The Perfect Spanish Meal

It was a very special evening two weekends ago. My husband and I had been married barely six months, and had finally settled down into a new home of our own. That Saturday evening was the first time close friends were coming over, and the husband and I had decided to make it Spanish night! Food, drinks, décor—it was all muy español!

The menu was a carefully-selected spread of quintessential Spanish dishes—in name, taste, falvours and aromas: an olive dip and the very famous patatas bravas for starters, an elaborate vegetable paella with mushrooms side dish for the main course. The drink of the evening was very special home-made Spanish sangria!

To start with, the potatoes had been roasted to perfection in my convection microwave for around 45 minutes. I topped them off with the right mix of herbs and a tomato-based sauce– true Spanish style! And voila, the patatas bravas were ready. The mild crunchiness of the potatoes, paired with the tanginess of the herbs and the sourness of the tomatoes were a potent combination in this dish. The olive dip may have been quick to make, but the results were mind-blowing. The mixed and mashed olives just melted in my mouth when I tried the dip with pita bread.

My home-made Spanish sangria is the most on-demand dish or drink at home. This special evening, the red wine of the sangria swirled in my mouth as the liquor-soaked fruits added the right amount of kick, and the refreshing mixers I used created a tasteful dance of sorts in my mouth.

My centre table looked beautiful when the first course was served- decked in a variety of colours, textures and aromas. The bright red of the patatas bravas was muted by the dull maroon of the sangria, while the moss green olive dip added another colour to the mix. Served on the Indigo melamine quarter plates and serving dishes, the primary colour circle was complete, and our small table was a feast for the eyes. While the sour olive dip balanced out the sweet sangria, the strong flavours of the patatas bravas tomato sauce made a delicious combination, exercising all possible taste buds on the tongue.

For the main course, the table had been set with a floral blue placemat set that I had bought in Spain that complemented the Indigo dinner plates and printed blue paper tissues. The brown rice paella had been slow-cooked with herbs, spices and beans with some vegetables, so the aroma of the bay leaf and cinnamon stick lingered in our dining area for a long time after serving. This was a contrast to the sharp garlic-and-fresh-herbs flavour of the mushrooms I had cooked in a jiffy. Together, the combination was pure gold! On the Borosil plate, the earth-toned mushrooms and brown rice seemed to be part of a rustic meal, but looked very inviting with the brightly-coloured veggies and the contrasting aromas. The raw flavours of the mushrooms worked in tandem with the lemon zest of the paella, while the red and yellow peppers added the Spanish flag colours to the plate. Gorgeous!

With sangria in our Endessa glasses, we began to eat. It was the perfect meal for a lovely monsoon evening.

This blog post is part of the My Beautiful Food contest sponsored by Borosil. Visit their lovely website My Borosil to check out their range.

Restaurant Inspiration: Palak (Spinach) Chaat

(Note: This is my first food post!)

The first time I went to Veda for a meal (a restaurant at Palladium in Mumbai), I ordered the palak (spinach) chaat. It was yum- a great fine dining touch to street food. Since then, it’s been a must-repeat dish for me, and while the restaurant’s food quality is inconsistent, this dish is always par excellence.

Last weekend, Indian street food was my “theme” for Sunday night dinner, so chaats were on my menu. After debating between the classic Papri Chaat (another restaurant special) and this one, I opted for the latter. And the result?

Ta-dah!

spinach or palak chaat- Indian street food

My palak chaat recipe is adapted from various sources. Family members provided the pakora recipe, while the toppings were inspired by the original restaurant dish.

As with all things fried, the hubby took charge of the slotted spoon while I did the rest. There’s something about frying I just don’t like, mostly to do with the copious amount of oil that is used!

Enjoy the chaat!

Ingredients for palak pakora:
1 cup gram flour (besan)
10 spinach leaves (stalks removed), washed thoroughly and dried
3/4 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1- 1.5 cups water
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

Ingredients for chaat topping:
1 potato, boiled and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 – 1 cup curd
1 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp red chilli powder
Handful of sev

Method:
Mix all the ingredients for the pakora to make a batter. Keep it aside. Meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan.  While the oil gets warm, dip a spinach leaf in the batter until the leaf is fully coated. Check if the oil is hot by dropping a little batter into the oil- it should sizzle. Add the batter-coated spinach leaf and fry. Repeat this for the rest of the leaves. Place spinach pakoras on paper napkins to absorb the oil.

Making the chaat:
Arrange the pakoras on a large plate or tray. Top off each spinach pakora with some chopped potatoes, tomatoes and onions, curd, chaat masala, red chilli powder and sev.

Tips for making palak chaat:

  • When shopping for spinach, look for a bunch with small leaves so the pakoras are easier to handle.
  • You can use less curd and skip the tomatoes to let the crunchiness of the pakora come through.