The craving for some salty, lip smacking bite sized food increases proportionately with each peg of alcohol. The food, in turn, adds fuel to the fire of desire for some more alcohol and by the time the drinkers realise that they have fallen prey to the “Do-loop”, the party is well set and looking good to continue till eternity.
I am a born foodie and love my food! A rule in my house therefore is that when friends come calling, the endeavour should be that the number of items of snacks should exceed the number of pegs that each of the visitor consumes. I am therefore continuously on the lookout for newer varieties of small, bite sized snacks that are tasty and also fulfil the requirements for hastening the setting in of the “Do-loop”.
In my quest to look for a vegetarian option for my vegetarian friends, I devised a scaled down, sober version of the more flamboyant grilled veggies. The recipe is simple and doesn’t need much preparation beforehand. It is therefore quick and easy to make while scoring high on the taste and style quotient.
- Button mushroom, diced into two
- Capsicum/bell pepper (multicoloured ones lend a colourful appearance to the dish)—Cut into square cubes, roughly three-fourth inch long/wide
- Tomato—Again cut into squares of roughly three-fourth inch size and de-seeded
- Cheese—The block variety that can be cut cut into cubes of half-inch lengh/width
- Aamsatto ( Strips of mango jelly)—This again needs to be cut into sizes roughly similar to that of the cheese.
- Black Cumin seeds—to add flavour
- Chaat masala—to add flavour
- Olive oil
The vegetable ingredients for this dish can be changed to suit taste of the people keeping the two main ingredient, Cheese cube and mango chutney strip ( Aaamsotto in Bengali parlance), constant. Those who are sworn non-vegetarians, can also replace an ingredient/add a small variety shrimp.
The advantage of this dish is that the ingredients can be cooked individually, making it easier to cook them parallely. So on one side of the burner, you can put the mushrooms to boil in a bowl of salt water. As the salt water comes to boil, put the mushrooms in it and let them boil for roughly 10-15 minutes. As soon as the mushrooms change colour and soften, they can be removed and allowed to cool. Sprinkle chaat masala on them and a dash of extra virgin olive oil and leave aside.
On the other side of the flame put the flat pan to heat and sprinkle some olive oil on it. As the oil heats, add 2 teaspoon of black cumin seeds and wait till they begin to crackle. Then add the capsicum/bell pepper slices to the pan and saute them, turning them pieces from one side to another, till they get a shiny coat and are cooked without losing their crunchiness. Sprinkle some chaat masala on the pieces and allow the masala to coat the pieces before removing them from the pan and keeping them aside.
Next comes the turn of the tomatoes to be sauteed. The process of sautéing the tomatoes is exactly similar to that followed in cooking the capsicum. Care needs to be taken that the pieces are not cooked to the point of losing all its firmness and crunch. Once done, the same should also be kept aside.
Before serving this food, one needs to skewer all the ingredients together using an wooden variety of toothpicks that can be bought from the local stores. One can also use the plastic ones, but if one is using the plastic variety, then one needs to ensure that the ingredients are cooled to room temperature before they are skewered. Otherwise, there is a danger of the plastic melting due to heat and letting off a foul odour.
For skewering of the ingredients there is no fixed schedule or order that one needs to follow and one can use one’s imagination and creativity to make the dish as tasty and colourful as they wish to. The order that I follow is as follows- A green capsicum at the bottom to act as a resting bed for the piece of aamsatto ( Mango jelly strip). On top of this I add the crunchy piece of mushroom, followed by the cube of cheese. The piece of tomato comes last and makes up as a red coloured top cover.
The dish is small, only that many number of ingredients can be skewered as can fit on a length of a wooden toothpick. As one pops all the ingredients in the mouth, there seems to set in, a relay race of the different flavours . So the crunchiness of the capsicum is taken up by the sweetness of the aamsatto, only to be diluted by the soft, flat taste of the mushroom and finally getting topped by the saltiness of the cheese and the tanginess of the tomato. As one bites into the ingredients they begin to merge and mix and emit a different flavour that sends a signal to the brain to extend the hand and reach out for another one of these skewers.
The “Do-loop” thus begins!