Dig-In Meals – A column highlighting Indian spices in recipes that take traditional Indian food and add a western twist!
Some people can whip up dinner for a crowd without breaking a sweat. I am not one of those people. I plan, make lists and then plan some more before I shop for the ingredients and then, yes, I can whip something up.
But my friend, Meena Desai, is one of those people that can create something magical for a crowd, with whatever she has on hand. She has an impeccable sense of balance, and often times will mix together ingredients that traditionally should never be mixed.
So, as we enter the dog days of summer, and we collectively don’t want to sweat over the stove making complicated recipes, I turned to Meena for inspiration.
We met and cooked together and came up with showstoppers to make your dinners (with a desi twist) — and your summer —memorable.
Meena’s signature dish works well as an appetizer or light dinner. You can use any toppings of your choice.
You can also use Olive oil and balsamic as a base
Crumbled Feta Cheese (Mozzarella or Amul cheese work great too)
Spices (Italian herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper)
Toppings used on pizza 1: tri color bell peppers (red, yellow and orange), pickled jalapeños, red onions. Grated Amul cheese
Toppings used on pizza 2: cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, Arugula tossed in with some lemon and olive oil, salt and pepper (add AFTER baking)
- Brush both the sides of the flatbread with olive oil.
- Layer the cheese and sauce on the bread.
- Add your toppings and bake at 400-450 degrees for just 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Keep an eye on the bread as it tends to burn fast.
Garlic Yogurt Tahini Dip
Packs fresh flavor with a creamy richness. Place it on a crudité platter or serve with pita chips.
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1 Tbsp Tahini
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- Fresh or dried dill
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro or mint
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sumac or red chili pepper (to sprinkle on top as a garnish)
- Roasted Jeera powder (to sprinkle on top as a garnish)
- Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk together to achieve a well-blended and creamy consistency.
- Sprinkle with dill, cilantro, sumac or red chili powder and roasted jeera powder.
My Mom’s Fruit Custard
This recipe transports me back to my childhood and her go-to summer dessert. I’m sure many of you remember this.
- 2.5 cups whole milk (you can use Almond milk or Oat milk to make it vegan)
- 5 tablespoons sugar (or ½ can of condensed milk which gives it a nice creaminess)
- 3 tablespoons custard powder
- 3 tablespoons whole milk warm or at room temperature
- 1.5 to 2 cups chopped mixed fruits – apples, mangoes, orange with rind removed, bananas, pears, strawberries, pomegranate, kiwi.
Making custard sauce
- Take milk in a thick bottomed pan and put it on the stove top. Bring the milk to a gentle boil (simmer)
- While the milk is getting heated, in a small bowl, take 3 tablespoon warm milk from the saucepan. Add 3 tbsp custard powder. Mix thoroughly to form a slurry.
- With a whisk stir very well to make a smooth slurry or paste without any lumps.
- When the milk has come to a gentle heat, add the sugar. Or condensed milk if using. Stir very well so that the sugar dissolves.
- Keep the heat on a low and then add the custard paste a little at a time.
- As soon as you add one portion of the custard slurry, stir quickly so that lumps are not formed. Finish off all the custard slurry this way.
- Keep on stirring often while the custard is cooking, so that lumps are not formed. Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes on low heat.
- The mixture will thicken slowly. For a thicker custard, cook for a few more minutes. Allow the custard to cool at room temperature. As the custard cools, it will thicken more. You can also keep the custard in fridge to chill before adding the fruits. This prevents the water from the fruits to thin it.
Making fruit custard
- Chop the fruits. Use any seasonal fruits. I used apples, papaya, banana, strawberries mango and orange.
- Once the custard has cooled, add the mixed fruits. Combine to mix.
- Serve fruit custard garnished with some more fruits and pomegranate arils or add some chopped nuts.