Baking | Chicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper Julienne … where French cuisine deliciously meets Russian Cuisine in India!

“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.”
Marcel Boulestin

Chicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper JulienneYes, I was back at a delicious food blog, The Mansurov’s, a favourite, but lack of time the past 2 months has kept me away from most of my faves. I have no idea what happened to time, but can’t believe that it’s December already! Hello? Still so much to do before the year goes by, bookmarked posts to try, breads to bake, cookies to make, fruit to soak for the cake, drafts to finalise … time to hit the panic button! If 11 months flew by so fast, then the rest of 2010 will be gone in a heartbeat!I’ve always wanted to bake a chicken pie at home, ever since we had some at Harry’s in Sydney way back in November 2008. Harry’s pies were served with peas and mash, and probably had gravy too. It’s been on my list to make forever, but I’ve never found a recipe that appealed to me a 100%. I had a vision in my mind … it would have a yummy ‘chicken with veggies’ interior, held together by a luxurious creamy sauce, with this puff pastry top etc. I repeatedly ‘chickened’ out each time, and my home made puff pastry found other use.Chicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper JulienneThis time as well was the same, well almost. Push came to shove, and we had folk for dinner. I sorted out almost sorted out the menu, but couldn’t get the right main course. Browsing the net, I saw this at Lola’s and I just knew it had to be the one. Her opening lines were as delicious as the dish itself. Just the fact that this is where French cuisine met Russian had me virtually eating the julienne right off her blog. Seriously, something strangely beautiful happens to the flavours of the sauce when you roast the flour before you add the butter. I think Lola mentioned clarified butter somewhere in her conversation. Will try that the next time… mmm!Chicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper JulienneIt’s become a favourite in our house already. I’ve made it twice in the last 2 weeks. Am contemplating making a vegetarian version of the julienne, maybe using broccoli, mushrooms, roasted bell peppers and cauliflower. The sauce is creamy and comforting. Once it bakes with the chicken and mushrooms, and stands for a short while, it takes all the ingredients into a ‘warm embrace‘ of sorts. YES, it’s quite the dreamy chicken pie I’ve been waiting for!Chicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper JulienneChanges? Yes, but just a few and more for want of substitution. No full fat cream available here, so I went with low fat cream. Added milk to thin the sauce out as mine was very thick the first time around. I added a grating of Gruyère, chopped garlic greens and roasted bell peppers too. The second time around, I sautéed chicken and mushroom in a huge wok and mixed the warm white sauce through. I then ladled them out into the ramekins. I found it easier to work this way as I was making the dish for a crowd. It’s a great make ahead main course dish, and nice for the hoilday season. You can set up the individual ramekins, or one large serving. Top with mozzarella at this time, {or even later}, cover it with foil and refrigerate it. Before serving, heat in the oven covered for about 15 minutes, and then grill for about 10 minutes on high until the cheese is bubbly and golden on the edges. Don’t skip the mozzarella and the pinch of cayenne … it does contribute beautifully to finishing the dish well!

Chicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper JulienneChicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper Julienne
Adapted from Mansoravs
Makes 12-14 small ramekins
Prep: 45 mins | Bake: 20 mins | Oven: 180C
Ingredients:
6 small breasts of chicken, cooked, chopped
200gms button mushrooms, sliced fine
3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 large onion, chopped fine
4-5 stalks garlic greens, chopped fine
3 roasted bell peppers, red & yellow, chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp flour
50gm butter
200ml low fat cream {I use Amul 25% fat cream}
50gm Gruyère, grated {or cheddar}
1 1/4- 1 1/2 cup milk {as required}
200gms shredded mozzarella {I use Himalayan Buffalo Mozzarella}
Paprika
Chicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper Julienne
Method:
Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large wok. Sauté the chopped onions, garlic and garlic greens until fragrant, and the onions begin to colour a bit. Add the chopped chicken and mushrooms, and stir fry on high heat till the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt & pepper, and red chili flakes if you like. Take off heat, stir in the roasted peppers, cover and keep warm.
Now make the white sauce.
In a dry heavy saucepan, gently roast the flour on very low heat till light brown and fragrant. Add the butter and stir through well. Almost immediately begin to pour the cream in, whisking with a balloon whisk constantly to avoid lumps getting formed. Follow the cream with about 3/4 cup of milk, keep stirring and adding more milk as required. The sauce should be thick, and will continue to thicken as it cools. Grate in some Gruyère or cheddar, a grating of nutmeg if you like, season with salt and once the cheese has melted through, mix it into the warm reserved chicken, mushroom, bell pepper.
Divide this equally into 12-13 ramekins, or turn into one big baking dish, top with mozzarella, a pinch of cayenne and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to turn a little golden. Stand for about 10 minutes, and serve hot.
Chicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper JulienneServing suggestions: Char-grilled broccoli salad, potato-mushroom croquettes, and a rustic garlic bread.
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{Baking/Vegetarian} ROASTED BELL PEPPER, MUSHROOM & RICOTTA CALZONES … l♥ved ‘em!

“Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?”
Author Unknown
Happy ‘hump day‘!! Am battling the flu and a flu ridden family but seem to have gotten the better of Wednesday. Wordless Wednesdays prove elusive as always, maybe because I have too much to say. For that matter I never seem to make it to a ‘Meatless Mondays post either; guess that’s fine because my food isn’t ruled by days of the week. That said, I make sure the grub is meatless at least 3 times a week, and these calzones proved to be just the thing. The combination of the filling, the depth the roasted bell peppers provided and the yumminess of the ricotta in here was a winner! This is one recipe I shall make often! {By the way, Tuesdays mean ‘Tuesdays With Dorie‘ for me, even though I haven’t had the courage to join the group!}
Saw them on FoodGawker the other day, and something about them stuck in my mind. The very thought of ricotta and bell peppers had me captivated, and I imagined how good they must have been! A trip down to Nummy Kitchen had me sold as she said “Calzones are such a fun dinner and are easy to personalize for the kids and picky husband. This recipe is from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food and starts with his basic pizza crust recipe”. So here I am, having made these delicious calzones as soon as I could.

The basic dough is Mark Bittman’s pizza dough. I loved that I could make it the night before and leave it to rise in the fridge overnight. Seems to make bread and pizza making so much more appealing. No need to worry about it being warm enough to double rise, done or not done etc? Let it slowly rise in the fridge, while you sleep over it, and wake up the next morning to magically well risen dough! I just love the option. Of course, you can do it the normal way of letting it rise n a warm place for a couple of hours too!
As Andrea writes, Mark suggests using ricotta and spinach, but leaves the options wide open, suggesting the use of pizza toppings mixed with the ricotta. She chose to use roasted bell peppers, and why ever not? These roasted beauties tasted absolutely rustic delicious in there. I went a step further and sautéed some sliced mushrooms in EVOO with garlic and red chili flakes, and added those too. They tasted just wonderful, and me thinks next time I might just double the mushrooms in there. The filling had the most beautiful flavours possible!
Do you make your own ricotta? I made the ricotta at home from a David Lebovitz recipe, and you can too. Do make sure you drain the ricotta well, else you just might end up with soggy calzones. Making ricotta at home might sound tedious, but I assure you it’s not. I made it 2 days prior to making the calzones, and let it drain, wrapped in cling-wrap in the fridge for 2 days. I roasted the bell peppers in advance too, and having done the dough the previous night, I was left with just basic mushroom filling to make, and assembly for the next day! Easy and breezy!
I think these will make handsome little bites for a kids birthday party too, and great snack box fillers! My kids had them for an after school snack, and then later for dinner too! I absolutely loved the option of a vegetarian calzone that would win over a non vegetarian option. Pizza toppings as filling? YES PLEASE!!

Roasted Bell Pepper, Mushroom and Ricotta Calzones

1 recipe Mark Bittman’s pizza dough {recipe follows}

Filling
Adapted from Nummy Kitchen
2 cups ricotta cheese {homemade from 1 ltr of whole milk, 1/2 cup yogurt and 200ml low fat cream; recipe here}
4-5 red & yellow bell peppers, roasted and chopped
1 cup shredded mature cheddar {I didn’t have mozzarella, but this worked great}
200gms button mushrooms, finely chopped / sliced
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
A handful fresh basil leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil { I used Borges from here}
Salt and Pepper
I got 6 medium sized calzones from the dough. You can even make 4 large ones.

Method:
Heat the olive oil gently with 1/2 -1 tsp of roasted chili flakes and chopped garlic. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté on high flame till the liquid evaporates. Add the chopped bell peppers with their juices and sauté again until dryish. {Not bone dry, but not drippy either, else they will make the calzone soggy}
Reserve in a large bowl until just warm. Now add the basil, grated cheddar and ricotta to this, stir well to mix. Adjust seasoning if required.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Divide the dough into 6 equal balls, and roll out into circles about 8 inches each, by rolling or patting the dough down.
Divide the filling equally among the six rolled out bits of dough. Fold over and pinch the sides to seal.
Bake for about 30 minutes until nice and risen, and brown. {You could give them an egg wash for a rich colour. I just gave them a brush of olive oil}
Cool for 5-7 minutes, and serve. {Be careful when you serve them to kids, as it might have hot air trapped within as they tend to puff up.}

Mark Bittman’s Pizza Dough
3 cups all-purpose plus more as needed
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 to 1¼ cups water
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Method:
Combine the yeast, flour, and 2 teaspoons salt in the container of a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons of oil through the feed tube.{I did this in a large bowl, using the hand mixer with dough hooks}
Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. {In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.}
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and place the dough, in it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rise in warm; draft-free area until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. You can, cut this rising time short if you are in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours. {I made the dough at night and let it rise in the fridge overnight… and how it rose!!}
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WHOLEWHEAT CHICKEN BASIL WRAPS with BELL PEPPERS … & winners for the Mainland China Book Giveaway

“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.”
Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life
And life goes on, whether we have a kitchen or not, we still have mouths to feed. I am the queen of the makeshift kitchen in the morning before the workers plod in, and still attempt to whip up a decent balanced meal as often as I can. I know the kids, especially the younger one, gets disturbed with the ongoing work, which by the way, is stretching beyond our control. The way to little juniors heart is through his stomach, and I knew that these wraps would please him!
Of course mothers are never far off the mark. You should have seen to 100 watt smile I got for these…“NICE Mama, NICE!’ He’s a little foodie, often watches Master Chef Australia, dragging me to the telly in hungry fascination. Hear him discussing ingredients, contestants face expressions, asking if maybe I can make that yummy {calorie ridden in my eyes} lasagna. He notices the Kitchen Aid {the machine I dream of}, the ovens, the knives and can almost sniff ingredients out!
I mentioned ‘inspiration of the kebab type from my search results mentioned in my previous post, and here I am. When I thought of making these kebabs, I had junior PAB in mind. We share the love of subtle taste, colour and presentation in cuisine, as does Mr PAB. Give them both a well laid out, ‘good’ looking platter and you can see the sun shine in the middle of the night! They are not demanding men in any way, but are most charming and appreciative … and life seems worthwhile once again!
The bazaars are exploding with juicy, fresh bell peppers. On days that I get a well priced stash, I roast a few to make them last longer, and keep some for salad. I used a combination of roasted and fresh ones here in the wraps. The roasted ones, with their beautiful smokey flavour, were added to the mince while grinding, and the crisp fresh julienned ones tossed into a salad. Satisfied that nutrition and yumminess were both in there, the wraps were wonderful. {If you are unsure of the spices and salt in the kebab, fry a small bit of prepared mince to taste the flavours, and adjust ingredients if required}. And if you have pickled peppers on hand, do consider adding them to the mince while processing  it, as they add delightful tanginess to the kebabs.

While the hub and me chomped on ours wraps, all bundled up in white parchment for pictures to be taken first, we were transported back to the days when we used to visit London in the late ’80′s and early 90′s, digging into the most delicious doner kebab rolls, stuffed with salad, served with lashings of sauce. It was often bone-chilling cold there, but the enthusiasm of the lads serving the wraps coupled with the first bite always warmed us up. Those were the days, and these wraps brought back the nostalgia!

Before I get to the recipe, time to announce the winners for the Mainland China Book Giveaway, picked via Random.OrgNalini Hebbar and Avanika. Congratulations to the two of you; I hope you enjoy the book as much as I do. Could you please e-mail me your full postal address so Random House can mail the books to you. Thank you for having me host this Sohini!

Chicken, Basil & Roasted Bell Pepper Kebabs
Makes approx 10-12 rolls
Ingredients:
500gms chicken mince {I use thigh tenders}
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1-2 tbsp pickled peppers/jalapeños {home-made recipe here}
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 roasted red bell peppers
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil {I used Borges from here}
Salt to taste

Method:
Pulse the onion, basil and jalapeños in the processor for about a minute till finely chopped.
Add the rest of the ingredients and process on medium low speed till it all gets well mixed and comes together.Transfer to a glass or steel bowl and chill for at least 1 hour.
Heat about 2-3 tbsps of oil in a heavy bottom frying pan. Lightly oil your palms. Take a small portion of mince & roll it into a sausage like roll, back and forth to form a kebab. Gently slide into the pan & shallow fry till brown on all sides, about 8-10minutes.
Note: The kebabs should be fried just before serving as they taste best fresh,  thought the kids love taking them to school for lunch too!

Bell Pepper Salad
2-3 bell peppers in different colours, finely sliced
1 large onion, finely sliced
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil {I used Borges from here}
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
Method:
Whisk the olive oil, lime juice and salt. Reserve in a bowl.
Toss the other ingredients together in a separate bowl.
Add the dressing just before serving, and toss well.

Assembling:
Fry the wholewheat chapati or tortilla on a hot griddle/tava with a few drops of oil on both sides.
Place a kebab, followed by freshly tossed salad, roll and serve!

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