When we were growing up, we spent a lot of our vacations right in our vast Goan “backyard”. We either went to hotels, used a family friend’s timeshare, went to the beach or to another family friend’s wilderness hut where 10-15 adults and kids slept in close quarters to the sound of rushing water from the stream behind the house. Sometimes, we went to shop in Bombay.
I don’t think about these memories as much as I should but I did today so I thought I should write it down. As an adult, I feel so pressured to see the world and take faraway vacations. As a kid, just a body of water to go into all day until it was time for lunch was all I needed.
After lunch, we would have to wait for an hour before going back in the water because in our circle of friends, we all agreed that if we didn’t, we would cramp and drown. Or vomit blood. This was kiddie folklore. It was based on no research and we wouldn’t dare test it.
I don’t remember any adults being worried about how long we were in the water. At the beach, our fingers turned into raisins and we would compare how much darker our skin was around our swimsuits. As much as I love the mystery of a foreign country, I think I still get the most joy from escaping to a place not so far away.
The benefits of international travel are many. Some people need it a lot more than others, but there is a privilege involved in terms of where you’re born, how much you earn and in what currency. Real travel can happen just by leaving your comfort zone and traversing places you know nothing about.
Maybe you’re with someone you know or maybe alone. You might run into the kindness of strangers or be the only person in the woods. There is always something to learn when you’re “teetering in the unknown”. Hopefully there’s a body of water and definitely lunch.
Grilled chicken kebabs
Balk all you like that these kebabs are made with chicken instead of mutton because they were delicious. You can make the meat mix about 2 days ahead but leave out the salt until you’re ready to cook them.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 inch piece ginger
- 455 gms/ 1 lb ground chicken
- 1/4 large red onion (1/2 cup), finely diced
- 1 cup fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
- 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp amchur (raw mango powder)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder (like Kashmiri chilli or ancho chilli)
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- Lots of fresh lime, to serve
- 12 inch wooden or metal skewers (if using wooden, soak them in water for 1 hour before using)
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and ginger into a paste. If it seems to take too long for the ginger to break down, sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt over it and that should help.
Put the chicken in a large bowl and add the ginger-garlic paste to it. Next add all the rest of the ingredients apart from the salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix everything together like you would do a dough, (do a dough) making sure all of it is spread evenly through the chicken.
Add the salt and pepper to taste and set the bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up. You can also sprinkle the salt on the kebabs right before cooking.
Divide the mixture into six balls. Set a bowl of water next to you and lightly wet your hands to help with any sticking. Form the kebab mixture around the skewers, by rolling them longways into a kofta of (more or less) even thickness. I mimic a rolling pin action to help out a bit and then smoothen out tears or any gaps.
Press the skewer into the centre of the kofta and wrap the meat around it. Lay the kebabs on a sheet pan and place it in the fridge while you heat up the grill.
Heat a charcoal or gas grill to high heat, creating a zone for high-heat on one side and a zone for lower heat on the other. Basically put most of your charcoal on one side of the grill.
Put the skewers on the cooler side of the grill and cook for 4 minutes on one side and then flip them around to the other side and cook for 4 more minutes. Once the outside is set, move the skewers over to the warmer zone and cook for 2 + 2 more minutes on each side. The kebabs are ready when they register a temperature of 74 C/ 165 F. Another way to tell is by pressing on them and seeing how firm they feel to the touch. Firmer is best.
Quick sautéed cherry tomatoes and herb oil over yogurt
This recipe is very forgiving. Although I have given you measurements, I expect you to follow your instincts (as always!). This is a good one to do just that!
- 1 cup full fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup herbs like coriander leaves, rosemary or oregano
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 pinch of Kosher salt
- 1/4-1/2 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- Fresh lime, to serve
- More Kosher salt, to taste
Spoon the Greek yogurt onto a deep serving platter and spread it out to cover the plate in a single layer. Season lightly with salt.
Take the herbs, garlic clove and salt in a mortar and pestle and grind it to a paste. Put it into the 1/2 cup measuring scoop and measure out the olive oil. There is no need to be exact. You can’t go wrong with anything here. Mix well and set aside.
Heat a pan on medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and let it warm up. Add the cut tomatoes to the pan and saute them for 3-4 minutes, allowing them to bump into each other and gently release some of their juices. Sprinkle a little salt over at the end and take the pan off the heat. Again, you can’t really overdo this step, unless your tomatoes burn to a crust of black char.
Spoon the tomatoes over the yogurt and let them drip their juices to the edges of the plate. Drizzle the herb oil over the tomatoes and season with more salt. Sprinkle fresh lime juice of the top and serve with the skewers.