Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mumbai Meri Jaan....Pao Bhaji

It is Saturday morning. My second favorite time of the week- the first being Friday evening( quite obviously so). I love the facebook status updates on Friday. Everybody sounds so happy and relaxed.

Friday afternoons are a sharp contrast, I am rushing to complete all my deadlines, trying to ensure that I don't have too many work things to do over the weekend. Heaving a sigh of relief as the day ends. But this week was different. I spent the better part of Friday at a food shoot. It was fascinating to watch the photographer conceptualize the food story for each dish. He used props quite interestingly to amplify the key ingredients. While a lot of 'pristine white' crockery was used there were other interesting colors as well. White was often used as a backdrop for " pale/light colored food" to created that 'soft look' . Similarly rich, deep colors were used quite effectively to bring out 'stronger, sharper' flavors. All in all a fantastic experience and hopefully some of what I learnt will show in my cooking and blogging.

I got back home inspired to cook and blog over the weekend. Last night the boys had 'peanut chocolate fondue' as dessert. Break peanut jaggery bars(popularly knows as gud badam/chikki) into small pieces, twirl them in some molten chocolate and you have your quick fondue. Older one also dipped fruit and bread pieces into it. Working on more fondue recipes and hopefully something a little more interesting soon.

We started today with a Pao bhaji breakfast, typically we have it for dinner. 'Why this Kolaveri 'played in the background as we ate. Helped us relive our Chennai days. Hey! I just realized something- we are from the Eastern part of India, we now live in the North, we were eating a West Indian dish listening to a South Indian song. That is what I call National Integration. Jai Ho! And it has taken a blogpost for me to realize it.


Pao Bhaji(serves 4)


Ingredients
Onions: 2, finely chopped
Tomatoes: 3, again finely chopped
Mixed vegetables: About 500 grams, you can use beans, carrots, peas, potatoes, cauliflower
Pao bhaji masala: 3/4 tbsps, I swear by Roopak Masala. They also come in little PET bottles which helps retain the freshness for longer without having to take the trouble of transferring into another jar
Butter: 2 tbsps(optional- I can see the die hard Pao bhaji lovers protesting at this one)
Refined oil: 1 tsp
Lime juice: 2 tbsp
Pao buns: 2 per person

Method




  • Pressure cook the mixed vegetables with half a cup of water. Mash them well and keep aside.


  • Heat the oil in a wok, saute the onions. Add the tomatoes and cook till soft. Add the mixed vegetables, 3/4 tsps of Pao Bhaji Masala and a cup of water. Simmer for 10 minutes.


  • Add the butter and lime juice.


  • Served hot garnished with some fresh, finely chopped corriander


Pao bhaji also serves well as a one dish meal. You can substitute the Pao with multigrain bread or even regular roti. I love the chatpata taste. Usually I save some leftovers for my lunch box.


Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Little Italy...Risotto

" As a child my family menu had two choices around food- take it or leave it" Buddy Hackett

The excitement around creating something new. I guess that is what makes cooking therapeutic. I feel so happy when I decide to try out a new dish. Poring over recipe books, Google searches, chatting with friends who might have prepared the dish, the trudge to the nearest supermarket to pick up the ingredients, the anticipation around how the dish would turn out-finally plating the dish and waiting for the verdict! Most of the times the response is worth all that effort.

These days the only TV programs I watch with interest are ' cookery shows'. The delightful Nigella even has me staying up well past my bedtime. She is lovely and her passion for food clearly shows through. I love the way she romances food. Shows like hers and the Master chef series do introduce us to a whole host of global cuisine. My repertoire of Italian cooking tends to be restricted to various kinds of pasta and pizzas. One such show got me thinking about Risotto. This was quickly followed up with a trip to a gourmet food store, recipe searches, tweaks and finally the dish. Has inspired me to try Paella next- would be a toss up between meat or sea food versions. I am so looking forward to trying it soon. Another day and another post, for now it is a little bit of Italy by my side.


Risotto(Serves 4)

Ingredients

Risotto Rice: 2 cups
Red Wine: 1/2 cup
Vegetable or Chicken stock- 3/4 cups
Parmesan cheese: 1/2 tbsp( grated fine)
Butter: 1 tbsp
Olive oil: 2 tbs
Onion: 2/3, finely sliced
Mushroom: 6/7, quartered
Chicken Salami- 3/4 roundels, chopped into small pieces
Fresh Basil leaves- 1/2, for the garnish

Method

  • Heat olive oil in a Wok and fry the onions for a couple of minutes till they turn soft.
  • Add the Rice and stir for a few minutes.
  • Next, add the red wine and mix well.
  • Keep adding the stock little by little( half a cup at a time). Once the rice absorbs the stock, add the next half cup. Continue this till the rice is cooked.
  • Toss in the mushrooms and salami. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Add salt to taste, the butter and cheese. Give it a good stir and remove from fire.
  • Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh Basil and serve hot.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Arrivederci!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sinfully delicious.....Fried Oreos



















When I think of " Fried Oreos" I am reminded of a line my Dad used to refer to 'over indulgence', " Doobechi jodi patal ta ekhtu dekhe asichi"(This line is in Bengali and loosely translated this would mean, " having decided to indulge let me go the whole way"). Oreos or any chocolate biscuit for that matter are calorie laden. And to batter fry and dust them with powdered sugar is akin to the same. Some would say that just thinking about the combination could add inches to your waistline but then everybody deserves that little bit of indulgence. One is occassionally allowed to sin. Maybe one out of the twelve pack biscuit, an occassional second one. Go on test your will power.

For me it all started during one of my looong calls with sis. Husband often jokes that all we talk about during these calls is " food". Over the years I have realised that food calls like cookery shows are therapeutic. They also serve as ' thought starters' for a lot of cooking. Sis was telling me about a carnival she had been to and the fried Oreos she had sampled there. Sounded really easy to make, different from other desserts that I typically make and exotic enough to be reproduced for guests. I decided to try it the very same evening( Sis calls me the "doer").



Fried Oreos( Serves 4)



Ingredients

A packet of Oreos( or any other cream biscuit)

Maida/Refined flour: 1 cup

Sugar: 2 tbsps
Milk: 1/2 cup

Vanilla essence: 1 tsp

Egg: 1

Baking Powder: 1 tspBulleted List

Oil for deep frying

Powdered sugar: 1/2 tbsps

Method


  • Mix the egg, milk, flour, sugar, vanilla essence and baking powder to form a smooth batter.

  • Heat the oil in a wok. Dip an Oreo biscuit in the batter to coat it evenly. Deep fry till both the sides are golden brown. Repeat for the rest of the biscuits.

  • Dust some powdered sugar over the batter fried Oreos. Best done by sieving the sugar through a tea strainer over the biscuits.

  • Serve hot

Perfect dessert on a cold winter day. Can help add excitement around simple, everyday menus. Older son claims that this is the best dessert I have ever made( doesn't speak well for my cooking skills, does it?). The combo also inspired me to try Choco chip pancakes with similar results.

Bon Apetit and Happy Sinning!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

There is a big green house....Daab Chingri




This dish almost seems like an extension of the riddle one learnt as a child. There is a big green house, inside it there is a big brown house, inside the big brown house there is a big white house and right in the middle there is a pool. The answer is " (Tender) Coconut". Replace the pool with some succulent marinated prawns, bake them for an hour. Voila! your dish is done.

I am super duper excited today. So much so that I have started writing the post even before the verdict is out. Making Daab Chingri(Prawns cooked in tender coconut shell) has been on my wish list for a while now. It looks and sounds so exotic.

With an ingredient list that sounds deceptively similar to of 'mustard prawn' it can't possibly taste very different( vetted by personal experience). However this is one dish where the journey is undoubtedly more enjoyable than the dish itself. There is a lot of excitement around preparing it. Even the staged photo shoot lasts much longer.

The prep work starts with hunting for " Tender coconut". Not as easily available post the scorching summer. Not always available at the neighborhood vegetable shops, typically the push- cart seller carries it. And then you have to get the vendor to scrape the top( this allows the heat in) , make a cut on top and slice a little bit from the bottom to help the tender coconut balance itself( for an extra fee of course). Drink the coconut water- you could save a little to add to the marinade- save the shell for the dish that follows.

Daab Chingri
Ingredients
Tender Coconut: Choose one that will fit into your oven.

Medium Sized Prawns: 1 kg, de-shelled and de-veined

Mustard Paste: 2 tbsp(my family likes the pungent taste of mustard, you could reduce the quantity to 1 tbsp)

Ginger Paste: 1 tbsp

Garlic Paste: 1 tbsp

Grated coconut: 1 small bowl(2/3 tbsp)

Onions: 2/3, sliced fine

Green chillies: 2/3, slit till halfway

Salt: To taste

Turmeric: 1 tsp

Mustard Oil: 2/3 tbsp

Wheat flour dough: To seal the top

Kalonji: For decoration

Method

It is a simple one step dish
  • Mix all the ingredients together. Let them stand for a while
  • Scrape the top of the tender coconut. Cut out the top(retain it as you need it later).
  • Stuff the prawn marinade into the tender coconut, do not pack it tight.
  • Put the lid back, seal with dough to make it airtight. Decorate with some kalonji- contrasts well with the off white dough and adds to the visual appeal.
  • Bake in the oven for close to an hour at 180 degree centigrade
  • Serve hot with steamed rice
The prawns have been baking for close to forty five minutes now. The tender coconut shell has turned dark brown. The dough sealing top has dried up and tightened around the top. Fifteen more minutes to go. Table has been set. Rice is done. So baited breath it is.

Just sampled the dish. Really succulent, juicy prawns with a hint of tender coconut. Went well with the otherwise simple meal of rice and daal. Plan to try a variation where I reduce the quantity of mustard and add some tender coconut to enhance the flavour.

This is one of those dishes when placed in front of guests makes them first gasp and then go Wow!

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Inspired by the Masters......Chicken Exotica





I am really, really excited as I write this post. Just minutes after having eaten the dish. It came out so well and everybody loved it. That it was something completely new, different and "my own" made dinner even more enjoyable.



So where do the Masters come in. Well, some parts of this dish are inspired by Master Chef Australia. Like co-food blogger, Knife, I don't like 'Reality food shows" where participants spend more time running between the pantry and their work stations than actually cooking. And your focus as you watch the show is to pray that your favorite contestant finishes on time, almost never on what he/she has cooked. But yes, as I watch them cook and between those pressure tests some combinations seem interesting. And then of course there are master classes where the dishes look "gorgeous" but a little too complex for everyday cooking. It was in one such show that I watched one of the judges try an onion, saffron and star anise combination. That has been the starting point of tonight's dinner. I typically use saffron either to make Biryani or in my desserts. Similarly Star anise gets restricted to Thai cooking. I felt inspired to combine the two seeming varied flavors with chicken and make a 'continetal' dish with them. The rest of the ingredients just got added on as I started cooking. Just be led by your senses and you cannot go wrong with your cooking.






Chicken Exotica( this dish looks really exotic)

Ingredients
'Chicken: 8/10 pieces
Vegetables: About 2 cups, 2 carrots and maybe 10/12 beans, cut into 1 inch long pieces
Spaghetti: I just grabbed a fistful( that is all that was left in the packet)
Onions: 5/6 large onions, cut into roundels
Star Anise: 2/3
Saffron: a pinch
Toasted sesame seeds: 1 tbsp
Chilli flakes: 1 tsp
Salt: to taste
Olive oil: 3/4 tbsps


Method
  • Marinate the chicken with some lime juice and salt for about an hour.
  • Heat the olive oil in the pan and add the saffron, star anise, saffron and a little bit of salt to it. Cook covered on low flame till the onions looks brown( should take about 30 minutes or so- keep checking as you cook). Remove onto a baking dish. Layer the dish with the onions. Leave the excess oil in the wok.
  • Add the chicken to the pan, cook on high flame for about 5 minutes, add the sesame seeds and chilli flakes. Saute and transfer to the baking dish. Layer over the onions. Bake at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes.
  • As your chicken is baking, boil spaghetti with some salt and olive oil. Once done, drain. You could add the vegetables to the spaghetti after it is half cooked or blanch the vegtables separately. Toss the vegetables and spaghetti into the same wok and toss for a couple of minutes so that it gets coated with the oil and spice, add some more of the tosted sesame to it.
  • Finally, plating it all together. Make a little nest with the spaghetti and vegetable combine. Place some pieces of chicken on it. Spoon the onions over the chicken.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Verdict: Delicious!

This dish has such an unusual taste. The onions have a "meaty" flavor to them and cooking the chicken along with it makes the pieces really succulent. The chicken would also go well with some buttered toast or garlic bread.

Cheers to the fusion of flavors.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!









Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tales from the coast....Prawn curry




Most people love prawns unless they are allergic to them. Whether boiled, sauted, grilled, baked, fried, stewed, curried this versatile fish( actually crustacean) tastes good in all forms. The only tip to remember is to never overcook them. Then they get all hard, dry and rubbery. So just toss them in, wait for the color to change and out they go. If adding straight into the gravy, add during the final stages of cooking. Some recipes call for them to be cooked with their shell. While this gets a little messy to eat once you have managed to get beyond the top layer there is some flavorsome, soft flesh beneath.

Being from the coast, prawn were quite popular in our household and cooked with regular frequency. Mom tried several versions too- chilly prawns- stir fry the prawns with some soya, vinegar, bell pepper, chillies, onion, garlic and tomatoes to a succulent finish. Yumm!

And then of course Prawns in a mustard base, prawns in a coconut gravy. Actually prawns lend themselves quite easily to all kinds of cuisine- toss a handful into pasta, fry them with some butter and pepper, cook them with some rice and veggies for a most delicious pulao, add them to your salads for flavor, body and taste. You can do just about anything with prawns.

We cooked a more basic version for lunch today. Quite easy to prepare, just stir together a few basic ingredients and you are done. Delicious.

Prawn Curry
Serves: 6

Ingredients

Prawn: 250 grams, medium sized
Onion: 2, finely chopped
Garlic: 4/5 pods, finely chopped
Ginger: 1 inch, grated
Green cardamom: 3
Cinnamon: 2 inch sticks
Bay leaves: 2
Jeera/cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Tomato: 2, finely chopped
Potato: 2, cubed( ideally the same size as the prawns)
Ghee: 1 tsp
Mustard oil: 2/3 tbsp
Green chillies: 2
Cumin/Jeera powder: 1.5 tsp
Corriander/Dhania powder: 1 tsp
Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp

Method

  • Heat the oil in a wok/kadai till it starts to smoke.
  • Add the prawns( to which some turmeric and salt has been added), saute for a few minutes. Remember not to overcook them. Remove.
  • Into the same wok add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, onion, garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add cardamom and cinnamon sticks.
  • Add the cubed potatoes and cook.
  • Next, mix the grated ginger and dry spices( cumin, corriander, turmeric and chilli powder) with a little bit of water and add it to the wok. Add the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes soften.
  • Add some warm water( about a cup or two) and let the gravy come to a boil. Add the prawn and let them cook for about 5/7 minutes or so. Add the slit green chillies. Check the salt and add more if necessary.
  • Finish off with some ghee.
  • Serve hot with plain steamed rice.

A very simple meal that leaves you feeling satiated- that I think is the power of simplicity.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

From the land of butter and cream....Presenting Daal Makhni


I have never used as much butter and cream in one dish. Those of you who have read my earlier posts would have noticed that most of the dishes I write about are either low oil or no oil. Ironically this post(laden with butter and cream) follows the " Freedom from oil" post.

Well, in a weak moment I agreed to make " Daal Makhni" for sonny dear. In fact he played it out quite well, " Mom, you never make anything "rich"(emotional pressure), R's mother makes really nice Daal Makhni and Paneer Butter Masala(read come on Mom you ought to be the best)". That did it. Over the next few days I began my search for easy to prepare and authentic Punjabi recipes. Decided to start with Daal Makhni. Daal is considered a low involvement, low skill dish in most part of the country. Serves as an accompaniment and often passed over for other more interesting food . But in the North and for people from Punjab it is main course, staple food- Chole Kulche, Rajma Chawal, Tandoori Roti and Daal Makhni are popular combinations. There is a lot of painstaking effort that goes into making the perfect daal. Cooked on slow fire for hours, simmering brings out the flavor of the daals. So no quick pressure cooking and tempering.

This is As's( a true blue Punjabi) recipe. Her instructions were very precise and easy to follow. She also simplifies the steps which makes it easy for somebody making the dish for the first time. I think the best tip she gave me was to pick up " Roopak's Daal Makhni" masala. Roopak Masalas are easily available in most supermarkets in Delhi. I have used their Oregano seasoning, Dahi bhalla Masala, Biryani Masala. Thank God! for blended masalas, easy to replicate the taste each time. And like one of the ad says ' helps Mrs. Chawla make her Sambhar as good as Mrs. Reddy's'.

I love the concept of trying out food from different parts of the country/World. A global kitchen which is literally a melting pot of recipes, fusion food. Just thinking about it is exciting. And yes, the opportunity to make something new, different each day and for each meal. Wow! I was so excited about making this dish that I made it on a 'weekday' morning. Slow cooking does allow you to go about your chores as the dish cooks.

Daal Makhni( Serves 6/8)

Ingredients
Saboot Urad Daal: 1 cup
Rajma Daal: 1 handful
Tomato Puree: 10/12 tbsp
Garam Masala: 1tsp
Cream: 1 cup
Daal Makhni Masala: 3 heaped tsp
Butter: 2 tbsp
Refined oil: 1 tsp
Garam Masala: 1 tsp

Method
  • Soak the daal overnight in 8 cups of water.
  • Pressure cook the daal with 8 cups of water and salt to taste( this daal cooks for much longer than regular daals so do ensure you have added enough water else you risk burning it).
  • Let the cooker give out one whistle and then cook on low flame for 40 minutes. Keep aside and let the cooker cool down on its own.
  • Take a kadai/wok and heat the oil. Next add the tomato puree and cook for 10/15 minutes.
  • Mix the daal makhni masala in about half a cup of water and add it to the tomato puree. Cook for another ten minutes. Add butter
  • Add the tomato puree mixture to the daal and let it simmer for 20/25 minutes.
  • Add the cream and 1 tsp of garam masala
  • Served hot with rotis.
The boys just loved it. Younger one had it with rice(sacrilege, I know) and the older one with phulkas. The kitchen smells divine as the daal cooks. The daal has a smooth, creamy texture and all the ingredients blend together to create sheer magic. You will definitely have people asking for more.And for all you non-vegetarians reading this post, like I'd told my Dad years ago, 'Ghar ki daal murgi barabar'.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Freedom from oil.....Tricolour Tiranga Pulao....Happy Independence Day!



This one is an independence day special. The typical way to make a tiranga/tri-color rice is to cook three types of rice separately- a palak/spinach rice for green, carrot rice for the color saffron and then combine it with some plain rice in the midle for the final effect. Looks really nice and goes well with the Independence day spirit.

I was a little short on time today. The Independence day lunch organised by the building committee was called off at the last minute, cook had her day off and yet I was quite determined to make the meal special.

So an oil free recipe it was( in keeping with the Freedom theme), a one dish wholesome meal( read Pulao) and three different colored ingredients- carrots, beans and baby corn. The combination was definitely a visual treat and nobody seemed to miss the oil/butter/ghee.

With lean cooking( I have Sanjeev Kapoor, Nita Mehta and Karen Anand to thank- picked up all my basic tips about low oil/no oil cooking from their books) there are two basic rules:

  • Be patient because a good part of the cooking needs to be done on low flame. Some steps may need constant stirring. Try and use a good non-stick cookware.
  • The food is low on oil but high on flavor so some of the dishes(like this one) need a lot of ingredients- basic everyday use ingredients but quite a few nevertheless.

Tri-colored Rice/Tiranga Pulao(No Oil)
Serves: 4/5

Ingredients

Basmati Rice( choose the long grained variety): 1.5 cups
Onions: 2, finely chopped. You could also use Shallots- about 8/10 peeled
Ginger: Finely chopped, 1 tbsp
Tomatoes: 2, finely chopped. Choose large ones, this is a key ingredient when you are cooking with no oil
Carrots: 1/2, cut into 1/2 inch long pieces
Beans: 8/10, 1/2 inch pieces
Baby corn: 4/5, 1/2 inch pieces
Bay leaves: 1/2
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Green Cardamom: 2/3
Lime juice: 1 tbsp
Water: 3 cups

Method

  • Soak the Basmati rice for about an hour before you start cooking. Do follow this step for all Pulaos.
  • Heat a non-stick kadai/wok. Dry roast the bay leaves, cumin seeds and cardamom till fragrant.
  • Add the onions, ginger and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes till the tomato turns soft.
  • Add the vegetables, rice and mix well. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Transfer to a pressure cooker, add 3 cups of hot water( this prevents the rice from sticking, also helps cook faster) and the lime juice. Close the lid of the cooker and let it give out one whistle. Switch off the cooker and let it cool on its own.
  • Serve hot along with a cucumber-tomato- onion raita.
  • Enjoy.
Jai Hind!

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Apple Pie...The Joys Of Baking.........


I bake cakes pretty regularly. With two " growing" boys who are forever hungry they also get polished off real quick. Several variations which include Plain cakes, Rainbow cakes(No fuss chocolate cake), Choco banana cake, Muffins get made every other week. Once you have got your measures and baking time right it is really easy. And the best part about baking a cake is that you just have to mix all the ingredients together( whether in one step or in stages) and then the dish cooks on its own. So set the timer to bake( usually 200 degree celsius unless the recipe specifies otherwise) and go ahead with getting the rest of your meal ready.

Tarts and pies on the other hand seem a lot more complex. I used to read and re-read short crust pastry recipes but could never really muster up enough courage to bake them. I am most impressed with people who can make a decent apple pie.

Apple pies have the " Wow" factor. You never quite get that response with a cake however complex the ingredients or labored the process. But once you have baked an apple pie successfully you will realize that it is actually pretty simple. Like with most other baking there are three easy steps: The crust, the filling and then assembling. That is it, you are done.

There are of course tips to bake the perfect pie, best learnt when you actually watch somebody bake( Food shows on TV/Demos on the Internet come fairly close- the latter you can watch over and over again till you get it right).

  • Tip #1: Always use ice cold water which is ice to which a little bit of water has been added.
  • Tip #2: Once you knead the short crust pastry dough, wrap it in a cling film and keep it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This is supposed to "chill the butter and relax the gluten"- not sure what that means but sure works.
  • Tip # 3: Mix the apple with the sugar, cinnamon, lime juice and let it stand for at least 30 minutes. The apple will give out water which you can separately thicken and pour back. If you skip this step and directly bake the apples will shrink and you would end up with a large gap between the baked apples and the top crust.
  • Tip#4: Resist cutting up the pie as soon as it is done( this is a sure test of your will power- the apple, cinnamon, butter combine as it bakes tastes just divine) as fruit pies need several hours to set. My suggestion would be to let the apple pie cool down and then store it in the refrigerator. When it is time to serve cut up a slice, warm it in the microwave for about a minute and serve. Refer Tip # 5
  • Tip#5: Excellent plain but even better with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Thank you " A" for sharing your recipe, that was the starting point, got tweaked as I progressed. Incidentally the best apple pie that I have had was the one baked by A.

Apple Pie
Serves: 6/8( depends on the serving actually)

For the crust

Flour: About 1.5 cups, 250 grams
Butter/margarine: About two sticks, roughly 125 grams
Sugar: 1 tbsp
Salt: a pinch
Ice cold water: 4/5 tbsps

For the filling
Apple: 2 large firm ones that don't lose their shape when you bake
Cinnamon powder: 1 tsp
Sugar: 2/3 tbsps( check the apples for sweetness before you start adding the sugar)
Lime juice: 1 tbsp


Method

  • Start with the crust. Mix the flour, butter, sugar and salt together. Add water 1tsp at a time and slowly mix the dough till it is firm. Should hold together when pinched. Wrap the dough in a cling wrap and refrigerate.
  • For the filling: Macerate the apples by mixing the apple, cinnamon powder, sugar and lime juice. Let it stand for about 30 minutes. The apples would give out water. Drain in a colander and thicken the juice on the stove/microwave with some butter and add to the apples. Alternately( and this is what I did) just put the apples with the juice in a pan. Cook it on slow fire till the sauce thicken.
  • Putting it all together
  1. Take the dough. Keep a small part for the criss-cross cover( about 1/4th should do). Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle( for a 9 inch pie dish). You will need to keep lifting and turning the pastry as you roll to ensure it is of uniform thickness
  2. Transfer into the pie dish and trim the edges. This, is the only difficult step and don't be disheartened if you don't get it right the first time.
  3. Blind bake the crust in a pre-heated oven for about 5/7 minutes at 200 degree celsius.
  4. Next, sprinkle some flour and place the apples on the crust.
  5. Roll out the remaining dough into a circle and cut into thin strips. Place the strips vertically and horizontally as shown in the photograph to form a criss- cross pattern.
  6. Bake at 220 degree celsius for about 45 minutes.
  7. Serve warm
Pat yourself on the back for having mastered the recipe. Get creative and try making the filling with other fruits.

I have been on a high since the time I baked my first apple pie. Plan to try my hand at Tarts and Quiche next. So wish me luck!

Bon Apetit and Happy Baking!




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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Stanley ka dabba....Happy Friendship Day!


  • The movie, " Stanley ka dabba", is on showcase and I am hoping to watch it this evening. Anyone who has seen the movie tells me that it took them back to school and they thought of all their classmates with whom they had shared their lunch boxes.


Talking about school, I too have some very fond lunchtime memories. There were about 10 of us who assembled around a makeshift lunch table( one of the spare tables in the class) every afternoon during the break. We would all place our dabbas on the table(very plain, basic plastic/steel ones). One lunchbox would be opened at a time and the entire pack would attack the contents. Funny but even after years I remember what each one of them usually got( yes, there wasn't too much variety but we loved each other's dabbas nevertheless). N always got apples( yes, all through the ten years we studied together she got sliced apples and never did she get to eat more than a slice), S got curd rice with manga( small mangoes soaked in brine with a slight bitter after taste) or Parota kurma, P and Sa often got gongura rice ( hot, fiery stuff which I just loved. " I have got your favorite today", P would whisper during the class at the start of the day and I would eagerly wait for the break to grab more than my fair share). R got paratha and alu fry, Sh got chinni paratha, B got alu paratha or paratha shredded into small pieces and then cooked in ghee and sugar. Thanks to our cosmopolitan class we did get to sample a little bit from the different parts of the country. Strange but I am a little fuzzy about what I carried in my lunchbox. I remember twice a week it was idli sambhar. Mom( in the pre tupperware/no spill proof container days) packed the sambhar in old nescafe jars to prevent them from spilling. Sis and me had a deal. I would carry the bag on the way to school and she would carry it back. I had to balance the lunch bag gingerly making sure I did not spill the contents, she on the other hand just bundled the bag with the empty dabbas/bottles and shoved them into her school bag. Yes, stupid me. Guess 'the love for food' took over common logic.

This post has brought back so many memories. The special lunch boxes that we would carry on our birthdays. Mom would send me hot alu chop( alu bonda) and ghuguni( patiala matar). I remember our man friday cycling furiously to make it on time for the lunch break- he would be greeted with screams from all my classmates.

Yes, it was a lot of fun and we definitely bonded over food. We happily shared whatever we carried. Much of that I am sure still remains in today's schools but children want more variety and something interesting each day( as with most things aimed at this generation including education "packaging" is important).

Here is the good old grilled sandwich, best eaten hot, tastes nice in the lunchbox too.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich
Serves : 2
Ingredients
Brown bread: 4 slices
Boiled Potatoes: 2 large
Mixed vegetables: Beans, carrots, peas, cauliflower- chopped fine and sauted.
Cheese: 1/2 a cube per sandwich, grated
Cheese spread: 1 tbsp per sandwich
Salt and pepper to taste

Method


  • Mash the boiled potatoes.

  • Add the vegetables, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well.

  • Next, spread the cheese spread on both the bread slices. Places the vegetables on one slice and cover with the other.

  • Grill for about 7/10 minutes for it to turn golden brown and for the cheese inside to melt.

  • Cut into triangles and serve with tomato ketchup.

If making it for the lunchbox, grill for about 5 minutes to allow the bread slices to stick together. Leave the bread a little soft otherwise it will harden as it cools down.


You can keep varying the filling. Any leftover vegetable/grilled chicken with some cheese would taste good.


I hope my children will look back( as fondly as me) at their lunchtimes and lunchbox friends. Here is to all the friends they will make and to some strong relationships that will stand the test of time.


Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!



Aaam ke aam guthliyon ke daam...


No, not one more post about mangoes. Done with them for this season I guess. This post is about a rather unusual dish that I got to sample about two weeks back. Delighted by the taste I have been asking for more.
Unless you are from Eastern India the dish will sound strange. It is made with Parwal(Potol) and Alu(Potato) peel. Yes, you read that right. Vegetable peel has uses beyond the face pack.

In the East we typically cook vegetable peel with some mustard paste( in the days of the joint families and tons of household help, enough vegetable peel got collected from a day's cooking). Mix the vegetable peel with the ground mustard paste and let it cook in the embers(remember most of the cooking got done in wooden fires) after all the cooking had been done. I have had this before. Both Grandma and later my Mom used to make this at home during my growing up years.

But this one made by my help from Bangladesh was quite different in texture/form and taste. Unless somebody told you that it was made from the vegetable's peel I bet you would not be able to guess. IncidentallyBangals make better cooks than ghottis( people from West Bengal). I have more friends from East Bengal and have sampled some great food. Potoler Kouda as it is called(I just discovered) is perfect as an accompaniment with plain rice or roti.

Potoler Kouda
serves: 2
Ingredients
Peel of about 14/15 medium sized potol/parwal
Peel of 2 large sized potatoes
Onion: 1 large onion, sliced fine
Kalonji/kala jeera: 1 tsp
Green chillies: 1/2( according to taste)
Oil: 2 tbsps

Method


  • Boil the potato and potol peel for about ten minutes to soften them.

  • Drain the water and grind to a fine paste along with 1/2 green chillies

  • Heat the oil in a kadai( I am told the more oil you use for this dish the tastier it is going to be, I would suggest you stay with not more than 2 tbsps), add the kalonji and let them sputter.

  • Next add the sliced onions and wait till they turn glassy.

  • Add the ground paste and keep sauteing till it dries up and starts to leave the side of the kadai.

  • Serve hot.

Made with the most basic of ingredients and packed with a lot of goodness and taste. Remember your early lessons, the peel has the maximum nutrition. It is the simplicity of this dish that makes it truly unique. I am told this tastes best with " sedho bhaat"( steamed rice). I have tried it as a spread on toast. While I know this is an unusual twist to a traditional dish it tastes quite nice. As I write the post I see the dish making its way as canape toppings, add some hung curd to it and viola a nice, spicy dip. Yes, some creativity and an experimentative palate will see this going places.


Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Last of the mangoes.....


Mango season is almost over. Mumbaikar are united in their Apoos( Alphonso to the uninitiated) obssession - in fact it is the only type of mango a true blue Mumbaikar claims to like. Delhites however debate over a more varied fare: Dusheri, Langda, Chausa, Safeda. If prices are a surrogate for measuring appeal then "langda" looks to be the winner.

Mango is best eaten by itself. Slice them with the skin and then scoop them with a spoon, peel the skin and cut them into small pieces and then eat them with a fork or if they are nice, soft and juicy- slit the top and suck the juice- messy but a lot of fun.

Of course tastes nearly as good in other forms too- icecreams( serve it with a vanilla icrecream or make a mango icecream), in shakes, as cheese cakes, as a salad dressing, as a dip(mango mayonnaise dip), mango with cream( I will vouch for the one sold at Haji Ali- over priced but really nice, packed in ice if you want it as a takeaway).

Just the way a ripe banana inspires you to make a banana cake, an over ripe mango urges you to turn it into a shake. My older one loves a milk shake and I find it an easy way to get him to have a big glass of milk and fruits. Often on weekdays he has it as a breakfast substitute. Since it is the weekend I made him a special shake. Needless to say he loved it( you cannot go terribly wrong when you have ice cream, mango, condensed milk as the ingredients).

Special Mango Shake
Serves 1
Ingredients
Mango: 1 small sized mango, remove the peel and chop into small pieces
Milkmaid/condensed milk: 1 tbsp
Milk: 1.5 cups
Vanilla icecream: 2 tbsps

Method




  • Put all the ingredients in a mixie and whip for 2/3 minutes


  • Check for sweetness.


  • Serve chilled


  • Watch them go yumm! yumm! yumm!


A really quick anytime drink. Great during the summer hols when kids are home and forever hungry. Also helps them stay away from aerated drinks and bridge snacks.



Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Redifining "ghaas phoos"..

Modern day salads have repositioned "healthy eating". People today opt for salads by choice, for the taste and not because they have been asked to go easy on oil and/or spice.
So much so that a popular women's magazine had a salad supplement with its last issue, as many as 100 salads, many of them modified to suit the Indian palate. There were some interesting options though some I think had been stretched/forced fit to make the number 100.

So from being prepared with basic vegetables like cucumber, tomato, onion( with raddish, carrot and beet root added in the winter months) salads have graduated to getting more exotic with names such as tossed rice salad/lentil salads/pasta salad/carrot and raising salad. We think far more innovatively today when we are making salads. I keep adding ingredients even after I have started making the salad. Chicken in the salad below was an afterthought( in fact a substitute for salami strips that I normally add). I added the bread croutons since I was serving it as a meal, would have skipped it if I was serving the salad as a meal accompaniment. They are so handy when you are entertaining, no last minute bother of heating or frying. Keep the ingredients ready, toss them all together and serve. Served as starters too. Most salads can be prepared way ahead and served chilled. Keep a little bit of the seasoning handy in case all of it gets absorbed.
We had an interesting salad last night for dinner and so I have named it after the day of the week( sorry, been rather uninnovative in naming the dish but just could not think of any other name).

Saturday salad
Time: 20 minutes, serves: 1/2

Ingredients
2 bunches of lettuce
2 cups of boiled veggies(beans, carrots, baby corn)
1/2 cup of sauted mushrooms( use half of the regular pack, quarter and cook in a little bit of olive oil, add some salt and pepper to it)
Cherry tomatoes: a handful, these add a lot of colour to the salad, are convenient to use and have a nice, sweetish taste
Olive oil( for the seasoning): 2 tbsps
Garlic: 6/7 large pods, chopped fine
Bread: 1 slice, toast and then chop into small squares
Chicken(optional): boiled and shredded( I use leftover curry pieces- remove the masala and shred them into thin strips- a good way to re-use leftover chicken)
Dried herbs: 1 tsp( I used Basil but oregano would also go well as a seasoning for the salad)
Lime juice: 1 tbsp( half a lime)

Method


  • Place the lettuce in ice cold water to refresh. Leave it in the water for about thirty minutes, take out, gently squeeze out the water and shred into large pieces( never chop the lettuce)

  • Take a large bowl, place the lettuce in it.

  • Then add the boiled vegetables, sauted mushrooms, cherry tomatoes to it.

  • To make the dressing: Heat the olive oil in a small wok/tadka pan, add the garlic and let it turn brown, remove from the flame and add Lime juice, Basil and some salt. Mix well.

  • Add the dressing to the salad and toss the vegetables lightly.

  • Top with bread croutons and serve immediately.

This is a meal by itself. You could serve also serve it along with a clear soup. Lettuce adds a lot of volume to this salad so the portion size is a little deceptive. The portion shown in the accompanying picture serves one adult only.

As with the corriander pulao, this salad combines some fairly varied ingredients for a really flavorsome bite. Be a little generous with the olive oil else the veggies would taste dry. The burnt garlic gives the salad a distinctive taste and helps spice up an otherwise bland fare. Instead of the croutons you could add a handful of pasta, leftover pasta would be even better.

Another successful one dish meal. Bon Apetit and Happy cooking!

Yum!




The title of this post is inspired by a talk I heard this morning. The Managing Director of Yum Foods(the group that owns brands such as KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) addressed us at work this morning- a very inspiring speech, related to good food(my kids would vouch for the brands) and I decided that I just had to get back to the blog. It has been a long break- over two months. I have been cooking, trying out new recipes but have somehow not managed to click pictures or write about them.


So back from the break with my favorite theme, " one dish meals". And though I hardly eat rice these days I think our very own "desi pulao" tops the charts when it comes to one dish meals. And thanks to the pressure cooker/rice cooker the pulao gets done in a jiffy too. So full marks on nutrition, taste and convenience. And while the rice gets done and the cooker cools you assemble the raita. Perfecto!


If you are making a veggie pulao you can team it with a plain raita( dahi to which a wee bit of sugar, some black salt or chat masala and bhuna jeera has been added or maybe if you are feeling a little more indulgent then a dahi boondi). And I never fail to get amazed by the number of different types of Pulaos/mixed rice that can be prepared. From the basic jeera(cumin) rice( now this goes well with an elaborate dinner, as a substitute for steamed rice- looks and tastes way better), to the peas pulao( Jeera rice to which you add a handful of shelled green peas- no extra effort, frozen green peas have a permanent place in the freezer- I know of families in Delhi who painstakingly shell peas during the Winter months, then blanch and store them in small single serve zip lock pouches and use it through the year. For those of you who don't want to go through the trouble there is always the Safaal peas). Sorry I got a little carried away. And then of course the regular vegetable pulao and variations therefore like vegetable pulao with tomato, vegetable pulao with paneer, the one Maharashtrians make with goda masala, the traditional vegetable pulao with kaju(cashew), kishmish( raisins)- this one used to be a regular at all family weddings. The list is actually endless and over the next two/three weeks I plan to try out a couple of new types. So watch this space for more.


The pulao I made this evening has just one added ingredient which sets it apart from the regular ones- green corriander( hara dhania) ground to a fine paste with ginger, garlic and green chillies. Gives the pulao an unusual green colour and a really flavorsome taste. Gets done in under 10 minutes and goes well with a regular raita. As the vegetables are cooked and added separately there is no fear of them getting over cooked or the pulao turning lumpy. I think this pulao would taste really good on cold winter evenings with seasonal vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, beans etc.


Corriander Pulao


Cooking time: 10 minutes, serves 4


Ingredients


Basmati rice: 1 1/4 cup, if you are making a pulao try using Basmati rice, Tukda Basmati should also work well. Soak the rice for at least half an hour prior to cooking


Oil/ghee: 2 tbsp


Mixed vegetables, finely chopped: 2 cups( I used beans, carrots, mushroom and baby corn).


Onions: 2, finely sliced


Mustard seeds: 1 tbsp


Curry paste: Grind together 1/2 inch ginger, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tbsp green corriander, 2 green chillies, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp corriander powder,1/2 tsp turmeric powder to a fine paste


Water: 2 cups( prefferably warm water as that prevent the rice from sticking to each other and you get a nice fluffy pulao).




Method




  • Heat 1 tsp oild and stir fry the vegetables with some salt and keep aside. This should not take more than a few minutes as they would have been chopped fine.


  • Next heat the oil in a pressure cooker. Add the mustard seeds, once the mustard sputters add the onion and fry for a minute or two.


  • Next add the curry paste and saute till the raw smell of ginger garlic is no longer there. This should take a few minutes.


  • Add the rice and stir for a minute.


  • Add the water, close the lid of the pressure cooker and let it give out one whistle.


  • Take the cooker off the flame and let it cool down. Open the lid and add the vegetables, mix well.


  • Serve with a cucumber, tomato, onion raita.


I loved the spicy taste which got perfectly balanced with the raita. However if making it for young children I would recommend you skip the green chillies.



There are two new interesting dishes that I have made today. Yes, happy to be on an overdrive. Hope to blog about them soon. Writing about them makes cooking a lot more fun. And making everyday dishes blogworthy is even more fun, you invariably try harder.



Till then, Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!















Sunday, May 15, 2011

Aikam Baikam Tara Toori...........Alu Dum


The first time I remember hearing about " Alu Dum" in all its glory was when as kids we used to play" hide and seek". We went through a very democratic process of choosing the "seeker". We had rhymes that we repeated till all but one player got eliminated and he/she was declared the den. Our Bong neighbors Mana and Mou came up this one which ended with the lines " Alu dum khabo na, soshur badi jabo naa"( loosely translated that means I am not going to eat potato curry and I shall not get married- sorry the essence seems to be getting a little lost in the translation, as always but you get the point).


Now when it comes to naming their dishes the Bongs can give the Mughals a run for their money. Luchi Alu Dum sounds way more exotic than Puri Tarkari. The same goes for dishes like Prawn malai curry(shrimps in a coconut gravy), Dhokar Dalna (Besan curry), Kadaishutir Kachuri( Stuffed Kachoris with peas) etc. etc.



Puri Alu is or rather used to be a regular breakfast item in many households. Growing up I rember having Puris everytime there was a big puja in the household. Breakfast would be Puri Alu and lunch would be Khichdi with baigan fry and tomato khajur chutney.



However with increasing health awareness Puris are kind of disappearing from breakfast tables. A couple of weeks back when Delhi was still cold and nice we decided to indulge ourselves. So the breakfast spread comprised Luchi, Cholar Daal( Bengal gram daal) and of course Alu Dum. Both Alu Dum and Cholar Daal are very easy to make and need very few ingredients. The Luchi/Puri needs to be served hot, straight from the kadai/pan.



Alu Dum( Serves 4)



Ingredients



Baby Potatoes: 1/2 a kilo

Ginger paste: 1 tsp

Garlic paste: 1 tsp

Bay leaves: 1 or 2

Cumin/Jeera powder: 1 tsp

Salt: To taste

Sugar: a pinch

Garam Masala: 1 tsp( freshly ground cinnamon and green cardamom works best for this dish, gives the gravy a nice flavor)

Oil: 1 tbsp



Method





  1. Boil the baby potatoes with their skin in salt water. Remove the skin. You could also leave the skin on, in that case make sure to prick the potatoes with a tooth pick before boiling them) and keep aside

  2. Heat the oil in the pan, add a pinch of sugar and let the sugar caramelize. This gives the gravy a nice rich color

  3. Add the bay leaves, ginger paste, garlic paste, cumin powder and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the salt.

  4. Then add the potatoes and continue to saute for 4/5 minutes.

  5. Add some water( about 1 cup of warm water) and check the seasoning. Simmer for a few minutes. The gravy should coat the potatoes and there should be a little bit more.

  6. Add the garam masala.

  7. Serve hot garnished with some finely chopped corriander


Cholar Daal(serves 4)



Ingredients



Bengal gram daal: About 1 measure/1 cup

Jeera/Cumin paste: 1 tsp ( very integral to a lot of traditional vegetarian cooking which are cooked sans onion and garlic so the flavoring comes from cumin and ginger)

Ginger paste: 1 tsp

Cumin seeds: 1 tsp

Bay leaves: 1 or 2

Salt: 1 tsp or to taste

Sugar: 1/2 tsp

Coconut: 1 tbsp, cut into very small pieces

Oil: 1 tsp

Garam Masala: 1/2 tsp

Ghee(optional): 1 tsp



Method





  1. Pressure cook the daal along with the cumin paste. One whistle should do

  2. Heat some oil, add the bay leaves, whole cumin seeds and the ginger paste. Saute for a couple of minutes.

  3. Add the boiled daal, let it cook for a few minutes. Then add salt, sugar and the coconut.

  4. Finally top up with a teaspoon of ghee and serve hot.


Indulge, Make sure you can roll out and fry the puris real quick because you are sure to have everyone asking for more. On an average boys will eat about ten Puris with ease. If they are competing with each other and breaking their fast with this meal, budget for a few extras.



Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Day- O...a beautiful bunch....a ripe BANANA......




"Stack banana till thee morning come
Daylight come and he wanna go home

Its six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and he wanna go home......"

Harry Belafonte, one of Dad's favorite singers. We learnt to hum the songs even before we knew what the lyrics meant. Some of my favorites include Jamican farewell, Come back Liza, Woman is smarter, Angelico...Mamma gonna take you back. Actually almost all of them. These are songs with a soul and tug at your hear strings. Interestingly son seems to love them too. In fact it was he who suggested that since the inspiration for this dish is the "ripe" banana I should title this post after the Harry Belafonte famous number by the same name.

I find myself baking almost every other day. Makes for convenient lunch box and snack options. Store in an airtight container inside the refrigerator and warm for about 30 seconds before serving. So the cake technically can stay for days. That it gets polished off in less than 24 hours is another story.

A friend once told me that ripe bananas lying on the kitchen shelf means it is time to bake a banana cake. In fact most recipes for banana cakes go "medium sized over ripe bananas". And then last week my friend K told me about her to die for " choco banana cake". Sounded interesting, a combination I had not tried before. Managed to get K to part with her recipe. Tasted quite nice. Though I had initially planned on serving it with vanilla ice cream(a dollop of fresh cream would also taste good) the boys seemed to think it tasted quite good on its own. In fact this is one cake they were quite happy to eat straight out of the refrigerator.

Chocolate Banana Cake

Don't let the looong list of ingredients bother you. The cake gets done in two quick steps. Mix all the dry ingredients, keep aside. Separately mix all the wet ingredients and slowly fold in the dry ingredients into it. That simple. But psst! play along when the accolades begin.
Ingredients

Banana: 1 cup mashed banana pulp, so two to three medium sized over ripe bananas.
Eggs: 2
Oil: 1/2 cup
Milk:1/2 cup
Warm water:1 cup(K used buttermilk instead of water, this makes the cake softer)
Maida/Refined wheat flour: 1 3/4th cup
Cocoa powder:3/4 th cup
Sugar: 2 cups( If the banana is sweet you could adjust the quantity of sugar but do remember that this is a really large cake almost twice the size of other cakes)
Salt:1/2 tsp( to balance out the taste)
Baking soda: 1 1/2 tsp
Baking powder: 1 1/2 tsp
Vanilla essence: 1 1/2 tsp

Method

  1. Sieve together all the dry ingredients which includes the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Keep aside.
  2. Next whip the eggs with the bananas, add water, milk and oil. Mix well.
  3. Fold in the flour mix little by little, stirring continuously ensuring that there are no lumps. The batter is really thin and the cake takes a little longer to cook. But definitely worth the wait.
  4. Bake at 200 degree centigrades for about an hour. For the first 40 minutes keep only the lower coil turned on and for the last 20 minutes bake with both the upper and lower coils turned on. This gives the cake a nice thin crust on the top and along the sides.
  5. Check if the cake is done by inserting a toothpick. The toothpick should come out clean.
  6. Serve hot
  7. If serving as dessert serve it along with some fresh cream or vanilla ice cream.
  8. Given the rich, dark color of this cake you could also frost the cake with some powdered sugar- creates an interesting contrast.
Bon Apetit and Happy Baking!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, Mama....

My memory has served me well so far( sis will vouch for it, she says " I may forgive but I never forget"). And if it is got to do with food then you can be sure I will carry the memory to my grave.
My blog posts as you would notice are full of some of my favorite food memories. Each time I start writing a post they come flooding back. I just have to think of a similar dish and I am transported back in time. Let me tell you about the 'wafer coated triangle shaped' chocolate that somebody had gifted us( this was way before Kit Kat and Perk became household names- perks 0f growing up in a "port city")- sis and me were completely taken in by the novelty of form and taste. For once we rationed the portions and ate little by little each day. The other one that I comes immediately to mind( varied from the earlier reference but probably sampled both around the same time) is aunty I's cauliflower dish. Basis the snatches of conversation between her and my Mom on the recipe, I remember it being made with grated cauliflower, ginger, onion and tons of butter. It was her specialty. At her dinner parties I always helped myself to generous portions and studiously avoided Momma's glares.


And then there were my mother's cutlets. She made them with all types of fish. In fact very often with Tuna, a fish that most others we knew turned up their noses to( it is only much later that I learnt that Tuna is from the " shark" family). Mom would first get our household help to fillet the Tuna, then she would saute them with some garlic to get rid of the fishy smell and several complicated steps later they would appear on our dinner table as the most delicious cutlets garnished with some onion rings and lime wedges. She also made cutlets with Bhekti, Rohu and even prawns. On winter evenings we would have them with soup and bread.

Mom was here a couple of weeks back and taught me to make fish cutlets. I was amazed at how simple the steps were. That did not take away from the taste. Mom also made them with very little oil which I guess makes them healthy.

We now have cutlets as regulars in our menu. They are convenient as starters, go well as meal accompaniments, are often eaten as evening snacks by the boys, leftover get converted into sandwich/burger filling.


Fish Cutlets


Ingredients( This dish needs very few ingredients and all of it very easily available at home)

Fish: 3/4 pieces( Choose the stomach portions as these would have fewer bones, if buying a fillet about 200 grams should do. If you are planning to make cutlets I would suggest you keep a few " stomach/peti" pieces aside when sorting and freezing the fish)
Onions: 2 medium sizes ones, chopped really fine.
Ginger: 1", finely chopped
Potatoes: 2/3 boiled
Bread crumbs: 2/3 tbsps, enough to coat the cutlets
Mint/Pudina leaves: a handful, finely chopped
Green corriander: 2 tbsps, finely chopped
Oil: About 2 tbsps for a batch of about 20 cutlets
Turmeric: 1tsp
Salt: To taste

Method


  1. Smear salt and turmeric on the fish pieces and shallow fry them.

  2. Debone the fish.

  3. Heat about 2 tsps of oil. Fry the onion till glassy, add the ginger and saute for a few more minutes. Next add the fish and cook together for about 5 minutes.

  4. Remove from fire, add boiled potatoes, 2/3 tbsps of bread crumbs, some finely chopped green chillies( optional), the mint and corriander leaves and mix well.

  5. Make small round balls with the mixture and flatten lightly between your palms.

  6. Spread the remaining bread crumbs on a plate and place the cutlets over them. Turn the cutlets around so that the crumbs coat them evenly.

  7. Heat a tsp of oil in a non-stick, shallow pan. Once the oil heats up, add the cutlets one by one. Arrange them on the pan and fry on both sides.

  8. Serve hot garnished with some onion rings, lemon wedges and a chutney/dip.

Thank you Mama for this wonderful recipe, helps me relive a part of my childhood with each bite.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dum Maro Dum......




He! He! Sorry about the really cheesy title, could not think of a better one to go with "Dum".

This story goes a long way back, 17 years to be precise. My sister gifted me a rice cooker for my wedding(sis, the same one is still going strong- thank you). The rice cooker( my savior) came along with an instruction manual and a cookbook. Come to think of it that was my first cookbook and only cookbook for a long time. It had an interesting Biryani recipe which I managed to perfect after a few attempts. I loved making Biryani, the Khila Khila Basmati, the kesar flavoring and colour, the aroma of whole spices, the subtle combination of ingredients- only a hint of this and a whiff of that. But above all what I liked best about making Biryani was that post the initial preparatory work the Biryani cooked on its own. Left me free to clear up, get the starters ready etc. etc. Being a one dish meal it also ensured that there were fewer dirty dishes at the end of the meal.

Somewhere along the line I stopped making Biryani. A lot of us stopped eating rice especially at night(typically guests came for dinner), oil/ghee gave way to no oil/low oil cooking. It is still a convenient option and I order in when we have a large number of guests.

About a week back I watched Biryani being prepared on one of the cookery shows. It rekindled my interest in the once popular family dish. I made it yesterday and served it with a basic raita. The men loved it and wolfed almost all of it down. Older one wanted the little bit that was leftover for breakfast today. Me happy.

Looks like Biryani has managed a successful re-entry into the household even if that means 10 extra laps in the pool or 5 more surya namaskars. Given the overwhelming response I think the dish is here to stay and before long I will have the boys asking for it to be made again.

Dum Murgh Ki Kachi Biryani

Ingredients

Biryani though really simple to prepare needs a long list of ingredients and tons of patience. If you are looking for a quick fix try making a pulao and add some Biryani masala to it.

Basmati rice: 2 cups, choose from the premium range to get really long grained rice. I tried Arise, Saffold Gold- nice, long grained khila khila rice just as the ad promised.
Chicken: 1.5 kg, ask your butcher to cut into large pieces, about 6/8 pieces from a kilo
Onions: 6 medium sized ones, sliced fine
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Garam Masala powder: Roast some green cardamom, black cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, clove and grind to a coarse powder. If you were me you would just add some Roopak Biryani Masala, really good.
Whole spices: Cloves, cinnamon, green cardamom
Lime juice: 1 to 2 tbsp( so about half a lime)
Saffron: a few strands( now this is an expensive ingredient but a key to getting the flavor right)
Milk: 1 cup
Curd: 1.5 cups( If using home made curd, strain the water out using a muslin cloth)
Ghee: 2 tbsps
Oil: 2 tbsps
Ginger garlic paste: 2tbsps
Green corriander: 2 tbsps, chopped fine
Green chillies: 2 tbsps, chopped fine

Method

The preparation needs to begin a couple of hours before.

Start by preparing the marinade. To the curd add the ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, chilli powder, garam masala powder, salt.

Add the chicken pieces to the marinade and mix really well. Use your hands as the marinade needs to coat all the individual chicken pieces . Let the chicken rest in the refrigerator for a few hours. I would suggest you leave it there for at least four hours.

When ready to start making the Biryani heat the oil in a pan and fry the sliced onions till they turn a dark brown. Chop them fine and add half of the fried onions to the marinated chicken. Leave it for about 30 minutes.

Cook the rice with the whole spices. Drain out the water once the rice is half cooked. Keep aside.

Heat the ghee in a deep bottomed flat pan, add the chicken and cook till the chicken is half done. Arrange into a layer. Sprinkle some finely chopped corriander and some green chillies over it.

Add the rice over it to form a second layer.

Dissolve the saffron strands in some warm milk and spoon over the rice.

Squeeze some lime juice over the rice.

Garnish with the remaining fried onions.

Cover the pan and seal with some atta dough or aluminium foil. Helps retain the flavors and keeps the chicken pieces succulent.

Let the Biryani cook for about 45 minutes on low flame.

Once done open the lid and let the flavors do the talking.

Serve hot with a raita.

Thank the Mughals and savor every bite.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

The seven day itch...


Come Saturday and I start feeling restless if I haven't uploaded a new post. Yes, blogging is addictive, Like my son says " passion becomes addiction". But then blogging is therapeutic as well( I have said this before).

No posts also means that we haven't eaten anything new, different or interesting through the week. That makes me go on an overdrive to create interesting weekend food.

The inspiration for this dish came from some fresh basil that my cousin gave me. She has also gifted me a Basil plant. So I can make this dish over and over again. Yipee!

Fresh herbs can completely transform a dish. Pardon the hyperbole but I just love the fusion of ingredients, the ones that flood your taste buds with their amazing flavors, I am referring to dishes where all the individual ingredients come together to create magic. No single flavor stands out but there are subtle hints in each bite.

Chicken forms a good base when it comes to a creating flavorsome food, highly versatile, so soaks up dhania, butter and tomato puree(refer Dhania Chicken) as easily as orange juice. Works for me either ways.

Basil Chicken( serve four)

Preparation time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 45 minutes.

Ingredients

Fresh Basil: 1/2 cup, chopped
Dried Basil: 1 tsp
Chicken: About 8 pieces, choose nice, large pieces for this fish.
Orange juice: 1 cup, freshly squeezed would work best but Tropicana came fairly close
Lime juice: 3/4 tbsps, definitely freshly squeezed
Onion: 2, finely chopped
Cumin powder: 1 tsp, roasted and ground cumin adds to the fresh taste of the dish
Salt to taste
Olive oil: 2 tbsps

Method

Heat the olive oil in a pan.
Add the chicken and fry for a couple of minutes.
Then sprinkle the finely chopped onion and continue to fry.
Add the orange juice, cumin powder, dried basil and salt. Stir.
Simmer and cook covered for 5/7 minutes.
Open the lid, add the lime juice and mix well.
Remove the chicken pieces onto a plate.
Let the sauce thicken a little more, add the fresh basil leaves and ladle over the chicken.

Serve the chicken with some herbed rice( add some butter, finely chopped coriander, chili flakes and salt to rice) and boiled vegetables.

Delicious! Finger lickin' good!

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!




Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rang Barse.....the riot of colors.....


Happy Holi and just the right time to post a recipe that looks colorful. Making your food look fancier than it is adds to the overall taste( given that we eat with most of our senses). And if cooking for children tricks them into actually eating more. Usually the more colorful your food, the healthier it is. Simple, you need to add more greens to add more color. Compare a macaroni with cheese and mushroom to one with macaroni, tomatoes, yellow/red bell pepper and beans. You got it?

Plating which translates into serving your food elegantly and artistically is a complex process. Master chefs on cookery shows say that it is not as difficult as it looks or sounds. It basically means getting the colors and balance of composition right.

Someday I shall be there. For now I follow some basic color rules.
  • Planning the menu well so that each ingredient adds color to the dish and to the table.
  • Making sure that no two dishes being served look alike, this automatically ensures that there is a fair variety in terms of ingredients, recipe types and taste
  • Use of colorful garnishes like cream or yoghurt for soups, ginger juliennes for the daal, fresh corriander for the rich gravies, nuts for the salads etc.
So, a little bit of creativity, an eagerness to learn and a lot of planning and patience is what would finally get you there.

Meanwhile the recipe that follows is the result of one such attempt. Very proud of it as I created it out of party leftovers. The source of inspiration was the lettuce I had leftover from Pinacorn salad made for lunch. I also had some herbed cottage cheese that I had used as cracker topping. Decided to combine the two along with some cherry tomatoes. Incidentally my kids love eating cherry tomatoes, must be to do with the size/form. Instead of making a regular salad, I decided to make these into tiny wraps. They looked quite exotic and tasted nice.

Lettuce Wraps( Serves 4)

Ingredients

Lettuce: 1 bunch(refresh the lettuce in ice cold water to which a few drops of vinegar have been added)
Cheery tomatoes: 12/15, halved
Herbed cottage cheese: 200 grams( This is available off the shelf as ' Masala' paneer, you can very easily make your own with some roasted cumin seeds together with fresh mint, green corriander, green chillies- all chopped fine, some salt)

Method

Choose the bigger leaves. Lay them out on a plate.

Place the herbed cottage cheese in the middle.

Fold in lengthwise and then widthwise.

Place half a cherry tomato on top and secure with a toothpick.

Serve along with a spicy, hung curd dip.

The lettuce gives this a fresh, crunchy feel. A light summer starter and an anytime snack for all those weight watchers.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blowing my own trumpet........


Sis had made this poster which read:" I love blowing my own trumpet but off late it has been getting a little too loud for my own ears".

I am sorry but I just can't help it. I cooked something that I just loved. I think it is one of the best chicken dishes I have ever had. Such unusual flavor, texture, taste, the combination of seemingly varied ingredients came together to create sheer magic.

The recipe has been on my mind for a while now. Getting the ingredients together took some effort. I was quite determined to make it for dinner last night so trudged all the way to the speciality store and picked up my couscous. Hopefully I now have enough to make the dish seven times over( 500 gram pack and 75 grams each time I make this dish). I also had some Apricots leftover from Diwali( eating dry fruits during the winter months is big in the North of India), managed to find some raisins in the store next door. Rest of the ingredients were all available at home. Oh! Yes, I must add that I picked up Chicken thigh pieces for this dish which are the tenderest pieces( sold for a premium, sold as " boneless chicken legs", but well worth the price if you are making a boneless chicken dish).


Cooking the chicken with couscous makes it a balanced ,one dish meal. It has some really quick, easy steps( the dish is set on simmer for most part of the cooking time). I think substituting cous cous with daliya( widely available, lower priced) should give similar results. Going forward I also plan to add vegetables like beans, carrots and mushrooms. I think they would complement the taste. But that story is for another day. I am really eager to share this wonderful recipe which I just loved(despite cooking it myself).




Chicken with Couscous, serves 4


A popular Moroccan dish prepared with the Moroccan staple couscous

Ingredients

Chicken: 500 grams, boneless, ideally the thigh pieces

Olive oil: 1 tbsp

Apricots: 75 grams, chopped

Raisins: 3/4 tbsps

Jeera powder: 1/2 tsp

Dhania powder: 1/2 tsp

Chilli powder: 1/2 tsp

Cinnamon powder:1/2 tsp( grind this fresh for best results)

Water:2/3 cups

Couscous: 75 grams

Green coriander: 2/3 tbsp, chopped fine

Tomatoes: 4/5, chopped fine



Method

Heat the oil in a non-stick kadai.

Add the chicken pieces and cook till it changes colour.

Add the powder spices and cook for a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes, raisins, apricot, salt and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes. You could cover and cook to help the chicken cook faster.

Once the chicken is done, stir in the couscous and cook for another 5/7 minutes till the couscous is tender.

Garnish with finely chopped green corriander.

Though this is a one dish meal you could also serve it with a stir fry. The apricot, raisin, tomato and couscous combination is sure to appeal.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Raising a Toast




Woke up today to a cold, foggy morning. Quite love it this way, nature's way of holding onto the last of winter. Saturday morning and no agenda for the next two days. Feels great.
Inspired by the success of the Medietteranean Chicken I cooked last night, I decided to head to the kitchen right away. Bread and eggs were on the menu. I needed to make breakfast 'blogworthy'. Had already written two egg based posts(scrambled eggs and egg sandwich). Decided to use the mushrooms that had been sliced for the scramble to a make a topping instead. Served it on toasts with poached eggs.
I even made one lot with a mushroom tomato topping by microwaving some chopped tomatoes along with the mushroom, sprinkling a little bit of sugar and adding. Mushrooms in cheese white sauce also go well as serving for toasts.
This is a dish that could be part of your regular rushed/harassed breakfast morning(yes, easy enough for that, you could make the topping, grate the cheese from the night before to make it quicker), it also qualifies for weekend breakfast menus which are leisured, luxury meals.
Mushroom on Toast(Serves 2)
Ingredients
Bread: 4 slices, toasted(I like my toasts hard and crunchy)
Butter: 1 tsp(optional)
Mushroom: 200 grams
Garlic: 2/3 cloves, chopped fine
Mushroom: 200 grams, sliced thin
Green chillies: 1, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Basil leaves: 7/8, finely chopped( I now grow some and so it is really handy to pluck and chop a few)
Grated cheese: Optional but if you are making this for a weekend extended breakfast I would strongly recommend you use some.
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Method
Put the oil in a microwave safe glass dish and heat for 2 minutes.
Tip in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the mushroom, chillies, salt and pepper and cook for 3/4 minutes. Stir once to ensure the cooking is even.
Add the basil leaves and mix well.
Butter the toasts, spread some of the mushroom mixture onto the toast, sprinkle some grated cheese. The Cheese will melt in the heat.
Serve immediately.
This also works well as a wafer topping or the bread slices can be cut into sticks and served as a snack.
Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Friday, March 4, 2011

TGIF........


My evening today reminds me of the song " Jaate the Japan, pahunch gaye Cheen"(Planned something and ended up with something quite different).

I had planned on making a Cous Cous Chicken. Cous Cous, the new wonder food is doing the rounds. I had come across an interesting recipe for Cous Cous Chicken in a women's magazine. It was new, different, easy to prepare, healthy, a one dish meal and thus perfect for a Friday night dinner. A night when you begin celebrating the two day holiday ahead, want to have something special and yet are not looking at anything fussy or elaborate( those are for Sunday mornings or Saturday evenings). By the time you get back home on Friday, you are physically exhausted, mentally tired and just want to put your feet up. Maybe if you are a foodie, yoCheck Spellingu will make it to the kitchen and rustle up something in a jiffy.

I got late at work and could not pick up the Cous Cous. It is unfortunately not available with the neighborhood grocer. I got back home and decided to make a Fiesta chicken instead only to discover that I did not have raisins, a key ingredient in the dish. Finally after much deliberation and inventory search settled for a Mediterranean version. In this easy dish versatile chicken mingles with the flavors of white wine, herbs and garlic. Calls for ingredients that one usually has on hand.

Mediterranean Chicken( Serves four)

Chicken: 500 grams
Tomato puree: 6 tbsps
Wine: 1/4th cup( I used white wine)
Bay leaves: 2/3
Mixed Herbs: 1 tsp( I had run out of Basil so used some Rosemary and Thyme)
Garlic: 3/4 pods, crushed
Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Sugar: 1 tsp
Salt: To taste
Cornflour/Maida: 1 tsp
Olive oil: 1 tsp( Optional if using a non-stick pan)
Spaghetti: 200 grams( boiled in salt water to which olive oil has been added and drained)

Method

Heat a non stick pan. Add the chicken and cook till it changes colour. This should take a couple of minutes.

Add tomatoes and all the seasoning.

Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender( add a little water if necessary).

Dissolve 1 tbsp of maida in a cup of water and add to the chicken.

Boil well and serve over spaghetti.

The sauce tastes delicious and has a glossy texture. Can also be an accompaniment for Pulaos and Fried rice.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!