Friday, November 30, 2012

Recipe : Moroccan Almond and Harissa Couscous - Vegan

Couscous is often called the staple dish of North Africa. However, in Egypt, the only place I saw couscous on the menu was in Siwa which is close to the Libyan border. We did have couscous for almost every meal that we ate in Morocco and its also popular in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

Couscous was originally made from millet, but now its mostly made from wheat, although it is also made from barley, cornmeal and pearl millet in some parts of the world.

500 gms pre-steamed couscous
750ml of thin salted stock (meat or vegetable depending on your personal choice)
1 tsp olive oil
4 tbsp harissa (a Moroccan red chilli paste with a few other spices -adjust this to your taste)
100 gms almonds

Boil the stock.
Take it off the fire, add olive oil and let it cool a little.
Once the stock is slightly above room temperature, add the pre-steamed couscous and stir well.
Cover and let it sit for 5 minutes, fluff the mixture with a fork 2-3 times so the grains stay seperate and fluffy.
Slowly fork in the harissa paste.
Roast the almonds and cut into slivers.
Mix the slivered almonds into the couscous leaving some for garnishing.

Serve hot with a thin stew like Mqualli or a Peasant Stew.

Kim's Tips:
1. If you don't have ready stock, use 1 soup cube in 750ml water and adjust salt to taste
2. Don't add couscous to boiling stock, it will turn pasty and sticky.
3. The stew/curry you serve with a couscous needs to be on the thinner side as the couscous will keep absorbing liquid on your plate.
4. Be careful how much water you drink when eating couscous, the couscous will soak up the water in your tummy and leave you feeling very full and unable to finish all that is on your plate.
5. Be careful about how much salt is in your stock, some varieties of store bought stock tends to be salty, so water it down if its too salty.
6. Couscous is easily available at Godrej Nature Basket in Delhi/Gurgaon/Bombay/Pune and in some food specialty shops. In Ahmedabad, you can pick up couscous at Hypercity (the Waitrose section) or Icy Pik / Magsons

Recipe: Mqualli - Moroccan Chicken Tajine with Preserved Lemon & Olives

This dish is called a tajine, because it is traditionally cooked in a vessel called a tajine (similar concept as paella). The tajine is an earthenware (mitti) dish comprised of 2 parts. The bottom is circular and flattish with slightly raised edges and it has a conical cover that sits on this base.

The concept of cooking in a tajine is that the earthenware adds some amount of flavour to the dish (like mud pots used in Indian cooking) and the conical top, captures the condensation and returns the moisture to the dish cooking below.

The dish is typically cooked on low heat and ends up being really moist and tender. The advantage of cooking in a tagine is that you can always lift the lid to adjust spices or add vegetables in installments. However, you can still cook this dish, even if you don't have a tajine.

1kg chicken - curry cut (preferably with bones, they add flavour to the stew)
2 cups (500 ml) water / stock
2 tsps olive oil
1 large onion sliced
6 cloves garlic chopped
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
pinch of saffron
2 preserved lemons
1/2 cup green olives (canned)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped corriander
salt to taste

In the tajine/heavy bottomed dish, heat the olive oil
Add the onions and garlic and saute lightly until they start to soften.
Add ginger paste, cumin powder, salt and pepper powder and sir till well mixed.
Add chicken pieces and brown on both sides.
If using dried lemon - wash well, pierce a couple of times with a fork/knife and add at this stage.
Add 1 cup stock/water, bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes.
If you are using preserved lemons - rinse, discard the flesh, slice the skin and add it at this stage.
If you used dehdrated lemons, then add the juice of 1 fresh lemon at this stage.
If you don't have preserved or dehydrated lemons, add the juice of 2-3 lemons at this stage with some lemon rind.
Mix well
Add the olives, saffron and the remaining water / stock and give it a swirl.
Sprinkle the chopped parsley and corriander on top.
Cover and cook on low heat for another 20 minutes until done.

If you are serving this tajine with bread or rice, then you will want a slightly thicker curry.
If you are serving it with couscous, you will want a slightly thinner curry.

Serve hot with rice, couscous or bread.

Kim's Tips:
1. All you need is a heavy bottomed pan with a tight fitting lid that won't let the steam escape, if you don't have access to a tajine.

2. This particular recipe calls for preserved lemons (typical in Moroccan cuisine), but I didn't have them in stock, I only had dried lemons (used in Middle Eastern cooking), so I substituted the preserved lemons with dehydrated lemons and the juice of 1 fresh lemon. If you can't find preserved/dehydrated lemons, you can make the dish with juice from 2-3 lemons and some lemon rind. It won't taste as good as the original, but it will still be tasty.

3. Preserved lemons and bottled olives have some salt in them, remember to adjust for this when salting the dish.

Recipe: Preserved Lemons (Morocco)

Preserved Lemons are an essential ingredient in Moroccan cooking and widely available in most Middle Eastern and North African Bazaars.

Like garam masala powder, jeera powder, chilli powder etc are widely used in Indian cooking, but rarely made at home in India, similarly most families in MENA (Middle East North Africa) buy their preserved lemons from the market.

This recipe is from a friends mother. I haven't tried making it at home yet, but a friend who saw my recipe for Mqualli - Moroccan Chicken Tajine with Preserved Lemon & Olives asked for a recipe that she could make at home, so I'm sharing it here.

I've approximated weights and measures a bit to compensate for aunty's eyeballing it version.

This is one of my bookmarked projects for the coming summer when the days are drier and hotter (the best time to make pickles). I'll add pictures at that time.

10-12 lemons (not the tiny Indian limes, you want the larger ones closer in size to lemons)
3/4 cup (150-175 gms)of coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup (50-60ml) lemon juice
boiling water to cover the lemons in the jar

Scrub the lemons and rinse well in running water.
Cut the lemons in quarters lengthways but leave a bit of the base at the bottom, so they continue to be held together like petals of a flower.
Seperate the quarters slightly (without breaking off) and salt the inside of the lemons.
Stack the lemons, base first (to prevent salt falling out) in a sterilised jar.
Sprinkle the peppercorns and insert the bay leaves between the salted lemons and pour in the lemon juice.
Add enough boiling water to submerge the lemons and almost fill the jar
Place a weight on the lemons to keep them submerged.
Seal the jar and store in a dark place for 1-4 months.

When ready to use, remove the weight and discard any white film that may have formed on the surface of the liquid.

If you are very careful with your handling, you can store the preserved lemons outside, but it may be safer to store in the refrigerator.

When cooking with preserved lemons, normally the flesh, seeds and membranes are scooped out and discarded. The skin is rinsed and cut to use in dishes. (Personally, I like using the flesh too, it reminds me of the taste & texture of Indian achaars.)

Kim's Tips:
Remember, if you are preserving skins of any fruit/vegetable (in jams or pickles) and live in Europe/North America, you need to be careful and consciously choose unwaxed fruit.

Since you are preserving lemons with salt (acid & salt) be sure to use a glass or ceramic jar ONLY for storing, preferably with a non metallic lid.

Since you have to add boiling water to the lemons, it needs to be a thicker glass jar/bottle to handle the heat without cracking.

The weight would be a stone of some kind, it needs to be non-organic and non-metallic.

The preserving liquid can be boiled and reused for the next batch to make it more intense, but it depends on how well the liquid has kept

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Recipe : Roast Chicken with Duxelles

If you cook this right, the meat will be incredibly soft, tender and juicy. Don't pull out the chicken skin before roasting. It helps keep the meat moist, the stuffing in and adds a lovely texture and flavour to the dish.

Since I roast chicken in the microwave on convection setting, I've found that roasting it covered for 2/3 of the time helps keep most of the moisture in.

1 roasting chicken with skin - around 1kg
1 quantity duxelles (from 400gm mushrooms) at room temperature
1 tsp salt
juice of 1 lime
a little butter or olive oil for basting.

Clean the chicken well, especially the inside and dry
Rub the chicken with a mixture of lemon juice and salt, both inside and outside and keep for 10-15 minutes.
Stuff the chicken with the duxelles and if you can get the skin loose, pack some duxelles between the skin and the flesh.
(My butcher here in Ahmedabad, ends up tearing the skin when he de-feathers the chicken and unless I clean my chicken myself, I have to make do with what I'm given)
Baste the chicken with a little melted butter or olive oil.
Roast in a preheated oven at 200C for about an hour and a half.
Keep an eye on the chicken as it roasts and increase or decrease the time as needed.

You can serve your chicken completely coked but moist, or slightly crispy.

I've made this a home style roast chicken, but you can obviously make this a much neater dish, by trussing the chicken once stuffed.

If you are roasting it uncovered in a regular oven, you can cover the wings and the final leg joint with foil until half cooked, to get an even colouring all over.

Recipe : Duxelles - Vegetarian / Vegan - Stuffing / Pate

I first heard about Duxelles on the first season of Junior Masterchef Australia, and the concept of  minced mushrooms cooked in butter seemed so tasty that I had to look it up and try it for myself.

There are a multitude of recipes for Duxelles online, but I took a look at ingredients that were easily available to me and what would suit our tastebuds and this is the final recipe that I came up with.

1 medium onion
6 - 8 cloves garlic
400gms fresh button mushrooms (the kind most easily available in India)
2 pinches of herbs of your choice - thyme, parsley, tarragon
3 tbsp butter (vegans can use olive oil)
1/2 tsp olive oil
salt to taste

Finely mince the onions, garlic and mushrooms (separately)
In a pan, heat the butter with the oil (the oil will prevent the butter from burning)
Fry garlic till slightly soft, then add onions and fry till completely soft.
Fry on a low heat, so everything cooks without turning brown.
Add mushrooms, when mushrooms are half cooked, add the herbs.
Keep cooking on a low flame until the mixture turns into a spreadable paste.
Now adjust salt.

Use it as a spread on toast or for stuffing chicken, beef wellington, puff pastry or savoury tarts.

Kim's tips:
The trick to cooking duxelles is to keep the fire low and stir constantly, so that everything cooks into a paste, rather than crisping up.

Its critical to wait until the end to adjust the salt, because the mixture really shrinks in quantity and the flavours get very intense. If you salt it at the beginning, you will very likely end up with an over-salty duxelles.

If you plan to use the duxelles as a stuffing, don't scrimp on the butter, it will be needed to keep the meat moist.

Duxelles keeps well in the fridge for at least a week. Reheat  and stir well before using.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Recipe : Manglorean Style Pepper Pork

My friend May, over at The Chef is a great cook and a wonderful friend. We studied together for 5 years of college and we have now been friends for 20, yes TWENTY years! Wow, how the time flies!

Last month when I wanted to make Pork Indad, May's blog was one of the first ones that I visited to check on her version. Unfortunately, she has not yet uploaded her version of Pork Indad, but she did have a recipe for Pepper Pork, that I instantly bookmarked. Pepper Pork is not a dish that was cooked in our house while we were growing up, but it is cooked in a lot of Manglorean households.

May's recipe is more authentic, but I had my sister visiting and she hates seeing large pieces of onions in her pork (and to be honest, neither do I - large pieces of anything other than meat, in a meat curry tend to be pushed to the side on our plates), so I modified the recipe a bit and made it spicier for our taste. You can check May's Pepper Pork recipe on her blog My version takes a little longer to cook as I cook the cuttings (chopped ingredients) almost to a paste, so this also gives a thicker curry.

And if you don't eat pork, this recipe would be suitable to make a lovely pepper chicken too, you just need to cut down on the cooking time.

1 kg pork with fat and skin
4 large onions chopped
1 pod garlic chopped
2" ginger chopped
6 green chillies chopped
5 tbsp pepper powder
pinch of turmeric powder
salt to taste
vinegar to taste 2-4 tbsp (I like my pork dishes on the sourer side and it also depends which vinegar you are using)
1 tbsp soya sauce
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1-2 tbsp oil

Wash the pork, mix with salt (little less as we add soya and tomato sauce in the end which have their own salt), pepper powder, vinegar and turmeric powder and keep aside.
In 1-2 tbsp oil, fry the finely chopped onion, ginger, garlic and 4 of the green chillies. (You can even just grind all these ingredients into a paste to avoid the chopping if you prefer)
Fry till the ingredients are completely cooked and mash together into a thickish paste.
Add the marinated pork and cook till done, stirring frequently (if not cooking in a pressure cooker) and adding a little water whenever necessary.
Once fully cooked, add the soya sauce and tomato sauce and adjust liquid content, salt and vinegar to taste.
Give it a final boil and serve hot with rice or poli.

I was so busy chatting away with my sister, that I forgot to take pictures, I just have this one that was clicked on the phone. But I'll definitely be cooking this again, so I'll upload more pictures when I do.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Recipe : MTR Ragi Rawa Idli

I prepare Rawa Idlis at home quite frequently as they are quite easy and fast to make, but the other day I spied the MTR Ragi Rawa Idli mix at the supermarket. My only experience with Ragi until now, has been Ragi Muddhes at a friends house in Sakleshpur when I was in college. And with due apologies to everyone in Karnataka for whom it is a staple breakfast, it is one of my least liked food items, ever. I found it tasteless and heavy and no amount of extolling on the healthy properties of Ragi, has ever induced me to try them again.

However this new range of multigrain breakfast mixes by MTR sounded promising and I was hoping the ragi rawa idlis would be lighter on my tummy than the muddhes.

The recipe on the back was simple enough. Mix with 1 cup sour curd (yoghurt) rest for 3 minutes and steam for 12 minutes.

I tried this and the mixture did not seem very exciting. so I added a little salt, cashew nuts, 2 green chillies chopped fine and some finely chopped corriander to the mix.

I also added some eno for aeration to make the idlis fluffier and I was very happy with the result.

It costs 60Rs for a 500gms packet. I got 24 microwave size idlis. Ragi digests slowly and it is full of fiber, so it keeps you feeling full for quite a long time. We actually had them for a light lunch and the 24 idlis were more than enough for both of us.

Serve hot with sambhar and chutney or just ghee and chutney pudi.

We quite liked the taste, once we got used to the texture and so I think, I'll try incorporating ragi flour into some other dishes as well.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

First Runner Up - Delmonte Blogger Recipe Carnival

My recipe for Pasta with Chargrilled Pepper Sauce, won First Runner Up Place at the Delmonte Blogger Recipe Carnival.

The entries and the rest of the winners can be seen at the : indiblogger site


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