Thursday, December 30, 2010

#55 Thai Curry Chicken Noodles

We savor all types of modest noodle dishes in our home. The Malaysian Restaurant Panang in our area is a place to eat the most gratifying noodles, red and Panang curries that we love. I always go back to eat their fried squid appetizer and never get tired of it. But, have you ever been to a small "Mom and Pop" little Asian cafe and they served up a simple dish that was so luscious and deceptively filling that you thought to yourself....maybe I should try and conjure up something along the lines of these flavors?? R and I took V to this small restaurant called The Lotus Cafe near the neighborhood of V's school. They served a delightful curried noodle platter that inspired me to come up with this succulent dish loaded with intense Thai flavors. We've heard about curried noodles and especially different versions of Pad Thai noodles considered most popular among food available along the streets of Thailand. They say that the aroma rising from the hot street side woks as the noodles are simmered in the fragrant sauce is impossible to pass without an excruciating urge to satisfy your hunger. I can see why this happens as I cannot resist putting a fork to the wok when I cook this in my own kitchen and the aroma floats around me. The distinctive spices such as kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, fish sauce, galangal and coconut milk make it an authentic Thai feast for anyone like me- who has adoration for Asian flavors. Here is my recipe --

Thai style Chicken Curry Noodles
Chicken- 1 skinless boneless breast sliced thin(as shown in picture).
Whole Baby Corn- 1, 15 oz can
Straw Mushrooms- 1, 15 oz can
Bamboo Shoots sliced- 1, 8 oz can
Red or Yellow peppers- 1 sliced lengthwise
Scallions- 4 stems sliced lengthwise.
Tomato- 1/2 cut up
Carrot- 1 sliced up
NamPrik Maesri Brand Red Curry Paste- 2 Tblspns
(This paste has all the right combination of lemon grass, galangal, red chili, and kaffir lime leaves
Spaghetti Noodles or Chinese Noodles- 1, 14 oz pack
Onions- 1 Sliced lengthwise
Garlic- 4 cloves sliced thin
Ginger- 4 cloves chopped
Lime juice- 3 tblspns
Coconut Milk- 2, 13.5 oz cans
Rice Wine/Mirin- 2 Tblspn
Soy Sauce- 3 Tblspns
Fish Sauce- 3 Tblspns
Salt to taste, Oil for sautéing.

1. The pictures here show the cans used in this dish except for the NamPrik Maesri Curry paste, which is all available a
at any Asian market that sells them.
2. Slice the chicken thin on an angle as shown in the photo and marinate with 1 tspn soy sauce and black pepper.
3. Place a pot on the fire and fill half way with water. Let it come to a boil and add some salt and the spaghetti noodles.
4. Stir well and cook the noodles. Drain well and keep aside.
5. Now, place a large Wok on a medium fire. Add some oil and when it heats up add the chicken and
stir fry well until just cooked but not too tough. Remove the chicken on to a plate and keep aside.
7. In the same Wok, add the Onions, Tomato, ginger, garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
8. Add the Peppers, and drain the bamboo shoots, straw mushrooms and baby corn from the can liquid and add the vegetables.
9. Stir for about 1-2 mins until the water has evaporated. Remove the veggies onto the plate with the chicken and keep aside.
10. To the same Wok, add NamPrik Curry paste, followed by soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, rice wine and may 1/4 cup water.
11. When the sauce starts boiling, lower the cooking level and add the noodles to the sauce.
12. Let the noodles get infused with the flavors of the sauce without overcooking the noodles, and add the coconut milk very slowly making sure it does not curdle.
13. Keep stirring it around the Wok so that the sauce is smooth. Turn off the fire.
14. Add the Chicken and vegetables and scallions and stir well to spread the lovely sauce around. serve topped with herbs or nuts.

#54 Chicken Pulao

You are probably thinking---what is the difference between Chicken Pulao and Chicken Biryani? There isn't much of a difference in appearance and they look very much alike then what is she talking about?

Pulao is a simple one-pot dish without all the fuss that goes into the making of a  Biryani. The chicken can be cooked along with the rice in a pulao, to blend all the flavors together whereas, Biryani is layered with many deep flavors. I would differentiate them by the intensity of the flavors----- Pulao being milder than Biryani and easier to make.
Chicken breasts-2
Basmati rice- 1 ½ cups
Onions- 2 sliced lengthwise
Tomatoes- 1 chopped
Potato-1 cubed
Cooked green peas-1/2 cup
Green chillies-2
Ginger paste- 1 Tblpn
Garlic paste- 1 tspn
Shaan Chicken Pulao Mix- 1 pkt.
Cilantro chopeed-1/2 cup
Butter or Ghee as needed.
A pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Take a big soup pot and place on the fire. Take about 2 Tblspns of Ghee and melt.
  2. Add the onions and sauté until soft and it starts turning brown.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and green chillies.
  4. While the onions are sautéing,  cut up the chicken breast into cubes, wash well and marinate in ginger, garlic paste, pepper, salt and Shaan pulao mix and keep aside.
  5. Wash and soak the Basmati rice in water.
  6. When the tomatoes in step 3 turn soft and pulpy add the chicken, ½ cup water and let cook halfway.
  7. Now add the rice drained well from the water it was soaking in, along with cubed potatoes.
  8. Add the rest of the ghee and the saffron, raw spices(cinnamon and Cardamom) for added flavor. Add about 1 cup water since the water from the chicken mix will also aid in the cooking.
  9. Now, mix well keep covered on a very low flame and cook the rice. If you need more water add as needed until the rice is just cooked.
  10. Add fried onions, cooked green peas cilantro, mix well and serve.


In the month of January, Cancun has the best weather. The food and cost of things are just so affordable and perfect, that you cannot help enjoying your vacation. We traveled to Cancun in January of 2008 and I did not want to come back. But all good things must come to an end and we had to return to the cold weather in DC, yet it is good to be home. While in Cancun, we chose to move away from touristy areas and the Hotel Zone,  venturing out to eat what the locals eat trying everything from fast food to fine dining. 

I must admit that this is how I became obsessed with freshly made salsa. I was introduced to real Mexican tacos and salsa---that's when I realized what I had tasted in the US were just westernized versions of tacos with lettuce and cheese. The real stuff is meat and freshly made soft corn tacos that are so scrumptious that you can eat to your heart’s content without feeling guilty.

I had done a little digging around before we left and heard about this restaurant that had good reviews so we took time to find this place.La Habichuela is a restaurant that does not fall in either category, and falls in the mid to average level. This restaurant has been a legend since 1977 and has a very romantic sculpture garden. Although it is not a fine dining restaurant, I would say it is one of the best places in Cancun in service and food quality. I ordered the famous Cocobichuela with large chunks of lobster and shrimp in rice and coconut gravy- lip smacking good!! Before they brought out the salsa and entree, the waiter served a palate teaser of orange and lemon sorbet artfully scooped into a half lemon shell. The Palate teaser or 'amuse-guele' are known to invigorate the appetite and are more whimsical than hors d'oeuvres. This indicates that the cooking style of this restaurant was ideally favored to customers starting with a warm welcome. The Cocobichuela was so delightful that it proved every bit the exemplary culinary skills of the chef. The restaurant is a hidden local gem in the downtown area, and I must say it was a bit off-track from the normal tourist areas.

Besides food, we also enjoyed our trip to the breathtaking ruins of the Mayan civilization- Chichen Itza and the local flea markets, soaking in the heat of the January sun. The beach with its white sand is pretty clean and lounging on the chairs for some rest and relaxation so calming to the senses.  To add to it, you can watch yachts and balloons in the air over the crystal cobalt blue sea..........with a cool drink!!


The Galleria is a must see if you are not used to big malls but we spent time shopping away and people watching at the Ice Rink. People watching all morning at the Ice Rink and a little shopping surely does make you tired, so we stopped for lunch at the Ninfa's Mexican Cafe. The cafe serves up some authentic Mexican food accompanied by freshly made corn tortillas. They also shake up a good Ninfarita Margarita and delicious fresh seafood ceviche.

I must mention a wonderful little Mexican restaurant that we had a scrumptious meal at "Spanish Flower". They have some amazingly delicious food-here's the dessert my girls and I shared Tres-Leche Cake....sorry R.. you couldn't make this trip.

We visited the NASA Space Center and the water wall and walked for hours. The barbecue by the chain "Pappas Bar-B-Q" is "lip-smacking" good and the sauces simmered and drizzled over the top of the ribs is zesty and spicy.  There is even a bountiful spread of relishes and pickles you can select from. Most often when I am traveling,  I love to go for the down home 'no frills' kind of food so that I do get to experience what the real locals eat everyday.


I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Paradise Island and Atlantis with its beautiful surroundings in January 2009. Although, I thought it was a bit on the expensive side as far as food is concerned, it all turned out well because we treated ourselves to some warm sun and white sandy beaches.

The Spa there is immaculate being on the beach, and helped me de-stress to the bones and recover from brain hiccups....LOL. We also went down to the outdoor mall to listen to the local people sing. Caribbean music can be very joyful and melodious so you swing with it spontaneously. We had a scrumptious dinner at Anthony's on Bay street and the best tasting Caribbean food. I remember my Conch Fritters with the zesty sauce, my entree of jerk grilled fish and rice with pigeon peas accompanied by a Bahama Mamma. I have had the same drink right here in the US but nothing comes close to the original from the island.  We almost went back a second day for lunch but they were closed.  


The Atlantis Resort Underwater Passage is absolutely stunning and you can observe a variety of fish species swimming overhead and alongside you. The fascinating experience of walking through The Dig -a re-creation of the Lost City of Atlantis you get to watch some of the strangest sea creatures known to humans. Fortunately the sting rays, sharks and piranhas are behind thick glass so you feel safe just watching them move along the deep blue water.

The Atlantis Casino is another absolutely fantastic sight with Dale Chihuly glass sculptures on display in all the fiery beautiful and the Poseidon’s oversized throne. The Resort also hosts the MESA grill where we made reservations for a brilliant meal.. I was a bit disappointed because I had eaten at the MESA grill in Las Vegas and the meal here was sub-par to the one in Las Vegas.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Cookies- House Favorites

My parents did not celebrate Christmas but I was always fascinated by the Carolers who came around during Christmas time to sing and they joined the festivities and always handed out tokens of appreciation.  I introduced some family traditions that warmed my heart and I would like to think warmed my girl’s hearts too. R introduced the tradition of decorating the house with the ever lighted Christmas tree and the wreaths. Although this year I think he got carried away shopping for lights for our front door too!!!

Well, many years back during the Christmas holidays we started a joint activity and an ongoing tradition of baking cookies for Santa. For me it was a great time to dust off my baking tools and make treats. For the girls it was a fun activity. We baked our tried and true classics like the chocolate chip, snickerdoodles and sugar cookies and also decorated them as we pleased and this was the beginning of a ritual that has stayed on in our house. 

 It is wonderful to know that my young ladies have cherished memories about the good times we spent in the kitchen. Of course, it soon expanded into a project of it's own, and eventullay I started using disposable table spreads on the table allowing them to roll the dough, use sugar-frosting and sprinkles on cookie dough cutouts. I used to  dig up from stores at ‘after-Christmas’ sales all kinds of sprinkles and new cutouts, whenever I found opportunities to stock up my pantry.

Despite all the chaos and powdery faces, I enjoyed the laughter and time spent watching those tiny hands as they rolled, poured and sprinkled, all while giggling at each other. Once exhaustion took over the girls, we would clean up,  then on to a cozy sofa where we enjoyed the cookies with milk. V was always particular about leaving out a large plate of cookies and milk for Santa before she went to bed on Christmas Eve.

Many years have gone by since then, but I have continued to bake the cookies and share them with friends and colleagues over the years.  The girls still get their fair share, and sometimes they even bring home some of their own baked cookies and I hope I have handed down this tradition to them.  Anyway, this year, here is my share of Christmas Cheer on a platter….our assorted house favorites that I served up after dinner

#53 Paula's Pistachio Linzertorte with Black Raspberry Jam

I read about this beautiful European cookie recipe from among the Top Holiday Cookies of 2010 as listed by the Food Network. The cookie looked very much like one my Amma used to make years ago with sugar, butter and flour. She called it Tri-Color biscuits. It was a sandwich cookie where the top layer had three holes. She applied three different jellies/jams to the base cookie and placed the top layer to sandwich them together with the jam in between. She was an expert at home-made jams and jellies made with tropical fruits like pineapple and mangoes, which were always stored in handy jars.
This recipe calls for Cherry Jam but I preferrred to use Black Raspberry Jam that I had in my pantry. Unlike my Amma, I do not make fresh jams or jellies because both of us are not big eaters of jams. This cookie was a popular one at home and with my colleagues this year.  I did not have a small star shaped cutter so I used a small round one instead for the center. The recipe is available at

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 cups ground roasted and salted pistachios
  • Cherry jam

In a large bowl, beat butter and confectioners' sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in egg yolks until combined.
In a small bowl, combine flour, nutmeg and cardamom. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until combined. Beat in ground pistachios. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with a 2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter. Cut out centers of half the cookies with a 1/2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter. Place cookies 2 inches apart on baking sheets, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Spread cherry jam evenly over flat sides of uncut cookies. Top with flat sides of cutout cookies. Return to baking sheets, and bake for 2 minutes. Let cool completely on wire racks. Store in airtight

#52 Elegant Italian Florentine Cookies

This delicate "lace" cookie from Italy takes a bit more work than the usual chocolate chip cookie. A little cooking or mixing is needed before you can actually start baking these cookies, but the final product is so delicate and artfully lavish that I felt the extra effort was well worth it. The recipe comes from the Top Holiday Cookie list of 2010 as listed by the Food network. I love the taste of these thin and light cookies. The original recipe from
  • 1 3/4 cups sliced, blanched almonds (about 5 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Topping, optional:

  • 2 to 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, zest and salt in a large bowl.
Put the sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour mixture into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, 30 minutes.
Scoop rounded teaspoons (for 3-inch cookies) or rounded tablespoons (for 6-inch cookies) of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 to 4 inches between each cookie since they spread.
Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve.

I melted up some chocolate chips at the end and at room-temperature drizzled over the cookies  to give it an elegant finish.

#51 Rosy Sweet Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons are a popular cookie in my household but this particular recipe is from the Joy of Baking recipe collection. I started rounding up the ingredients for a macaroon when I noticed a rose extract in my pantry. A thought came over me as to how it would taste if the macaroon had a shot of rose flavor with a touch of pink food coloring. I added some of the rose extract and a pink food color to boost up the flavor of rose milk into the macaroon. Rose milk used to be one of my favorite childhood drinks and this just turned out so plump and juicy that I felt that I had captured the joy of rose milk in the macaroon.

Egg whites- 4 large at room temperature
Granulated sugar- 1 cup
Salt- ¼ tspn
Rose extract- ½ tspn
Cake flour- ½ cup
Shredded sweetened coconut- 400 ounces
Dried cranberries for decoration

1.      In a mixing bowl,  add the egg whites and whisk really well until thick and fluffy.
2.      Now add the rest of the ingredients except cranberries. Warm the oven to 325 degrees.
3.      Scoop out teaspoonfuls of the mix onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4.       Decorate by pressing a dried cranberry onto the center of the macaroon.
5.      Bake for 20 mins until the bottom is just changing color.

#50 Chewy Soft Ginger Cookies

Again this comes as another favorite cookie that I love to munch on-- the chewy gingery treat also melts in your mouth and reminds you that it is the Holiday Season. This recipe is from the Food Network Kitchens and my congratulations to the original people who came up with Ginger cookies!! This is my 50 th recipe--and I am thrilled I made it so far:)
  • 1 1/4 Cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 Tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 Tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 Tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 Tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 Tsp. allspice
  • 1/3 Cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Tbsp. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. white sugar (for rolling cookies)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, blend flour, baking soda and spices together and set aside.
  3. In another bowl, cream together butter and 1/2 cup of sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg until well mixed. Then add the molasses and mix to combine.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.
  5. Using rounded teaspoonfuls (or not quite full tablespoons), form dough into balls  and roll them in the extra 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  6. Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet, lightly flatten and  bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.
  8. ENJOY!

#49 Tridoshic Moong Sprouts Salad

Ayurveda has proven the health benefits of Moong Sprouts and that they are a storehouse of many vitamins and minerals. The beans have significant amount of proteins, Vitamin C and B that are of utmost importance for the proper functions of the human body. At the same time, the sprouts are considered to be very healthy since they are also low in calories and promote digestive enzymes. Here is a fresh and crunchy salad that is light and refreshing.

Whole Moong- 11/2 cups
Lime juice- juice of 1 lime
Cilantro- ½ cup
Shallots- 3
Honey- 1Tblspn
Salad Oil- 3 Tblspns
Green chilli- 1
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Wash the whole moong and soak overnight.
  2. The next day drain the moong and place in a colander. Make sure to place the colander over a pan of water in a warm place for two days until the moong has grown sprouts.
  3. Make sure to keep covered with a moist paper towel at all times.
  4. When the moong has sprouted well, chop the shallots, green chillies and cilantro fine.
  5. In a glass bowl, mix together the chopped ingredients with the lime juice, honey, oil, salt and pepper.
  6. Mix well with a fork and then toss in the pomegranate and sprouted moong. Toss well and serve.

#48 Rainy Day Aloo Paratha

I would like to pass on my legacy of cooking Indian food and especially my favorite Kerala Food to my daughters.  There is another part of  North Indian tradition that I couldn’t resist making for them and here are delicate soft Aloo Parathas both buttery, moist and simply addictive. On those rainy days when Amma made the best “Phulkas” and Aloo Parathas hot off the tava and I got to eat them right in the kitchen-  now that is a nostalgic memory of homemade cooking.

Russet Potato-1
Onions -1 cut up fine
Green chillies-1 cut up fine
Cilantro or Corainder leaves chopped – 1 Tblspn
Ajwain seeds –2 pinches
Amchoor(Dry Mango Powder)- 1 tspn
Chilli powder and garam masala- 1 pinch each
Whole Wheat Flour- 1 ½  cups
Salt and Olive oil to taste
Ghee for basting

  1. Wash and dry the potato well. Place it in the microwave and cook as directed for a potato.
  2. Cool and remove the skin. Mash it well and keep aside.
  3. While the potato is cooling, sieve the wheat flour and salt together. Add water as required to make a soft pliable dough.
  4. Heat 1 Tblspn olive oil in a skillet and add onions, sauté and then add the ajwain seeds.
  5. When the onions are translucent, turn off the fire.
  6. Add the potato, green chillies, cilantro, dry powders and enough salt and mix well/
  7. Make lemon sized balls from the dough. Make smaller balls from the potato mix.
  8. Roll out the dough on a chapathi plank and rolling pin until you have made a round about 4 inches in diameter.
  9. Now, place the potato ball in the center, gather the dough around the potato ball until it is completely covered.
  10. Smoothen the dough and spread some flour on the board before rolling out the prepared ball into a thick chapathi.
  11. Keep repeating the process until there is no dough and potato mix left.
  12. Place a skillet or griddle on a medium fire and cook the paratha rounds that you have just made.
  13. Gently spread some ghee and cook both sides of the paratha by flipping it over.
  14. I like serving these delicious parathas with a knob of butter, a small salad and pickle.

#47 Indian Stuffed Eggplant- the goodness of spice

I would like to think that I am reasonably health-conscious but being a “food –addict” and "oiling the old machine" like I say-I must have my vegetable stir fries and “mezhukkupurattis” from time to time. This recipe is my baked version of a lovely stuffed eggplant filled with the most authentic of Indian spices and roasted until the skins are crisp and insides soft.
Italian Eggplants that are firm and dark- 6
Besan or Kadala Podi- 2 Tblspns
Asafoetida powder- ½ tspn
Onions- ½ an onion
Cilantro-2 Tblspn
Chilli powder- 1 tspn
Coriander powder- 1 tspn
Haldi powder- ½ tspn
Black pepper powder- ½ tspn
Olive Oil
Salt to taste

  1. Wash the eggplants well and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Make long slits so that you have four long slices of eggplant held together at the stem.
  3. In a food processor, process the ingredients 2 to 8 with 2 tblspns of water and leaving out the Olive Oil.
  4. Remove the ground paste from the appliance container with a spatula onto a plate.
  5. Add salt to taste and 2 Tblspns Olive oil and mix well.
  6. Apply this paste all over and stuff inside of the whole Eggplant. Keep aside for 10 mins.
  7. Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Now place the eggplant on a baking sheet.
  8.  Sprinkle some olive oil on top of the eggplants and bake for 10 mins.
  9. Turn over the eggplants to make sure they are cooked inside.
  10. Broil for about 5 minutes or until the top is a bit crusty.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

#46 Shrimp with Raw Mango and Drumsticks/Konchu Mangayum Muringakkayum Aviyal

Shrimp is usually served with coconut and mango. If you notice, this combination is used across many different countries around the world. The popular Caribbean coconut shrimp with mango salsa is a perfect combination, grilled shrimp with mango chutney is delicious at any time, and then the most loved shrimp in coconut milk Thai curry can be a luscious and lavish treat . You have to admit that even the Coconut Shrimp from Red Lobster with the Pina-colada sauce adds so much decadence  to the heavenly morsels of fried shrimp dipped into coconut pineapple sauce . But nothing beats a very authentic Kerala curry made of shrimp, mango and drumsticks in a coconut based sauce. Succulent shrimp, raw mangoes in ground coconut, spiced up to flavor the shrimp---what more could a Mallu ask for? This is another one of my favorite Kerala curries and I can assure you that you will also fall in love with this curry once you taste it.
Shrimp - 12 oz
Drumsticks- 6-7 4 " pieces
Raw Mango- 1 sliced up lengthwise
Freshly grated coconut- 3/4 cup
Shallots- 2
Green Chillies- 4 sliced up
Chili Powder- 2 heaped Tblspns
Methi seeds whole- 1/2 tspn.
Tamarind paste-1/2 tspn
Haldi- 1/4 tspn
Curry Leaves- 2 sprigs
Salt to taste

1. Devein and remove the shells and intestines of the shrimp. Wash well and keep aside.
2. Take an even bottomed pan and place the cut up mango and drumstick pieces in it.
3. Grind to a medium paste the coconut, red chili powder and shallots in a blender with 1/2 cup of water.
4. Pour the ground mixture into the pan with the mango and drumstick.
5. Now, place the pan over a medium fire, add 1/2 cup water with tamarind paste dissolved in it.
6. Add the whole methi seeds, salt and haldi. Let cook until the mango is almost cooked well.
7. Add the curry leaves and the shrimp and let simmer on low fire for a minute or two until the shrimp is just cooked.
8. Overcooking will make the shrimp tough to eat.
9. Shrimp curry is ready and is best served with hot steamed rice.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

#42 Scotch Eggs

The first time I had these devine eggs, I was with N at a Gastropub called "The Gage" in Chicago near the Millenium Park. It is simply a pub that also specializes in gastronomic creations.  I love taking up 
restaurant suggestions from friends and going to an enjoyable place. In addition to getting recommendations from others, I also like to take a chance on something new and exciting because there is so much out there to learn about food and culture.
Scotch eggs are hard-boiled eggs with a sausage coating. Each egg has a greasy and tantalizingly juicy crust, with a crisp outside and soft inside. A deep fried treat and a rich source of protein, it tastes
wonderful if eaten with spicy mustard.  I told myself that I will try making this in my kitchen and see if I can serve it with maybe a simple 'pudina' or tomato chutney. Scotch eggs are said to have originated
in London although they are very similar to the Moghlai Nargisi Koftas with a beef coating instead of  sausage. You could create a rich and creamy gravy immersing the eggs in it, and serve up a Nargisi version instead. However, I will leave that option to you. Originally, Scotch eggs were considered picnic food or dished up in English "pubs". All in all, they are just too perfect as a generous appetizer or a hearty snack. The only time-consuming part of preparing this fun snack is the encrusting of the sausage around the hard boiled egg.   I must say that this is an awesome recipe, easy to make and especially good for a very large group. The best part is that it does not take a gourmet cook to make this, but the presentation looks like that of a professional.

Oil for deep frying or pan frying-2 cups
Hot Pork Sausage-1 lb or 2 cylindrical packages.
Dried bread crumbs or Panko- 4 cups
All-purpose flour-1 cup
Eggs-4 beaten up

1. Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook for 10 mins. Coner remove from heat and let eggs sit in the hot water for 10 mins.
2. Remove from hot water, cool and peel shells.
3. Take the sausage in the cylindrical packages and seperate each cylinder into four parts.
4. Flatten each part and make a patty to surround each egg. Lightly flour the patty and then dip in beaten eggs.
Roll this in bread crumbs to cover evenly.
5. Either deep fry or pan fry until golden brown. You could bake them but this hardens the crust.
6. Cut each egg into half lengthwise and serve over a bed of lettuce or sliced tomatoes. Side of mustard or chutney.

#45 Ragi Idiappam or String Hoppers

Ragi or Finger Millet is grown all over India and Ethiopia, and has the valuable amino acid methionine. It is widely used in South India for making dosas, rotis and drinks as traditional breakfast. It can be
made into Kerala delicacies like Idiappam and Puttu which are normally made of white rice powder.  Pediatricians recommend Ragi for infants because of its high nutritional content of iron and calcium.
Home made Ragi malt was considered one of the most popular infant foods and it used to be part of my baby food plan for the girls. Today, I would like to use this powerful grain extensively in my cooking, although I have tried out chapathis and kozhukattas but, if you have any new ideas please pass it along.

Ragi flour- 1 cup
Water- 2 cups approx
Salt- a pinch
Oil- 1 tspn
Coconut grated- 3 Tblspn

1. Dry roast the Ragi flour lightly until the aroma is given out.
2. Boil 2 cups of water, add salt and pour enough water into the ragi flour and stir briskly to form a dough.
3. Roll the dough in your hands and press into an idiappam mold/press. The idiappam mold is a cylinder that is filled with the dough and the top metal disc should be pressed through so that the noodles or string hoppers fall well through the holes at the base.
4. Grease idli steamer plates with oil. Press down on the mold onto the idli plates in the shape of idlis. Top with coconut.
5. Steam well for about 7-10 mins until cooked. Cool.
6. Serve with Chicken or Potato curry or sugar.

#43 Bitter Gourd Thoran

The bitter gourd is a vegetable that definitely needs an acquired taste to enjoy it. Momordica Charantia in Latin means Bitter Gourd and the Asian variety is lighter in color than the Indian ones.
Either way it contains vitamin A, B1, B2 and C and  minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper and potassium. In ancient ayurvedic science this vegetable is said to be excellent for purifying blood tissue, stimulating the liver functions and enhancing digestion.   

Freshly Grated Coconut- 1/2 cup
Chili Powder- 1/4 tspn
Haldi-a pinch
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tspn
Garlic Chopped- 1/4 tsp
Salt and Oil as needed.
Seasoning spices:mustard seeds, red chilies and curry leaves

1. Wash the bitter gourd and scrape off hard skin if any. I used Asian Bitter gourd which has smoother skin.
2. Slice lengthwise into two. Scrape out the seeds with a Tablespoon.
3. Slit each half into smaller pieces lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick. Hold all of the sliced parts of the gourd together
and cut across into very small cubes.
4. If you are not a fan of the bitter taste given out by these vegetables, you can wash then in a pan of water with salt and squeeze out all the water.
5. I love the taste of bitter gourd in all its bitterness so I use the vegetable right after chopping.
6. Heat a skillet  on medium fire, add oil and seasoning until they sizzle and pop.
7. Now add the bitter gourd along with salt, a pinch of sugar, haldi and garlic and cook covered on a low fire.
8. Meanwhile, in a blender coarsely grind coconut and cumin seeds. Add the garlic to it.
9. When the vegetable is cooked well and water has evaporated, add the coarsely ground mix from step 8 to the skillet.
10. Stir fry until the 'Thoran' is dry and the vegetable does not stick together.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

#41 Baked Fish Filet with Indian Spices

Some blissful memories of my childhood----------Amma oftentimes fried Mackeral/Ayala by marinating it in Indian spices. Then she would saute quite a bit of red onions, tomatoes, other spices and later on toss the fried fish and cilantro to make a wonderful and appetizing fish platter that was served up with rice or rotis. I have tried to remove the "fry" out of this dish to make it a healthier baked version for my little girls many years back.  

In Kerala, fish is fried very often because of the abundance of windows and doors providing plentiful outlets for ventilation that are normally found in homes built in tropical countries. This allows the distinctive pervasive aroma of fish to escape from the open kitchens built for cooking in this style.Meanwhile, here in the US if I decide to fry fish I also want to make sure that the aroma is not left behind on carpets, clothes and drapes. There being so little space for air to circulate and drive out the odors from the kitchen, I find it easier to light up some candles and other aromatherapy oil to remove the slightly fishy odor.   I do look for excuses to light candles all over the house:)

Tilapia is a variety of fish that originated from Mediterranean and African countries and has been successfully cultured around the world in temperate as well as tropical climates. The fish has been farmed in such large amounts in the US that they say it has now exceeded the amount of freshwater trout. Its mild flavor and fine grained flakes make it adaptable to the style and flavor of the cooking. No matter
how you cook it- fried, broiled, blackened or baked it can be used for dishes from all over the world. I noticed that Tilapia sends out less of an aroma when fried and is also suitable for baking as directed
in the following recipe.

The intense spiciness loaded into the fine grains of the Tilapia takes this dish to another level of perfection. I will admit that this dish is my guilt-free indulgence and to be frank, I do
indulge in a lot of seafood. In my opinion, I would describe this dish as a rapturous and mystical epicurean experience I must share with you!!!

Fish fillet(Tilapia, Catfish or Flounder may be used) -  3 lbs
Red onions(chopped) - 3 cups
Green chillies - 2 nos
(sliced fine)
Ripe tomatoes(large) - 2 nos
(finely chopped)
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Chilly powder - 1 - 2 tsp
Pepper powder - 1/2 tspn
Lemon juice - 2 Tblspns
Salt - As reqd
Olive oil - 3 Tblspn
Garlic-ginger paste - 1/2 tsp
Coriander leaves(chopped) - 2 tbsp

1)Clean and place the Tilapia fillet in one layer in a baking dish.
2)Season with salt and pepper powder.
3)Heat oil in a saucepan.
4)Saute the onions and green chillies, until they turn translucent.
5)Add coriander powder, chilly powder, a pinch of pepper powder and ginger-garlic paste and saute, until the oil separates.
6)Add the tomatoes and stir well on low fire, until the mixture is soft and pulpy.
7)Remove from the flame.
8)Add lemon juice and salt.
9)Take the mixture in the saucepan and spread it evenly over the fish so as to cover the fish well.
10)Bake the fish in an oven at about 300 degrees for about 20 mins or just until the fish can be flaked with a butter knife.

11)Serve with vegetable pulao or bread/rotis.

#40 Pooris with Potato Podimas/Aloo Ki Subzi

The first born is usually sensitive to criticism like all children and is the child with the most attention directed towards her.  As a child N was an energetic, ambitious, caring, and logical in everything she did and always craved approval.  She has proven her leadership skills in her profession and I will always be proud of her. Anyway, her favorite vegetable as a child was the potato---- of course now she loves vegetables and salads, and once her meal of choice was Poori and Podimas. It has changed many times since then. However, she has both a low tolerance for spicy foods and a sweet tooth so this recipe is just for her.

Wheat Flour- 1
Milk or Water-1/2 cup
Here is a tip to make soft puffy pooris- use milk
and make the dough adding a spoon of sooji if desired for
extra texture.
Salt and Olive oil
Corn or vegetable oil for deep frying

1. In a glass mixing bowl, toss in the flour and salt.
2. Add milk or water little a time and form the dough.
I used plain water and made the dough.
3. Bring the dough together using a tspn of Olive oil and
you will see that the dough comes off the sides of the bowl.
4. Make sure to keep poori dough a little more dense than chapathi dough
so that the pooris do not retain the oil they are fried in.
5. For pooris use the dough immediately or rest for 10 mins (not longer).I always make them
immediately since they do not soak up the oil and that way I can get some really oil-free pooris.
6. Make balls of the size of cherry tomatoes.
7. Dust the chapathi base with flour and using a rolling pin roll out the small balls into medium to thin pooris
about 4 " in diameter.
8. Heat up oil in a deep fryer, when the oil is hot enough, slowly slide the pooris into the oil.
press down gently for a second and let go with an Asian strainer spider. The poori must puff up at this time.
9.Let cook gently on both sides and before it turns color, drain it with the strainer and place it
in a plate lined with paper towels to drain off the excess oil.
10. Do not pile up the pooris one on top of the other or they will become flat. Serve warm with aloo subzi
or Chole. You can also serve these with Mango Srikhand.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

#37 Whole Roast Chicken with an Indian Flair

It has been estimated that 88% of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving, so this time our family will fall within the bracket of the remaining 12% who did not eat Turkey. I was intrigued by all the recipes
for roast chicken that I read last month in a vain attempt to pick one recipe that I preferred over another.  Now I am back to sqaure one, still looking for something moist, juicy, simple and innovative made
in my kitchen. I am willing to experiment with spices so the results produced the most succulent roast chicken, infused with simple spices and equally ecstatic flavors.  Simple is always the best way to go---in life and friendship.  There is a tip or two that I have read about roasting a bird-- the breast meat cooks more quickly than the legs so either you have a moist breast and undercooked thighs and legs or if the legs are cooked the breast is dry or overcooked. One way to get a balance is to roast the chicken over onions so that the moisture in the breast is maintained while the legs cook. I keep the bird covered for some time and then roast uncovered with breast down over the onions. The vegetables roasted in the pan juices soak up extra flavor when they are served up with these heavenly soft onions. I prefer to savor the onions as a side dish to the chicken.
V just shared some interesting news with me and I want to share it with you---- a casual fast food Indian restaurant just opened up in Washington DC. I was curious to read about it and here's the write up in the Washington Post:
"Merzi, a fast-casual Indian restaurant, officially opened at 415 7th Street NW in Penn Quarter.  Self-defined by founder/owner Qaiser (Kaz) Kazmi as the "Chipotle of Indian food," the restaurant serves a
customizable plate of Indian food that will easily appeal to even the novice Indian food eater.Much like Chipotle, you work your way down an assembly line that starts with a choice of rice, naan bread,
chaat (a combination of chickpeas, tomato, cucumber, onions, peppers, and corn with spices) or salad. Then pick between chickpeas, black-eyed peas or onion-tomato-cucumber mix. For your heartier
topping, you have a choice of beef, shrimp, lamb, chicken, chicken Tandisserie (a tandoori-style rotisserie chicken) or a combination of vegetables. Finally, you can select a mix of warm and cold sauces: hot tomato masala, medium tikka masala and mild makhani. The cold chutneys include a quite incendiary hot chutney with red chilies, a creamy medium chutney with green chilies, and a sweet and tangy mild tamarind chutney." 
Isn't it interesting how new Indian fusion food is growing in the Nations Capital?  I love the sound of the "Tandisserie" !! Very interesting, and I will be testing out the goods very soon---thanks sweety for
letting me know about this place!!

Whole Chicken- 2 lbs
Onion-3 whole cubed
Onion- 1 chopped
Meat Masala- 2 tspns
Haldi Powder-1/2 tspn
Chilli Powder- 1 Tblspn
Coriander Powder-1 1/2 Tblspn
Saunf/Fennel/Perumjeerakam  powder- 1 Tblspn
Ginger- 1" piece
Garlic- 5 cloves
Mint Leaves from 3-6 sprigs
Cilantro-1/4 bunch
Salt and Pepper to taste
Butter- 1 stick
Lemon Juice- juice 1
1. Remove giblets and neck from inside the chicken. Clean the dirt from the inside cavity of the chicken. Wash well until water runs clear, and let drain.
2. When handling chicken in the kitchen be careful to sanitize to prevent the juices from contaminating fruit or vegetables. Use a seperate cutting board and knives for meats.
3. Pat the chicken dry with Paper towels.
4. In a blender mix together 1 chopped onion, Meat Masala, chilli, coriander, haldi powders, 1/2 the ginger and garlic, salt and process well. Mix with 1/2 the butter and keep aside.
5. In the same blender coarsely process the Cilantro, mint leaves, rest of the garlic, ginger and lemon juice add some salt and pepper and keep aside.
6. Take the chicken with the skin on, place your finger in between the flesh and skin to make pockets all over gently without breaking the skin.
Now take the spice mix from step #4 and rub this in between the skin and flesh all over evenly and around the legs and breast, wings and sides of chicken.
7. Take the spice mix from step #5 and rub it well inside the cavity of the chicken. Place halved lemon and garlic pod inside the cavity.
8. Heat Oven to 425 degrees. Fold the wing tips under the body & tie the legs together with a string at the end of the drumsticks after placing the halved lemon and garlic pod inside the stomach.
9. Place the cubed onions in the base of the roasting pan and then place the chicken breast side up. brush with remaining butter. Cover with Alumnum Foil.
10. Roast in Oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, now remove the foil and baste the liquid all over the chicken. Then turn over so that the breast is on top of the onion layer.
11. Roast without the foil for another 10 minutes basting with the pan juices. Once evenly brown, remove from oven and remove the onions. and let stand for 15 minutes covered with Foil before carving to
keep the juices in.
12. Roast Sweet potatoes, grape tomatoes in the pan juices and toss with the cubed onions from the chicken and serve the mixed vegetables with the chicken.

#37 Chiles Rellenos

The most common Spanish spelling for Chillie is Chile referring to the plant as well as the fruit. The name Chile is also used for a thick and spicy sauce used with Mexican food most commonly for making
Chicken Mole. According to Mexican culture, the chile relleno resulted from a wonderful creation of a mixture of European ingredients and a fusion of native vegetables. The Chile relleno tradition was born
as a roasted Poblano chile stuffed with cheese or meats and covered with an egg batter and fried. Poblano is a term that originated from the city and state of Puebla and Chille Relleno became Mexico's most patriotic dish. Also known as the Ancho (when dried) and in some parts of California as the Pasilla, this pepper is shiny and has a pointed tip and flattened appearance. It is mild in flavor with a special herbal aroma, great for stuffing and for adding a lift to succotash, corn casseroles, fish, and egg dishes. The poblano can be roasted, frozen, or stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

I will recommend all devoted pepper aficionados to read the book "The Whole Chile Pepper Book" by Dewitt and Gerlach. It is a treat to read about the history of the chile with colorful photos of the most
unique chilles and exotic recipes. I have not tried out any of the spicy hot recipes from the book because my schedule was like a whirlwind at that time. I could ramble on and on about Cancun and chillies.

The Indian style Chili Relleno was a spontaneous development on my part to use up left over Roast Chicken and create something unique. The celebrations never come to an end with chicken.... all I need to do is buy some Poblano Peppers from the store and I am ready to cook. This afternoon,  I got some fresh Poblanos to roast on the stove until the skins blacken, then placed all of them in a brown paper bag for 15 mins to steam off the skins.

So back to the kitchen I go to use up the leftovers and there were two whole legs of the chicken.  I stuffed them up with scrumptious chicken mixture fit enough to feed any "gourmand". Follow my recipe and I can assure you the outcome will be well worth the input.  Imagine the immense pleasure when you bite into a char-broiled chilli stuffed with a tantalizing generous portion of spiced chicken oozing with cheese, floating atop a zesty hot tomato sauce.....YUM!!!

Chicken shredded - 1 1/2 cups
Mozzarella Cheese- 1 1/2 cups
Green onions- 1 chopped fine
Garlic paste-1/2 tspn
Poblano Chillies- 5
Cilantro- chopped fine 1 Tblsn
Eggs- 4 separate yolks from whites
All-purpose flour- 1/2 cup
Baking Spray
Salt and pepper to taste
Tomato Sauce can
Hot Sauce- 1 Tblspn

1. Wash and clean the peppers and wipe dry.
2. On a gas burner, roast the Poblano peppers until they are charred well but do not completely burn the skins.
3. While warm, place all the charred peppers into a brown bag or zip-lock bag for 15 mins.
4. After 15 mins remove the peppers from the bag, and holding it under tap water remove the skins and wash well.
5. Make a small slit and remove all the seeds from inside the pepper using your index finger and thumb.
6. Make sure to dry the peppers with paper towels and keep aside.
7. Now mix together shredded chicken, cheese, garlic, green onions, some cilantro, salt and pepper with a spoon.
8. Take one pepper and open the cavity, slowly fill the chicken mix into the cavity with the spoon until full. Hold together with toothpicks if the slit is too wide.
9. Fill the rest of the peppers and roll them lightly in all-purpose flour. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
9. Take the egg whites and beat well until thick peaks are formed. Very slowly mix together the yolks and a pinch of salt and fold it into the whites.
10. Dip the stuffed and floured peppers very very gently into the egg foam until completely coated and place on a greased baking dish.

11. When you are done placing all the peppers on to the baking dish, generously spray the peppers with baking spray.
12. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 20 mins or until the outer coating is light brown in color.
13. While the peppers are baking, beat the Tomato sauce with salt and hot sauce until smooth.
14. On the serving plate, pour a layer of the sauce. Place a ring of Spanish rice.
15. Place the Chilli Rellenos and garnish with chopped cilantro and reduced Balsamic Vinegar(optional).

#36 Mango Ginger Splash

November seems to have flipped by so quickly and before I knew it Thanksgiving is over and December is here. But there is a bright New Year dawning upon us very soon. So, as we draw near Christmas and get close to New Years it is time to talk about cocktails and drinks.  From classic martinis to unusual libations mixed with bitters and exotic liqueurs all the downtown bars will soon be serving up the most popular drinks. With the Holidays approaching, I can only hope that everyone uses alcohol moderately and avoid it when driving.

Ginger-1 large piece sliced up
Sugar-1 cup
Water-1/2 cup
Mango juice- 1/4 cup
Triple Sec(ornage Liqueur)-1 ounce
Rum- 2 ounces
Ice cubes
Ginger Ale- 1 cup

1. In a saucepan add the sugar and water, sliced ginger and cook until a syrup is formed.
2. In a cocktail shaker, add the Mango juice, Triple sec, rum and 1/4 cup of ginger syrup along with ginger slices.
3. Add ice cubes and shake it up thoroughly.
4. Pour into serving glass and add ginger ale as needed. Serve garnished with slices of ginger.

Print Friendly

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF