Saturday, April 12, 2014

Recipe : Bocconcini Salad with Mustard Dressing from "The Sood Family Cookbook"

As most of my friends and family know, I have a ton of cookbooks. My husband jokes that even if I cook 5 recipes from each of my books every day of the year, I will never be able to repeat a dish. However, in reality, I normally end up cooking from memory, concocting something, following a recipe a friend has uploaded on her blog or referring to a few cherished books.

So, when I read about Srivallis Cooking from Cookbook Challenge I thought it was the perfect way to get me motivated into actually using "all" my accumulated recipe books. Not "all" the recipes, but at least "all the books"

So, this recipe goes for the Cooking from Cookbook Challenge - April Week 2

Well, this month, I've just about set up my kitchen and given how badly we were eating during the actual moving process (late meals, greasy takeaways, tons of carbs etc), I'm currently making really light, easy to digest food.

The other day, I finally found Bocconcini in the market and knew I had to make a salad out if it. But, I couldn't find any basil, no matter where I tried. So I decided to combine it with lettuce and cherry tomatoes instead.

Instead of one of my regular dressings, I thought I would try something new. The Sood Family Cookbook is the most recent addition to my Cookbook Shelf, so I started randomly browsing through it and chose a mustard dressing from the book.

The Sood Family Cookbook is a brilliant collection of recipes by Aparna Jain, from various members of her Himachali family. While their roots might be Himachali, the recipes are much more global. She does share a lot of Pahaadi recipes from chaachwale alu and fiddlehead ferns to Rali mili dal and Pahaadi Mutton. The book is divided into Breakfast, Comfort Food (Pahaadi recipes and her favourite family recipes, there are a lot of Manglorean recipes in this section, courtesy her Sister-in-law Nita, the light and healthy section of salads (from where I got this recipe), from near and far (recipes range from I-won't-cook Tagliatelle to Hangover Vodka Pasta and Dushmani Chicken) soups, snacks, chutneys, drinks and desserts.

The index at the beginning of the book is easily color coded - green for veg, yellow for dishes with egg and red for non-vegetarian dishes. There's a very good balance of veg and non veg dishes in The Sood Family Cookbook.

The recipes are quite straightforward and easy to try, so this book makes a great addition to any collection.

Ingredients :
500 gms bocconcini
250 gms lettuce leaves
100-150 gms cherry tomatoes

Ingredients for dressing:
1.5 tbsp mustard oil
1.5 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar (I'd run out, so I used a mix of balsamic and Navsari sugarcane vinegar)
1 red chilli slit
2 tbsp kasundi (Bengali style mustard)
1/2 tsp pepper powder
salt to taste

Method :
Roughly tear the lettuce leaves and place in a serving bowl
Tear the bocconcini into 2 (tearing gives a better texture and flavour than slicing in two) and add it to the lettuce.
Pick up the cherry tomatoes and holding them inside the salad bowl, press slightly (with the tomato facing downward)  and squeeze with youfingers, so they squish a bit and release their juices.
Toss Roughly.

Put all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whip with a fork until it emulsifies.

Slowly fold the required amount of dressing into the salad, without disturbing or pressing down on the salad too much. Don't overdose on the dressing.

If you want to make a meal of it, serve with warm or toasty bread.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Recipe : Beetroot and Raw Mango Clear Soup (Vegan)

Very often when cooking beetroot, we normally just throw away the water in which the beetroots have been boiled.

Given that I have been looking up Ayurvedic (where water that vegetables are boiled in, is also nutritious) and Bengali recipes (which rarely throw away anything as waste), I decided to make a soup with the water this time. It tasted pretty good. The picture is ordinary, but it belies the taste of this nutritious soup.

1 kg beetroots - cleaned
1 raw mango - roughly chopped (or juice of a lemon - to taste)
1 large onion - quartered
2-4 green chillies to taste - roughly chopped
1 tsp pepper powder
1 tsp chaat masala powder (optional, but it ups the flavours if used)
pinch of chilli powder
salt to taste

Method :
Wash the beetroots thoroughly and cover with enough water in a pressure cooker.
Cook for 3 whistles and let the pressure release on its own.
Remove the beetroots and use in salads or any other recipe of your choice.
If you had washed the beetroots well, there should not be any need to strain the liquid.

To the beetroot liquid in the pressure cooker, add the roughly chopped onions, green chillies and green mangoes.
Also add the salt, pepper powder, chaat masala powder, chilli powder and salt.
Close and pressure cook for 3 whistles.
Let the pressure release and then open the pan.

If you didn't have raw mango to start with, add the lemon juice to taste at this point.

Strain and serve hot.

You can garnish it with coriander leaves if you like, but I personally prefer my soups completely clear.

Kim's Notes:
I cooked the beetroots with the skin on after washing them thoroughly. If you aren't sure how clean your beets are, then you can skin them before you cook them, or just the skin where it seems encrusted in dirt.

Green mangoes are in season and I had a mango left over from pickling that didn't make the cut, as it wasn't crunchy enough. If you don't have raw mangoes on hand, just add lime juice at the end (after pressure cooking the other ingredients)

 If you want to make it a chunky soup. Add a bit of chopped beetroot, after the second round of pressure cooking.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Recipe : Cafe Style Iced Cold Coffee

We are in the middle of moving houses (within Ahmedabad itself), hence my frequency of cooking and posting has reduced drastically. I have spread out the actual moving itself across 10 days, so I'm quite exhausted at the end of the evening and land up at some coffee shop or the other for a nice chilled coffee.

However, today I was too tired to even walk into a coffee shop, and I had milk and ice cream in the fridge to be finished off before I set the fridge to defrost (prior to moving it). So after a nice hot bath, I just made myself a glass of cold coffee, more indulgent than the way I normally make it, but definitely less calorific than the cafe versions.

Ingredients :
3/4 glass milk
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
1-2 tbsp of your favourite instant coffee powder (I used 2tbsp Bru, because I wanted a strong Coffee)
Sugar or flavoured syrup to taste

Add the milk, coffee powder and sugar/syrup into a liquidiser / blender.
Give it a good whiz until well blended. (5-15 seconds on lowest speed)
You will find a really frothy coffee, when you open the cover.
Now, add the ice cream and blend for another 5-15 seconds.
When you open the cover this time, you will notice that there is less froth on top of the blended coffee.
Pour into a nice tall glass and curl up with a good book.

Kim's Tips: 
Monin has a nice variety of flavoured sugar syrups, that go well with iced coffees and milkshakes. I like to keep a couple of the tiny bottles on hand in hazelnut, caramel, Irish Creme flavours.
Using the syrup in cold drinks, saves me the hassle of powdering sugar or keeping an extra box of powdered/icing sugar on hand.
Syrup doesn't clump in humid weather.
The flavoured syrups, enhance the drink

While you can use coffee decoction for making cold coffee, the water in the decoction will result in a thinner cold coffee. So the taste will be good, but the creaminess will be less. You can compensate a bit, by decreasing the milk and increasing the ice cream quantities.

If you don't want to use a blender / mixi, you can use those coffee/milkshake shakers (like cocktail shakers) First mix about 5-6 tbsps of milk with the coffee powder and sugar. When they have dissolved well, add the rest of the milk and the ice cream.
The ice cream will not blend completely, so you may get a bit of a coffee float instead which is also equally yummy.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Recipe : Instant Mango Pickle (Vegan) - Tamilian Green Mango Curry

This is a recipe that a Malyali friend told me about ages ago. I end up making it almost every summer (multiple times) as soon as green mangoes are available in the market.

Edited on 27 Mar 13 to add:
Once I posted this recipe, I was told by 2 different Tamilian friends (with absolutely no connection to each other) that this is a summer staple at their home and its called Mango curry.

The trick to making this pickle that is instant (no sunning, brining etc required) is to choose green mangoes that have the right amount of tartness for you. If they aren't sour enough, add some vinegar or lime juice to the mix, but its best to get sour mangoes.

You can make this in as high or low a quantity as you feel like. I make quarter to half kilo at a time and refrigerate it for the week. Longer than that, and it tends to soften and lose its crunchiness.

Ingredients :
250 gms of chopped green mango (if the seeds in the type of green mango you are using are very large, then use more)
1/2 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp jeera (cumin)
sprig of curry leaves
1 tsp of coconut / sunflower / mustard oil (whatever you prefer)
salt to taste
chilli powder to taste (I use around 2-4 tsps depending on the sour spicy balance I want)

Heat the oil in a pan.
Add the mustard and jeera.
When it splutters, add the curry leaves and chilli powder.
Turn off the flame, and add the mango pieces.
Stir well and add salt to taste.
Stir well again and keep aside for awhile to let the mango absorb the flavours.
If the pickle isn't sour enough for you, add lime juice or vinegar.

Serve at room temperature with your meal.
It goes best with curd rice on a hot summer afternoon.

You can refrigerate the leftovers and serve slightly chilled whenever you want a spicy side with your meal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Recipe : Assamese Style Pork Fry

Delicacy in Guwahati was my favourite Assamese restaurant for simple home style food. Their pork fry and pork patot diya (baked in banana leaves) were my favourite items on the menu.

I've been craving that pork fry so much since I left Guwahati, and neither of my North East recipe books (Penguins - The Essential North East Cookbook and Ambrosia from the Assamese Kitchen) seemed to have the recipe that I was looking for. So I requested my friend Sanjukta, who is Assamese if she knew a recipe for this dish. Sanjukta currently writes a Food Column for G Plus - a weekly news magazine in Guwahati.

She gave me a simple straightforward recipe, that I used as a starting point for my pork fry.
"Marinate pork in crushed ginger and garlic, salt, pepper and some red chill powder. Now take the marinated pork in a wok and cook on low flame for over an hour. Keep stirring from time to time to avoid burning of the meat Now once it's done, chop onions and fry it it little oil in high flame. Add some haldi if u want. Add some chopped green chillies and stirring add the cooked pork into it. Add some more salt if required. Fry for some more time until done"

My recipe follows. I used 20 green chillies and didn't find it as spicy as I remember, so I added another 10 towards the end. If you don't like your food spicy, you can ignore the green chillies completely or lower the quantity.

2 kg pork cubes - about 1" size (I used a mix of 1 kg ribs and 1 kg boneless to get a good ratio of meat and fat, but any curry cut should be fine)
4 tbsp ginger garlic paste (freshly pounded is a better option, but packaged will do)
2 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp pepper

1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp chilli powder
1.5 tbsp salt
1 tbsp mustard oil
2 large onions (roughly chopped)
2 medium potatoes (chopped same size as pork cubes)
1 tbsp turmeric (haldi) powder
30 green chillies (slit - optional or adjust to taste)

Method :
Marinate pork in ginger garlic paste, garlic paste, pepper, vinegar, chilli powder and salt at least for an hour. Overnight or longer is a better option.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok (the more surface area, the better)

Put the fat pieces in the pan (not the meat, so the fat cooks for longer and starts to break down)
Once the fat starts to break down, add the onions and potatoes and let the potatoes fry a bit in the fat.

Add turmeric, half the green chillies and mix well.

Then, add the meat and fry on a low flame till well cooked.

When almost done, add the other half of the green chillies.

Dry it completely and let the meat crisp up a bit.
Serve hot with rice and dhal.

Kim's Note:
If there is any meat leftover, reheat it with some water, it will form a thick curry and garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice or rotis.

Served here with Kabuli Channa Pulao and Raita

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recipe : Manglorean Style Rajma / Vegetable Stew (Vegan)

I had a couple of friends coming over for dinner and I was planning to make dosas (the thick variety that are eaten with coconut milk curries). However quite a few of them were vegetarian and since we hardly eat potatoes in this house anymore, I was wondering how to make a vegetarian coconut milk curry. (the standard Manglorean way to convert a meat curry into a vegetarian one, is to make it with potatoes or eggs)

Then, I remembered my friend Anju in Cairo, (who is from Kerala) had once made this lovely stew with rajma. Drawing on that as inspiration, I followed the Manglorean recipe for mutton stew but substituted the meat with rajma. Then I decided it needed some fresh veggies too and added a chopped carrot and a potato (stews need at least one potato to help thicken them up a bit). I was quite happy with the result.

This recipe results in a mild stew. If you want stronger flavours, double the ginger, chillies and stew powder.

2 cups of rajma (kidney beans) - 1/2kg if you buy the pre-cooked variety
pinch of jeera
pinch of heeng (asafoetida)
pinch of methi seeds

1 tsp oil (coconut or any neutral oil)
2" cinnamon
6 green chillies slit in two
1" ginger julienned
8-10 curry leaves washed and wiped dry
1 medium onion chopped
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 large carrot chopped large
1 potato boiled (you can pressure cook it with the rajma to save time) and chopped large
1 tbsp Manglorean stew powder (you can use pepper powder, if you can't make any stew powder)
 200 ml Coconut milk (thick)

Soak the rajma overnight (8 hours) and pressure cook in enough water to cover it, till done with a pinch of heeng, methi and jeera (to help cut down the gassy effects of rajma).
Drain the water and set aside the cooked rajma (unlike other dried lentils and beans, the water in which rajma is pressure cooked, is not used in cooking, discard it)

In a large pan, heat the oil.
Season with cinnamon, ginger, green chillies and curry leaves till the leaves crisp up a bit.
Add onion, fry till translucent.
Add ginger garlic paste and mix well for a minute.

Add the cooked and drained rajma and saute for a minute while stirring, so everything blends.

Add the coconut milk and thin it down with some water, stir well, cover and cook till it is bubbling.
Once the stew is bubbling, lower the heat to sim, add the stew powder and cook till rajma has reached your desired level of softness (about 10 minutes), stirring in between if necessary to prevent it from burning.

Now add the carrots and boiled potatoes and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Serve hot with dosas or appams

You can garnish this with fresh chopped coriander of crisp fried ginger juliennes (tempering).

Kim's Note:
If you prefer your carrots well cooked, add them at the same stage as the rajma. We prefer to have them raw to the bite.

If you want a stronger coconut flavour or a thicker stew, double the coconut milk and reduce the water.

If you want stronger flavours, double the ginger, chillies and stew powder.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Recipe : Baked Brie with Caramelised Almonds (Vegetarian)

Brie is a soft French Cheese made from cow's milk. It has a harder rind on the outside which protects a soft cheese on the inside. The flavour is normally mild and not too ripe. A ripened Brie is called a Brie Noir.

Brie can be eaten as it is or baked to make it a little more gooey and runny. The rind is completely edible and best left as is (with a little hole cut out to breathe), if you plan to bake it. the rind will help keep your Brie in shape.

Brie is sold in circular shapes or triangular wedges. The circles work best for this recipe. If all you have access to is the triangular variety, then make sure that it has rind on the sides before baking it, else you'll just end up with an extremely limp quesadilla.

While I have used almonds in my recipe. All nuts work well and so do some fruits like cranberries when baking Brie.

This dish looks very fancy, but its very easy and fast to prepare, if you have all the ingredients in your pantry.

1 small round of Brie (4.5" is the commonly available size in India).
1 tsp butter (salted is fine)
2-3 tbsp brown sugar (it gives better flavour, but if you are out of brown sugar, you can try regular sugar too, just try and brown it when caramelising)
1.5 handfuls of nuts (I used almonds, you can use walnuts or pecans)
pinch of salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp chilli powder

Special equipment :
Aluminium Foil
Oven proof small round baking dish

Method :
Bring the Brie to room temperature.

In a normal frying pan (preferably non-stick), melt the butter on a low flame.
Add half the sugar, salt, chilli powder and nuts and continue to swirl them around the pan occasionally on a low flame.
When all the ingredients (except the nuts) combine to form a sticky paste, take it off the flame and transfer the nuts onto  the aluminium foil.

Preheat your over to 180C.

Thinly slice off the top rind of the Brie, but leave the sides and bottom intact.
Place it in the oven proof bowl sliced side top.
Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar on the sliced side and then top with the caramelised nuts.
(I sprinkled the remaining nuts around the Brie too)

Bake at 180C for about 20 minutes - until you see the soft cheese bubbling and changing consistency.

Let it rest for a few minutes and then serve hot with sliced Baguettes or crackers.

This can be served as a fancy appetiser, on a cheeseboard or as a snack for 2.

Kim's Notes:
Its important to move the hot caramelised nuts out of the pan and onto the foil to prevent sticking to your pan.

Also, don't move the nuts directly onto the Brie, it will start melting on top and your cooking won't be even.

If like me, you have been taught not to waste any food in the kitchen, then slip the sliced bits under the brie when baking or keep them and use them in any pasta sauce.

Standard Brie Size is 9-15 inches, so double the recipe for a Standard serving of Brie.


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