingredients, be careful with water such that the consistency of paste is not lost.
  2. Add salt and lemon juice.

This sauce can be stored in refrigerator for a week. Mint gives a bitter taste and to counter it we need some sour flavours. Instead of lemon we can use sour tomatoes or yoghurt (for non vegan version) to add the sour taste.

Let’s start some real cooking with Rice Cutlets

  1. Take boiled rice, finely chopped vegetables, salt and pepper and mix them well in a large bowl. Once mixed add corn flour and put the bowl in refrigerator for 15 minutes. This will simplify the process of shaping cutlets.
  2. Meanwhile heat some oil for shallow frying in a pan.
  3. Take out the bowl with rice. Make a patty with handful of rice and put a cube of tofu in the centre. Shape the cutlet as you wish.
  4. Fry the cutlets (2-4 at a time) at medium heat until both sides turn golden brown.

Tofu can be replaced with Mozzarella or Ricotta cheese. This has been easy until now and I haven’t forgotten any ingredients.

How to cook the Chickpeas Curry? It’s easy!

  1. Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds when hot. Put it to medium flame.
  2. Cut onions and green chilli into thin rings. Cut ginger into small pieces. Add all these to the pan and fry them until onions turn golden.
  3. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt. Let the spices cook for 2-3 minutes and do not let them burn.
  4. Add tomato purée and chickpeas. Mix well and cover the pan with a lid. Let it cook for 10-15 minutes or until you can’t resist the delicious odour.
My happy meal!

My happy meal!

Cooking on medium heat, as my mother says, is very important. High heat often burns the food and always breaks down the food nutrients. Cooking must always be done with patience (except when you are a student and pasta with tomato sauce is your meal at least two times a day).

The background music for this cooking experiment was OneRepublic Spotify Playlist and I loved their Good Life song.

Have a great weekend!

Risotto with Red Wine – Cooking Experiment #2

October 29, 2013 § 2 Comments

I had an unfinished red wine bottle in my refrigerator which I opened almost a week ago. Knowing that it won’t taste very well after so long, I decided to use it for cooking. Luckily, a friend mailed a recipe from the Veggie Thursday blog and as I had almost all other ingredients, I said Perfetto.

Risotto is an Italian rice based dish. This recipe uses onion and red wine to vary the classic way of making this toothsome dish.

Cooking Risotto with Red Wine for Two People

What do we need?

  • 100 gms  Arborio Rice
  • 1-2 Onions
  • 1-2 Tomatoes
  • 100 gms boiled Chickpeas
  • 1 Carrot
  • 5-10 buds Cauliflower
  • 100 gms Mushrooms
  • 50 ml Red Wine
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1-2 cups Water
  • 2 tbps Vegetable Stock

Let’s cook it up

  1. Soak rice in water for 15-30 minutes.
  2. Cut onions in thin ring slices. Heat oil in a pan and sauté onion rings till they change color.
  3. Add the soaked rice and mix well. Wait until the rice is half-cooked.
  4. Add slices of carrot, cauliflower buds, tomato dices and red wine.
  5. Let the rice cook until the red wine evaporates.
  6. Add chickpeas, slices of mushroom, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  7. Just before removing the rice from flame, add the vegetable stock. Cook it for 2-3 minutes.

Let the rice rest for a few minutes to cool before serving it with some bread.

Risotto with Red Wine

Risotto with Red Wine

Buona apetit!

Rösti with Upma – Cooking Experiment #1

October 24, 2013 § 2 Comments

Finally the day has arrived for my first recipe post on this blog!

Since always, I did not experiment with food. Growing up in a vegetarian family, I never had problems learning to cook healthy vegetarian dishes. Things changed a lot when I arrived in France.

As a student I was busy with school and perpetual French learning, I didn’t have time to try cooking French dishes in a vegetarian way. For almost a semester I didn’t learn anything new in the kitchen. I had already bought the essential ingredients and spices from home and used to cook the way I knew. I didn’t dare to try newer French ingredients. But eventually I had to give in since I felt I am not learning anything about French cuisine. Even until now my French kitchen vocabulary is very limited but I am trying.

Here’s what I cooked for dinner tonight. It is an experiment to put together two different countries on a single plate, but it tastes well. Rösti is a Swiss dish based on potatoes and to complement it I added semolina based Upma which is a South Indian dish. Both of these are traditionally breakfast dishes as these are light, but when eaten together they work well for a not so heavy dinner. To add more color I garnished the dish with Kale chips.

Rösti with Upma

Rösti with Upma

Cooking Rösti with Upma for two people –

For Rösti we need

  • 500 gms Potatoes
  • 1 tbsp Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For Upma we need

  • ½ cup Semolina
  • 2 tbsps Oil
  • 10-12 Kale Leaves
  • 1-2 Green Chillies
  • 1 Lemon
  • 3-4 cups Water
  • 1 tbsp Coriander Powder

First we cook Rösti

  1. Wash the potatoes well and put them in boiling water for 30-40 minutes on a medium flame.
  2. Check with a fork or knife whether the potatoes are cooked or not. When cooked remove them from flame and wash them with cold water.
  3. Peel off the skin from potatoes and grate them. Add salt and pepper.
  4. Heat oil in a pan. Add the grated potatoes to the pan and shape it a like a thin patty. Cook until the bottom turns golden brown and crunchy.
  5. Turn the patty to cook on the other side until golden brown too.

Once the patty is done we start with Upma

  1. Wash the kale leaves well under flowing water. Cut green chillies into small pieces. Add these to a blender along with lemon juice. Blend until you have a medium to thin consistency.
  2. Heat some oil in a pan and roast semolina until it changes color to a light brown. Add water, the kale – chillies – lemon mixture and coriander powder.
  3. The semolina will start absorbing water. Keep stirring to avoid any lump formation. Remove from flame when semolina stops swelling.

Kale Chips recipe is found here on The Kale Project along with many other healthy and delicious kale recipes.

In a plate, first place Rösti and on top some Upma. Crush the kale chips and sprinkle around Upma.

And voilà, Rösti with Upma is ready. The flavours of lemon with kale and chilly in Upma made it taste well with the slightly crunchy potatoes. There can be improvements in terms of colors with the use of bell peppers; kale can be replaced by mint or coriander leaves or both and potatoes can be replaced by sweet potatoes for a healthier dish and a different flavour. I was very happy with the overall texture.

Looks better in this photo!

Bon Appétit!

Anybody said what this has to do with French cuisine? Nothing much, except the ingredients were all bought in France and I cooked this up in ma cuisine française (my French kitchen). And the life is easy again!

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