Ola Mexicana!

May 06, 2012, 09:21 IST | Rinky Kumar

Food author Rajashree Naware talks about her love for Mexican cooking and shares a five-course meal from her new book to help us battle the sweltering heat this summer

Commerce and food might sound like chalk and cheese. While one involves dabbling in numbers, the other is all about using the right spice at the right time. At an early age, commerce graduate Rajashree Naware realised that the world of numbers wasn’t good enough for her and felt that food was her calling.

Rajashree Naware with her book Mexican Cooking at her Thane residence Pics/ Sameer Markande

Not surprising, since she is the daughter of noted Marathi cook Mangala Barve whose easy recipes and cookbooks have proved to be the guiding light of several homemakers and the saving grace of many amateur cooks. Hailing from a family of food connoisseurs, Naware started toying with pots and pans early in life. “I used to watch my mother cook and learnt a lot from her.”

She confesses that her husband, a huge foodie, encouraged her to experiment with new recipes. Naware’s first book on microwave cooking, released in 2001, came out at a time when the handy electronic device had just started making inroads into the Indian market. It was one of the first books to be published in Marathi on microwave cooking.

She, however, got a chance to learn international cuisines when she moved to Bahrain in 1990. “I cultivated an interest in different types of cuisines and started experimenting with them.” Gradually she started conducting cooking demonstrations and classes in India and abroad.

Naware admits that during her stay at Bahrain, she was also exposed to Mexican cuisine. “It’s my favourite cuisine, as it is very similar to the Indian palate. The recipes might look exotic but they use simple ingredients,” she exclaims.

Naware started working on her book Mexian Cooking three years ago. She started off by culling the most traditional recipes and then experimented with them extensively.

“Each recipe in the book is tried and tested. I have also customised the recipes to Indian palates and the availability of products. For instance, I have replaced pork and beef with mutton. Chilli and cheese are the core ingredients of Mexican cuisine. But I have feta cheese with paneer as that can be even made at home.”  Naware shares with us some of her favourite recipes that are also the perfect way to beat the heat this summer.

Aguas de Melon (Cantaloupe Water)
2 cups of medium-sized pieces of cantaloupe or musk-melon
¼ cup sugar
(Sugar can be adjusted according to the sweetness of the fruit)
4 cups of water
Ice cubes
Finely chopped fruit pieces to garnish

>> In a blender, puree the cantaloupe/muskmelon using little water
>> Add water and sugar to this pulp. Mix it well till all the sugar has dissolved
>>  Refrigerate it for a couple of hours
>>  Add ice cubes while serving. Garnish with finely chopped fruit pieces

Chef talk
“If you prefer your drink to be smooth, you can strain the mixture. The drink should have water-like consistency. It is refreshing and an ideal fit for summer especially since musk-melons are available during this season.”

Mango Salsa 

1 cup red tomatoes finely chopped
1 cup mango cubes
½ cup coriander finely chopped
½ cup onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 green chilli finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

>>  Mix all the ingredients together. Serve chilled

Chef talk
“This salsa tastes heavenly when it is chilled for at least six to seven hours. This way, the flavours are infused well. This is a unique way to eat mangoes, the fruit of the season. Tomatoes and coriander form the base and little bits of mango complete this dish. This dish tastes good with grilled fish, chicken and nachos”

Mexican Vegetable Soup

2 tablespoon oil
1 big onion finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
½ teaspoon cumin powder
3 teaspoon chilli powder
1 finely cubed carrot
1 finely cubed potato
2 medium-sized finely chopped tomatoes
1 finely cubed cucumber
½ cup grated cabbage
7 cups vegetable stock
½ cup steamed corn kernels
10 finely chopped French beans
6 tablespoon finely chopped coriander
1 finely chopped green chilli
Tortilla chips or salsa of your choice.
Salt and pepper to taste

>>  Heat the oil in a saucepan, add onions, garlic and sauté them until they are pink in colour
>>  Add to it cumin powder, chilli powder and fry for sometime Add finely cubed tomatoes, carrot, potato, cucumber, cabbage. Fry for two minutes
>>  Add six cups of vegetable stock. Cover it and simmer on slow heat for 20 minutes. Let all the vegetables get cooked fully
>>  Add french beans, corn kernels and one cup of stock to the veggies
>> Cook further for five to eight minutes
>> Season it with salt and pepper powder
>>  Serve a hot bowl garnished with coriander, green chilli and salsa and tortilla chips

Chef talk
“This is a very popular Mexican soup, which uses tortilla chips as croutons. Since it uses vegetables, it is light on the stomach and can be digested easily”

Tacos with bean anc corn filling

Readymade tacos
1 onion finely chopped
1 cup steamed corn kernels
1 red capsicum finely chopped
1 green capsicum finely chopped
1 red tomato finely chopped
2 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoon finely chopped coriander leaves
1 cup boiled red kidney beans (Rajma)
½ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin power
1 teaspoon chilli Powder
2-3 chopped jalapenos
½ cup lettuce, shredded or cut into small pieces by hand
1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoon sour cream Salt to taste

>>  Heat oil in a saucepan; add onions, sauté until they turn pink
>>  Add to it red and green capsicum, tomato, beans, corn kernels, cumin powder, coriander, chilli powder, oregano and salt. Fry for one to two minutes
>>  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius
>>  Heat the tacos for five to six minutes in the oven
>>  Put a little filling in the folds of each taco and top it with jalapeno, lettuce, cheese and sour cream. Serve immediately

Chef talk
“Keep a fork or spoon over the tacos while heating to retain their shape. If you fail to do so, then the heat will open them up and they will be round. This is an easy recipe that is light on the stomach due to the vegetarian filling. It is a complete meal in itself and doesn’t need any accompaniments”

Avocado ice cream

4 ripe avocados
1 cup thick ice-cream
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

>>  Peel and remove the seed and the meat of the avocados
>>  Add the avocados, lemon juice and sugar to a blender and puree
>>  Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl, add the heavy cream and whisk to combine.
>>  Place the mixture into the ice cream maker and refrigerator to chill
>>  In case you do not have an ice-cream maker, set the mixture into the refrigerator and chill
>>  After 45 minutes churn the ice-cream with the help of an electric beater once
>>  Place the mixture into the refrigerator
>>  Again after 40 minutes repeat the churning procedure
>>  This will make the ice-cream soft and avoid ice-crystal formation
>>  It also gives the ice-cream a shiny look
>>  While serving, scoop out the ice cream and top it with avocado fruit marbles by its side

Chef talk
“You can scoop out small marbles of avocado with the help of a scooper. The avocado has a creamy texture that lends itself beautifully to an ice cream” 

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