Monday, March 29, 2010

Recipe : Pan Fried Herbed Chicken

If I am busy through the week, then I like to marinate a couple of different kinds of meat and refrigerate them, so I can quickly bake or Pan Fry the dish for a quick dinner once I'm back home. I don't freeze my meat after marinating it because I dont like the taste and texture too much. Also the longest I keep uncooked meat marinated in the fridge is about 48 hours. As Indians we cook our meat way above the recommended heat and time levels to kill off bacteria + we have stronger stomachs :)

1/2 kilo - 1 pound chicken (I used legs)
A little olive oil.


1-3 tsps of your favorite Italian herb mix (depends on how strong a flavor you want)
My mix included thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives and a solitary bottom-of-the-jar sundried tomato
2 tsps olive oil (plain or a flavored one - if flavored, it should compliment your spice mix - I used a lemon and thyme)
1 pod Chinese garlic - about 12 cloves roughly crushed (you can lessen this if you don't like garlic, but it gets completely cooked and has a very sweet taste at the end)
Some red chilli flakes or crushed black pepper to taste
salt to taste

dash of vinegar or lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade.
Mix the chicken into the marinade
If baking the chicken, you can make a small slit along the bone and insert a bit of garlic from the marinade into that slit.
Marinate for at least 2 hours. I marinate this for 24 hours.

If Baking, bake as you normally would for any other boned chicken dish (not whole chicken)

To pan fry it:
In a hot pan, add a little olive oil (you can use the oil from the marinade too)
Sear the chicken pieces on both sides
Cover and cook till done.

I would normally serve this with another side of roast baby potatoes, but not wanting to up our carbohydrates any further, I just quartered one medium potato and added it to the pan while cooking.

Serve hot with pasta or bread.

Also in this picture Crunchy Veggie Pasta

Recipe: Crunchy Veggie Pasta

The pastas I make at home are much lighter in the summer months. Its just too hot to relish white sauce or even a bolgnese or any other heavy tomato based sauce, especially at dinner time.

The pastas I make during summer are light enough to be served as a salad too. This is one of the recipes that I use.

1 cup uncooked pasta (for this and other non sauce recipes, I prefer short or minute pastas or spaghetti)
2 cups vegetables - mushrooms and baby corn - chopped in half
1 lemon - juice extracted
your favorite fresh herbs (I used parsley today)
2-3 cloves garlic
salt to taste
fresh cracked black pepper or red chilli flakes to taste
a tsp of olive oil


In a pan, bring water to boil.
Add a little salt (to flavor) and oil (to prevent sticking)
When the water bubbles add te pasta and cook till done. (al dente or soft).
Drain the pasta and immediately run some cold water through it to prevent sticking.

Choose a pan large enough to hold the vegetables and the cooked pasta.

In a hot pan, add the olive oil.
When hot, add finely chopped garlic.
Add the halved mushrooms when the garlic begins to brown.
When the mushrooms start letting out their water, add the baby corn.
Cover and give it a quick steam (1 minute)
Add the salt, black pepper/chilli flakes and chopped herbs.
Toss quickly so the flavors are distributed evenly.

Add the drained pasta + lemon juice and toss again.
Cover and leave on flame for a minute or 2.
Serve Hot.

If you want to serve it as a salad, it can be served cold too.
The lemon juice is essential because I hardly use any olive oil in this recipe, so this adds moisture to the dish.
If you would like to turn this into a Non-Vegetarian dish, you can add boiled chicken strips or cold meat strips (total quantity of meat + vegetables should be 2 cups)

The picture above has Crunchy Veggie Pasta and Pan Fried Herbed Chicken.

Kitchen Essentials: Tamarind (Imli/Puli/Amsan) Paste

There are some items, I just HAVE to have in my kitchen. Tamarind Paste/Pulp is one of them. Mum extracts fresh paste (from a tsp or so of tamarind) each time she cooks. But for me it makes more sense to pulp an entire ball (2-3kilos) and store it in the fridge.

My tamarind has always come from grandma's kitchen garden. At the right time of the year, tamarind pods are taken off the trees, the flesh is seperated from the pods and seeds and the flesh is then rolled into tight balls which dehydrate and become tighter as the days pass.

Grandma rolled some of the tamarind in salt, so it would keep longer. These balls were then distributed to her children and grandchildren when requested.

I prefer making my tamarind pulp from this to using store bought paste for the obvious reasons - purity & avoiding preservatives.

Its better to do this on a day when you have a few hours free to keep going back to your tamarind.
I prefer to pulp the whole ball at once, because it speeds up my cooking process.(I forgot to take a picture of the ball before starting. But its normally the size of  a cantaloupe.)

Place the ball of tamarind in a bowl (preferably non-metal), heat water in another bowl (if using tap water, boil thoroughly to kill as many micro organisms as possible and then cool)

Pour the hot water over the ball of tamarind to half its height. Let it soak for awhile. Then with a spoon try to disintegrate the ball. The more surface that is touched by water, the faster the process will go.

You may have to check on it multiple times to get the ball to completely split up. Add more water if you feel that it is getting too thick. When you have a reasonably thick pulp, strain the mixture through a seive. Bottle the strained pulp.

There will still be a lot of flesh attached to fibres. Put all this back in the original vessel and pour some more hot water on it. Repeat seive and water process till you feel you have extracted as much as you can from the tamarind.

The pulp should be the consistency of chocolate sauce or thicker as you can see above. If it is too thin, it could ruin the consistency of the dishes you add it to (ok, for curries, but not stir fries) And what is to be discarded will be completely dry.

If your last extract is very thin, then use that to make rasam or keep aside to use in a curry. Don't dilute the whole batch.

Bottle in a glass jar with a glass or plastic top (tamarind will react with anything metallic) preferably vaccum packed, especially if you have more than one bottle.

I keep this paste for 6months to 1 year in the fridge without any trouble and use as needed. If your tamarind ball doesn't have any added salt, you can add some to help lengthen the life of the Paste/Pulp.

The dry roughage/ waste of the tamarind is extremely good for polishing brass and copper items.

This is why I normally keep aside a whole day for making tamarind paste as I normally follow it up with a polishing session. Its as good or better than any store bought polish (+its natural +gentle on your skin +no breathing in harmful chemicals.)

Here is a Before after Picture :)
It needs just a little elbow grease.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Martha Stewart is following me on Twitter!

Yes, its the authenticated Martha Stewart! and she is following Me

So kicked about this. she has close to 2 million followers (1905158 last I checked) and she follows about 2500 and "I" am one of those!

It has to be because of this blog!

Going to get some chocolate to celebrate

Recipe: Eyeball It - Sambhar

I make broadly 2 types of sambhar. The first is the traditional one followed from nana's recipe. The other is something I call "Eyeball It - Sambhar". this makes use of a lot of vegetables, so you just keep an eye on it and add and subtract as necesarry. I'm giving both the recipes here. What I made yesterday was an "Eyeball It - Sambhar" but since its diffcult to give quantities for something like that, I'm sharing the other recipe with you too.

Nana's Traditional Sambhar
In pressure cooker
2 tomatoes
2 onions
2 cups of different chopped vegetables
(brinjal and drumsticks essential)
cauliflower/knol khol/moge/ash gourd/potatoes/small sambhar onions/beans/radish/carrots
Cook them with 1/2 cup masoor/tuvar dhal for 1-2 whistles
Give seasoning with mustard, little jeera, red chillies, curry leaves and hing (asafoetida)
Just before turning off the flame add the sambhar powder.
Add tamarind or lime and salt to taste.

The typical Kannadiga (Karnataka) sambhar includes the use of jaggery which sweetens the dish. I'm not a big fan of sweetish sambhar, (Admission:, I hate the sweetish sambhar, I prefer the spicy Tamilain version), so I toss out the jaggery completely.

Eyeball-It Sambhar
Sometimes when I know that I would like to make sambhar or pav bhaji in a few days, I start keeping aside a little bit of the vegetables before cooking to be used after 3-4 days.
Vegetables that can be used are brinjal, drumsticks, cauliflower, knol khol, moge, ash gourd, potatoes, small sambhar onions, beans, radish, carrots.
I consider drumsticks essential for the true flavor of sambhar to come through. But you can continue even if you don't have them on hand.

Cut up the vegetables that you have saved into bite sized pieces. I like to add at least 1 medium potato because it thickens the dish.
Depending on how much vegetables you have, cut up tomatoes and onions into 1/8ths so they have triangular shapes. (sorry, forgot to take a picture of this)
Boil some dhal -masoor will boil fastest or pressure cook some tuvar/arhar dhal or even if you have some leftover dhal whose tempering is not very strong and will blend with the sambhar flavours, you can use that.

In an open pot (I prefer this to a pressure cooker, so I can have all my vegetables cooked just right, rather than the cauliflower and carrots getting overcooked to match the cooking time of the potatoes), boil some water and add vegetables in order of their cooking times.
Potatoes, onions, tomatoes go in first for me. I like the tomatoes and onions to get very well cooked, so their flavours seep into the liquid.
Add a little hing (asafoetida) and methi (fenugreek) seeds at the time of adding the potatoes (to help cut the gassy effects).
If you prefer your carrots firm, add them last.

When the vegetables are half cooked, add the dhal, salt to taste and a pinch of turmeric powder.
Give it a boil.
Then add the tamarind extract/lemon juice/vinegar and sambhar powder and cook for 5-10 minutes
For tempering, I like curry leaves, mustard seeds and red chillies.
The chillies in this picture are short Sudanese chillies (the only spicy kind available in Egypt)
Add the tempering to the sambhar and be careful to avoid splashing (hot oil meeting high quantities of liquid)
The best way is to use the pot cover as a shield between you and the pot.
Serve immediately with dosas or idlis or hot rice.
Other items on the plate are coconut chutney, Chutney pudi chutney, idlis & dosas

Recipe: Mummy's White Coconut Chutney

This is my mum's recipe. She too is an excellent cook and I may not give her enough credit on this blog, as nana takes centre stage among my cooking idols. Nana had a retinue of household help. Mum does it all on her own. She turns out dinners for 40-50 people and makes really elaborate dishes.

When I'm cooking for larger groups, I automatically cook simpler recipes because of the quantities involved and I want everything to be fresh. Mum will forego a few hours of sleep and do the grating, grinding, coconut milk extraction of 10-12 coconuts, cleaning of the fish and meat etc, grinding of poli (dosas) batter and still be smiling when the guests arrive.

5 green chillies
1/2" ginger
1-2 cloves garlic
1/4 coconut
1/2 tsp salt
tamarind marble sized ball (substitute lime juice / vinegar for color - tamarind will turn the chutney dark)

Grind with a little water.
Season with curry leaves and mustard.

Other items on the plate are sambhar, Chutney pudi chutney, idlis & dosas

Recipe: Nana's Sambhar Powder

This is my grandma's recipe. I actually haven't been able to cook any of her recipes since she passed away last year. I just feel incredibly sad and tears still roll down my cheeks when I remember her. I actually haven't cooked any Manglorean dishes as such, since she passed away. Its still too painful to refer to the notes I made when watching her cook. Food and cooking are so tied up with her and her memories.

So I've been using powders from my favorite flour mill back home which I carry with me after each trip home.

But this is Nana's recipe.

7 kumti mirsang (long red chillies - crinkled) or 2.5 tbsps chilli powder
1 dessert spoon dhaniya (corriander) seeds or powder
1 tsp jeera (cumin) seeds or powder
1/2 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds or powder
small piece turmeric or 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp mustard seeds or powder
1 sprig curry leaves or powder

Sambhar powder will taste best if you use the fresh seeds and powder them, but knowing how sometimes one doesnt have the time to powder everything fresh, she also gave me the substitutes.

The quantities are minute because she would prepare fresh powder each time before she cooked the dish. You can increase the quantities if you like. Because the ingredients are fried in oil, it may not last too long outside, better to keep it in the fridge if leftover.

Fry all ingredients in a little oil (just enough to provide a little lubrication) for 10-15 minutes till it lets out an  aroma
(if using powders put them in just before turning off the heat otherwise they will burn)

Powder in a mixi or coffee grinder

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recipe: Dosas & Idlis

This recipe is for dosas and idlis made from store bought batter. Will give a recipe for batter once I am confident of the proportions.

Empty the store bought batter into a bowl at least 2 hours before intending to use it. Add salt to taste.

Keep it overnight if you want to make this for breakfast. Leave the bowl in a warm place in your kitchen, so it can ferment. (with the pilot light on in your oven, if the weather is cold.
 Add a teaspoon of Eno before using, if you feel that the batter hasn't risen enough.

To make idlis, grease the idli moulds (so it will be easy to remove the idlis when done).
Pour batter in the moulds, leaving enough space in the mould, for the idli to expand when cooking.
Arrange moulds in such a way that the moulds are not exactly one on top of the other.
I steamed the idlis in the microwave for 5 minutes.
Serve hot with chutney & sambhar.

For dosas, lightly grease a pan
Pour a spoonful of batter in the pan and spread evenly (in spirals from center to outside) and slightly thinner in some places.
If you want your dosas really crispy, you will need to dot a few drops of oil or ghee on the dosa.

When done on one side, slip and lightly cook on the other side
Serve hot with chutney and sambhar.

With the leftover batter, I will make utthapams in the morning.
I will follow the same method for making dosas, but immediately after spreading the batter in the pan, I will sprinkle a combination of finely chopped onions+tomatoes+chillies+corriander. and fry on both sides.

For onion utthappam, add only onion
For tomato utthappam or tomato omlette as it is called in Mangalore. Mix the fnely chopped tomato into the batter with a hint of tureric powder.

Items in the plate are coconut chutney, sambhar,idlis, dosas and chutney made from chutney pudi

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recipe: Strawberry Yoghurt Ice Cream

I'd bought some Mahabaleshwar strawberries the other day from GNB and they were lying in the fridge as husband wasn't feeling enticed enough to eat them. Then I saw Sanjana's Food Charm Giveaway Contest aka KO Rasoi’s ‘Wear Your Food’ competition which propelled me to create something with the strawberries (one of the charms on that bracelet).

Because of his current (temporary) diet restrictions, he has been trying really hard to avoid desserts, so I thought about creating a sweet suprise with strawberries that would be low on added sugar, zero refined flour and minimal cream/butter/fat.

Strawberry Yoghurt Ice Cream seemed the perfect answer to fit all 3.

An online search revealed that David Lebovitz's Recipe was the most adapted, so it seemed like a good starting point.

This was my first attempt at making ice cream, so I improvised a lot as I went along. So, not all the ingredients are visible in my first picture :)

1/2 a kilo of strawberries cleaned and sliced (it doesn't matter if you feel like eating some as you go along, go ahead)
I saw recipes that called for cooking the strawberries before mashing them, but decided against using this extra step. I think it gave a fresher taste to the ice cream.
400gm jar of Nestle/Amul Dahi (yoghurt) - this is standard size
a few sliced pistachios
some honey
2-3 tsp sugar
2 tsp vodka (optional)

Slice the strawberries and toss them with the vodka and sugar.
(I almost added Absolut Peppar, in my hurry - wonder how that would have tasted?)
I would have avoided the sugar completely but the mass opinion seemed to be, that adding sugar to the berries made the end product redder. Something to do with oxidation I guess. But next time, I will use Stevia/Sugar Free, but only if the strawberries aren't sweet enough.
Hang the curd/yoghurt in a muslin cloth and let the whey drain out.
I did this both simultaneously and left them for 2 hours, occassionally tossing the strawberries.
At the end of 2 hours, the strawberries had reddenned from their previous pinkish tinge as seen below.
Puree the strawberries.
I used the hand held mixer for the whole process. But given the amount of liquid these strawberries manage to emanate, I may just pulverise them in a liquidiser next time, to save myself the splashing.
The liquid was a really deep red.
As I mentioned earlier, these weren't the freshest strawberries, so I ran the liquid through a sieve to take off the skins that hadn't completely disintegrated. You can see in the picture below, that I had a lot of stuff that needed to be taken out although I might have got a finer end product and less wastage, if I used the liquidiser.
If your strawberries are fresh you may not need this step.
If you hate the feel of seeds in your ice cream, then you will want to sieve the liquid through a slightly finer wire mesh.

Since I had already sieved the strawberry juices into another bowl, I decided to start with the hung curd and slowly add the juice to prevent major splashing.
As you can see, the hung curd is really thick, almost like cottage cheese. The more whey you remove from the yoghurt, the creamier will be the end product.
If your strawberries aren't too tart, you may like to add a squeeze of lemon juice to the mix.
Gradually add the strawberry juice and beat lightly till you have a creamy mixture, darkish pink in color.

If you have an icecream maker, this would be the time to use it.

I don't have an ice cream maker (yet) so I had to do the - take out of freezer every 30mins and whip again to break up icicles routine.
You can use an immerision blender, or old fashioned elbow grease and a whisk for this.
Since the water had been drained out of the yoghurt, I just did this twice. The second time I saw that there weren't too many icicles.
So at this stage (when no more whipping was in order) I added the sliced pistachios and gently folded them in
Then I added some honey and folded it in.
(This inspiration came from some honey in an ice cream I ate recently and I loved the texture of the frozen honey, plus this adds a bit of sweetness. Unfortunately, the honey I had, may not have been of very good quality because I saw it release a little water when I next took it out of the freezer. It did taste fab though)
The pistachios will powder if you whip them and you want the honey to remain in streaks, not blended into the ice cream.
You can even add some bits of fruit at this stage if you want a fresher feel in the ice cream.

Serve garnished with pistachios/honey/mint sprigs/strawberries.
Its slightly melted, because it took me awhile to get the picture, but if you look on the right half, you get an idea of the texture.

This recipe gave me roughly 1/2 a liter of ice cream. Will definitely double quantities next time. With the amount of time and effort needed, might as well make a big batch
This is an ideal way to use up leftover fruit (semi pulpy - berries, mangoes, kiwi), especially in the summers. And with the temperature here touching 40C, it is a very welcome treat any time of the day.

Equipment that may be of help:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Recipe: Jewel Rice

Anyone reading my blog this month, would be forgiven for thinking that I have turned Vegetarian for Lent. the Vegetarian food is more for husbands benefit as doctor had advised him a pretty restricted diet for some recurrent tummy troubles.

I've been sneaking meat into my plate in different ways. Most of them end up being unhealthy :)

This is quite a healthy dish though for the most part.

I often make variations of this dish with leftovers for my lunch. Especially when I'm in the middle of finishing an assignment and can't be bothered to put much thought into what I'm cooking.

The easiest way to do this is to warm up leftover Chinese style semi gravy items and add some leftover cooked rice to the mix and eat hot.

This particular dish was made from completely fresh ingredients. I had some lovely spicy spanish Chorizo that I had picked up from GNB. The spice and sourness of this sausage meant that the rice did not need any other flavoring. I cut the slices into quarters (I had them presliced for sandwiches) and lightly sauteed them, added some baby corn, fresh green peas and sprouts. Just a hint of salt as the sausage had salt too. A quick stir fry later, I added the leftover rice.

Since there is no sauce in this dish, it is important to add veggies with higher water content like baby corn so the dish isnt too dry to eat.
Take off the pan and eat hot.

The dish can be completely vegetarian too, but you will need to add some herbs for flavoring.

Recipe: Uncle Karim's Syrian Green Beans

My Mum's - friends husband introduced me to this dish when I visited them in San Antonio over 9 years ago. Uncle Karim is Syrian and loves to cook. Since I already had an interest in food, I hung around the kitchen to watch. Until then cooking for me was equated with labor intensive Manglorean Dishes. It was an eye opening revelation, to see how such a simple dish, that was so easy to assemble, could taste so divine.

About a year ago, I had the chance to visit Lebanon and that's when I realised that vegetables are so fresh and tasty in that part of the world, that most of their dishes are very low on extra flavorings, so that the true flavor of each ingredient stands out. The salads in Lebanon are to die for. I could just eat raw salads for a week and this affirmation comes from someone who starts climbing the walls if I don't get to eat meat for over 24 hours.

Uncle Karim's green beans were very easily assembled. He lopped off the ends of the beans, sliced some tomato, garlic and onions and put them all in a pan. Drizzled a little olive oil on the top, added some coarse salt. Shut the pan with an air tight lid and just forgot about it until the dish was done. Yummy! Especially with pita bread.

Kim's Levantine Inspired Green Beans
When I cook this dish at home, at some point I started adding sesame seeds, because I love the nutty flavor that it adds to the dish.
The husband likes the beans to be chopped up a bit, so its easier to scoop up and eat with rotis, so I do that too when I'm cooking for us, but if I'm serving it at a dinner party, then I prefer to leave the beans whole. They look more elegant that way :)
These are my 2 main differences in Uncle Karim's recipe.

200 gms green beans
2 tomatoes sliced thin
1 onion sliced thin
2-3 cloves of garlic (I use a lot more)
2 tsps sesame (til) seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp olive oil (regular oil can also be used)
salt to taste

Warm the olive oil, saute the garlic till it releases its raw aroma, add sesame seeds and saute lightly.
Add the onion, garlic and tomatoes with a little salt and shut the pan.
There is no need to add water as long as you use an air tight top and resist the temptation to lift the cover while it is cooking. If you do open it, it will dry out and will require an additional bit of water.
Cook till done.
If your tomatoes don't have any tartness in them, squeeze a hint of lemon juice before serving.
Serve hot with any kind of rotis or Middle Eastern breads.

The other items on this plate are Lois Lane's Sindhi Moong Dhal and Mattar Paneer

Lois Lane's Sindhi Moong Dhal

I've made this dhal before and liked it, but never took pictures or blogged about it.

 Its a very easy recipe to make. The first time I made it, I was quite apprehensive. Pepper powder and dhal isn't a combination that I would normally think of. I have used whole peppercorns in khichdi but never in dhal and pepper powder seemed a very different combination. After trying  it out, I would definitely say that it is a "different good."

Since this is Lois's Recipe, I'm not going to post it here, but you can always read it from source. The ingredients are very simple: 4 powders, oil/ghee/semna, hing(asafoetida) and moong dhal (split and husked green gram - a pale yellow dhal) It can be substituted with masoor dhal or red lentils as they are known in Egypt. The quantity of water required would be much less for red lentils. Amchoor is powdered - dried green mango. In Egypt, this can be substituted with sumac.

Remember, moong dhal froths a lot, so unless you are pressure cooking it, make sure to have ample space in your cooking pan for the froth to rise and keep it on the slowest heat so it doesn't bubble over. the dhal needs constant supervision and stirring.

The dhal looks really pretty once the powders have been added.

The other plated items in the first picture are Levantine Inspired Green Beans and Mattar Paneer


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