Thursday, January 29, 2009
I can have potatoes in any form (mashed, dry sabzis, curries, wedges), but my very favorite is the one my mom used to make whenever papa or she observed a fast. It is very similar to jeera alu, but the addition of peanuts takes the taste up by a few notches. You guessed it - I almost never observe a fast, but make this very regularly nevertheless.
Potatoes - 4 medium sized
Sweet potato - 1, optional but very highly recommended!
green chillies - 2, slit
curry leaves - 7-10
dried red chillies - 2
peanuts - 4 tbsps, roasted and ground to a coarse powder
jeera - 1.5 tsps
coriander leaves - 1 tbsp
Pressure cook the potatoes, peel and cut into cubes. Toss with the peanut powder, salt and sugar.
Heat oil. Add the cumin seeds and let them splutter. Add the green chillies, red chillies and the curry leaves in quick succession and stir for half a minute. Add the potatoes and stir well so that the masala coats the potato cubes. Add the lime juice and stir. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring infrequently so that the potatoes get slightly crisp on the outside. Sprinkle some chopped coriander and serve with dal and rotis/rice.
This goes to my own Lets go nuts: Peanuts. Only two days to go, guys, do get nutty!!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Notice anything missing in the things I listed above?
Yeah, you got it...the cooking range!! The one I wanted was out of stock and was likely to be delivered only the following month. So there I was, all set to cook, but unable to.
Or maybe not....there was the MW afterall.
No one I knew cooked in the MW, using it only for heating food. The MW came with an instruction manual and also a recipe book and it seemed that it was geared for all kinds of cooking from grilling, baking, steaming etc. Very tentatively (and very sheepishly, I must admit that I was actually scared), I started my MW cooking journey by boiling potatoes and within a few days, there was no looking back.
MW cooking is not only quick but also uses less oil and water in the cooking process. As a result, food (and especially vegetables) retain more of their vitamins and minerals when cooked in the microwave.
Some dishes ended in absolute disasters (making kadhi, rotis, meat roasts - a definite no no), many others were surprisingly successful (cakes, puddings, omelettes). One of my favourites was and continues to be paneer jalfrezi. This particular way of making it (adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's TV show Khana Khazana) requires the veggies to be cooked very little and I have made it both on the stove top and the MW, cooking it in the latter keeps the veggies fresher and crisper.
Paneer - 200gms
Onion, 1 large, sliced
Ginger, 1" piece, julienned
Green bell pepper, cut into long thin strips
Tomato, seeds taken off, sliced into long thin strips
Corainder leaves, finely chopped, 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Whole red chilli - 2 nos
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder, salt, to taste
Kitchen king masala - 1 tsp
Vinegar - 1 tbsp
Oil - 2 tsp
Heat oil for a minute. Toss in the cumin seeds, let them splutter - this should take about a minute. Next, put in the red chillies for 30 secs.
Add the onions and the ginger and let them cook for half a minute. Stir and put the capsicum in next and cook for 30 secs. Stir and add the paneer and all the masalas and the salt and cook for a minute and 30 secs. Add the vinegar, give it a good stir and add the tomatoes. Cook for a minute and a half, add the coriander and serve.
A friend of mine once told me that good food is all about color. Get the colors right and the food becomes that much more appetising. This paneer jalfrezi, with its lovely mix of yellow, green and red looks good, doesn't it?
Monday, January 26, 2009
What's this, they asked (it was mixed nationality group of guests we had) when we served the dessert.
Kulfi, we said.
Cool fay? Cool fix?
No, Kulfi. Coolfee. Indian ice cream, we said, by way of explanation.
Though, technically, kulfi is not ice cream. It is a distinct category of its own alongside sorbets, granitas, gelatos, frozen yoghurts etc.
Kulfi is believed to owe its origins to the Mughals. Blocks of ice would be brought in to Delhi from the Hindukush mountains in order to keep the royalty cool in the searing hot Delhi summers. Mughal chefs, having ice at their disposal and taking a cue from their Persian and Arabic counterparts (incidentally, ice cream traces its origins back to Persia where the royalty was served a special chilled pudding like dish with vermicelli and rosewater), later invented 'kulfi'.
From being once reserved exclusively for royalty, kulfi is now a street food in India sold by hawkers called kulfiwallahs. They sell the kulfi either in small earthern pots called matkas or in aluminium popsicle like molds. The molds are buried in a huge metal container holding a mixture of ice and salt - this effectively freezes the kulfi. Bearing a huge cane basket, in which they secure the metal container in a distinct red cloth, on top of their heads, you'll find them going from street to street enticing the taste buds with their loud cries of "kulfeeeee" on balmy summer nights!
Normally, kulfi is made by sweating over a the gas to painstakingly reduce the milk to almost half. However, I do not have the energy or the patience to do that. The memory of trying to make malai pedhas is fresh in my mind - reduce the milk, said the recipe till it becomes a solid mass. Yeah, right....I got all of 7 pedhas after over an hour of toiling and sweating!! Which is why I knew I had struck gold with this recipe. No boiling. No cooking. Just mix and freeze.
for the base
1 can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
300 ml cream
breadcrumbs from 1 slice of bread
Traditionally, kulfi has been flavoured with cardamom, saffron and nuts, though today, a myriad of flavours abound, most popular being mango, custard apple, chikoo...and yes, even chocolate! I decided to stick to the traditional flavour of cardamom, pistachio and saffron.
for the flavouring:
10-12 pods of cardamom, peeled
1/2 cup pistachio, shelled
saffron, about 10-12 strands
rosewater - 1 tsp
Soak the saffron in the rosewater for about 10 mins. Grind the pistachio and the cardamom to a fine powder. Mix with the remaining ingredients for the kulfi base and process in a mixie. Now, stir in the soaked saffron. Pour into molds of your choice and freeze.
I set my kulfi in a 10" cake pan. To facilitate unmolding, just dab some butter in the centre of the pan and line with butter paper. Pour the kulfi mixture and freeze it. Before serving, run a knife dipped in hot water along the edge of the pan. Tip over your serving plate, rub the base vigorously with a kitchen towel, remove pan and peel off the butter paper. Cut and serve.
Makes enough to serve between 8-12 people, depending on the size of the slices.
Yes, it is high in calories. But, one bite and your guests will ask you for more, calories be damned. One bite, and you'll want to keep the whole thing for yourself, calories and guests be damned!!
Friday, January 23, 2009
Electricity cuts were pretty much the norm almost every Thursday evening in the small town that I grew up in. Like everyone else, for the longest of time, we hated those electricity cuts as well. It meant missing the weekly Chhayageet* on Doordarshan* (after all, back then we didn't have too much of a choice in TV programs, did we?).
But one day a dhaba* opened in the vicinity of our house. And one such Thursday, when the power was out, my dad went and got some tandoori chicken from there. Sitting there in the balcony, with a few candles burning, the smell of kachuaa chaap, Vividh Bharati* belting out some hindi songs, eating the succulent chicken was an amazing experience.
Soon our attitude to those much hated power cuts changed. Now, we'd wait for the power cut - it wasn't as if papa wouldn't have bought the chicken any other day if we'd have asked him to - but there was something magical about eating it on the power cut nights.
And even now, whenever I eat tandoori chicken, no matter where I am or with whom I am, my mind goes back to those lovely Thursday tandoori chicken nights.
Chicken - 6 legs, skinless
for the marinade:
Juice of 1 lemon
Thick yoghurt - 1/2 cup
Cream - 3 tbsps
Ginger garlic paste - 2 tbsps
Red chilli powder, tandoori chicken masala, salt - to taste
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Orange colour - a few drops
Oil for basting
Coal - 1 large piece
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and let the chicken marinate for at least 6-8 hrs (the longer, the better).
Just before grilling, heat the coal till it becomes red hot. Place in a small steel bowl and place the bowl in the centre of the vessel with the marinating chicken. Pour the ghee on top of the coal and when it starts smoking, cover the vessel tightly for about 5 mins. This gives the tandoori chicken a lovely smoky flavour.
Grill till the juices run clear as per your oven/microwave instructions.
I serve this with a spicy onion salad. Just slice the onions, add salt, sugar, lime juice, chopped green chillies, coriander leaves and mango pickle.
(*chhayageet - a weekly programme featuring songs from Bollywood movies broadcast on the national TV channel Doordarshan.
Vividh bharati - radio channel
kachuaa chaap - mosquito repellent
dhaba - small open air restaurants, usually found along highways catering mainly to truck drivers)
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
As kids, whenever my mother would make brownies (or for that matter, any cake), my sister and I would fight like cats. Over what, you might want to know.
No, it wasn't over who would cut the brownie.
No, it wasn't over who would get to arrange the walnuts on top of tha batter.
No, it wasn't over who'd have the last piece of the brownie.
Somewhere down the line, we learned to take turns and then over time we lost our fetish to lick the mixing bowl and focussed just on what was being baked in the oven.
But sis, I swear, this time when I made them brownies, had you been in the kitchen with me, I would have fought with you all over again and NO, I wouldn't have shared the mixing bowl with you. Afterall, these are supernatural brownies!
Calling a brownie "supernatural" - now that is some claim!
Zillions of recipes abound for making brownies, some use chocolate, yet others use cocoa powder. Some make fudgy brownies, others, cakey. Sometimes, there are chocolate chips in it, sometimes nuts. And, almost everyone who bakes will have "the best" brownie recipe!
But very frankly, when I first came across a recipe that called itself supernatural brownies, I wasn't too impressed. There is way too much sugar, I thought.
But then when I came across this recipe on Dee's blog, I knew it was spot on! Boy, did I rush into the kitchen to make them, with just a few itsy bitsy changes to her recipe.
125 gms bittersweet chocolate (I used Varlhona)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp coffee emulco
1/2 cup flour , sieved once
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, very lightly toasted
few whole walnuts, optional, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 deg C.
Melt the chocolate and the butter. I use neither the microwave or the double boiler method. This has always worked for me - melt butter and toss the chocolate into the melted butter. The heat from the butter will melt the chocolate.
Whisk the eggs , followed by both the sugars, salt and the essence, for about 3 mins. Add the melted chocolate and then, fold in the flour until just combined. Toss the walnuts in the reserved flour and stir into the batter.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Roast chicken is something I love to eat. Except that I didn't quite roast the chicken (I would actually cook the it in a large pan on very low heat). You see, I was actually quite worried about ending up with a burnt, charred skin. Or with meat that tasted, well, like a piece of cardboard in the mouth.
But that was till yesterday. I finally roasted a chicken in the oven and ended up with a roast that was just slighly crisp on the outside and utterly succulent on the inside, with all the natural flavour of the chicken intact.
It is all to do with the science of cooking, it seems. Roasting essentially is the use of dry heat to cook. During oven roasting, hot air circulates around the meat and therefore, it follows that too much heat squeezes out the moisture (juices) too quicky (before the proteins have started to break down) and that is when the roast ends up being dry.
In slow roasting however, the juices are released steadily and so, the shrinkage of the fibers in the meat is a lot lesser. Result, you end up with meat that is juicy and has an inviting pinkish tinge to it, instead of a dull grayish brown look. Moreover, it requires virtually no basting!
Chicken 1.5 kgs (skin on)
Butter 30 gms
Garlic 3 cloves, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Onions, cut into quarters, sprinkled with a generous tsp of sugar
Salt and pepper powder
Potatoes, carrots and any other veggie you want
Herbs of your choice (I used parsley)
Wash the chicken and pat it dry thoroughly, outside and inside. Melt the butter in a small vessel, pop in the garlic and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Let cool. Squeeze the lime juice (don't discard the squeezed lemon wedges), salt and pepper into the butter garlic mixture. Rub this marinade over the outside and inside of the chicken. Stuff the onions and the lemons slices into the cavity of the chicken.
Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for atleast 4 hrs. The longer, the better.
Preheat the oven to 175 deg C for 5 minutes. In the meantime , make a few slits in the veggies and toss them in salt, pepper, herbs and a little olive oil. Throw them into the roasting pan. Place the chicken breast side down. By doing this, while cooking, all the juices will flow to the breast which is the driest part of the chicken.
Cover the pan loosely with aluminium foil and roast for 30 mins (you are doing this so that the cold chicken is not subject to the heat directly, thereby drying up the outside - if you bring the meat to room temperature before you begin cooking, you can skip this part).
After 30 mins, remove the foil and let the chicken cook for a further 60-75 mins. Do baste your chicken once after 30 mins with the juices that flow out. After about an hour, insert a skewer into the thigh, if the juices run clear, your chicken is done.
Now, turn the chicken breast side up, turn up the heat to 200 deg C and roast till it gets a lovely brown colour.
Let it rest for about 10 mins before serving, doing this ensures that the juices that had initially just flowed down to the breast while cooking are redistributed evenly.
In the meantime, prepare the red wine sauce.
Open the wine bottle, taste the wine. Nice? Well, pour yourself a glass.
Heat a tbsp of butter. Add a clove of minced garlic and half an onion(chopped). Fry till the onion becomes soft and pink. Add the chicken stock from the roasting pan and bring to a boil.
Add 1/2 a cup wine - no, not to your glass, to the pan - but yes, feel free to top up your glass as well - and bring to a boil. Adjust the seasoning (salt, pepper, paprika). Add a tsp of cornflour (dissolved in some water) and cook till sauce thickens. Drain your glass.
No, I don't have pictures of the sauce. And I don't have pictures of how the chicken looked when it was carved and plated. You guys understand, don't you?
Monday, January 12, 2009
Falafel is very popular Middle Eastern dish, with almost every country having its own way of making and serving it. The Egyptians use fava beans, the Israeli version uses chickpeas, some others, a combination of the two. Though the ones made with chickpeas is today the most popular way of making falafel.
Now falafel is something I have tried making at home only recently. For the longest of time, I didn't need to make them at home. When we were in Dubai, we just had to say'falafel' and there'd be so many restaurants to choose from. even the supermarkets had great frozen ones, so there was absolutely no need to make them from scratch.
When we moved here, falafel fell off the radar, so to speak.
Till the other day, when I had soaked chickpeas to make the ubiquitous chhole for dinner. But the husband somehow didn't want to have chhole. I had to make something with the soaked chickpeas and settled on falafel, with a bit of trepidation though.
Because all the recipes I had in my cookbooks and the ones I looked up on the net called for a food processor which I don't have. But I decided to press on, wondering what the chickpeas would do to my blender blades.
I needn't have worried at all. The chickpeas were very nicely soaked (this is the key) and so the blender is fine, the falafels were nice and the recipe is a keeper.
I took the recipe from here and tweaked it just a little bit.
1/2 cup chickpeas soaked 24 hrs
1 onion, chopped
3 tbsp coriander
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin, roasted and powdered
1/2 tsp anardana powder (pomegranate seed powder)
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp pepper, coarsely ground
salt to taste
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
oil for frying
Soak the chickpeas for 24 hrs in sufficient water. This is the key, the chickpeas have to be well soaked. Let them drain for about 20 mins before processing them.Add onions, coriander, and all the spices and blend till you have a coarse mixture. Don't add any water at all. Initially, I felt as if my blender was going to give way - oh it was really groaning and complaining - but eventually, the water content of the onions and the coriander eases the mixing. You should end up with a gritty mixture.
Empty the contents in a bowl and add the baking powder and the flour (I didn't have plain flour and used self raising- and so omitted the baking powder), a little at a time (you could need more or lesser than what I have indicated) till you have a nice ball of dough, firm enough to shape into balls. Cover the dough and let it rest in the fridge. Just before serving, shape them into small balls and fry.Heat oil (the way to test if the oil has reached the right temperature - in the absence of a food thermometer is to drop a little dough in the oil. If it sinks and comes back to the surface immediately, it is good to go) and fry on medium heat till they are golden brown on the outside. This should take not more than 5-6 mins. Drain on a kitchen towel before serving.
Now, I have my reservations about anything deep fried, and so I also tried baking them. Here's the truth: they taste nice when baked, but doesn't quite stack up to the taste of the deep fried ones. So, I will stick to the deep fried ones...in any case, one is entitled to indulge sometimes! Moreover, they don't drink up too much oil, in fact, the fried falafels were absolutely non greasy!
Do ensure that you fry the falafels just before serving (cold ones re-heated in the micro don't quite male the cut). The dough will stay for a day or two in the fridge - mine did - and we had falafel sandwiches for brunch the next morning.
For the sandwiches, you'll need:
Some salad (I made onion salad - sliced onions with lemon juice, green chillies, coriander, sugar and salt)
Pickle (I used pickled olives)
Tzatziki sauce/dip (will post this soon)
Toast the pita bread, cut into half and separate the two layers to make a pocket. Spread the tzatziki sauce on the thicker side of the pocket. Flatten the falafel between your palms and place them on the sauce. Next, put the pickles, the tomatoes and the salad.
And now, for the one size fits all kinda thing, I am sending this to:
Thursday, January 8, 2009
“Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
According to FDA, types of nuts eligible for this claim are restricted to almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts.
Nuts are a great source of protein, packed with fibre, calcium and iron and fat, but the good fat (mono and polyunsaturated fats). In fact, as I read up more an more about the nutritional benefits of nuts, I was increasingly convinced that having a handful of nuts regularly is akin to popping a multi-vitamin pill! Just follow this link to get more details on the nutrients packed in nuts.
In addition to the health benefits, nuts impart, for lack of a better word, a lovely nutty flavour and a great texture to the food they are added to. Have them straight out of a bowl or add them to salads or curries or pasta or cookies and cakes - they can be eaten in so many versatile ways!
So why don't we all get cooking with nuts?
Announcing my first ever event - Let's go nuts!
In the spotlight for this month - Peanuts/Groundnuts
Conversation (and drinks) flow easily with a bowl of peanuts, it seems! World over, there are countless restaurants that will serve peanuts, steamed or roasted as munchies, especially with drinks.
When I think peanuts, I am reminded of the time when we (the husband and I while we were dating) used sit at Marine Drive. Almost always, we would buy some piping hot peanuts from the hawkers there who would roast them in huge woks. They were cheap and filling, and we would chat for hours, the sound of cracking the shells adding a lovely crunch to our conversation!
But peanuts are much more than chat and drink accompaniments. Technically, they are not nuts - but, surprise, surprise - legumes! And they pack in quite a punch in just a handful. The list of nutrients found in one ounce of peanuts is so long that I don't think I can list them here!! Just read this - I was so amazed!!
So let's all go nuts with peanuts this month!
- Just post a recipe - just about anything - with peanuts in your blog between now and Jan. 31st, 2009 with a link to this announcement. Old posts (re-posted linking to this event) are welcome. Non-bloggers, please send me a mail with a photo. And of course, multiple entries are (very) welcome.
- Mail your entry (with the subject as Let's Go Nuts) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following details:
your blog name
name of your entry
URL of your entry
a picture of your entry
I don't have a logo yet, but hope to set that right soon.
And hey you guys, I do realise this is a huge leap of faith for a new and relatively unknown blogger like me, but I am counting on your support (in the form of entries) to make this event a success.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
So there is this young girl - a friend's daughter - who wanted me to bake her a chocolate cake for her 9th birthday.
I directed her here and asked her to choose her cake. I anticipated a barbie cake or a princess cake or some such. But it seems I am not synch with the times - nine year olds, it seems, have outgrown the barbie etc phase and have moved on to things more chic and fashionable. She chose a handbag cake (she wanted it in blue and green to match her party favors), adding sweetly, "it is ok if you don't make the handbag cake, you can bake me just a chocolate cake".
Though a handbag cake was something I had never done before, I knew that it only looks difficult and time-consuming to make.
I used the same chocolate cake recipe as here, froze it for a couple of hours before cutting it in the shape of a handbag and then used fondant to cover the cake. Yes, as simple as that! All it requires is a steady hand and some precision in measuring and cutting the fondant.
Now, I am waiting for another little girl (or boy) to ask me to bake her (or him) a cake!
And if you think this cake is nice, do a google image search for handbag cakes....you will be astounded at the cakes you see there!!
Friday, January 2, 2009
There is something magical about a bowl of steaming hot, tangy and spicy tomato basil soup, isn't it? Throw in a rainy day (we've been having quite a few of these lately) and you couldn't ask for anything more....well, other than some more soup!
Tomato pairs very well with basil and the addition of beetroot, squash and carrots not only makes it very healthy, but also imparts a lot of body and a lovely sweetness to the soup. Served with some garlic bread or some salad on the side, this soup makes for a great supper.
I do add cream occasionally, it gives the soup a lovely salmon colour, but the soup is very delicious even without the cream.
Tomatoes - 5 large
Beetroot - 1/2
Squash/Pumpkin - 5 one inch cubes
Carrot - 1/2
Onion - 1 medium sized, chopped
Garlic - 1 large clove, chopped
Ginger - 1" piece, sliced
Cinnamon - 2 inch stick
Bay leaf - 1
Peppercorns - 6
Vinegar - 1.5 tbsp
Chicken/vegetable stock - 1/2 cup
Salt, pepper powder, chilli flakes and sugar, to taste
Fresh basil (italian) - 1 tbsp chopped OR dried basil - 1.5 tbsp, plus some more for garnish
Butter/olive oil - 1 tbsp
fresh cream - 1/3 cup, plus some more for topping
Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Pressure cook the vegetables for 3 whistles alongwith the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, salt and sugar (don't add the chilli flakes and the pepper powder at this stage).
Saute the onion, ginger and garlic in butter till the onions turn pink. Once cooked, peel the tomatoes, beetroot and squash and saute with the onion for a minute. Then, blend everything together into a puree (discard the bay leaf and the cinnamon stick).
Add the stock and bring to a boil. Adjust the seasoning and add the basil, vinegar, pepper powder and chilli flakes. Add water or some more stock or some low fat milk to bring it your desired consistency. Add the cream, if using. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Garnish with basil leaves, top with a blob of fresh cream and serve.
This is what I do when I am feeling too lazy or if I am too pressed for time to do all the sauteing. Just pressure cook all the ingredients (the veggies, onion, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, cinnamon, salt and sugar) and then proceed as above.
This seems just right for Click -Red at Jugalbandi.
And yes, wish you all a Happy New Year!!
Update: I am also sending this to Winter Treat Event at Recipe Centre and to Lisa for No Croutons Required.
It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!