Saturday, March 17, 2018

Recipe : Wak Serjak - Pork Stew from Tripura - North East India

My red meat of choice is pork. I grew up eating pork on Sundays. My grandmother was an amazing cook and made the most delicious pork dishes. Manglorean style pork is heavy though and very conducive to Sunday afternoon naps. So not really dishes for mid-week. and we keep our dinners light as far as possible.

So it was a fantastic revelation for me, when we lived in Guwahati in 2011, to discover a multitude of pork dishes that were super tasty and yet very easy to prepare (no heavy grinding of masalas) and super light on the tummy. As light as eating chicken.

A lot of pork dishes in Assam, are cooked with local herbs which are difficult to find outside of the state. My friend Sanjukta is a great resource for local recipes and her blog is an excellent starting point.

When I lived in Guwahati, there weren't too many local food bloggers, so the first book that I bought for help with local cuisine was Hoihnu Hazel's collaboration with Penguin. This recipe is from that book.

I'm happy to say that in the decade since then, North East Indian food is slowly working itself into public consciousness due to the enterprising passion and commitment of a few foodies like Gitika Saikia in Mumbai and  Sneha Saikia in Delhi.

Wak Serjak in its thinnest form is like a soup, you can however let it simmer for awhile so it gets thicker. And in the Manglorean/Goan fashion of maturing pork, keep reheating leftovers (if you have any) daily, until it becomes a nice thick mass. Its super-delicious at every stage.

2 kg pork (I like a good balance of meat and fat and bones - here I buy pork belly and ribs seperately to add to the mix)
2 tsp oil
4 tbsp ginger paste
6-8 green chillies chopped
4 medium onions chopped
6 medium tomatoes chopped
salt to taste

Wash and drain pork. Cut into bite sized pieces.

Heat oil in a deep pot and add ginger, green chillies, onions and tomatoes, fry till golden brown.

Add pork and stir-fry for awhile until pork is cooked. I tend to cook the fat and bones first so the fat breaks down, before adding the meat.

Add salt and 4 cups water. Then cover and leave to simmer for awhile (use less water if you want a thicker gravy.

Adjust salt and fresh chillies to taste.

Serve hot with cooked rice.

Optional garnish - freshly shopped corriander leaves for a fresh herby taste.

Optional - since the tomatoes here in the UK, don't have any tartness, I added the juice of one lemon - to taste.

I found Bergamot lemons in the market last week and as an Earl Grey aficionado, I had to bring them home. In the North East of India, the tomatoes are tart enough that you don’t need to add any thing citric. But here I added the juice of a whole bergamot to 2 kilos of meat.

The essential fragrance of the bergamot was lost in the cooking, so it tasted like any other lemon in the mix.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Recipe : Cambodian Chicken Samla Curry

I got this recipe from Gousto Cooking as part of a box that I had ordered.

Whenever I know I don’t have the time to plan menus and do a proper shop of fresh groceries (meat/fish/veggies), I order a box from them and it works out quite well. I opt for the quick to cook ones and a meal is normally ready in about 30 minutes. Fresh, healthy, balanced, tasty. Although, I wish they gave the option to change all rice to brown rice.

This Cambodian Chicken Samla Curry is definitely one for the recipe books. The Gousto recipe can be viewed here. I have made a few minor changes and this recipe includes my changes.

Their quantities are just enough for a meal for two without second helpings, I have adjusted the recipe below for a little more. You can make the gousto quantities, but then I would recommend adding on an extra salad or dessert or something else to your meal.

Ingredients :
150 gms basmati rice (about 2 katori)
500 gms boneless chicken (I prefer thighs, but for this recipe, breast will also work) cut in strips
1 tin 400ml coconut milk
2-3 cloves of garlic or 1.5 tsp garlic paste
20 gms ginger or 2 tbsp ginger paste
4-5 green chillies (you can skip this or adjust heat to taste)
1.5 tsp turmeric powder
1 fresh lemon grass stalk
1.5 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
3-4 dried kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
30 gms roasted peanuts
1 romano pepper (or red capsicum / bell pepper)
100 gms mangetout or snow peas or beans
salt to taste

Method :
Boil a kettle or a pot of water.

Gently bash the lemongrass with a rolling pin, cut it down the middle lengthways (you won't be able to cut through the hard end near the root, so just chop that off)
Remove the tough outer layers and root end, but keep them for later. Try to keep these parts as whole as possible.

Chop the softer inner stem[s] finely
Peel and finely chop (or grate) the ginger.
Peel and finely chop (or grate) the garlic
Finely chop the green chilli.
If you have a mortar and pestle or food processor, just quickly grind them all together, its faster and results in a much smoother curry.

Rinse out the rice, but don't soak it.
Choose a pan with a lid.
Put the rice in this pan.
Put the tough lemon grass leaves and root on top (don't put them at the bottom, they become more difficult to discard before serving)
Add 300 ml hot water.
Add a pinch of salt.
Bring to the boil (without covering the pan) over a high heat
Once boiling, reduce the heat to very low and cook, covered, for 10-15 min or until all the water has absorbed and the rice is cooked
Once cooked, remove from the heat and keep covered until serving

Open the tin of coconut milk, if it isn't full to the brim, you can add the following ingredients to the tin, else mix them in a large bowl.
Add the kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and sugar – this is your coconut stock.

Heat a large, wide-based pan (preferably non-stick) with a drizzle of vegetable oil over a medium-high heat
Once hot, add the chicken strips and cook for 3-4 min
Add the turmeric powder and cook for 1 min further or until fragrant

Slice the Romano pepper into rings or julienne the bell pepper, discarding the stalk and any seeds
Once chicken is fragrant, add the sliced pepper, ground/chopped chilli, garlic, ginger and lemongrass and cook for 2-3 min further

Add the coconut stock and mange tout/snow peas/beans and cook for 6-8 min or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened to a curry-like consistency.

Chop the coriander leaves, Add the stem ends to the curry in the finals stage, but reserve the leaves for garnish.

Crush the roasted peanuts with a rolling pin (keep them in a bag so you don't lose them) or a quick whir in a food processor. You want it crushed, not ground.

Discard the lemon grass stems from the rice.

Serve the Cambodian Chicken Samla Curry with the lemongrass rice to the side

Tip: for fancy presentation, press the rice into small bowls and turn out

Garnish with the crushed peanuts and coriander leaves

Friday, October 20, 2017

Recipe : Rice Kheer / Payasam - Happy Diwali

This Diwali we really didn't have the time to make a major celebration out of it. I've started another course (with Oxford this time), signed up for some other commitments and he had to work late on the 19th. I had signed up for a lecture at the Royal College of Nursing on Food and Culture.

Also, we are still eating light, so no snacks or deep fried or store bought sweets this year. But Ganesh needs something sweet to be offered as prasad, hence this light kheer with most of the sweetness coming from raisins.

While this time I made it really light on sugar, the recipe I give below is my normal recipe with a full tin of condensed milk. You can halve that and increase the raisins, or ignore the condensed milk and use sugar or only raisins / dates (but then you have to cook it for longer)

Ingredients :
100 gms / 1 katori basmati rice rinsed and soaked.
1-2 tbsp ghee
1 handful broken cashewnuts
1 handful raisins (rinse and remove the stalks if any)
1 liter milk preferably at room temperature or warmer
1 cardamom (if you want stronger flavour crush before using)
1 tin condensed milk - carnation / milk maid
pinch of saffron or cardamom powder (optional)

Method :
Take a large pan, preferably non-stick.
Heat the ghee.
Fry the cashewnuts till light brown, remove from pan with a slotted spoon.
Saute the raisins lightly and remove with a slotted spoon.

Now drain the rice and add it to the pan. Fry for 1-2 minutes
Lower the heat to medium and add the milk and cardamom.
Let the rice cook completely in the milk.
If it is a non stick pan, it won't need to be stirred, but you can keep stirring gently if you like.
Keep an eye on it, so it doesn't bubble over when the milk boils.
Stir or lower the heat, if it is on the verge of bubbling over.

Once the milk is cooked, add the condensed milk and most of the raisins.
Keep cooking on medium heat, until the kheer is nice and thick.
Sprinkle the saffron or cardamom powder on top if using.

The kheer can be served hot immediately, at room temperature or chilled.

Garnish with fried cashewnuts and raisins.

Tip :
Cold milk has a higher chance of splitting, so better to bring the milk to room temperature.

If you like the flavour of cardamom, you can use more, crush it and add it when frying the rice  instead of waiting to add it with the milk.

I prefer to leave the cardamom whole and add it with the milk. This imparts the flavour of cardamom, without the bits exploding in my mouth when eating (its too strong a spice for me to bite into)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Recipe : Nandini style Andhra Chilli Chicken

For our entire friend circle, Nandini in Bangalore is iconic for its Andhra Chilli Chicken served with Andhra Chicken Biryani. The biryani itself is quite mild, but the chilli chicken is absolute dynamite.

Thanks to a friend on one of the many facebook groups that I follow, I finally found a recipe that works brilliantly. All thanks to Rashmi Shenoy who shared her recipe on Konkani Amchi Food.
When I told my sister that I had found a recipe that was perfect, her first reaction was "Oh, so you won't be needing my courier services anymore!" Yes! That is how much we love this combination! When we lived anywhere else in India, this was what we would ask friends and family who were visiting from Bangalore to bring for us. The chilli chicken freezes well and can be reheated as you like.

I have made a few changes to Rashmi's recipe to adjust for flavours that I don't like (I don't use ajinomoto). She doesn't have a blog of her own, but you can see the original recipe from her, here.

This is a super spicy  recipe, so do not attempt unless you have a high spice tolerance.

Warning :
Better if you can keep your kitchen windows open and kitchen door closed.

Keep a box of tissues on hand. I think I used up about 20 before I was done cooking.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT TOUCH your eyes while cooking!

I don't think, I've ever posted a warning before posting a recipe before.

Ingredients :
1kg Chicken with bones (curry cut is best, I found the legs and thighs too large for the flavours to permeate)
30-40 Green chillies - grind into coarse paste (yes, thirty to forty)
10-12 Green chillies slit or whole
2 tbsp Vinegar
1 tsp Soya sauce
1 tbsp lemon
Salt to taste
3-4 tbsp Cornflour
3-4 tbsp Water to make the cornflour paste.
2 tbsp Oil
2 tbsp Ghee

Tip : you can use garlic (10 cloves)& ginger 1" pieces while grinding green chillies.
I did it and enjoyed the flavour

Marinate the chicken with soya sauce, lemon juice & 1/2 tsp salt for 30 minutes.
Coarsely grind the green chillies (and ginger and garlic if using)

Heat a deep pan (for 1kg chicken, take a pan that can hold 2 kgs).
Add oil& ghee.
Once the ghee melts, add the whole / slit green chillies and fry for a minute till it turns white on the outside.
Now add the green chilli paste & fry well.
Protect your nose and eyes.

Once the oil separates from the sides, add the marinated chicken & fry for sometime.
Add a little water and let it cook for 20 minutes on low heat.
Adjust salt to taste.

Add the cornflour paste & vinegar.

The Andhra Chilli chicken is ready to be served with Nandini style Andhra chicken Biryani and Onion Raita

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Recipe : Nandini style Andhra Chicken Biryani

For our entire friend circle, Nandini in Bangalore is iconic for its Andhra Chilli Chicken served with Andhra Chicken Biryani. The biryani itself is quite mild, but the chilli chicken is absolute dynamite.

For those of us who moved away from the city, this was the holy grail of recipes that we have been searching for. We have all tried many versions and failed dismally, with spouses shaking their heads and saying "it just isn't there".

Well, it finally "is there" Thanks to a friend on one of the many facebook groups that I follow, I finally found a recipe that works brilliantly. All thanks to Rashmi Shenoy who shared her recipe on Konkani Amchi Food.

When I told my sister that I had found a recipe that was perfect, her first reaction was "Oh, so you won't be needing my courier services anymore!" Yes! That is how much we love this combination! When we lived anywhere else in India, this was what we would ask friends and family who were visiting from Bangalore to bring for us.

I have made a few changes to Rashmi's recipe to adjust for flavours that I don't like (star anise instead of mace, a little less ghee and I added eggs). She doesn't have a blog of her own, but you can see the original recipe from her, here.

The biryani itself is quite mild, so no worries on spice levels in this half of the recipe.

Ingredients :
1/2 kg chicken (smaller pieces better - curry cut)
1/2 cup Yogurt
3 small Onions sliced
6-7 Green chillies
4 Cloves
2" Cinnamon stick 2 x 1"
4 Cardamom 4
1 star anise / biryani flower
2 Bay leaves
1/2 tsp Pepper powder
1/2 cup Coriander leaves
1/2 cup Mint leaves (no stalks)
4 -5 cups Basmati rice (washed & soaked in water)
3-4 eggs hard boiled and skinned.
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp Ghee

Heat ghee in presssure cooker, add the whole spices.
When they sputter, add sliced onions and let it turn golden brown .
Then add green chillies, coriander & mint leaves and fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add chicken pieces to this and cook for 5-6 minutes till chicken changes colour on the outside to white.

Add yogurt now with a little salt and mix well.
Use a wooden spoon, so you aren't breaking things up.

Drain & add the soaked rice, mix well and fry for a minute or two.
Add the boiled eggs.

Add hot water to the rice. (Rashmi advises using 1:1.5 ratio of rice: water, I eyeball it)
Check seasoning salt and pepper.

I cooked it in the pressure cooker, same as I would for any biryani. (this is a trick & measure of time and heat dependent on each pressure cooker and the kind of heating that you use.)

Rashmi says :
Trick here is to close the pressure cooker lid and not to put the whistle. Once the steam is out, place a steel glass on the nozzle and simmer the flame and cook for 15 minutes.

If you are using normal (not boiling water, same process but cook for 20 minutes.

Once done, carefully open the lid and mix the rice slowly.

This goes perfectly well with Andhra chilli chicken recipe

Optional garnish with coriander leaves and crisply fried sliced onions. As you can see in the first picture, I also served an onion raita on the side with the Andhra Chilli Chicken.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Recipe : Baked Corn on the Cob

Now, this may seem like a really easy recipe, so why have I turned it into a blog post?

Well, I absolutely love corn that is grilled on coals or a flame that is served all round India on the streets during the rainy season. When I had a gas stove in India, it was easy to roast corn on the flames. But that's not the case with the induction counter tops here. Also in our tiny London apartment, I don't have the option of Barbecueing it either and pressure cooker or boiling it, just doesn't give it the same flavour and texture as grilling or roasting it. So I thought that if I can char brinjal/aubergine in the oven, why not try it with the corn?

This is what worked for me.

Some freshly grilled corn on the cob (in the oven) even on a rainy day.

These went into a pre heated fan oven at 180C (for regular ovens 190C) for 30 minutes with the skins on.

If you just pop it in a regular oven with everything on, its much easier to clean after it's cooked and keeps all the moisture trapped inside. It doesn't give you the charred effect though.

If you want a charred effect, then you need to clean it up after baking and pop it under the grill for a few minutes after cooking.

Peeled and drizzled with a lemon juice + chilli powder + salt dressing. So, so good!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Recipe : Purple Sprouting Broccoli Salad

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a book launch for Thomasina Miers latest cookbook - "Home Cook", where she served us a lovely sprouting broccoli on sourdough toast.

When we visited Osterley Park, I found some fresh purple sprouting broccoli at the farmers stand and I had to buy them and cook them immediately.

This salad is inspired by Thomasina Miers recipe from her cookbook, with my own twist on it.

1 bunch purple sprouting broccoli (will work with regular broccoli too)
1 handful shelled & halved walnuts
1-6 cloves of garlic finely sliced (depending on how much you like garlic, I used 6)
1/2 tsp olive oil (to fry, not extra virgin)
lemon juice to taste
pomegranate molasses to taste (balsamic vinegar will work as a substitute)
chilli oil to taste (or any other flavoured oil)
cheese to garnish (optional) - goats cheese or anything creamy combines beautifully

Lightly roast the walnuts in a pan and keep aside.
Warm the olive oil in the pan, and add the sliced garlic.
As the garlic begins to brown, add the broccoli.
When cooked to your satisfaction (I like it crunchy without the raw smell), take it off the heat.
Toss with the toasted walnuts.

Put it in a serving bowl.
Drizzle lightly with lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and chilli oil.
Garnish with cheese if you like.

Eat as is or on toasted bread.

If the broccoli isn't tender, halve the mature stems away from the heads and cook those first before adding the broccoli heads, so that everything is evenly cooked.

Thomasina Miers at the Book Discussion:

The Broccoli on Sourdough Bread that she served (pardon the terrible picture, but it was difficult to get a good shot in the crowd)


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