Thursday, August 30, 2012

Recipe: Pasta with Chargrilled Pepper Sauce

On 6 Nov 2012 - This Recipe took First Runner Up Place at the Delmonte Blogger Recipe Carnival

The other day, I wanted to cook a vegetarian pasta in a sauce, but I didn't want to cook the regular white sauce or tomato sauce, so I decided to try out a chargrilled pepper sauce for a change.

I'd initially thought that scorching and peeling the peppers would be tough, but it was actually quite easy and doesn't take too much time. If you have a grill or BBQ, then charring the peppers will be faster and easier, I just did it on the regular gas flame.

200gms Del Monte pasta (I've now switched to using whole wheat pasta only)
4 large red peppers (laal shimla mirch)
1 handful nuts (traditionally pine nuts, but cashewnuts can work as a substitute)
1-2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp butter
2 tbsp flour
6-8 cloves garlic - minced fine
2 tsps of mixed Italian dry herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme, chives - whatever combination you like)
500 ml milk
15-20 leaves of fresh basil
cheese to taste
parmegianno regianno to garnish - optional

Rub a little oil on the peppers and roast or grill them until they are charred all over.
You need to sweat the charred peppers for a few minutes, so you can peel off the skin. You can sweat it out in a sealed ziploc bag or a pan with a tight shutting lid.
Peel the skin off the peppers. Keep your hands as clean as possible, because you don't want to wash the peppers and lose the concentrated sweet roasted flavour.
Deseed the peppers and puree the flesh.

Dry roast the nuts and then powder them. (If you do this before pureeing the peppers, you can use the same bowl for pureeing and powdering and save washing a dish)

In a pan, heat the olive oil and butter together.
Fry the garlic until brown & then and the dried herbs and flour.
Take it off the heat when the flour begins to brown and slowly add the milk, so that there are no lumps.
Put it back on the heat.
Then add the red pepper puree and mix gently but thoroughly.
You can add some melting cheese if you like to the sauce, but you can keep it light by not adding any cheese either.
Cook the sauce until it is sufficiently thickened and then add the basil leaves after turning off the heat.

Cook the Del Monte pasta in boiling salted water until it reaches your preferred level of doneness.
Drain and rinse in cold water.

Add the hot sauce to the Del Monte pasta, garnish with parmegiano reggiano and serve with your choice of sides.

This rescipe has also been submitted for the Del Monte Blogger Recipe Carnival at

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recipe: Pork Chops with Naga flavours

I've been making pork chops with Asian Citrus Spice Marinade for awhile & I wanted to try something different. I've been missing all the gorgeous pork I used to gorge on while living in Guwahati, so I decided to cook with some North Eastern flavours for a change. I used the ingredients of the Naga dish ThevoChu for inspiration and was quite pleased with the result.

1kg pork chops
2tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 Naga Chilli (you can use birds eye chilli or chilli powder as a perfectly acceptable heat substitute, but the Naga Chilli adds a hint of sweetness and smokiness to the flavour)
Vinegar or lemon juice to taste (I had a lovely bottle of organic garlic vinegar from ABC farms in Pune that I used)
salt to taste
200-225 gms bamboo shoot (I used a Blue Dragon tin after draining the liquid. This brand is low on added salt & citric acid. Check your brand to adjust for salt and vinegar in your dish, if the bamboo shoot is too salty or acidic, rinse it in cold water before using)
fresh chopped corriander leaves for garnish - optional

Marinate the chops in ginger garlic paste, chilli, salt and vinegar for at least a couple of hours. The longer its marinated the better. I normally marinate chops for a couple of days, so that the flavours really soak in.

Heat a pan, and sear the chops on both sides. (I had a bit of mustard oil in which I've soaked some Naga chillis, so I warmed that on the pan before searing the meat, it added another layer of spice to the meat)

Once the meat is seared, add the bamboo shoot and the rest of the marinade juices and cover and cook, turning once or twice until done.

Garnish with corriander leaves if using and serve.

We are a family of meat eaters, so just pork chops is a perfectly acceptable meal for us. You can serve it with a side of salad, or roast/mashed potatoes. Or serve the chops as a side with pasta aglio olio or any other light pasta dish.

Kim's tip:
You can just pop these marinated chops on the BBQ, and ignore the bamboo shoot and corriander, it will still taste very good.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Recipe: Chicken Ularthiyathu - Kerala style Chilli Chicken with Coconut

This dish is normally made with beef  and served at the roadside toddy shops (kallu shaap) in Kerala. Most starters served in Kerala's toddy shops are tongue numbingly spicy. I suspect the logic is that the hotter the tongue burns, the more toddy you will consume.

I was looking for something different as a starter using chicken & decided to adapt the Malyali Erachi Ularthiyathu recipe for chicken. There are of course plenty of variations of this dish, but that is the beauty of recipes in India.

1/2kg boneless chicken - cut into strips or cubes - wash, dry and set aside
8-10 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp saunf - fennel seeds
2-3 cloves (lavang)
1" cinnamom
1 cardamom pod
2" ginger
8-10 cloves garlic
3 sprigs curry leaves
2 tbsp red chilli flakes (chilli flakes will be preferable to chilli powder in this recipe)
1tbsp vinegar (I use a coconut toddy vinegar for more flavour)
1 large onion finely sliced.
3-4 green chillies
1/4 cup grated coconut or thin coconut slices (I'm more comfortable grating coconut than slicing it finely, but finely sliced coconut will give you a better flavour and texture)
coconut oil
salt to taste

Heat a frying pan to just below smoking point. Then on a low flame, dry roast the peppercorns, saunf, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon (one ingredient at a time if you aren't sure of cooking times) until they start to release their fragrance.

Put them into a mortar & pestle or the dry grinder attachment of a mixi, or a coffee grinder.
When the spices have cooled,. grind them into a coarse powder.
You can also grind the ginger and garlic into the same spice mix or use ready made pastes.

Marinate the cleaned & dried meat in this spice mixture and also add the chilli flakes, vinegar and 1 sprig of curry leaves.
Marinate anywhere between an hour to 24 hours. Overnight is ideal.

In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil and fry the shaved/grated coconut in it. Drain & remove from the pan when light brown.
Add another 2-3 tbsp of coconut oil to the pan.
Fry the onions and green chillies until it turns soft and begins to brown.
Then add the remaining curry leaves, saute for a minute and add the marinated chicken.
Gently saute on a medium flame until the chicken is cooked.
Then add the fried coconut and mix well.

Serve as a snack, or a side with hot rice and dhal or any polis or rotis.

This dish can also be made with beef or mutton, but then you need to add an extra step.
Pressure cook the marinated beef/mutton without any liquid when cooked, dry out any liquid that remains by frying slowly.
Add the cooked beef/mutton at the same stage as the chicken in the above recipe. Fry well with the onion mixture for a minute or so until well coated and then add the fried coconut.

Book Review: JB Lobo's Home Encyclopaedia

JB Lobo's Home Encyclopedia is the only recipe book my grandmother ever referred to when cooking, so almost every woman in my family has a copy.

The book is plain text, there are no glossy pictures and an average of 3-4 recipes on each page. A bare bones recipe book, it expects the reader to have a good grasp of cooking.

It does have some rare recipes like that for suckling pig Manglorean style that are difficult to find elsewhere. While it claims to have recipes from other parts of the world, remember that this book was written over 25 years ago, so those recipes aren't completely authentic. But the Manglorean recipes are really good.

More than half the book is taken by the home encyclopedia which has home remedies for everything from sore eyes to snake bites and scorpion stings. There is a section on how to guard against burglars, how to clean ivory articles and how to buy a cow by checking her udders. There is even a section on sex education.

While the book at 900+ pages is quite heavy, only 250 pages or so are dedicated to recipes. I do wish they would come out with a version that has just the recipes. It would be so much easier to manage while trying to cook from it.

The book is also published in Kannada as Gruha Sangaathi & I think it has both a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian version.

Rating : 4 / 5

Monday, August 27, 2012

Recipe: Mangshor Jhol - Bengali Mutton Curry

Jhol is a thin Bengali curry. Mangshor is mutton (goat meat, lamb can be used as a substitute if goat isn't available).

In my singleton days in 1999-2000, I had a group of 8-10 Bengali & Oriya friends who rented the first floor of a house in Bangalore. My apartment had a very basic kitchen, but these guys had a slightly larger kitchen. If I was in Bangalore for the weekend, then most Sunday afternoons were spent with this group of friends, because they would make awesome mutton curry with hot rice that was so welcoming after a week of slogging away at office and eating fast cooked meals. (normally pulaos of every kind where meat and veggies were tossed into a pressure cooker with herbs and spices & cooked for 3 whistles) Plus after Saturday night out on the town, this mutton curry really hit the right spot at 3pm after waking up at 2pm.

I normally don't cook a lot with mutton. The quality of mutton that you get in Mangalore is not very good. It is stringy, fatty and sometimes a bit smelly, so mum n grandma also rarely cooked mutton unless it was a traditional polov (Mutton & ash gourd curry) needed for some ceremony or the occasional stew, butI remember grandma used to add beef to that dish just to get some better quality meat into it.

Personally, I mostly cook mutton only in Biriyanis or the occasional chops. I did cook more with mutton wheil I was in Bombay & I do believe that the best quality mutton in India is found only in Maharashtra and Rajasthan. So I was quite suprised to recently learn that a lot of Rajasthan's mutton is imported from Gujarat under the so-called "Pink Revolution" akin the "White Revolution" where Gujarat exports milk & milk products to other Indian states

As I was hosting a dinner party for 20, I thought I should do something other than the regular biryani with mutton (as cooking biryani for 20 needs much bigger pots than I have) or a stew (since I was already making the chicken curry with coconut milk) and I remembered the simple homestyle mutton curry that my Bengali friends used to make on the weekends. I looked up a couple of my recipe books and some online recipes, then decided on the following. I cooked with 2 kilos of mutton. 1kg boneless + 1 kg with bone so you can halve the quantities for 1 kg.

2kg mutton (use at least some large bones) - chop into curry size pieces, wash and drain

2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp red chilli powder (adjust to your spice tolerance)
6 tbsp mustard oil
8 tbsp thick curd (yoghurt) - drain it in a cheesecloth if your curd is too watery
6-8" fresh ginger
25-30 cloves of peeled garlic
8 green chillies (adjust to your spice tolerance)
salt to taste

In a mortar & pestle coarsely crush the ginger, garlic and green chillies (you can use a chopper or mixi if you prefer, but the mortar&pestle give the best flavour) You can also use ginger paste & garlic paste and just smash the chillies with back of your knife.
Mix all the marinade ingredients together, adjusting salt for taste and marinate the meat in it for a couple of hours. Overnight in the fridge works best and even longer will work as well.

2kgs marinated mutton (as above)
6 medium onions sliced finely
1/4 cup mustard oil (since this adds flavour, don't decrease oil at this stage, you can strain it off the top, once the dish is ready)
4-5 bay leaves
3-4 dried red chillies
6 medium potatoes peeled and chopped into 8 each (if you like larger sized potatoes, just quarter them)
2 tbsp turmeric

3 tbsp corriander powder
2 tbsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp jeera powder
salt to taste
fresh lime segments
corriander leaves to garnish - optional

Bring the marinated meat to room temperature if refrigerated.
Add a little salt & 1 tbsp turmeric to the chopped potatoes and mix well.
In a large pan/ pressure cooker, fry the potatoes in 2-3 tbsp mustard oil, until they start to brown/crisp up on the outside.Stir frequently to prevent potatoes sticking to the pan.
Remove the potatoes from the pan, leaving the excess oil behind.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan.
When hot, season with the bay leaves and dried red chillies.
Before the chillies can burn, add the sliced onion and fry well until they start to brown.
Stir frequently to fry evenly and prevent them from sticking to the bottom

Add the marinated meat (but reserve the excess liquid marinade) to the pan with the remaining turmeric, chilli, corriander & jeera powders and some salt
Stir frequently to prevent meat sticking to the pan and cook till all the liquid dries up and the meat is well coated with the marinade and powders and slightly browned..

Add the reserved marinade, fried potatoes and 6-8 cups of water (depending on how thin you want the stew).
Cover and cook till done (3 whistles in a Hawkins pressure cooker)
Adjust salt to taste.
Cook uncovered if you want to thicken the gravy

Just before serving, squeeze lemon juice or serve lemon wedges on the side.
Add corriander leaves if you like as garnish

Serve hot with rice or lucchis (maida puris)

This jhol/curry can also be made with lamb or chicken

Kim's tips:
1. Choose a good quality mustard oil, as that will make a huge difference in the taste. There is no substitute for mustard oil in this particular recipe.
2. Mutton curries need some amount of large bones in the mix which really flavour the stew
3. If you are refrigerating meat during marination, always remember to bring it back to room temperature before cooking it.
4. Onions fry a little faster if you add a little salt to them while frying.

Recipe: 10 Minute Nutella Cheesecakes

First off, this isn't strictly a cheesecake. I just needed something creamy and chocolaty with a bit of saltiness and crunch and I wanted it ASAP at 11pm in Ahmedabad.

I had some mascarpone cheese that I had bought on a recent trip to Bombay, so I decided to use that and make a practically instant dessert. It took me less than 10 minutes once I'd made up my mind, to have the finished ramekin in my hands. Honestly, its taken me longer to type up this recipe, than it did to assemble it.

200gm digestive biscuits (I used McVities, if you don't have access to digestive biscuits, you can use Marie biscuits, but it wont have as much texture)
200gm mascarpone cheese (use a good brand, else it will split and ooze liquid - I use Impero brand)
2 tbsp butter (yellow if you want a bit of saltiness)
2 tbsp nutella (adjust for personal sweetness & chocolate love)
2 tbsp cashewnut bits (optional)
4 ramekins

Line each ramekin with 1/2 tsp of cashewnut bits if using.
Using a rolling pin, crush the biscuits inside the packet itself by rolling with a bit of pressure, but watch the seams of the packet, so nothing pops out.
Divide the powdered biscuit between the 4 ramekins.
Drop 1/2 tbsp butter in each ramekin and pop the ramekins in the microwave for 30 seconds (or less - untill the butter melts completely).

Gently mix the mascarpone and nutella with a spoon (Since I had a 200gm container of mascarpone, I mixed everything in the same container)
Take the ramekins out of the microwave and gently mix the biscuit, nut, melted butter together.
Split the nutella+mascarpone mixture equally in the 4 ramekins. Don't worry about evening it out, it will automatically flatten out when it starts to melt.
Don't fill the ramekins too high, the mixture will rise a bit when its heated.
Pop the ramekins in the microwave for 1.5-2 minutes. The nutella+mascarpone mixture should melt and bubble just a little.
Take the ramekins out of the microwave, let them rest for a minute or two and then eat straight out of the ramekins.

Kim's Note:
The texture will not allow it to be turned upside down, as it won't hold its form. It will still be a bit gooey, so its best served in the ramekin that it is microwaved in.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Recipe: Healthy Buffalo Wings

I Love Buffalo Wings. This was my favourite "local" food when I was based in the US. The only thing that stopped me from making them at home was the deep frying. The problem with deep frying meat is that the oil you fry it in is pretty much useless after that & my nana's voice keeps whispering in my conscience "waste not, want not" and other such gems agaianst wasting food.

But I was really craving them the other day & I thought, why not make a non deep fried version. I confess these don't taste as good as the batter coated, deep fried real thing, but they are still pretty good for someone who wants to eat healthy.

A friend has told me about the air fryer & I will check it out (a device that lets you deep fry with just a tsp of oil), but until then these wings will be seen on our table quite often.

A big plate of wings is great when sitting around a table catching up with friends, as a side with beer, while watching a game. You need to get your fingers sticky to eat these, but you will definitely be licking your fingers clean, after.

1kg Chicken Wings
3 tbsp - rawa/soji/semolina
salt, pepper, chilli flakes to taste
1 tsp oil
200ml tomato puree
1 bottle of tabasco or any other spicy chilli sauce - adjust to taste. (If using something like Chings, you will need to add some vinegar too for sourness)

Mix the rawa, salt, pepper & chilli flakes together.

Wash, drain & pat dry the chicken wings.
Toss the wings in the flour mix.
Pan fry the wings in 1 tsp oil.
Kim's Tip: If you have to do 2 batches of frying, fry the wings in one batch and the half legs in another batch. They will take the same amount of cooking time, making it easier to watch them
Fry till almost completely cooked.

Mix the sauces together in a bowl.

Drop the cooked wings into the sauce.
Toss well untill all pieces are well coated.
Pop it in the oven/microwave on the grill setting until browned.

Turn over & repeat.

Serve hot & eat immediately. This dish doesn't reheat very well.

Kim's Tip: I use Rawa/soji/semolina, not flour because rawa gives a crunchy bite even when pan fried, unlike flour which tends to get soggy.


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