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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Chilli Cheese Toast

Although we live in a world where there is an "Indian store" or two (or twenty) in almost every major city of the western world, there are still several items that they don't stock, perhaps because there just isn't enough demand for them - or as my foodie friends argue - you get far higher quality stuff in a basic western supermarket for the discerning Indian shopper to want to buy it from an Indian store. Fair enough! Anyway, whatever the reason, for me this means that there is always a long list of foodstuffs that I only get to eat when I go back to visit family in India, and among them, notably - is Amul Cheese!

My mother laughs when I ask her to make sure that there is Amul Cheese at home before I come - "You live in a country where there are a thousand varieties of fresh cheese," she says, "hard cheese, soft cheese, cheese from cow's milk, goat's milk, sheep's milk, sharp cheese, mild cheese, full-fat, low-fat, no-fat...and you want processed cheese??"

Well, what can I say? Childhood tastes die hard!

I am starry-eyed when I visit India today. Search hard enough and you can get every Western retail brand under the sun, be it food or fashion. But I grew up in a different India. Choices were limited, decisions were few, shopping was easier (and dare I say it? - less stressful?!!) - 3 flavours of ice-cream, simple white bread, 1 TV channel and 1 kind of cheese. And yet, somehow, strangely, we grew up content with our lot. Food products manufacturer, Amul, smarly made its market as the only well-known branded supplier of cheese at the time, and so "cheese" became synonymous with Amul Cheese.

Well, the fewer the ingredients, the more you learn to do with them - with a bit of creativity. If I asked my 92-year old grandmother for a list of dishes that use Amul Cheese an an ingredient, she could perhaps write a book. But for starters, here is my recipe for Chilli Cheese Toast. Since it is still quite rare to find Amul Cheese outside of India, I just buy the closest tasting kind from the supermarket - sharp cheddar does the trick, but if you know people travelling to India, and well enough to ask a favour - ask them to bring back a small tin of Amul Cheese, just for a taste of the real thing!

Here are the ingredients for my Chilli Cheese toast:
The quantities make a tasty tea-time snack or quick lunch for two!

- 6 bread slices, white or brown
- 1.5 cups grated cheddar cheese
- A handful of fresh, roughly chopped corriander leaves
- 4 finely chopped chillies
- 2 small capsicums, de-seeded and finely chopped. I use different colours for a bit of fun!

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Toast the bread slices in the preheated oven. Take a large bowl and combine the grated cheese, green chillies, corriander leaves and capsicum. Mix well until the mixture looks and feels creamy and smooth. Take the toasts out of the oven and spead a thick layer of the cheese mixture
on the toasts. Don't forget to lick your fingers! Place the cheesy toasts in the oven again and cook until the cheese melts. Serve with tomato ketchup - or as they say in India - sauce!

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