Saturday, November 29, 2008

Berry Pulao



Sometimes, I get this wild urge to eat something (no, no, this is not pregnancy - just the cravings of a total foodie). This time round, it was berry pulao. The thought of the soft fluffy rice, the succulent meat and the tart berries had been making my mouth water incessantly over the last few days and there was precious little I could do but continue drooling.

Because the only place I know of that serves berry pulao is Britannia restaurant in Ballard Estate in Mumbai.

Some restaurants go on to become landmarks in a city. Britannia restaurant , to me, is one such. While I was working in Mumbai, we used to go there regularly for long lunches on Friday afternoons, stuff ourselves thoroughly....and well, burp our way through the rest of the day. They serve many delicious Parsi dishes but their berry pulao (an Indianised version of the Iranian Zereshk Polow) is legendary.

I couldn't just sit and drool...I had to do something about it. And since no Mumbai trip is on the cards anytime soon, I decided to try making berry pulao at home.

The only hitch - the recipe is a closely guarded family secret and no amount of googling threw up any kind of result. I decided to improvise my own recipe.

The other hurdle - the key ingredient - the berries (dried barberries or - zereshk in persian) is not something I could find in Singapore, though believe me, I walked up and down the lanes and by-lanes of Arab Street and Little India in search of the berries. I substituted it with cranberries which look similar and have a lovely tart taste as well.

I used a mix and match of 3-4 different recipes and here's what I came up with...

Recipe for berry pulao:

1. Making the kebab:

Ingredients:

300 gms chicken mince

for the marinade:

1 onion finely chopped, juice drained off
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp rose water
1.5 tsp anardana powder
1 tsp jeera powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 egg
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt to taste
saffron infused ghee (toast about 20 strands of saffron, crumble them, add a tbsp of water and a tsp of sugar and let it stand for about 15 mins. Then add 2 tbsp of melted ghee).

Method:

Mix all of the above together and let it marinate for atleast 6-8 hrs.
Shape into flat discs, or if you have skewers, shape as you would seekh kebabs. Drizzle some saffron infused ghee and grill till the chicken is cooked tender. ( I grilled mine in the microwave for 18 mins on the grill setting). Keep basting with the saffron ghee frequently - atleast 3 times.
Cut into bite sized pieces.

2. Making the chicken curry:

Ingredients:

3 chicken thighs

for the marinade:

1 onion sliced and shallow fried till golden brown
1 tsp each ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1.5 tsp saffron water (10-15 strands of saffron toasted, crumbled and seeped in 1.5 tbsp water and 1/2 tsp sugar)
1 tbsp ground almonds
1 tsp rose water
4 tbsps yoghurt

Method:

Marinate the chicken in the above marinade for 6-8 hrs.
In a vessel, heat 1 tbsp oil . Brown the chicken for about 5 mins on high flame, then add the remaining marinade and about 1/2 a cup of water and cover and cook on low flame till the chicken is tender. It is important to cook the chicken with as little water as possible, and as the oil used is very less, you will have to keep an eye out to prevent any burning.
De-bone into large chunks and set aside.

Making the pulao:

Ingredients:

1 cup rice, soaked in lukewarm salted water for about 4-5 hrs
3 tbsp dill, finely chopped (berry pulao doesn't use any dill, but I used it as I like the flavour it imparts)
3 tbsp cranberries
chicken kebab and chicken curry (cooked before)
2 tbsp onion, fried golden brown
1 tsp saffron water (same method as above)
2 tbsp oil
1.5 tbsp melted butter or ghee
2 tsp almond slivers, lightly roasted (optional, I skipped these)

Method:

Boil 2.5 cups of water with a tsp of salt. Drain and wash the soaked rice, add it to the boiling water and cook till it is just about done. Strain, rinse and drain the rice. Let it sit for about 5 mins.

Take about 5 tablespoons of the drained rice and mix some saffron water so that the rice turns a lovely yellow.

Bring 1/4 cup water and 2 to 3 tbs oil to boil in a large vessel. Spread 1/3 of the white rice and layer the chicken kebabs, the curry chicken chunks, half the dill, and some cranberries. Repeat the layers finishing with the reamaining white rice and all of the saffron rice. Top this with the fried onion, cranberries and almond slivers (if using).

Cover and steam for about 5 mins. Open the lid, poke some holes through the pulao and pour the melted butter. Cover and steam once again for about 15 mins on very low flame.

Open. Serve. Eat. Mmmmm......


This is my entry to the Rice Mela hosted by Cooking 4 all seasons.

(PS: I have actually written this post with a very heavy heart - here I am writing about a landmark restaurant in Mumbai when so many others have been subject to militant attack).

Update: I am also sending this to Original Recipes Round Up #6 hosted by Lore.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tikki Chhole



Chhole or chana masala, whatever you may call it (I call it chhole).... I have yet to come across any Indian who dislikes chhole, no matter which part of India they may come from.

I have used many different recipes to make chhole but they always failed to hit that "right spot", so to speak. Then, I came across this recipe - believe me, this by far is the easiest and the tastiest way to make chhole.

Of course, there are a few minor changes I have made to the recipe to suit our taste......



Ingredients:

(A)

1/2 cup chickpeas, or garbanzo beans soaked atleast 6-8 hrs (I soak mine for a good 10-12 hrs)
1 onion, grated
1 large tomato, grated
1 tsp each ginger and garlic paste
1 tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
1 tsp chhole masala (I use Everest)
whole garam masala - 4 cloves, 1" stick cinnamon, 6 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf
salt to taste
1 tea bag

(B)

2 tsp jeera (cumin seeds), roasted and powdered
1 tsp anardana powder
1/2 tsp amchur powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp dhania (coriander seed) powder
1-2 tsp chhole masala
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp cream, optional
1 tsp chopped coriander leaves
1.5 tbsp oil

Method:

Pressure cook all the ingredients listed under (A) for 5-6 whistles or until the chickpeas are soft and tender. Discard the tea bag and the whole garam masala at this stage.

Heat oil in a wok. Add the jeera powder and the anardana powder and fry for a bit (the oil is used is very less, hence keep stirring constantly to prevent the masala powders from burning), then add dhania powder and red chilli powder.

Now add the cooked chickpeas, followed by the chhole masala, amchur powder, sugar and half the coriander leaves. Adjust the salt and spice as per your taste. (I do this only if I am entertaining - add in the cream at this stage).

Add a cup of water, cover the pan and let the chickpeas simmer (on very low fire) for about 20 mins...the longer you let them simmer, the better it tastes. Stir occasionally. Garnish with the remaining coriander and serve with puris or rice, or as I did, with alu tikkis.

(Psst...this recipe tastes best when served the following day).


For the tikkis:

3 Potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 small onion chopped
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp chaat masala ( I use Mother's Recipe)
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp jeera powder
1/2 tsp sugar
rock salt, to taste
1 tsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp oil for shallow frying

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together and shape into flat discs.

Heat a frying pan and add the oil just so it coats the pan and fry the tikkis till they are browned.

And now putting it all together:

chopped onion*
tamarind chutney
yoghurt
chopped coriander

Set the tikkis on a plate, spoon the chhole over them, followed by tamarind chutney, chopped onions and yoghurt. Garnish with coriander leaves. ENJOY!!

* when using raw onions, chop them about an hour in advance and sprinkle some salt over it. After about 15-20 mins, squeeze out and discard the juice that flows out and then rinse the onions. This effectively takes away the raw and pungent taste while keeping the crunch intact.


By the way, the photo sucks, doesn't it?!! Gotta improve my skills there.....


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Glazed Baby Carrots



This makes for a great looking and great tasting side-dish with meats, especially chicken roasts.

Ingredients:

100 gms baby carrots (or carrots sliced to 1.5 inch long pieces)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey or brown sugar
1.5 tbsp mustard, preferably, english mustard
Salt, to taste
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp mixed dried herbs, or chopped parsley*

Method:

Peel and steam the carrots till they are cooked but yet firm. Rinse under cold water.
Mix together brown sugar, mustard, chilli flakes, mixed herbs and salt into a paste, adding a tsp of water.
Heat a skillet - make sure it is really hot. Now, add the butter (and hear it sizzle), followed by the paste. Toss the steamed carrots into the skillet and cook for about 5 mins or until the sauce is bubbling and the carrots are well-coated.

This is my entry for JFI December - Carrots hosted by the cooker.

* I prefer parsley, but I didn't have any on hand this time so I used dried Italian seasoning.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tangy Arbi



Now..that picture looks like it has baby potatoes in it, doesn't it?
Well no. it's arbi, or colocassia.

That veggie which is hairy, itchy and funnily shaped (the way I described it as a child). I have gone from hating arbi to simply loving it now. And this particular recipe can convert alomost anyone into an arbi fan. Just try it....

Ingredients:

Arbi 250 gms
Tamarind* size of a small lemon, soaked in warm water
Jaggery* 2 tbsps
Green Chillies 3, slit
Ginger 1" , thinly sliced
Dried red chillies 2
Mustard seeds 1 tsp
Urad dal 1/2 tsp
Hing a pinch
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves 7-8
Oil

Method:

That is a long list of ingredients!! But it gets really simple from here.

Pressure cook the arbi (for 2 whistles) with a little bit of tamarind. The tamarind takes away the itchiness from the arbi. Ensure that the arbi is not over-cooked, it should just yield to a knife. Peel the arbi and cut it to the size of baby potatoes.

Extract the juice from the tamarind and set aside. The juice need not be very thick.

Heat oil. Pop in the urad dal, mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chillies, red chillies and ginger, in that order. Now add the arbiand stir for a bit.

Then add the red chilli powder, hing and salt. Stir.

Now add the tamarind juice and the jaggery and simmer for about 15 mins.

Quite easy, huh? And very tasty, I assure you that!! Tastes best with rotis.


* You are looking for that perfect sweet, sour and spicy taste, and this combination, I have realised, varies from person to person. Moreover, the tanginess and the sweetness of tamarind and jaggery greatly vary across brands. So while the quantities I have indicated work well for me, you might need to vary the proportions of these 2 to suit your taste.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dhoklas




Living out of India means you don't always have a neighboorhood halwai shop that will sell steaming hot kachoris, samosas and dhoklas.
Which means that if you ever have the urge to eat some such things, you either reach out for instant mixes or take the effort and learn to make it from scratch.
The first time I made dhoklas, it all ended in a spectacular disaster. Besan, turmeric and baking soda don't sit well together, it seems and the resulting dhokla was a ugly orangy-red colour. Then, a chance conversation with a friend led me to this perfect, melt-in-your-mouth dhokla recipe.


Ingredients:
for the dhoklas

Besan 3/4 cup
Water 3/4 cup
Lemon juice 1.5 tsp
Eno 1 tsp
Oil 1 tbsp, warm
Hing a pinch
Ginger 1/2 tsp, grated
Sugar 1/2 tsp
salt to taste

for the tadka

Oil 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1 tsp
Green chillies 4
Water 2 tbsp
Sugar 2 tsp
Lemon juice 1.5 tsp

Grated coconut and coriander, for garnish

Method:
Whisk together the besan, water, ginger, oil, hing, sugar and salt, ensuring no lumps remain.
Put a cup and half of water in the pressure cooker and let it simmer.
Now, add eno to the besan mixture and watch it fizz!! Oil a 6 inch square cake tin and pour the mixture into it.
Steam in the pressure cooker for 10 min on high flame, followed by 2 mins on very low fire, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Don't let the cake pan come in direct contact with the water, set it atop an inverted wire mesh.
Take the dhokla out of the cooker and let cool for about 5 mins. Then cut into squares.
While the dhoklas are cooling, prepare the tadka.
Heat the oil and pop in the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add in the green chillies and fry them for a minute. Then add the water, sugar and lemon juice and let the tadka boil.
Pour it over the dhoklas while still in the pan and let the dhoklas soak up the flavours for about 15 mins.
Carefully, take them out of the pan and set on a plate. Garnish with coriander leaves and grated coconut.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Simple Bread Pudding




This bread pudding (not to be confused with bread and butter pudding) is a no sweat, simple dessert that you can whip up in a jiffy, with things that are sitting in your fridge! And the aroma that wafts through the house when the pudding is in the oven is to die for.

As kids, we would have bread without the crust, and I remember my mom making this with the leftover crusts. This is actually the first dish I ever learnt to cook, so it seems apt that my first ever recipe on the blog is this.

Ingredients:

5 slices of bread (if using crusts, then crusts from 20 slices)
500 ml milk (low fat will do, but full cream milk gives the best results)
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp raisins
pinch of salt


Method:
1. Warm the milk, add the sugar and stir to melt the sugar.
2. Line the bread in an oven - proof baking dish and pour the milk over it. Let soak for about 10 - 15 mins.
3. Using your hands, mash the bread till it dissolves completely in the milk. Add a bit of salt.
4. Lightly beat the eggs and add them in. Stir.
5. Add the vanilla essence and the raisins and stir to spread them out evenly.
6. Bake at 200 deg C for 35 mins in the oven or 30 mins on high in the microwave or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
(as it bakes, the pudding will rise quite a bit, but once out of the oven, it will shrink).


Eat immediately, but personally, I like to let it cool in the fridge for about 4-5 hrs before I dig in.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Not another cooking blog!!

With so many wonderful, droolicious cookery blogs out there, do we really need another one?!!


I have been sitting on the fence over this question and it is with a lot of trepidation that I am setting out blogging about my culinary experiences.

So, ready, steady....and, here we go!!

It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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