Friday, April 21, 2017

Thai Tom Yum Goong - Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup

Thai Hot & Sour Soup

Bowl of Tom Yum
The inspiration for this soup came from a friend on Facebook asking for a Hot & Sour Soup recipe which led me to Closet Cooking. We had it for lunch for lunch today which along with an egg roll each, made for a filling and satisying meal. Because some of the ingredients were missing from my pantry, I had to make some modifications so I've described, below, what I did to reproduce the recipe.

The hot part of this soup came from a combination of minced green chilies and gochujang, a Korean chili paste that I love! The sour aspect came simply from the juice of one lime. I dropped the squeezed out rinds of lime into the soup and fished them out before serving. This made up for the absence of lemon grass. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

White Snapper Tel Jhaal - White Snapper in Hot Tomato Gravy

White Snapper Steaks (Bone-In)
I love bone-in fish which is so much tastier than fillets because the bones are where the flavour is concentrated. Notice the small green chilies used as a garnish. They are very hot and I love to mash them into my rice to release their mind-blowing heat.

White Snapper Fillets
When I cook bone-in fish, I always cook filleted fish for my husband. He can't bear to interrupt his eating with 'fishing' out the bones which ruins his dinner! So, in the two photographs above, the sauce/gravy remains the same, but the cut of fish is different. Notice that for my husband, I have used rings of jalapeno peppers whose heat are more tolerable. They are plainly visible and can be removed easily, if necessary.

This was my first try of white snapper and my only complaint was that the texture was 'meaty', much like mackerel. I prefer the softer texture of river fish.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Green Beans Alu Posto - Green Beans & Potatoes in White Poppy Seed Sauce


Green Beans Alu Posto
Green beans are plentiful at the market throughout the year. Make sure to pick up at least a pound because they reduce considerably during cooking. The white poppy seeds need to be soaked in boiling water and left to cool at room temperature before blending to a smooth paste.

Fresh Green Beans
The mound of green beans looks pretty daunting at first, and it would be awfully tedious to remove the stem and tail ends one bean at a time.

Ready to chop
However, they are easily dealt with if they are lined up, ten at a time, and chopped up in batches. Line up the stem ends and remove with one slice of the knife. For this preparation, I cut the beans into small 1/2" lengths and removed the tail ends.
Recycle those Plastic Bags
Here's how I recycle those plastic bags in which vegetables are packed. Lined inside a deep bowl all the vegetable scraps can be disposed of and the bag easily lifted out and thrown away with minimal fuss.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Butter Chicken Masala - Murgh Makhani


Today's chicken dish was fast and easy. One and a half pounds of boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces were browned and simmered in a ready-to-cook butter sauce by Taste of India. 


I'm amazed at the quality of the product. This Butter Chicken tasted better than anything I've tasted at Indian restaurants around here.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Eggplant & Sweet Potatoes in White Poppy Seed Sauce

Misti Alu Begun Posto
White poppy seed sauce (posto) is one of my favourite dressings to use on stir-fried vegetables. This type of sauce gives any vegetable a thick and creamy gravy. White poppy seeds have a calming effect, is best eaten with hot and steamy rice, followed by a long mid-afternoon nap.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Singapore Egg Noodles with Shrimp

Singapore Egg Noodles

I generally make Singapore noodles with rice noodles, but egg noodles work just as well. This is a one-dish meal that can be made in under 30 minutes and is a great lunch idea. Accompanied by a serving of pan-fried dumplings, this hits the spot and keeps you satiated for a while.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Baked Apple Delight

Baked Apple Delight
The smell of porridge in the air meant that it was a weekend in winter or spring in Darjeeling. This resort town in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, sits at an elevation of 6,700 ft. above sea level. It's backdrop is Mt. Kanchenjunga which is among the world's highest peaks.

During weekdays, our kitchen was the domain of Kanchi who arrived in the wee hours of the morning so she could make us breakfast before we left for school. The weekends were always special because Mum took over kitchen duties. Winters were spent in Calcutta, but we returned to the mountains in the early part of March while it was still pretty cold. Porridge made from old-fashioned oatmeal was a favourite part of breakfast because it warmed us up and was filling to boot!

Fast forward several decades to a time when consuming sugary desserts are a no-no so this combination of porridge and apples is a welcome addition to dinner. So easy to prepare, the memories of my childhood evoke images of my mother's nurturing nature, with the creation of this all-time favourite.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dal Makhani - Buttery Lentils

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani which translates to Buttery Lentils is generally made with a lot of butter and cream. This is a lighter version (inspired by the late Tarla Dalal) of a dish that originated in the Punjab region of India. It's a popular dish among truckers who dine at truck stops all over India called 'dhabas'. Because it is made so rich with butter and cream, it is served on special occasions like weddings and festivals.

The base is a combination of whole urad dal and rajma or red kidney beans. The legumes are soaked overnight and pressure cooked the next day with onions, ginger and a variety of spices. In place of dry kidney beans, I used a can to save time.

In spite of using only half a stick of butter, these lentils were creamy and delicious. They go well with hot, steamed rice or with a variety of Indian breads.


Urad Dal

Skinned Black Gram or Urad Dal



Split Black Gram



Whole Black Gram
Here is an interesting excerpt on the benefits of consuming Urad Dal as part of your daily diet.

"Some types of dals or lentils are healthier when compared to other dals. For example, the black gram dal and moong dal are considered healthy as well as nutritious for their amazing properties. Urad dal, also known as white lentil or black lentil is a kind of bean that is grown in the southern parts of Asia. Also known as black dal, urad dal is used as a major ingredient in Indian cuisine for preparing a healthy diet. 

Both black and yellow urad dal are used for preparing a variety of dals with different flavours. It is highly valued due to its numerous health benefits. For example, Urad dal has protein, fat, and carbohydrates which is required by the body. If you are looking for a protein-friendly diet, then opt for urad dal. This dal is one of the richest sources of proteins and Vitamin B. 

Urad dal is also good for women as it has iron, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium which makes it a healthy pulse. Urad dal is also rich in fibre which makes it easy to digest. Some types of dals are good for the heart as well. For example, urad dal benefits the health as it is good for the heart. Consuming urad dal helps to reduce cholesterol and improves cardiovascular health.

Moreover, if you are feeling lethargic and lack energy, then have black gram. It is one of the healthy pulses for vegetarians as it boosts energy in the body and has rich iron content which fights several health issues." 

For some of the amazing health benefits of including urad dal (black gram) in your diet, read more at: http://www.boldsky.com/health/wellness/2013/health-benefits-urad-dal/energy-booster-pf23551-036068.html

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Shrimp in Spicy Tomato Garlic Sauce

Shrimp in Spicy Tomato Garlic Sauce
Lee Kum Kee makes a great tomato-garlic sauce, but when that's not available it's quite easy to assemble similar ingredients. Shrimp takes such a short time to cook that it's perfect when dinner needs hurrying up. 

I used half a pound of large shrimp (20-30 shrimp per pound) that were already peeled and cleaned. The base of the sauce is tomato puree that was made spicy with the help of Gochujang (Korean chili paste) which has a hint of sweetness. For a more tomato-ey taste, tomato ketchup added both colour and served to thicken the sauce. Minced garlic and Thai red chili peppers along with a sliced onion rounded out the flavours.


This shrimp dish is best served over a mound of steamed, long-grain rice.


Thursday, March 02, 2017

Oatmeal Pancakes

Oatmeal Pancakes
Craving something wholesome and delicious first thing in the morning generally leads me straight to a breakfast loaded with carbohydrates. Oatmeal or porridge, which I love, takes some time and effort to prepare, so here is a low-carb, gluten-free and delicious alternative, for diabetics in particular.

These delicious 5-ingredient oatmeal pancakes go from pantry to table in under 15 minutes and are a cinch to make. Using a package of instant oatmeal flavoured with maple syrup and brown sugar (the box stated 50% less sugar than the regular) eliminates the need to add sugar to the batter. Top the pancakes any which way - with more maple syrup or fruit compote and/or nuts. I simply sprinkled pumpkin pie spice over my pancakes and paired them with a couple of veggie sausage patties. 

Savoury Oatmeal Pancakes

I've made savoury oatmeal pancakes before and those were delicious too. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Stir-Fried Cabbage with Shrimp & Peas

Bandha Kopi Chingri Maach
Shrimp adds a depth of flavour to any and all vegetables and pasta. Generally, I like to cook the cabbage to a deep, golden brown which takes a lot longer. Leaving the cabbage crisp and crunchy cuts back on the time and effort it takes to make this side dish. Cooking it on medium heat allows everything to cook in their own juices, so I don't add water unless it sticks to the bottom of the pan. Serve this with steaming, hot rice or tortillas.


Stir-Fried Bitter Melon & Potatoes

Karola Alu Bhaja
Bitter melon is a super food for diabetics and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Here I've simply stir-fried it with potatoes and pumped up the taste with shrimp floss powder.

Shrimp Powder
The bitter melons or ucche I found in the Indian supermarket were young and tender, so I left the seeds intact. They added a crunch in contrast to the soft potatoes. This side dish goes well with hot rice or chapatis/tortilla.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Mung Bean Lentils with Peas

Koraishuti Diye Kacha Mooger Dal
Lentils are an essential part of any Bengali meal. They're kind of boring on their own, so adding a simple vegetable like green peas to mung bean lentils takes it out of the ordinary into the extraordinary, especially when accompanied by chopped tomatoes and ginger. On a cold winter's day when everything outside is blanketed in snow, there is no other comfort food like a bowl of steaming lentils over a mound of rice.

I generally cook red and mung bean lentils on the back burner over a low flame while the burners in front are being used to cook the rest of the meal. It's easier to cook lentils in a pressure cooker, but they tend to turn to mush whereas stovetop cooking produces a more al dente texture with more of a bite. 

These mung bean lentils have not been toasted which is my preferred way of cooking them with vegetables. When fish heads are added to mung beans, I like to toast them to give the lentils more body. Split mung bean lentils are cooked at a ratio of 1:4 cups of lentils to water. They're brought to a boil with turmeric and salt and the cooked vegetables are added after the lentils reach the desired consistency. While the lentils are cooking, the peas are stir-fried with tomatoes and ginger paste in a tempering of hot oil, cumin seeds, star anise and bay leaves and then added to the cooked lentils. Lentils are best served over hot rice or chapatis/tortillas.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Stir-Fried Kale Medley with Red Radishes

Stir-Fried Kale Medley with Red Radishes
Kale Medley
The box of kale medley is triple-washed so it can be used straight away without washing. The mixture of young greens are tender and full of flavour. Dried red chilies are deseeded by splitting in half and shaking out the seeds. This reduces the spiciness. Watch them closely while they're sizzling so they don't burn which could reduce you and your audience into a coughing frenzy.

Greens are an essential part of the Indian table. In Bengal they are prepared in a variety of ways of which this stir-fry is the simplest. More exotic forms include meat, poultry, fish heads or homemade cheese (chana/paneer). The general rule is that if you can eat the fruit off the vine, the leaves are also edible.

However, I have first-hand knowledge of how dangerous it is to take this too literally. A member of my extended family watched his wife make a strawberry-rhubarb pie and noticed she was discarding the lovely greens, she had no idea why. He asked her to chop them up and prepare them the same way she would stir-fry spinach. The 'spinach' was relished at dinner that night. Not much later they both developed severe stomach aches and diarrhea which sent them to the emergency room of the closest hospital. After receiving treatment and armed with drugs, they returned home totally famished. They raided the fridge and ate more rhubarb greens before taking to their beds. Lo and behold, they took ill again and headed to the emergency room once more. This time they were grilled by the doctor of all that they had eaten in the last 24 hours. He and his staff were horrified to hear about the rhubarb greens which are extremely poisonous to human beings. Yes, the stalks can be eaten, but never the greens!

This side dish goes perfectly with hot rice or any type of Indian bread.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Chickpea Lentils Cooked in Coconut Milk - Narkol Diye Cholar Dal

Narkol Dudh diye Channa'r Dal
Split chickpea lentils cooked this way evokes memories of Mum who loved to entertain. These were not everyday lentils because back in the day in Darjeeling, it was not easy to separate the fresh coconut meat from the shell. The coconut meat had to be painstakingly sliced and browned before putting them in the lentils. That's how Mum prepared lentils flavoured with coconut on festive occasions or when friends were invited to dine with us. 

This recipe uses coconut milk which makes a very creamy lentil dish especially delicious because of the chauk/phoron/tarka at the very end, of black cardamom seeds, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds and bay leaves. A final garnish of ghee, slit greet chilies and cilantro makes this dish outstanding!


Friday, December 09, 2016

Veggie Pizza

Veggie Pizza
Our quilt guild has a luncheon twice a year in December and June. Usually members are expected to contribute their favourite dish as part of a potluck. Wow! What a spread there was to pick from. 

I'd come across a recipe on the Internet and thank heavens I experimented with it at home well before the day of the potluck. The base was made with Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, the spread from cream cheese combined with sour cream and ranch dressing mix with a topping of cucumber, grated carrots and slivered rainbow peppers. I found it to be too salty, so decided to tone things down by replacing the sour cream and ranch dressing mix with a tub of vanilla yogurt. This tasted so much better! You can substitute any flavour of yogurt or use plain yogurt flavoured as you please.




Top the 'pizza' with vegetables or protein of your choice. This is the ideal thing to take to a potluck because it can be made in a disposable baking pan, refrigerated until ready to be served and served cold or at room temperature.


Sunday, December 04, 2016

Jhal Moori - Kolkata Street Food

Kolkata Jhal Moori
Jhal Moori is a snack that is most commonly found on the streets of Calcutta or Kolkata as it is now known. It consists of a mishmash of crispy puffed rice or muri and sev (thin, skinny strands of fried besan/chickpea flour), boiled and diced potatoes and a few other ingredients. 



I guess what makes this a Bengali snack is that it's dressed with mustard oil. There are similar street food in other parts of India that are called Bhel or Bhel Puri.


Diced potatoes give a nice texture to this snack. A can of diced new potatoes lends a helping hand in saving time from boiling, peeling and dicing a russet potato.


Tamarind Chutney imparts a sweet and sour taste to Jhal Moori. Or you can make your own by mixing tamarind paste, chili powder, brown sugar and salt.

Sev

There are no substitutes for Sev which is a popular Indian snack that look like crunchy noodles. Sev, made from chickpea flour paste and seasoned with salt, turmeric and cayenne pepper, are deep fried in vegetable oil. Sev can be purchased at Indian markets. 

Moori or Puffed Rice

Moori can also be purchased at Indian markets. 


Grilled Eggplant - Begun Bhaja

George Foreman Grill-ed Eggplant
A favourite side dish on the Bengali table, Begun Bhaja (Eggplant Fried) gets a new twist and healthy makeover with the use of a George Foreman Grill (GFG).


The eggplant slices are cut, making sure they are of even thickness, and smeared with olive oil, salt and turmeric powder. 


They are then grilled for 2 minutes on each side and voila! you have Begun Bhaja for lunch!


Begun Bhaja is generally made by tossing them with salt and turmeric, pan-frying on the stovetop and draining on paper towels. Grilling them requires very little oil and the eggplant slices could even be sprayed with something like Pam spray. In fact, spraying the GF Grill with Pam makes it easier to clean. 

Contrary to common belief, the GFG is really easy to clean by wetting a paper towel, placing it on the grill, closing the cover and turning the grill on for a few minute. The steam that is released cleans the debris and a quick swipe removes the rest. 


Monday, November 28, 2016

Chicken Rezala - Boneless Chicken in Yogurt Sauce

Chicken Rezala
Mum made her rezala with bone-in, golden browned chicken which I've replaced with boneless, skinless chicken thighs to cater to the taste of people in my household. There are umpteen different recipes on the internet for this dish, some more complicated than others. I'm all for easy cooking, so please excuse me if you don't consider this the authentic way to make rezala.

In keeping with the white and creamy appearance of the gravy, the chicken pieces are not browned and white pepper powder adds a tinge of spiciness without darkening the look. If you prefer to use bone-in chicken, double the amount of chicken and increase the cooking time.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stuffed Rava Idlis


Stuffed Rava Idlis
Cream of wheat is known as rava in Hindi and suji in Bengali. Idlis are steamed cakes made from rice or cream of wheat. The batter is generally soaked the night before to allow it to set up. In this instant recipe, cream of wheat is combined with yogurt and spices and set aside for 30 minutes. I have to admit that instant idlis are not as soft and plump as the overnight recipe. So if time is not a constraint, it's better to prepare the batter the night before and leave at room temperature overnight.

Idli Stand
This recipe for idlis makes 8 idlis, so I used only 2 trays of the idli stand. Each tray can be removed from the stand by unscrewing the black knob on top, and separating each tray from the spindle in the center. They can then be reassembled by reversing the process.  I used my wok to hold the idli tray to steam the idlis, but a pressure cooker can also be used.

Yellow Alu

Here's another recipe that uses Yellow Alu or diced russet potatoes prepared the South Indian way


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sweet-Lime Salad

Sweet-Lime Salad
Chinese Seasoning Salt for Fruits

The perfect pick-me-up between meals, the sweet-lime this morning was not sweet enough for my palate, which prompted me to turn it into a salad. A friend from Taiwan brought me these tiny packages of seasoning salt for fruits which are sweet, sour and salty. I added a diced serrano pepper and minced mint which took it over the top! Let it sit for a few minutes after prepping to allow the flavours to meld.

To make your own seasoning salt, stir together the juice of 1/2 lime along with salt and sugar to taste.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mung Bean Lentils - Kacha Mooger Dal

Kacha Mooger Dal

  
Split Mung Beans
Rarely do I cook lentils without adding vegetables, but these split mung beans taste really good just the way they are, without embellishments. The traditional way to prepare split mung beans is to toast them to a golden brown before cooking them in water. Kacha means raw, i.e. not toasted. I generally put lentils on the boil first, before cooking a side of vegetables or the main meat/fish/seafood dish, so that by the time the rest of dinner is ready, the lentils are done and simply need to be tempered.

There isn't a simpler way to cook lentils than what I made today.