Monday Muse: Italian Roast Chicken

Let’s kick off The Foodscape’s ALL NEW Monday Muse series with Nigella Lawson’s incredible Italian Roast Chicken with Peppers & Olives! ❀

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

What do you do when you have tonnes of time on your hands and are having a serious hankering for Italian yummies? You decide to cook up some mean Spaghetti and Meatballs from scratch. Then you remember that you’re trying to eat healthy. Errr… And then, like a light bulb going off in your mind, you know just how to make this classic healthy, while packing it with LOTS of amazing flavours!

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The Foodscape Holiday -Thailand

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Wat Chalong, Phuket

I have always wanted to travel the world. As a little girl I harbored all those cliched dreams of having that magical kiss in front of the Eiffel Tower, having a picture of me taken while I (fake) tried to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and of course I wanted to visit the Colosseum and eat some creamy gelato, very a la Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in When in Rome.

As I grew older, and began taking my passion for food seriously, my need to get away from the norm and travel to strange, unknown places where every corner I turned would be unfamiliar took over my life. Simply because the more I fell in love with food, the more vivid it became that I was missing out on the flavours of these foreign corners.

IMG_20151123_133514When I enrolled into college, my one wish was that it would help me get a job that would cover my food and travel bills. About then, I was blessed with a man who wanted the same things in life – good food and to travel the world! And the rest is history… πŸ™‚

It’s been just over a week since we returned from Thailand, our first of many trips around the world. I must tell you that every moment we spent there was amazing and will forever be etched in our travel-yearning hearts. And if you ask me what I miss most (yes, already!) about the Land of Smiles, I’ll tell you it’s the incredible food! (That, and the public transportation system. It’s so convenient that you almost forget you’re a tourist!) πŸ˜‰

There is no such thing as a bad meal in Thailand. In the 10 days we spent there, every meal was top notch. Whether you’re cruising through a shopping street and break to eat some delicious street food, have dinner in a mall food-court or sit down in a pretty restaurant for some fancy grub, the food is always good; ALWAYS! Here’s a roundup of my foodie adventure in Thailand! πŸ˜€

Authentic Thai Food

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A trip to Thailand is never complete without savouring some hot Thai Green Curry, sweet and spicy Seafood Pad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice for dessert. But the cuisine is by no way limited to these three beauties. With tonnes of noodle soup dishes, curries, crispy pork, fried rice, fresh seafood delicacies and grills to its credit, Thai food is easily one among the most flavourful, simple and comforting cuisines of the world.

IMG_20151122_205808Our first dinner in Bangkok was some spectacular Mixed Seafood Pad Thai at Food Factory in Siam Center. The food is cooked freshly before you and my, is it lip-smacking! Full of bold fresh flavours, an array of textures coming through in each bite and the well-complemented seafood and glass noodles left us full yet wanting for more.

We also enjoyed my all-time favourite Thai Green Curry on various occasions! Hot, aromatic and oozing with flavour, it is perfectly accompanied by a bowl of steamed Jasmine Rice. The best bit, you can find these Thai food classics just about anywhere in the city! πŸ™‚

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Street Food in Bangkok

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As the sun goes down, the streets of Bangkok come alive with tonnes of pop-up kiosks serving freshly grilled skewers of various kinds – chicken satay, pork balls, sausages, fish, squid, octopus, mushrooms, shrimp. You name it, they’ll cook it for you! And needless to say, it is all delicious. Several kiosks also sell fresh fruits. I had my good share of juicy mango slices and watermelon. Some of the best mangoes I’ve ever eaten!

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Breakfast at The Ambassador Hotel, Bangkok

For the first two nights of our holiday, we stayed in The Ambassador Hotel, Bangkok. Located on Soi 11 in Sukhumvit, this hotel is beautiful and the service is great. To say we loved the breakfast spread at The Ambassador is an understatement. They have a huge variety of Thai, Indian and European breakfast favourites, freshly made and waiting for guests at 6am.

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Croissants, danishes, fresh bread, banana cake, ham, bacon, cheese, sausages, pancakes with syrup and chocolate, Thai soups and curries, Indian naan and vegetarian gravies, cereal, juices and fresh fruit are all served up, making sure that each guest is fueled up well for a day of sightseeing. If you’re staying at The Ambassador, make sure you wake up early to grab a bite at the AM Cafe breakfast buffet!

Think Cafe, Siam Center, Bangkok

Without a thought or any prior planning, every time we were in Siam, we somehow found our way to Think Cafe. This cute cafe located in Siam Center is great for desserts, coffee, tea and fruity coolers. I had the Mixed Berry Italian Soda here on my first day in Thailand and I fell in love instantly. It is just what you need after a long journey – refreshing, cool and berrylicious!

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Chocolate Pot

On our last day in Thailand, we stopped here for dessert. The boyfriend had the Chocolate Pot which he said was super chocolaty and I had the Midnight Brownie. It was dark and gooey and the perfect comfort food for my holiday-ending blues. A must try! πŸ™‚

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Midnight Brownie

Some Sushi Loving

IMG_20151122_233456I love Sushi and much to my delight, it is easily available anywhere in Thailand. You can find it sold by street-food vendors, served at several Japanese restaurants around town and even order in.

One of the highlights of my very-sushi (I must have eaten sushi on every alternate day!) holiday was the Naeki Sushi I found in Siam. Get this – it is sold in prettyΒ take-out packaging at the Siam BTS Sky Train station! Sushi sold at a train station? That is genius! We really could use some of that awesomeness here in India. πŸ˜›

The boyfriend and I also experienced our first truly-Japanese meal on our last afternoon in Thailand. At one of the many Japanese restaurants in Siam Center, we sat down on bar stools and enjoyed some delicious make-it-yourself Tom Yum and Chicken soups. We popped into our soups just about every ingredient that was rolling by on the conveyor belt and ended up with yummies in our tummies. We then proceeded to the sushi counter where we chose our picks from 20 different kinds of sushi! Sweet Japanese cuisine heaven! πŸ˜€

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Street Food in Phuket

IMG_20151125_173206The food at every corner in sunny Phuket is to-die-for! We stayed in Patong and we absolutely loved the large variety of street food options housed within the Malin Plaza. It was like a food festival open every day of the week! Here, we gorged on some delicious Nutella-Strawberry Crepes prepared by this lovely Thai couple, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, more Pad Thai and Sushi and of course some Mango and Sticky Rice served with Coconut milk – just divine!

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Drinks on Bangla Road

If you’re travelling to Phuket, you really mustn’t miss a quick visit to Bangla Road. This short street lined with night clubs, bars, pubs and lots of live entertainment (both family-friendly and naughty) is colourful, lively and the hub of nightlife in Phuket. We stopped for some rum and coke at the Tiger Bar before we proceeded to the Pizza Company for dinner. Good fun! πŸ˜›

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Gram Cafe, Tamaharaj, Bangkok

We had a great lunch at Gram Cafe, located in the Tamaharaj open air mall on the Maharaj Pier in Bangkok. Long before we set out on our vacation, we had looked at pictures of meaty burgers sandwiched between black burger buns and had longed to have an opportunity to taste them. We were delighted when we found these intriguing black burgers at Gram Cafe and just had to try them!

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BBQ Pulled Pork Burger
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Soft-Shell Crab Burger

I had the Pulled BBQ Pork Burger and the boyfriend had the Soft-Shell Crab Burger. Both were succulent, meaty, juicy and messy – but dribbling with gorgeous flavours! We also shared the Mixed Berry Soda which was so very refreshing!

Pomodoro, Bangkok

To take a break from all the Asian food we were trying out, one afternoon we decided to resort to some good ol’ Italian comfort food at Pomodoro, Bangkok. Located right outside The Ambassador Hotel Bangkok, this chic little place is cozy, and offers both indoor and al fresco seating options. And the food is exceptionally good. We ordered the classic Margherita Pizza and Pan Fried Sea Bass Risotto and were pleasantly mind-blown by how delicious it was.

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Margherita Pizza

The pizza base was thin and crispy, topped with just the right amount of cheese and pizza sauce and finished with basil. Yum yum and more yummm! The risotto was creamy, the rice glossy and pearly and the sea bass was seasoned well and cooked to perfection. A seafood-lover’s dream come true!

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Pan Fried Sea Bass Risotto

For dessert, we had the Tiramisu and I believe this deserves a special mention. We have had plenty of Tiramisu at various restaurants in Oman and India but have always been disappointed by the flavours and textures. The boyfriend always complains thatΒ I’ve ruined all Tiramisu served in restaurants with my mean homemade version. But not this one. The Tiramisu at Pomodoro knocked mine right outside the park! My mouth waters at the memory. It was, quite simply put, perfect! ❀

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Tiramisu

Our vacation in Thailand was as much a gastronomical extravaganza as it was a cultural and architectural treat. Thai food is comfort, flavour and homey-ness all wrapped into one. And once you fall in love with it, it’s going to keep you coming back for more.

I already can’t wait for my next trip to Thailand, and I hope I’ve made you hungry enough to pack your bags and go on vacation to this beautiful country! πŸ˜€

Tiramisu

Tiramisu – the name of the dessert sounds Oh-so-Exotic, but in truth it is what the Italians call ‘semplice’, meaning simple. I first heard the word Tiramisu when I was about 11. The priest’s chef at the church we go to would make batches of Tiramisu for visitors and guests and when we were lucky, us kids playing in the church premises would get a chance to taste some. It was a rare opportunity, but one we pounced upon eagerly. And man, was it delicious! Luscious and creamy with hits of coffee; gosh, my mouth waters at the memory. Eleven years down the line, I’m extremely proud to say that I make a pretty mean Tiramisu myself! πŸ˜‰

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Over the years, I’ve come across many very distorted versions of the Italian classic. When I was studying in Mangalore, India, a famous ice-cream parlour served a Tiramisu Ice-Cream – a parfait of coffee ice-cream and chocolate cake layers topped with whipped cream. I cringe when I think of how not-so-Tiramisu-ish it tasted. I have also found many department store and bakery versions which are actually just layered whipped cream and chocolate cake parfaits. It is beyond annoying, because the classic Tiramisu doesn’t have ANY chocolate cake in it! :/

Nevertheless, I’m glad I know how make it myself. I mean can you imagine missing out on this beautiful dessert just because no one really knows what it is and how to make it? I cannot fathom how much joy I would be missing out on if I had never eaten an authentic Tiramisu. It is too amazing a pleasure to be deprived of! πŸ™‚

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This recipe is for a cheat Tiramisu. I say cheat because it does not entail half the hard work that normally goes into making a good Tiramisu, yet it tastes just as good and authentic. The original recipe of this fabulous Italian dessert requires you to whip up egg whites until they form stiff peaks or egg yolks until they are creamy and then blend the eggs with mascarpone cheese and sugar to form the creamy mixture. While I have tried this method and though time-consuming it tastes rich and lovely, I figured out a short cut. I don’t really like eggs, and much less raw eggs in my dessert, so I decided to substitute them with heavy whipping cream. This lets me avoid the hassle of beating away at the eggs with my hand mixer and the cream turns out just as rich and lush. Win-win, isn’t it? πŸ˜€

So, here’s what you need:

  • Finger Biscuits – a pack of 30 (also known as Ladyfingers)
  • Mascarpone Cheese – 500 g
  • Castor Sugar – 4 tbsp (or more, depending on how sweet you want the dessert to be)
  • Heavy Whipping Cream – 550 ml
  • Dark Rum – 3 tbsp (optional)
  • Vanilla Extract – 1 tsp
  • Strong Brewed Black Coffee – 500 ml
  • Cocoa Powder – to drizzle

This is the procedure involved:

  • Brew your strong black coffee and keep it in the refrigerator.
  • While the coffee is chilling, in a bowl, blend together Mascarpone cheese, sugar and heavy whipping cream until it forms a thick cream. Pour in the vanilla extract and dark rum and mix until well incorporated.
  • Take the coffee out from the refrigerator and begin quick-dipping the finger biscuits in it one-by-one and placing them in a layer in a large deep square/rectangular dish.
  • Once the entire bottom of the dish is lined with coffee-soaked finger biscuits, pour half of the prepared creamy mixture over the biscuits and even the layer out with a spatula. Then drizzle cocoa over the cream.
  • Repeat the same procedure, layering coffee-soaked biscuits, cream and cocoa alternatively until the dish if filled to a little over 3/4th of its capacity.
  • Cover the dish with aluminium foil and place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • Serve chilled.

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Take this as a guarantee; if you are a coffee-lover or even remotely like the taste of coffee, you will fall in love with this dessert! It is the kind of dessert that makes you feel blessed that you had a chance to eat it and also urges you to say a little prayer for the person who first came up with the recipe centuries ago.

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My entire household are big fans of Tiramisu. The brother can’t get enough of it and many a time when he heads over to a friend’s place for dinner, he asks me to make a bowl-full for them. Mom loves to indulge her taste buds in a small serving of Tiramisu, not that she would refuse if you served her a nice big piece. πŸ˜› The cousins ask for some every time they come over. And the boyfriend says that with my homemade Tiramisu, I’ve ruined all store-bought and restaurant versions for him! πŸ˜‰

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I’m certain that the luscious creaminess of the whipping cream and Mascarpone coupled with the soft, moist finger biscuits oozing with bursts of coffee and hints of bitter chocolate (from the cocoa) will have you believing that you’re floating in paradise! πŸ˜€ Go ahead, try this recipe. You can thank me later! πŸ˜‰

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Tip: You’re probably wondering why this dessert needs to be chilled for 24 hours. In truth, Tiramisu can be eaten just after a couple of hours of refrigeration. But it takes at least 24 hours for all the flavours to fuse together and make it the splendid dessert that it is. So, make it a day in advance and try to resist eating it before the guests arrive! πŸ™‚

Chicken Alfredo Pasta

 

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As a kid, my tiny fat self (I looked like a teletubby) was incredibly fussy when it came to food – Β I would refuse to eat pizza and hamburgers and I always wanted the staple rice and dal or Mangalorean fish curry that would be waiting at home for me. I hated trying new cuisine and dishes and stubborn that I was, I always threw a fit if I was forced to try something that seemed to irk my little brain (and if it did turn out that I found the dish tasty, I dared not admit it.)Β But since, my palate has evolved and I’ve become more experimental and open to new cuisine.

While I firmly disliked pasta in my younger years, it has now come to be one of my favorite foods. I know that people have tons of excuses as to why they shouldn’t eat pasta, and even though all the articles relating to diet and weight loss say that eating pasta is a no-no, I just cannot and will not keep away from pasta. I like my pasta extra creamy and extra cheesy, oozing with that wholesome Italian goodness.

I’ve been cooking pasta for about a year now and all this while I’ve been unknowingly passing off a pasta in white sauce as Alfredo Pasta (my bad). Only after snooping around a bit and doing my research did I find out that the main ingredient in Alfredo sauce is Parmesan cheese – something I was completely leaving out when making white sauce (a healthier non-fattening sauce). However, now that I found the way to make the perfect Chicken Alfredo Pasta the right way, I am never going back!

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Here’s what you’re going to need.

  • Boneless Chicken Breasts – 4
  • Salt – to taste
  • Pepper – 3 tsp
  • Pasta – 500 g (your favorite kind of pasta will do)
  • Heavy Cream – 2 cups
  • Butter – 113 g
  • Parmesan cheese – 1 cup, grated
  • Garlic Powder – 1 tsp
  • Dried Rosemary – 1/2 tsp
  • Oregano – 1/2 tsp
  • Chilly Flakes – 1/2 tsp
  • Broccoli – 300 g, cut into bite sized pieces

This is how you make the yummiest homemade Alfredo Pasta you’ve ever had

  • In a bowl, marinate the chicken breasts with some salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta as per instructed on the box. When the pasta is almost cooked through, just about 4 minutes before turning off the heat, add the broccoli in to cook. Turn off the heat, strain the pasta and broccoli in a colander and leave to cool.
  • Melt butter on medium heat and mix the heavy cream in. When you see small bubbles appearing on the sides, add in the Parmesan cheese and whisk quickly to melt the cheese.
  • Add in the garlic powder, rosemary, pepper, oregano, chilly flakes and some salt and let it cook for another minute or two.
  • When the sauce reaches your desired consistency, take it off the heat.
  • In a nonstick skillet, heat some oil and pan fry the chicken for almost 6 minutes on each side or until the chicken has a lovely golden colour to it and is cooked to perfection – moist and juicy in the center.
  • Once all your elements are ready, pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli and add in the sliced chicken and give it a good toss.

And there you have it – a delicious Chicken Alfredo Pasta. This pasta dish is creamy and cheesy, with all the subtle flavors of the herbs coming together in a perfect amalgamation that is the Alfredo sauce – only to lend its warm, homey and comforting goodness to the dish. The chicken adds that meaty flourish that only brings more happiness to the tummy while the broccoli comes as a whiff of fresh air with it’s crunchy texture and its beautiful colour. All in all it’s the perfect way to bring the aromas of that beautiful Italian sidewalk lined with cafes and bistros into your own home.

Personally I loved this dish, it turned out splendidly. I only wish I had made more sauce ’cause I couldn’t get enough of it; that cheesy sauce is to die for! The boyfriend loved it too – Chicken Alfredo Pasta is something he cannot resist. My parents however did not enjoy it as much – they love Indian food which is overwhelming with spices, this was a bit too bland for their liking. So if you’re someone who loves Italian cuisine and it’s unique subtle flavors, this is a must-try dish for you. But if you’re the kind of person who loves your meals extra spicy, this will be a tad bit too bland for you. You could always mix it up, add a little more spices and herbs to the sauce as per your liking or you could add some spicy Thai chilly sauce to the dish like my parents did – it won’t be an authentic Chicken Alfredo Pasta, but it will be delicious nonetheless.

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Authentic Italian – ITALIANO Pizzeria and Pasta, Muscat

It was the afternoon of 29th June, 2014.

It was the one year mark of our relationship and we were going crazy surfing the internet looking for a nice restaurant to celebrate our anniversary at. You see, there’s a problem with us being huge foodies – my boyfriend and I – we eat out a lot! That means we exhaust our dining options really fast, going to lovely dinners almost every evening, trying out new restaurants and cafes while we’re at it.

Italiano-07We finally decided that we would go to ITALIANO Pizzeria and Pasta, a cute little Italian restaurant located in the Qurum Complex (right next to Chocomania) situated opposite the Jungle Restaurant and near the Rose Garden.

So all dressed up and excited to have a delicious meal (we love Italian food!), we drove down to the restaurant with a festive air around us.

We walked in and were greeted warmly by the staff and we decided to sit upstairs, at a tiny circular wooden table for two. The interior was decorated in warm tones, with wooden furniture that gave it an antique splash, the textured walls adding to the mystique and the sepia hued pictures on the wall adding that enveloping touch of comfort. The restaurant was tiny, just exactly how you would imagine a little cafe situated on an Italian street would be. (I can only imagine ’cause I haven’t been to Italy. Someday!)

Once we took our seats, we were given the menu to choose from, and all of a sudden we were in a dilemma. What should we order? Everything seemed so damn delicious!

So for appetizers we ordered a plate of Mozzarella Cheese Sticks served with a tangy Tomato sauce. This was the boyfriend’s choice; he loves cheese and no matter how much he eats of it, he doesn’t get fat – so jealous! When the cheese sticks arrived, we were both delighted and extremely hungry. The crispy outer coating, the center oozing with cheese and the sweet and sour sauce was a perfect tease for our taste buds. As we gobbled down those delicious cheese sticks, we knew we were in for a wonderful meal.

Mozzarella Cheese sticks with Tomato sauce. Photo Credit: Akash Raj

The boyfriend also ordered a mocktail – no this place does not serve alcohol – called Collins. It was a chilled lemonade infused with more-than-a-dash of mint; it was very refreshing- great summer drink.

For main course, I ordered a Crostini Chicken with Linguini in Butter-Garlic sauce and Baked Potatoes while he ordered a classic Chicken Alfredo Pasta. The Crostini Chicken with Linguini looked very exotic and tasted even more so; that crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-on-the-inside chicken was well-seasoned and it went really well with the creamy-buttery Linguini, and the baked potatoes were a great sidekick to the dish – something soft to cut through the heaviness of the dish.

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Crostini Chicken with Linguini in Butter Garlic sauce
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Baked Potatoes coated with herbs.

The Chicken Alfredo Pasta was simply delicious – Β it was creamy and heavenly, the mushrooms were cooked just right, the chicken was tender and held the dish together and the cute, tiny bread-balls were just what added that homey feel to the dish. It was the best Chicken Alfredo Pasta we have tasted yet.

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Chicken Alfredo Pasta
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How can you say no to this creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta?

Feeling blissfully satisfied with our meal and verging on stuffed, we got our leftovers packed (we always leave room for dessert), payed our bill – which we found was reasonable- and left, feeling content with our choice to dine at ITALIANO.

Now you may be wondering why we didn’t have dessert there. They had quite a few mouthwatering options to choose from – the traditional tiramisu, chocolate fudge cake, cheesecake and ice cream. Truth be told, on any other day we would’ve sprung at the idea of having tiramisu or a chocolaty fudge cake, but not that day. That day we decided to have dessert someplace else, and that landed us at the Crepe Cafe at Jawarat Al Shatti, but that’s a story for another day!

Our recommendation – If you want to have a nice authentic Italian meal at reasonable prices, ITALIANO is the place to dine. You will not be disappointed. We really really enjoyed our meal.