Thursday, June 30, 2011

#127 The Meat battle brewing, and Kashmiri Kokur Yakhni

Kashmiri cuisine has evolved over ancient history, influenced by Kashmiri Buddists and Pandits who avoid Chicken, Lamb, onions, garlic and tomatoes. Most of the vegetarian dishes have delicate flavors like the Dum Aloo and of course Kashmiri Pulao is as popular, unique and full of flavor. The Muslims in Kashmir, who cook chicken and lamb, came up with dishes slow cooked in yoghurt called Yakhni. One such dish is the Chicken Yakhni which may be served at Wazwans. The Wazwan is Kashmir's most formal meal a ritual where hospitality to the guest is performed  more like a ceremony.  Days of planning and hours of cooking go into the making of a wazwan and so is restricted to special occasions or celebrations with table settings for groups. Each of the dishes served at a Wazwan is aromatic with beautiful herbs and fresh regional produce. Some of the delicacies served are Methi and Tabakmaaz, Roganjosh and Rista and many kinds of Kababs and vegetables.  The meal may conclude with Gushtaba an exclusive dish made from ground lamb and Phirni for dessert. A cup of Kahwah or saffron flavored green tea ends the meal.

Chicken has been out of my kitchen for some time and as one of my foodie friends had warned me I feel an unarmed  meat battle brewing:). To make peace, I decide primarily to cook this elegant Kashmiri chicken for R. Perhaps,  I may have felt the guilt pangs for making him "suffer" through my "happy herbivore" saga in the last few months. The result was a stunning Kashmiri delight....and he agreed he thoroughly enjoyed the delicious curry. It felt good when he softly admitted that he had been more energetic ever since I had been serving up veggies, whole grain and a whole set of alternative protein sources in our meals. Anyhow, I hope I did'nt get you too engrossed in the story but I think I may manoeuvre him on to vegetables for a few more weeks.LOL!!!
On another note...... the Chicken Yakhni turned out to be an exquisitely flavored and slow cooked dish.
I would highly recommend this dish for someone who has always wanted to try Indian flavors for the first time but have shied away from it being afraid of spices or chillies. The aromatic raw spices are just added for the chicken to cook and absorb the flavors and you can remove them with a spoon once the chicken is cooked. Although typically made in a pressure cooker,  I found it convenient to use a Dutch Oven.


Clean, wash and cut the chicken into one inch sized pieces.Place chicken, fennel powder, ginger and garlic paste, bay leaves, green cardamoms, crushed hotl green chillies, cinnamon, cloves, asafoetida and salt in a Dutch Oven. Add one cup of water and cook till chicken is tender and the liquid has dried up. Whisk the yogurt with refined flour and add slowly to the chicken. Stir constantly. Simmer for fifteen minutes or till gravy thickens. Prepare a tempering with ghee and caraway seeds and pour over chicken. Serve hot. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#126 A Bat Mitzvah, Shallots and Bittergourd Theeyal

It's been pretty warm in my neck of the woods but who's complaining? I have been taking in the Summer sun and enjoying the outdoor weather recently with very little time to cook a creative or appealing meal.  I am not the kind to enjoy winter--- that kind of weather does not trigger or motivate the culinary cells in my brain any way. Snow used to be welcome only on those days when the girls were school-going youngsters and it led to school closings. On such days, I stayed home and had a good time making snowmen , hot cocoa and curling up beside the fireplace & reading books with the girls and laughing with them. Shoveling snow was not my cup of tea!!

The last few days have been hectic for us, what with a Bat Mitzvah to attend in a small town about 2 hours away. It was a short drive down to the beautiful small town and back. Walking around the quaint town with antique shops and cafes it relaxed me since I did not have to deal with my daily commute to work, hours in front of the PC or ad hoc meetings. I also found fresh fruits and a nice bag of Shallots at the farmers market that I picked up immediately.
A Bat Mitzvah is a Jewish celebration for a young girl coming of age and is celebrated at around 13 years. We had a good time with the festivities and ceremony. One has to work real hard to get to that level of reading the Torah in Hebrew with fluency. The fun part was lighting candles with family, breaking challah bread and then the grand feast that came afterwards. By now you're wondering how this recipe is related to Bat Mitzvah---nothing whatsoever!! I was just getting to the point on what inspired me to make theeyal, that's all:)

Next morning being off work, I decided that I would make theeyal with the fresh shallots. A Kerala speciality that is bound to make Malayalees utter Ooo's and Aaah's, this curry takes more time to prepare than many others I have slaved over. Normally I would shrug off at the thought of making Shallots Theeyal even though it is one of R's favorite Kerala dishes. All that slicing and sauteing turns into an awesome dish. This time it gave big and beautiful rewards!! The curry, vegetables and steamed rice were a total knockout meal for both of us. The lush gravy enhanced the rich flavor of fried shallots and bittergourd sections so much so that it certainly felt like being back home again for a short while. The kitchen was filled with the aroma of roasted coconut.....and as Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa once said "How bad can that be?" so here's how my Theeyal came to life.....

Shallots- 5
Bittergourd-2 large
Oil 2-3 Tblspns
Tamarind Extract- 1 tspn
Haldi powder- 1/4 tspn
Salt and water as needed.
Season with mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves.
Dry roast and grind to a smooth paste:
Grated coconut- 3/4 cup
Coriander seeds- 1 tspn
Sliced Onions- 1/4 cup
Methi seeds- a pinch
Dried red chillies- 4

1. Place all the above ingredients starting with coconut and the remaining dry roast ingredients in a saucepan.
2. Roast over a medium fire until it turns a very light golden brown color, keep stirring so that it does not burn.
3. When the mixture turns almost darkish brown turn off the fire and cool (refer to the above photos). Cool and toss into a high power blender. Grind to powder and then add just enough water to blend well into a very smooth paste or gravy.
4. In the meantime, slice bittergourd across and scoop out the seeds. Slice into sections about 1 cm thick.
5. In a greased cookie sheet add the bittergourd with a pinch of salt, chilli powder and 1 tspn oil.
6.Broil until light brown. Keep aside.
7. Place a pan on the stove, add the rest of the oil, seasoning whole spices and let the mustard seeds splutter.
8. Then add the shallots and saute until they are translucent. Add the ground coconut paste at this time.
9.Now add tamarind extract, haldi, salt and bittergourd slices. Add enough water to create a gravy.
10. Finally cook down the gravy and simmer until the gravy is thickened and smooth.
11. Optionally, you can add the seasoning at the end by pouring it over the theeyal for fabulous flavor.
(It may not be true, but I would like to think I used less oil by seasoning first)

Monday, June 27, 2011

#125 Desservir de Pineapple Cherry Crisp with Banana Split Ice cream

No meal is complete without a sweet treat at the end. A cake or any dessert for that matter, gives the final touch at the end of my meal to make it perfect. The term "dessert" was derived from the
French word 'desservir"(to do a disservice to or clear away) refers to clearing the table after dinner.  We know from the beginning of time that the French are world famous for making desserts and decorating them artfully, so it makes sense that the word has a French origin-doesn't it?  I tend to have something sweet after we clean the dinner table---yes--literally!! I can skip the meal itself and go straight for the dessert too:) here's to my sweet tooth and an easy delicious recipe for a fruit crisp so scrumptious that you may not want to clear the table at all and go for dessert!! One that is so quick and easy to put together with simple store bought ingredients that you can combine any pie filling or cut fruit to make this lovely treat.
I am not a huge fan of Banana flavor, but I would most definitely recommend the Banana Split Ice cream for this particular combination. Fear not,  if you prefer to stay away from Banana you can serve this with Vanilla ice cream. It is out of this World, lip-smackingly Dee-lish!

1 medium packet of dried black cherries
1 lg. can crushed pineapple
1 box yellow cake mix
1 c. pecans
1 c. nuts, chopped
2 sticks butter
Haagan Daaz Banana Split icecream
1. Spread undrained crushed pineapple over the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. On top of this sprinkle the dried cherries followed by the dry yellow cake mix and then the pecans. Dot with pats of butter on top of this. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
2. Serve with a scoop of Ice cream while the crumble is still warm.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

#124 Go Green Asparagus and Okra Mezhukkupuratti

There are three essential keys to eating them raw as in a salad, steam or stir fry them.  Out of all three ways- a sitr-fry to whatever degree of frying you like- seems to take most of the vitamins out of the veggies but we all need a break once in a while! Don't we?  After a while eating salads and steamed veggies all the time tends to get a bit boring. My visit to the local Farmer's Market ended up with a colorful bunch of fresh veggies and no matter what vegetables are consumed, they will add a significant amount of nutritional value to my meal so here's one way of using some of them. The okra in my fridge teamed up withe fresh asparagus to give up a wholesome green stir fry. I can't tell you what veggies to eat but pick your selection from a wide variety even Giant has recipes on their weekly flyers, these days on incorporating vegetables and fruits into your diet!!
Oh my! I didn't mean to sound like a dietician and having no expertise in that area.  However,  I love vegetables and here's one that is simple and easy to make with one of my all time favorite vegetables.. okra and asparagus.

Asparagus- 1 bunch
Okra-1/2 lb
green chillies-2
salt and oil as needed.

1. Wash both vegetables well and pat dry.
2. Slice the asparagus into small sections after breaking the hard ends off.
3. Cut the okra into 1/2 inch pieces.
4. Place a skillet over the fire add the asparagus and just enough water to cook it.
5. Add salt and chillies, cover and cook until just soft.
6.Add the Okra and enough oil to saute until all the water has evaporated.

Friday, June 24, 2011

#123 Chendamuriyan Steamed Tapioca/Kappa with grated Coconut

A traditional feast enjoyed either for breakfast, lunch or dinner the Tapioca or Yuca root can be cooked up many different ways. This is one of the basic forms of Kerala cooking(my grandma's Chendamuriyan) using this tuber that grows underground and looks like a potato when cooked. The skin is much harder than a potato and takes a sharper knife to peel it off... almost scrape it away from the white inside. Then the big root may be cut up into pieces just large enough to hold in your hand and makes it conveniently easy to dip into a fish curry or a spicy red chutney. 

Tapioca/Yuca root- fresh or frozen from packets may be used- 10 pieces.
Water and salt to taste.
Freshly grated coconut- 1/4 cup
Seasonings of choice like red chillies, curry leaves, mustard seeds.
(I omitted the mustard seeds since I served it with a fish curry that had enough mustard seeds)

1. Scrape/Peel off the dark thick skin of the Yuca with a sharp knife until it is removed.
2. Cut up the Tapioca as shown in the photo and allow to soak in cold water for 10 mins.
3. Place a pot almost full of water and warm until it starts to boil.
4.Slowly add the Tapioca pieces into the water and cook well until soft.
5. Drain all the water out of the Tapioca and then season with salt.
6. Place a saucepan over the fire, add oil and seasonings and when the aroma is given out
pour over the cooked tapioca. Mix well and serve.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

#122 Virgin Watermelon Serrano Cooler

I must admit when I read about Guy Fieri's Grilled Watermelon Jalapeno Bowla, I was tempted to create this with Jalapeno and Tequila.. but the weather being so darn hot I decided to omit the alcohol this time. You could add a bit of vodka or maple syrup liquer if you wish. I couln't find a Jalapeno so I had to do with Serrano peppers since I was determined to shake up this drink. With fresh Watermelon and serrano peppers it was really quite a twist!!

Watermelon Slices- 2-3 quarter sections skin removed.
Water-1/2 cup
2 Serrano peppers sliced, & 1 for decoration.
Lime juice- 1 Tspn
Sugar- 1/2 cup

1. Take a blender and add the chopped fresh watermelon.  Add Lime juice and coarsely blend into a slush.
2. Place a pan on the fire with the water and sugar and serrano halves.
3. When the syrup is formed, strain out the chillis.
4. When the syrup is cooled well, pour enough into the blender and mix once. Taste and add more syrup if needed. At this time add Vodka as desired and shake well
5. Serve in a tall glass garnished with a sliced serrano pepper.

Monday, June 20, 2011

#121 Malaysian Savory Fish Curry

How was Father's Day this year? Let me guess-- the fathers celebrated with their children, the children celebrated with their fathers and then others joined in the celebration of their spouses like I did. We all know that being a Father is not an easy job-- guiding them, making children feel powerful enough to lead a successful life and for most daughters the father plays an important role in many ways. This year I paid homage to my late father, remembering those moments that impacted my life and the big part he had in making me a strong woman.  Daughters consider their fathers to be the "pillar of strength"!!

R is so good to our children and being the supportive father all these years the girls dote on him. Even though he deserves much more than can be done over one Father's Day weekend, the two young ladies celebrated Saturday evening with Dad and I treating us to a special Italian dinner at Santino's Restaurant.  Since it started off so well, I decided to give a finishing touch to Father's Day weekend with a taste of Malaysia for dinner on Sunday. 

The culinary diversity in Malaysia is reflected in its dishes most of which are derived from multiple ethnic influences. Even though rice is still the staple food used, there are different ways to prepare rice and its side dishes.  Fresh fish is a major part of the Malaysian diet, coconut milk and tamarind concentrate adds a sweet tartness to this special curry which plays with your palate in many different ways. A close cousin of the Thai red curry, the subtle use of lemon grass and fish sauce make this an exquisite but healthy gravy. Served on a bed of brown rice and sauteed greens/mushrooms this made an awesome Father's Day meal.

Whole red chillies-3
Onion- cubed 1 medium sized
Garlic-5 cloves
Lemon grass - 1 large stem white parts only
Fresh Ginger- 1 4inch piece
Fish Sauce- 2 Tblpsn
Oil- 1/4 cup
Eatern or any other brand FIsh curry Powder- 1 Tablespoon
Coconut milk- 1 cup
Water- 1 cup
Tamarind concentrate- 1 Tblspn
Firm white fish like cod, halibut or King fish- 1 lb cubed(I used fresh cod)
Tomatoes- 2 ripe chopped.
Lemon Juice- 1 Tblspn
Salt and pepper as needed.

1, Combine chillies, onion, garlic, lemon grass, ginger in a small food processor and process until smooth.
2. Add 2 Tblspn oil to assisst in bledning and  scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
3. Heat the remaining oil in a Wok and add the paste gently.. Cook for 4 minutes over low heat stirring
constantly until very fragrant. Add curry powder and tomatoes and stir for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Add coconut milk, water, tamarind concentrate and fish sauce. Bring to boil stirring and reduce heat.
5. Simmer for 10 minutes until well mixed and gravy has thickened a bit.
6. Add the fish, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes more until the fish is just cooked. Serve immediately with steamed brown rice and stir fry made of Chinese Broccoli, Broccoli and King Mushrooms.

#120 Curry in a Hurry with Bottle Gourd or Lauki

Although R calls Bottle gourd and dal a monotonous curry, it is really difficult to find a vegetable as versatile as the bottlegourd or Lauki. An everyday vegetable and one that I love, this is another recipe for the plain old Lauki. Calabash Gourd or Bottle Gourd as it is known, is grown widely in tropical climates and are said to be almost free from insect attacks or diseases. This one is a hybrid asian variety which is short, tender and delicious and the seeds are edible. Not only are these low in calories, but its high water content makes it a diuretic and very cooling in the hot summer months. Lately attracting a lot of attention in the treatment of Hypertension and Heart Disease and for balancing liver function and blood sugar levels,  this vegetable is highly recommended for healing by Ayurvedic medicine.

I love the vegetable in most forms and even the peel can be used to make chutney for idlis or dosas. This is a real "curry in a hurry" deal for quick meals, at times when dinner is crouching down on you and you have some hungry mouths to feed.

Here's what you will need :

Bottle gourd- 1
Onions- 1 cubed
Tomatoes- 2 cubed
Garlic crushed- 1 Tblspn
Ginger paste- 1 Tblspn
Coriander powder- 1 Tbslpn
Turmeric Powder- 1/2 tspn
Chilli powder- 1/2 tspn
Green chillies- 1
Seasoning- Mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves and cilantro

Here's how to make it:

1. Place all the ingredients except the seasoning and the bottlegourd in a blender and blend until well done.
Add the green chilly in the end so that it is just about crushed. Then place a wok over the fire add oil and all the seasonings except cilantro. Add paste and saute until it is browned.

2. When the onion-tomato gravy is completey cooked and a nice aroma is given out, add the vegetables and a little water to let the bottle gourd cook with enough salt to taste.

4. When the bottlegourd is just cooked but not mushy add the cilantro, mix well and re-season if needed.
5. Serve the beautiful vegetable dish with steamed rice or rotis......Enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

#119 Copy Cat Tomato and Apple Chutney

One of my foodie readers once asked if I had made my own chutneys. After some deep thought I realized that I have been buying store bought dates and mango chutneys lately, and these are loaded with preservatives. Then I tested out a chutney at home to give it a try. While I may have made many a fresh mint, coconut, cranberry or peanut chutney and ventured into the ocassional Indian pickle making.  I had given up on all of the Indian pickles since the girls moved away from home. So after visiting this readers lovely blog, I decided to start up some chutney making and the first attempt was his recipe for Tomato Apple Chutney. When I read the recipe,  I didn't think I would make it this far--for lack of  patience in chopping so many apples, onions and tomatoes.  If you know me well enough you should see why I took a shortcut, cutting the recipe in half so I could cut down on the chopping:) On one hand, I cut down the sugar to about 1/3 rd of the amount mentioned in the original recipe so that I could use it with Dosa... another healthy chutney with dosas especially if you have young children!!

Anyway, I hope this looks half as good as yours Charles Thanks for sharing the recipe....
I love the fact that it does not use any fancy ingredients and even though the chopping is cumbersome, it is real easy to make. I think the bottling tips & techniques the cook has described are absolutely wonderful for those of us who are challenged in the art of preserving (I am completely dependant on my refrigerator for preserving chutneys) and by sterlizing the bottle chutneys will stay fresh for longer periods of time.
The chutney looks really scrumptious and finger-licking good. Check it out at
I made a another small change---I added dijon mustard instead of the seeds and ginger paste instead of powder--- only because those two were readily available in my pantry. The end product was pretty darn tasty!!

3  Apples
3  Tomatoes
1 good sized onion
4-5 cloves of garlic
2 cups water
2 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 cup  sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ginger paste

1. Chop the apples and keep aside. Chop the Tomatoes, Onions and garlic and keep aside.
2. In a deep pot, add the water and apples and cook until half done.
3. Add the tomatoes, onion and garlic and red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, cayenne pepper.
4. Cook for about an hour until the vegetables are well cooked and reduced down.
5. Add ginger paste, dijon mustard and curry powder. Mix well.
6. Cook for another 15 mins. cool and preserve in jars.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

#118 A Kerala Mathanga Thoran or Pumpkin Coconut Stir-Fry

A Malayalee like me is completely satisfied with a side dish of Thoran or Stir Fry with rice and pulisseri for lunch. This is almost a basic staple side dish that is a normal part of a daily Kerala lunch menu. It does not take too much time to make but no matter what type of vegetable is being used, it must be chopped as fine as possible.  Usually the cook decides how small it should be chopped based on the cooking time, texture and technique being used. The chopped vegetable is then stir- fried with coconut, whole spices and garlic to flavor it and served with steamed rice and any gravy.

A medium sized piece of pumpkin- 1 lb
Mustard and Cumin seeds, red chillies, curry leaves
Coconut grated- 1/2 cup
Garlic chopped- 1/2 tspn
Salt- 1/2 tsp
chilli powder- 1/2 tspn
Haldi powder- 1/4 tspn
Olive oil as needed.

1. Wash and cut up the pumpkin with or without the skin. I like it with the skin.
2. Cut into very small cubes.
3. Place a skillet over the fire and add about 1 tblspn of oil. Add cumin seeds, mustard, chilli and curry leaves with a lid on.
4. When the mustard seeds splutter add the pumpkin cubes, 1/2 cup water along with salt, garlic, chilli and haldi powder.
5. Keep the lid back on and cook on low fire until pumpkin just turns soft but not mushy.
6. Remove the lid and saute gently(without breaking up the pumpkin cubes) until there is no liquid in the bottom.
7. Add coconut and stir well. Serve with steamed rice or rotis.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#117 Punjabi Baingan Ka Bharta

Bharta is any dish where the vegetables and ingredients are roughly mashed either before or after they are cooked. This style of cooking is generally North Indian in origin and can be prepared with all
kinds of vegetables. My version is extremely easy to make and is scrumptious with hot Chapatis and daal. My theory is use the Oven as much as you can using half the oil you would use if you were Sauteing.
In the end, all you need is for the onions or vegetables to be cooked and soft so why not broil, roast or cook in water? If you want to be a gourmet chef you can always take the cooked onions and do a final saute with some olive oil ....

•3 medium-sized eggplants
•2 tbsps Olive oil
•1 tsp cumin seeds
•2 medium-sized onions cubed
•1 tbsp garlic paste
•1" piece of ginger grated fine
•2 green chillies
•2 large tomatoes chopped fine
•1/2 tsp coriander powder
•1/2 tsp cumin powder
•1/2 tsp garam masala
•2 tbsps finely chopped fresh cilantro

1. Take all the vegetables and roast in the Oven one by one, until lightly charred.Once the eggplant is roasted, allow to cool fully and then peel off and discard the charred skin and coarsely mash. Keep aside for later use.
2. Now set up a pan on medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the cumin seeds and cook till the spluttering stops.
3. Add the onions and fry till soft and translucent mash them well.
4. Add the garlic and the ginger and fry for 1 minute. Add the tomato and all the powdered spices, including the garam masala. Stir well and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring often to prevent the spice mix from sticking to the pan. Sprinkle a
little water if needed.
5. Now add the eggplant and mix well. Add the chopped fresh cilantro and stir. Cook another minute and turn off the heat. Serve

Saturday, June 11, 2011

#116 A Frozen Treat of Ice Cream Lasagna

No one will believe when I say that this awesome dessert we call "ice cream lasagna" is so easy to make. The girls and I made these "ice-cream"Cakes or "ice cream Lasagnas" while they were young children.
Simply layering any two or three favorite ice cream flavors in between cookie crumbs, caramel sauce and even more ice cream, we used to build up the layers to add our favorite crumbled chocolate bars like butterfingers or heath bars. One decadent dessert, a creamy Summer treat that can be served at BBQs or Pool parties it is hard to resist this awesome lasagna, if you are an ice cream lover! 

On a hot Summer day last week we decided to hang out at home with  a couple of friends and BBQ on our little deck. The night before, I had frozen up an ice cream lasagna which brought back old memories. Although this time with Rocky Road and Vanilla Caramel Swirl flavor ice cream, in between my crumbled Orange Pecan Sandies and swirling extra caramel sauce between the layers, then cutting slices to look like Lasagna. 

Breyers Rocky Road Ice cream -1.5 quart
Breyers Vanilla Caramel  Ice cream- 1.5 quart
Crumbled Cookies or Oreo cookies
Caramel topping- 1 cup

1. Line a 9 inch rectangle pan with plastic wrap. leaving 4 inch overhang on each side.
2. Spoon one container softened Rocky Road flavor icecream into the pan pressing to form an even layer. cover with plastic wrap.
3. Freeze for 4 hours or overnight
4. Soften the Vanilla Caramel Ice Cream, crumble oreo cookies into coarse bits.
5. Remove the pan from the freezer and top with the cookie crumbles in an even layer.
6. Now, spread some Caramel topping over the crumbs.
7. Use a flat spatula spread the softened Vanilla Caramel Ice Cream on top of the crumbs very slowly.
( To make it easy, spoon large portions of Ice Cream over the surface in 6 mounds. Then spread evenly so that the crumbs stay in place)
8. Wrap with plastic wrap and cover the top well, freeze again in the freezer overnight or upto 5 hours. Remove, slice and serve.
9. If desired,  frost with extra whipped topping( I left out this step) and smoothen the surface before slicing.

#115 Aunt V's Best Tuna Curry with Pumpkin

A road trip to Ohio was part of our yearly vacations when the girls were younger and they had a great time with Aunt V and Uncle C and kids. Every time we drove down to visit Aunt V, she always remembered to cook up her mouth watering fish curry with Pumpkin. The loving aunt that she is, she always made it clear that it was just for me since it was my all-time favorite along with her Almond Burfi. I forget that I have two grown children, she makes me feel like a kid all over again. My aunt by marriage to my uncle she makes some creative desserts and curries and is one amazing cook. Although she has shared her recipe with me I can never make it as good as she can.  Aunt V has been very sick for the last few months, and I want to pray and let her know how much I care about her by attempting to follow her original recipe. Get Well Soon Aunt V!
It is quick and easy if you have a couple of cans of solid tuna in water and pumpkin in your home or if you choose, you could use any cubes of fleshy white fish. A spicy, tart curry with the sweet touch of pumpkin served with a warm bowl of steamed rice it is fabulous!! So, I rolled up my sleeves, made endless blunders and with careful preparation I replicated my favorite Aunt V's best fish and Pumpkin curry. It was almost the same but not quite...

Tuna Can- 2 cans drained of all the liquid
Shallots- 3
Large Green Chillies- 4 cubed
Kashmiri Chilli powder- 2 Tblspns
Pumpkin cubed into 1/2 inch cubes- 1/2 cup
Ginger- 1/2 inch piece
Garlic- 3 cloves
Coriander powder- 1 tspn
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tspn
Tomatoes- 1 chopped
Curry Leaves- 1 sprig
Kudampuli-2 or regular tamarind- 1 Tblspn
salt, ground pepper, Oil, mustard seeds, Methi seeds and Red chillies.

1. Process together coarsely the shallots, green chillies, tomatoes, ginger and garlic.
2. Take a deep pan and add some oil to it. Add methi seeds and toast and drain out from the oil. Powder coarsely and keep aside.
3. Add the broken red chillies to the oil and the coarsely processed onion mixture. Saute for a minute.
4. Add coriander powder, turmeric, chilli powder and pepper and saute.
5. Add 1 cup water, kudampuli or tamarind and pumpkin and cook the vegetable.
6. Add salt when the pumpkin is cooked and then the tuna along with curry leaves and powdered methi. Turn off the fire. Mix gently and keep for some time.
7. Tastes absolutely delicious overnight.

Friday, June 10, 2011

#114 Mirchi Ka Salan- Royal Hyderabadi Cooking

I'm going from the heart of Tex-Mex Nachos and smack-dab to the middle of Southern India to Hyderabad. When I talk about Hyderabadi cuisine many classic recipes from that region come to mind-- be it Dum Murgh Ki Biryani or Doube Ka Meetha/Shahi Tukde all of which are culinary delights. Today I am posting a Hyderabadi dish called Mirchi Ka Salan generally served with Biryani along with Dahi chutney or Raita. As flavorful as it is delicious, the gravy is made from tamarind extract, Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coconut and peanuts and the Peppers are finger hots cooked in the sweet-tart gravy. Doesn't that sound absolutely tempting and mouth watering? I am embracing a variety of flavors in the making of this curry, one that does not use "Curry Powder"(I talked about that in one of my earlier posts) but fluctuating from peanuts to almonds. Now, being a versatile cook I love to introduce my favorite twists to an original recipe. I love the adaptability of this dish and with the abundance of peppers available in the market I can use Anaheim, poblano, banana, serrano or jalapeno peppers in this dish. It all depends on the intensity of heat suitable to your individual tastes. I prefer Anaheim peppers since they are moderately hot and we are not great fans of extra spicy foods. The flavors are well appreciated but not enough to burn our tongues or stomachs for that matter sometimes I choose to use cherry tomatoes instead of peppers in the same gravy. Oooh that does make me very hungry!!


Anaheim green peppers 10 large
Oil 2 tablespoons
Sesame seeds (til) 1 tablespoons
Coriander seeds 1/2 tablespoon
Cumin seeds 1/2 teaspoon
Roasted almonds 1/4 cup
Dried red chillies, broken 2
Chilli powder- 1 tspn
Tomato paste- 1Tblspn
Ginger, chopped 1/2 inch piece
Garlic 6 cloves
Mustard seeds 1/2 teaspoon
Curry leaves 8
Onion , grated 1/2 medium
Turmeric powder 1/2 teaspoon
Tamarind concentrate 1 tablespoon
Salt to taste
1. Wash, wipe and slice green chillies into crosssections about 2 inches in length. Heat sufficient oil in a pan and saute until soft and set aside. (I added the onions at the same time)
2. Dry roast sesame seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Cool and grind them to a paste along with roasted almonds, dry red chillies, ginger and garlic, chilli powder and tomato paste.
3. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan, add mustard seeds. Once they splutter add curry leaves. Sauté for half a minute and add onion. Sauté until light golden brown.

4. Add turmeric powder and mix well. Add masala paste, half cup water and cook for three minutes, stirring well. Reduce the heat and cook for ten minutes. Add tamarind pulp or concentrate.
5. Toss in the peppers and salt and cook on low heat for eight to ten minutes. Serve hot.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

#113 Organic Corn, Tofu and Spelt Parathas

Healthy eating is a major part of being disease free. I am not always buying Organic food as I should,  but some days I insist on buying all organic and coming up with an all-organic meal. Now that our neighborhood Farmer's Market is in session I love dropping by in my free time and picking up produce like greens for sauteing. Love to cook with Greens and Grains!! You'll notice that lately I've been cooking less and less with chicken or meat, only fish is being served:)  I hear R grumbling quite often that he misses the usual carnivorous meals that he loves and I 've been ignoring his comments. Maybe I will come up with something new soon!! Anyway,  here is one healthy & delicious paratha that is really sweet, soft and easy to make.

Organic Corn kernels- 1 cup
Organic Spelt flour- 1 cup
Whole Wheat Flour- 1 cup
Organic soft Tofutti Tofu sour cream or Tofu cream cheese- 1 cup
Flaxseed Meal- 1/4 cup
Millet Flour/Ragi flour- 1 cup
Olive Oil- 3 Tblspns
Salt to taste

1. Place all the flours, salt and Tofutti sour cream/cream cheese in the bowl of the kitchenaid with the dough blade.
2. Pour a cup or two of water very slowly and knead using the kneading blade until a soft dough is formed.
3. The picture shows the consistency of the dough. Avoid too much water.
4. Add the Olive oil as needed and hold the dough together.
5. Take the dough into small lemon sized balls and roll out with a rolling pin into flat breads.
6. Place the rolled flatbreads onto a baking sheet lined with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
7. Alternatively you can use a skillet and pan roast the flatbreads like a chapathi or roti.
8. When cooked, apply some ghee over each bread.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

#112 Chat Over Indian Infused Nachos

One lazy afternoon over the past weekend, R and I had a chat on how many variations of Chaat and Nachos are available out there. Why are they so similar and equally tasty? Our speculations ended up this way....
Chaat is an Indian National snack or delicacy most often served by vendors on the street stalls or carts in India. It unleashes immeasurable cravings and nostalgia among most Indians(Kwality icecream also does the same to me.LOL!). The origin of Chaat started somewhere in Uttar Pradesh or Delhi and slowly moved to Mumbai's Chowpatty Beach, the combinations varying from Agra and Mathura to Hyderabad and Bihar. Gol Gappa, Papri Chaat, Dahi puri, Bhelpuri and Samosa Chaat are all different variations of this comfort "junk" food.  The common elements being yogurt, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, fried noodles(sev), chutneys and chaat masala, although the jumble of flavors are always sweet, tart, spicy, crunchy, soft, nutty, fried and flaky tidbits drizzled with cool yogurt, fresh mint and tangy tamarind chutney. The contrast of flavors may cause many sensations in your mouth that run faster than you can track them. For example the Chaat may be considered the Indian counterpart of Mexican Nachos.

Nachos, on the other hand orignated from Coahuila, Mexico. Once upon a time(no it's not a fairytale), a new snack was invented with what was available in a restaurant kitchen with tortilla chips, cheese and sliced jalapeno peppers. Soon the birth of "Ball Park Nachos" became popular at football games , the variations being refried beans, chili con carne, cilantro, black beans, tomatoes, sour cream, onions, salsa and cheese. 
Our musings about sweet, tart and spicy foods unleashed our cravings and  we yearned for some real CHAAT!!  I ventured out to find raw materials in my pantry in vain, but I had to overcome the lack of authentic ingredients to satisfy our tastebuds. The best I could do was to come up with a Fusion Chaat-- a marriage of the Chaat with the Nachos that I tossed together using the ingredients on hand.
Let's see what happens when Chaat meets Nachos? Do they fall in love? Yes they did!!


Corn Chips- 2 cups
Cheese Sauce(Recipe below)- 1 cup
Corn kernels, 1 cup
Potatoes, boiled and chopped 2 medium
Chick Peas cooked- 1 15oz can drained
Onion , chopped 1 large
Tomato, chopped 1 large
Jalapeno, chopped 1
Chaat Masala-1/2 tspn
Green Mint chutney 2-3 tablespoons
Sweet date and tamarind chutney 3-4 tablespoons
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped -1/2 cup

1. Take a good sized serving platter and layer with coarsely crushed corn chips.
2. Mix together the cooked potatoes with the drained chick peas and corn tossing 1/2 tspn chaat masala and salt. Keep refrigerated.
3. Toss together tomatoes, onions, Jalapeno and about 1/4 cup Cilantro into a salsa. Add salt and pepper as needed.
4. Now, over the layer of chips spread the potato mixture, followed by the tomato mixture.
5. Next go for the sauces--- start with 1/4 cup cheese sauce spread evenly. Then, drizzle three tablespoons each of green chutney and sweet chutney on top.
6. Finally top with a little of the corn chips and the rest of the cilantro for garnishing.
Cheese Sauce: Melt 1 tblpn butter in a pan and add 1 Tblspn All purpose flour to it. When the flour is cooked add 1 cup milk and let simmer.
Add salt, pepper and 1/2 cup grated cheese to the sauce. When the cheese melts remove from fire and mix well.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

#111 From the Southwest Schezuan Province of China Chilli Potatoes

We all know that the Schezuan pepper is native to the Szechuan Province of China. A style of cooking typically called "Schezuan" uses peppercorns that are rust colored with hair-thin stems and open ends.
The rough skin splits open to reveal a brittle black seed about 3 mm diameter. The Schezuan pepper is an ingredient in Chinese five spice powder and Schezuan style of cooking features hotter and spicier dishes as compared to those found in the rest of China. Indians being lovers of hot and spicy flavors we introduced this style into Indian main meals at home and restaurants, now we are in love with spicy stir fries and noodles!! My love for Chinese food sends me on a World tour on the web and I run into the most interesting of  dishes either authentic chinese or Indo-chinese. Although this recipe was one that I read off of an Indian recipe source, I have cooked the dish so many times over, varying it each time to meet my families' taste alternating between eggplants and potatoes but no Szechuan peppers of course-just plain old crushed hot red peppers from my pantry. If you can find authentic Schezuan peppers use them instead for better results. Ta-Dah! I present to you a well-matured recipe that has grown in its roots and I insist that you try it out at home.  Why? Well it is a must try and I can assure you will want more and more of the spicy sweet sauce which makes the secret ingredient in this recipe and the taste will linger in your mouth.


Potatoes 4-5 medium
Salt to taste
Cornflour/ corn starch 2 Tblpns
Vegetable stock 1  cup
Olice Oil 2 tablespoon
Garlic, sliced 5-6 cloves
Ginger julienned- 2 Tblspn
Onion , sliced 1 medium
Red chilli flakes 1/4 cup
Red chilli sauce or Sriracha 1 teaspoon
Tomato Ketchup- 2 Tblspns
Soy sauce 2 teaspoon
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Lemon juice 1 tablespoon
Spring onion greens, chopped 1 stalk

1. Peel and slice potatoes into thick wedges. Keep in cold water for 20 mins and drain.
2. Mix together the Cornflour, 2 Tblspn chilli flakes and salt to taste. Toss some Olive oil into the mixture.
3. Add potato wedges to the above mixture and spread well on a greased baking sheet.
4. Broil until the wedges are light brown on both sides turning them half way through.
5. In the meantime, make the sauce. Slice Onions very thin. Heat oil in a saucepan.
6. Add the remaining chilli flakes, garlic, ginger and then onions. Saute until golden brown.
7. Add the lemon juice, sugar, tomato ketchup, chilli sauce, stock, soy sauce and water if needed.
8. When the sauce is well seasoned and mixed, remove from fire and toss in the potatoes.
9. Serve garnished with the spring onions and if you like some cilantro.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

#110 The dance and drama of Spices with Cabbage Biryani

What is it that makes fresh cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise and bay leaves so appealing to Indian cooking? Maybe the medicinal value?
  • Cloves are a natural analgesic and antiseptic used by great grandmothers in ancient Indian medicine especially for toothaches.
  • Cinnamon is the aromatic bark of an evergreen tree and is found to be good for controlling blood sugar levels.
  • Bay leaves are dried whole leaves of the bay laurel tree and add a flavor to savory dishes and soups.
  • Star anise is a star shaped seed pod of an evergreen tree(Illicium Verum) grown mostly in Southwestern China and Japan used as a digestive aid to help cure colic in babies. It gets its licorice taste from a chemical compound called anethol, this spice is used in South India in curries and pulaos.
  • Cardamom on the other hand is one of the world's very ancient spices and it is native to the forests of the western ghats of Southern India ---mostly Kerala.It also grows in SriLanka, China and Africa and popular in some parts of Scandinavia. Indian cardamom comes in two varieties-Malabar Cardamom and Mysore Cardamon. It is widely used in Indian and Mughlai cooking in Chicken curries, pulaos and mostly desserts.
Indian cooking has always been synonymous with curry... many believe that all Indian curries are exactly alike. Few have ever experienced or enjoyed the distinctive and wide variations of both curries and side dishes from different regions of India. In fact, I will say that curries are as diversified as the people of India and dependant on the climate, history and economics in the different states.
A spice gravy can be created using a dry masala or blend of whole spices in varying combinations. Oftentimes, coconut or nuts may be used to flavor side dishes & the garam masala may or may not be eliminated. A curry or the gravy for a curry is like a basic roux -a type of curry most commonly served in Indian Restaurants in the US is the onion-tomato gravy with garam masala flavors. But curry can vary depending on the spices used such as lentils, beans or flavoring with spices other than garam masala.
The sequence in which the spices are added to ghee or oil and the length of time allows the flavor to release slowly. It may be a delicate flavor or an overpowering one based on individual tastes. When liquid ingredients are added, it stops releasing flavors and simmers down. If you are adventurous and use them moderately you can spice up your world!!  South Indian cuisine does not include garam masala in many vegetarian dishes. Instead the use of subtle flavors like cumin, ginger and mustard(my favorites) in vegetables.
I am showcasing all of the above spices in my Cabbage Biryani today- a vegetarian version of the popular Chicken Biryani. The addition of whole spices flavor the ghee and onions as a first step and along with garam masala, makes this rice dish as aromatic as it is nutritious. This Biryani was so flavorful that I did not see any leftovers at the end of the day. Served with a cool salad or fish it turned out to be one my family loved!!

1/2 Cabbage chopped
2 Onions chopped
2 Carrots cubed
2 Tomatoes chopped
4 Green chillies- chopped
Ginger-garlic paste- 1 Tblspn
Jeera-1 tsp
Garam Masala- 1 Tblspn
1 tspn Coriander Powder
Salt to taste
Red Chilli powder- 1 tspn
2 1/2 cup Basmati Rice
1 cup Cilantro chopped fine
Roasted Cashewnuts- 10
4-5 Tbmpsn Ghee
Cinnamon, Cloves, Bay Leaves, Cardamom 2 pieces each.

1. In a Deep pot, add the Ghee, followed by jeera and whole spices. When these release a lovely aroma, add the onions.
2. Add chopped green chillies and saute until the onions are transclucent and then turns light brown.
3. Add the tomatoes, coriander powder, garam masala, ginger-garlic paste and salt. Saute until the raw smell is gone.
4. Add carrots, cabbage and basmati rice to the pot. Add about 2 cups of water and stir well.
5. On a low to medium fire, slow cook without stirring the rice and keeping the lid on for about 15 mins.
6. Test to make sure that the rice is cooked tender and add additional ghee when ready to serve.
7. If more water is needed you can add 1/2 cup water and steam once more for softer rice.
8. Add the chopped cilantro and roasted Cashewnuts at this time and serve with raita, pickle or veggies.
I served mine with spicy pan roasted salmon.

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