Monday, July 21, 2014

Recipe : Malabar Inspired Chicken Pilaf / Pulao

Husband suddenly came home early the other day and wanted dinner immediately, before he had to leave again for an evening meeting (he prefers eating healthier at home, than later filling up on deep fried snacks & nuts that are served at such functions/meetings)

All I had was some boneless chicken marinating in curd, salt and ginger garlic paste that I had taken out of the fridge and I had originally planned to make dhal, chawal, roti, sabji, chicken for dinner. But obviously that plan was shot. I couldn't get all that ready in 20 minutes, so biryani to the rescue it was. I didn't have time for a heavy marinade, so I went for a fragrant rice pulao flavoured with Kerala spices. It tasted really good, so here's the recipe.

Ingredients :
1/2 kg boneless chicken (you can use 750gms if using chicken with bone in)
1 large katori curd (roughly 100gms)
1.5 tbsp ginger garlic paste
4-10 green chillies chopped (depending on spiciness and your heat tolerance)
salt to taste

Marinade :
Marinate the chicken in these ingredients and keep aside (or refrigerate, if you aren't cooking immediately)
The curd and ginger garlic paste, should be enough to completely coat all the pieces of chicken

Ingredients :
500 gms long grained rice (I used Brown Basmati for health reasons)
1.5 tbsp ghee
1 handful cashewnuts (optional)
2 inch cinnamon
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
1 all spice flower (broken into petals)
2 cardamom
1 tbsp black pepper
1.5 tbsp saunf (fennel seeds)
2 medium onions sliced fine
4 green chillies chopped (optional)
Water to proportion
salt to taste
Freshly chopped coriander leaves to garnish

Wash the rice and soak (at least as long as it takes you to prep the other ingredients or about 20 minutes) and then drain.

Roughly crush the black pepper and saunf in a mortar and pestle. (I don't like getting cardamom bits in my mouth when eating, so I crushed the cardamom too)

Heat the ghee in a pressure cooker.
If using the nuts, quickly fry them in ghee on high heat and remove drained nuts from pan when browned.
The ghee will change colour, but that's nothing to worry about.

Bring it back up to smoking point and add the cinnamon, followed by cardamom, cloves and all spice flower.
Then add your roughly crushed spices and bay leaves and give a quick stir.

When the spices start emitting the cooked aroma, add the sliced onions and fry until almost brown.
Add the marinated chicken with all its liquids - if using boneless chicken, just give it a minute or so to brown a bit, if using chicken with bone, wait till the chicken is semi cooked.

Add the soaked and drained rice and give a quick stir.
Now add the green chillies and fried cashewnuts (if using)
Add water to cover upto 1/2 inch above and adjust salt to taste.
Cover and pressure cook until done. (I normally use 3 whistles on high and then 1 whistle on sim and let the pressure all escape on its own, before opening the cooker)

Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with a cool raita

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Favourite Foods

There are some foods that are my absolute favourites. When I say absolute favourites, I mean, that I can eat them anytime, no matter how full I am or what time of the day or night.

Good food doesn't just satisfy the stomach, its a feast for all the senses.

Visual - it is well presented and beautifully colored without any excess oil or synthetic colors to mar the view.

Kinesthetic - every grain or every bite is just as it should be whether it is the soft smoothness of a rasmalai or a finger dipped in chocolate ganache or buttercream icing or a spicy meet mirsang or the feel of a well set paneer.

Auditory - The crunch of a papad or the crack of a creme brulee.

Olfactory - the aroma of freshly baked bread, piping hot samosas out of the frying pan, the opening of a dum biryani, they all fill the house with such a wonderful aroma, that it is impossible to resist the temptation to dig right in.

Gustatory - And of course, the ultimate test of great food is the taste.

Any food that satisfies all the 5 senses makes for a delectable experience, which leaves me on a complete high. A high on life. So which would be my most zestful food experiences?

5. Chocolate - whether a Cadbury's Dairy Milk Silk or a a Jar of Nutella or a Box of Merci

4. A Great Steak - For me, a Perfect Steak is medium rare. Its cooked just enough, but still has a lovely meaty taste to it and is nice a soft when you bite into it. Just team up a well marinated steak with some Melted Herb Butter and some gorgeous mashed potatoes and it can transport me to heaven.

3. Creme Brulee - The best Creme Brulee's that  have ever eaten were at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Dubai and at the Surya Mahal (Udaivilas Palace) in Udaipur.

2. A Great British Fry Up - The Classic British Breakfast or Eggs, Bacon, Sausages, Toast, Grilled Mushrooms, Baked Beans with maybe some Waffles and Pancakes thrown in for Good Measure and a Lovely Hot Mug of Steaming Coffee!  What's not to love? Its a Perfect Start to the Day, but I can also have it for Lunch or Diner or as a Midnight Snack.

1. My Numero Uno Zest Inducing Food, no Prizes for Guessing is Biryani!
Lucknowi, Mughlai, Malabar, Pakistani, Awadhi, Andhra, Calcutta. The style just doesn't matter. It just needs to be beautifully fragrant rice paired with a delicious well marinated meat, all cooked together to the perfect point. a perfect Biryani is never oily or over colored. Ranging from plain white to bright orange, the colour doesn't matter as long as it tastes yum!

The Best Food is Exciting, Enervating, Energising and Zestful.

So what are YOUR Favourite Foods?

This post is a part of the #ZestUpYourLife activity in association with TATA Zest and

Friday, July 18, 2014

Black Food - #WhatTheBlack

Black as a colour in food is often associated with being burnt. As a child, my sister went through a phase where she would assiduously remove every bit of black from her food before she would even begin to eat. Given that mustard and jeera were standard ingredients in the tadkas at home, it often took her longer to pluck out the black grains, than to actually eat her food.

So can black be beautiful in food?

Of course it can!

Case in Point :

1. Chocolate - Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, bitter chocolate, chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, chocolate biscuits, Black Forest Cake  - they all come in various shades of black and each one is more delicious than the other.

2. Squid Ink - Squid Ink is rapidly gaining popularity or at least curiosity, ever since the Masterchef Australia series started airing on Indian TV. We normally used to discard all of the black bits when cleaning squids, but now it is being used to colour pasta to great acclaim in some parts of the world.

3. Spices - What would an Indian kitchen be without spices? Pepper, cinnamon, cloves, All Spice, Mustard, kala til, kalonji, are all an essential part of Indian cooking and yes, they are all black! Then you also have Vanilla Beans and Licorice (Mulethi) which have very strong flavours, but are much loved.

4. Black Rice - a beautiful nutty rice from Manipur which is excellent in kheers.

5. Some of the most expensive ingredients in the world (excepting saffron) are also black - think Caviar and Black Truffles.

Even common foods like cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, brinjals come in shades that are almost black, so can you honestly say that black = burnt?

This post is a part of #WhatTheBlack activity at

Recipe : Sanjukta's Mum-In-Law's Drunken Dates - Cornflakes Cake (Eggless)

My friend Sanjukta, recently shared her MIL's (Mrs Ranju Dutta) Drunken Dates - Cornflakes Cake Recipe. This time, the recipe was a little more detailed than her Assamese Pork Fry recipe :)

Since the recipe needed no butter or eggs or maida (all purpose flour) or sugar, I thought it would be a great after dinner dessert (we have stopped having desserts after dinner for calorie control - they can only be consumed after lunch right now)

Sanjukta's original recipe can be viewed at the end of this post, I made a few modifications, I skipped the whipped cream topping and added more dates and rum and used a mixture of wheat and cornflakes to up the fibre quotient.

The taste was quite yum with the rum soaked dates giving a blast of flavour in between bites, but when I made it the texture wasnt very cakelike, it was more like slightly soggy cornflakes. Husband did not mind it with the freshly chopped chilled mangoes, but I'm not sure if I would try this recipe again. It is however an interesting variation. Most of this "cake" got consumed as a slightly boozy weekend breakfast :)

It can also be made without the alcohol.

Ingredients :
1 handful dried dates
enough rum to cover the dates.
2 pinches cinnamon powder
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1 standard bowl (large katori) of cornflakes
1 standard bowl (large katori) of wheatflakes / branflakes
1 1/2 cups of milk
Fruit to serve

Soak the dates with little water and the Rum.
If you want to keep it non-alcoholic, use only water and omit the rum
Add the cinnamon and nutmeg powders.
(you can even add a hint of ginger powder, I think the flaour would work well)

After half an hour or so, the dates should get soft. So de-seed them and lightly mash by hand.
If the dates are really dry, then you can make a coarse paste in the mixi.

When your dates are completely prepped, in a bowl, add the cornflakes, wheatflakes and the milk (Just enough to soak the cornflakes).

Lightly mash it by hand (we don't want it pasty, crumb texture will work. is just fine.

Then add the mashed dates to the mixture and taste if its sweet enough (Normally the dates are sweet)
Adjust sugar if required and mix thoroughly.

Lightly grease a baking dish, add the Dates-Cornflakes mix and in a preheated oven, bake it at 180 deg for about 25 minutes.

Slice and serve hot or cold with fresh fruit.

Sanjukta / Ranju Dutta's Original Drunken (Rum) Dates - Cornflakes Cake

1)Dates- one fistful
2) Rum- about 30 ml
3) 2 standard bowls of cornflakes
3) 1 1/2 cups of milk
4) Whipped Cream
5)Butter for Greasing the baking dish


1) Soak the dates with little water and the 30 ml Rum. De-seed it as it gets soft and mash it using hands. In case you are using the dried variety of dates, just run the mixer to make a coarse paste of the dates.

2) In a bowl, add the cornflakes and the milk (Just enough to soak the cornflakes). With your hands mash it up (We do no want a fine paste), so crumb texture is just fine.

3)Once done, add the dates to the cornflakes and taste if its sweet enough (Normally the dates are sweet and adjusts to the requirement of sugar). Mix it thoroughly.

4) In a baking dish, add the Dates-Cornflakes mix and in a preheat oven, bake it at 180 deg for a period of 25 minutes.

5)Once done, let it cool and turn the dish upside down. Once the cake comes off to the plate allow it to cool. Put it in the fridge to chill.

6) Beat Whipped Cream (I added a drop of orange colour to the cream). Pour it over the cake and again chill it for another hour plus.

Simple, tasty and healthy cake is ready to be savoured. I am enjoying my piece with my evening cup of tea

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Recipe : Goan Choriz Fry

This is the simplest of all the choriz recipes that I know. My mum often made this at home and served it as a side with rice and dhal.

My friend David, used to get really good quality choriz, which he used to cut like regular sausages and then serve a piece of sausage and a piece of potato on a toothpick as an appetiser with drinks.

This is really very quick to prepare when you are in a hurry to create a protein side dish as the choriz is always stored at room temperature. Its actually faster to prepare than the accompanying Goan/Manglorean red rice.

250 gms Goan Choriz
2 large onions chopped
2 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
chopped coriander leaves to garnish (optional)

Method :
In a wide pan, place the sausages flat.
Add onions and potatoes to the pan
Pour in a thin layer of water so it comes up to half the height of the sausage.
Cover and cook till potatoes are done, stirring occasionally
Slit the skin and de-string the sausages if necessary and continue to cook it with the cover open, until the water all dries up and the potatoes start to crisp up.
Serve hot with pao bread or rice and dhal.

You can chop the potatoes smaller. I chop them slightly larger, so that those who are on a "no carb diet" at home can pick them out and keep them aside. :)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Recipe : Italian Whole Wheat Focaccia (Vegan)

I've never baked bread before. I have baked cakes and savoury muffins (also known as biscuits in American terminology), but I have never worked with yeast before (except to make wines).

I felt like I had got into a cooking rut, so I wanted to challenge myself and bread seemed a great challenge to rouse myself out of a cooking lethargy.

The husband and I have been trying to eat healthy and avoid white flour / maida, so I wanted to try a whole wheat bread. But I'm not a breakfast bread eater, so a focaccia seemed like a safe place to start.

I'd bookmarked this fresh coriander focaccia from Ambrosia, awhile ago since it was whole wheat and it seemed like a great place to start to get familiar with proportions and measurements.

I wanted a traditional Italian flavoured focacia, so instead of fresh coriander, I stuck to Oregano and added some Dominos pizza seasonings to spice it up.

Kim's Tips:
My 2 major learnings were that my yeast wasn't fresh enough, so the bread didn't rise as well as it should have. Always check your yeast, (by dissolving it in a cup of warm water with sugar - it should froth up well) before mixing any other ingredients for baking, especially if you haven't used it for awhile.

The second is that if you are using ingredients like whole olives and chopped sun dried tomatoes as toppings, press them firmly into the dough, so they become one with the bread, rather than sit atop them like pizza toppings as seen in my pictures.

I've adjusted the recipe, to included the changes that would give you the best result. I've ignored things like the salt flakes, that really didn't add much to the taste.

The smell of the focaccia as it bakes, really fills the house and you won't be able to resist, biting into it as soon as it is out of the oven.

1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup all purpose flour (maida)
1 cup + 1 tablespoon warm water
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ teaspoon yeast
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon oregano
2 sachets pizza chilli flakes
2 sachets pizza seasoning
2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes (1 tbsp finely chopped for mixing, 1 tbsp sliced for topping)
6 - 8 olives for garnish

Dissolve the sugar in warm water.
Add yeast.
Let it stand for 15 minutes, the yeast should froth well. If it doesn't froth, your bread won't rise.

Sift together all purpose flour, whole wheat flour and salt.
From the ¼ cup olive oil, reserve 1 tablespoon for drizzling on the bread. Mix the rest in the flour mix.
Add the oregano, 1 tbsp chopped sun dried tomatoes and 1 sachet each of chilli flakes and pizza seasoning.
Add warm water and knead for 10 minutes till the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Cover and let it rise for 1 hour or till double in size.

Oil one 9 inch round cake pan. (I used a square pan)
Sprinkle some flour on the counter. Roll the dough into a ball. Flatten it and roll into round (square) bread of slightly less diameter than the cake pan.
Transfer the bread into the pan.

Dimple the dough about a dozen times with the tip of your finger pointing straight down.
Leave for 30 minutes.

When the bread has risen well, gently press in the sliced sundried tomatoes and olives. Let them go into the dough, otherwise they tend to fall of when slicing the focaccia and they burn a bit when baking. Then drizzle the remaining olive oil on top.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190 degrees C for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is well browned.

Slice and serve hot with soup, salad or grilled meat.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Recipe : Masala Idli (Vegan)

This recipe is a great way to finish leftover idlis or rava idlis. Rava Idlis normally have chillies, peas, seasoning and some other vegetables in them. If you are using plain idlis, you may want to use more masala and spice for more flavour.

The husband prefers to have the idlis nicely crisped up in this dish. But if your rava idlis have dried up with the temperature/ weather/ refrigeration - you can crumble them up totally and turn it into a masala upma.

Quantities would depend on the size of the idlis that you have made and the flavouring (if any) that you have used, so feel free to adjust measurements as you see fit.

8 rava idlis (small microwave sized) quartered
1 tsp oil / ghee
pinch of fresh jeera
pinch of fresh methi
pinch of fresh mustard
1 dried red chilli
1 sprig clean curry leaves
1 medium onion chopped fine
1 medium tomato chopped fine
1" ginger grated
2-3 green chillies chopped fine to taste
Chopped coriander for garnish
2-3 tsps of your favourite chutney pudi / gun powder (optional)

Heat a wide pan, and add the oil.
When the oil is hot, season with methi, jeera and mustard seeds.
Add the chutney pudi if using, before it can brown add the crushed red chilli and curry leaves.
Now add the onions and fry till semi transparent.
Add the tomatoes, ginger and green chilli and fry till cooked.
Now add the quartered idlis and fry till done.
Serve hot garnished with freshly chopped coriander leaves.

Kim's Tip:
If you have too many idlis and the pan isn't wide enough or your idlis are too soft or too dry, it will turn to upma.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Recipe : Stovetop Chicken and Mushrooms (Bonus : Sausage Pulao from leftovers)

I marinated the chicken for this dish, the night before and cooked it for lunch the following day. I used a lot of ingredients I had lying around like the pickled peppers and Kolahs sugarcane vinegar, you can substitute with fresh black pepper and any Italian herbs of your choice. The marinade is quite yummy, so you can even pop the marinated chicken on the grill/BBQ if you want a drier dish and omit the mushrooms.

I used skinless chicken, so it was very low in fat too.

1 kg chicken
1 packet (400gms) button mushrooms (washed and sliced in half)
a few grams of sliced dried Shitake mushrooms (optional)
a few grams of dried oyster mushrooms (optional)

10 garlic cloves
3-4 strands of pickled green peppers (or 1 tsp black pepper)
a pinch of oregano
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp Kolah's sugarcane vinegar (substitute with balsamic vinegar to taste)
salt to taste

Roughly pound the garlic cloves and the pepper.
Add the herbs of choice and roughly pound a bit more.
Remove the strands holding the green peppers together, if you like, I removed them after cooking.
Add olive oil, salt and vinegar and mix well.

Marinate the chicken in this marinade for a couple of hours or overnight.

Take a large pan, pour out a bit of oil from the marinated chicken onto the pan.
Brown the chicken on both sides.

Then add the remaining marinade to the pan.
Now add whichever dried mushrooms you are using (if any) and cover the chicken with a tight lid.
Since you haven't re-hydrated the mushrooms, make sure they are sitting in some of the liquid marinade when you close the pan. (I find this gives much stronger flavours than rehydrating the mushrooms and then adding them to the pan)

After, the chicken is half cooked, add the fresh mushrooms.

(I initially don't let the mushrooms touch the pan surface directly, instead they steam on top of the chicken pieces, only when the chicken is cooked do I give it a stir and let the mushrooms come in contact with the pan.)

Cover and cook till done.
Once cooked, open the lid and serve immediately if you like some gravy, else cook without a cover until it thickens / dries up to your choice.

Serve hot with foccacia or on its own.

Bonus Recipe with Leftovers:

When we were done with the chicken, there was some oil left in the pan and it had great flavour, that I didn't want to wash out. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can try this recipe.

Add a piece of cinnamon to the hot oil, then add a bit of chopped garlic and onions and fry till browned.
Add some sliced sausages and saute till cooked.
Now add the cooked rice (I used brown rice), salt and some green peas.
Saute until peas are cooked and serve hot.


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