Monday, November 23, 2015

Kid-Friendly Moo Shu Chicken

Moo Shu Chicken
Another successful kid-friendly dinner made its way to the dinner table the other day, when GrandBoy #1 spent the evening with us. 

The Chicken
I used a chicken filling similar to the one I use in Lettuce Wraps.

The Ingredients
The wraps are usually made with minced chicken stir-fried with hoisin and oyster sauce, but since I was catering to a child, the seasonings were toned down somewhat. In place of hoisin sauce (which I didn't have) I used duck sauce and replaced the oyster sauce with plain soya sauce. Not sure if the GrandBoy liked mushrooms so I decided to use frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, corn and beans) instead.

Needless to say, these moo shu rolls were a big hit with big and small alike!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Chicken and Spinach in Coconut Gravy

Chicken & Spinach in Coconut Gravy
Saag Meat is a popular Indian dish, saag being spinach cooked with any kind of meat and a lot of spices. Baby spinach goes very well with chicken and so does coconut milk. Combining these 3 flavours produced a delicious main course for dinner tonight. Keeping the dried red chilies whole provides full flavour of the chilies without adding a lot of heat. In spite of keeping the spices down to a minimum, this chicken dish tasted wholesome, peppery and creamy.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Patla Maacher Jhol - Fish in a Light Sauce

Patla Maacher Jhol
Yesterday, I caught sight of wild-caught Alaskan rockfish for the first time at our local supermarket. It's a meaty fish that requires minimum cooking, similar to cod and halibut. It has no fishy smell and very little flavour of its own and just soaked up all the flavour from the spices I used in this curry.

Patla in Bengali means thin or watery and jhol is gravy. This method of cooking fish produces a curry in which the fish floats in a watery gravy that has minimum amounts of spices and is suitable for a patient who is recovering from an illness such as the flu.

For people who don't like or are allergic to coconut milk, evaporated milk makes a great substitute. To reduce the amount of spicy heat for Hubby, I leave the green chilies whole and mash it into my food because I love the heat of green chilies. You can slice the green chilies to make the curry more spicy, if you prefer.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Green Lentils & Carrot Stew

Green Lentil & Carrot Stew

Green & Red Lentils

Green lentils are whole red lentils whose outer skin have been left intact. Lentils are a powerhouse of nutrition. They are a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K and are particularly rich in dietary fibre, lean protein, folate and iron.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Indo-Chinese Chili Chicken

Indo-Chinese Chili Chicken
Boneless & skinless chicken thighs, I find, are more moist than chicken breasts and we purchase them in 6 lb. (approx. 3 kg.) packages from our membership club/supermarket.  After washing them and patting dry, they are cut into bite-sized pieces, mixed well with 
4 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. ginger paste
2 Tbsp. garlic paste
2 Tbsp. Kashmiri mirch or paprika
salt to taste
and packed into 4 (1 quart) Ziploc bags. They are then pressed flat and marinated in the freezer until needed. The marinade ingredients are suitable for Indian or Asian styles of cooking. An individual bag can be refrigerated overnight to thaw or, if time is short, placed in a sinkful of tap water for half an hour. The Ziploc bag keeps the water from entering the inside of the bag.

Chili Chicken is a spicy dish that is a crowd-pleasing favourite in Chinese restaurants in India. These Indo-Chinese restaurants are now flourishing overseas and in Toronto, Canada, in particular. Here I provide my take on this popular chicken preparation which I relish any day of the week.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Palang Alu Posto Bhaja - Stir-Fried Spinach & Potatoes with White Poppy Seeds

Palang Alu Posto Bhaja
I usually use frozen spinach because it's so convenient, but nowadays one pound packages of pre-washed baby spinach are available in supermarkets and membership stores. They can be used right out of the container because they have been triple-washed and are very fresh. 

Sprinkling white poppy seeds or posto over vegetables as they cook is a common stir-fry technique used in the Bengali kitchen. Stir-frying the poppy seeds before adding vegetables leaves them toasted and crunchy in pleasant contrast to the softness of the cooked spinach and potatoes.

This spinach dish is seasoned very simply with sliced onions and ginger paste. More flavour is imparted by tempering dried red peppers at the start of the cooking process. Leaving them whole imparts flavour from the dried peppers without releasing a lot of heat.

Stir-fried spinach can be served as a side dish over steamed long-grain rice or with any kind of Indian bread. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Oats Utthappam - Savoury Oat Pancakes

Oats Utthappam

Using oatmeal instead of flour for pancakes and making them savoury is a great alternative for those of us who, for medical reasons, are forced to watch our carbohydrate intake. Utthappam, a South Indian breakfast delicacy, are savoury pancakes made with fermented rice and urad dal or lentils. 

This took less than 15 minutes to set up. Oatmeal is ground to a fine flour and then combined with yogurt, salt and the other ingredients to a pancake consistency. I used omelette ingredients comprising onions, tomatoes, green chilies & cilantro, all of which were diced and mixed in with the oatmeal mixture and then cooked in a cast iron omelette pan with very little oil.

Plain Greek yogurt is a staple in our refrigerator, but regular plain yogurt would work just as well, if not better, because of its water content. We had these for lunch today and could have only two each because they were so filling.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Stir-Fried Chicken & Riced Cauliflower

Chicken with Riced Cauliflower
Recently, social media has been inundated with healthier, carb-free alternatives to fried rice. Using cauliflower is particularly successful as the texture of processed cauliflower imitates cooked rice very well. Too lazy to get out the food processor, I simple shaved off slices of the head of cauliflower and chopped them into tiny morsels. It cooks very quickly and tastes delicious when paired with diced boneless chicken thighs. The chicken can be replaced with beef, pork, shrimp or seafood.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chaal Diye Muror Ghonto - Fish Pilaf

Chaal Diye Muror Ghonto
In Bengali, muro means fish head and ghonto is a melange of different ingredients. Adding rice and potatoes is one way to cook fish heads in the Bengali style. Muror Ghonto can also be made with a variety of vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage or bottle squash. It can also be combined with mung dal and served as a lentil course. 

Most Bengalis love fish. Filleted fish is only used to make breaded fried fish. In most Bengali households, the entire fish, bone-in and including the head and tail, is consumed. In fact, fish head is considered to be the tastiest part of the fish. In my experience, the heads of rui or katla (both of which belong in the carp family) are the tastiest. I've tried using salmon head and love its flavour, but the bones are very sharp and takes expertise to remove in order to avoid injury to the throat. Today I was in the Asian market and picked up a package of grouper head. Unfortunately, rui & katla are not as readily available.

Hubby won't touch fish head because of a fear of its bones, but enjoys the rest of this pulao. For him, I included a few pieces of fish, devoid of bones. Make sure to marinate the fish head in a lot of garlic paste to get rid of the fishy odour. Even though it's getting very cold outside, the doors and windows were opened wide while this was cooking. 

A combination of mustard and olive oil has been used to cook this dish, but any vegetable oil will do. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Spanish Rice with Chicken Sausage

When the GrandBoys (8 & 9 year-olds) have dinner with us once a week, it's a challenge to come up with tempting, yet nutritious meals. I was a little hesitant to try rice on them and was taken by surprise when they loved it and ask for more. Here the Spanish rice is served with chicken sausage with asiago cheese and spinach.

I made the rice the same way I make pulao/pilaf. The rice is washed until the water runs clear and left to drain in a sieve until it's needed. In order to avoid detection, the onions, peppers, carrots and tomatoes are diced into minute pieces. 

The Spanish flavour is achieved through the use of dry fiesta ranch dip mix.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Crab Cake Meal

Crab Cake Meal
I made this for dinner one night when we were looking for a break from Indian food. Lump crab meat is available at most supermarkets which is convenient because the crab meat is already picked clean of any remnants of shell. Making the crab cakes was as easy as making fish cakes. The hasselback potato is made from an old recipe, except that I switched out all the ingredients except for the oil and substituted half a package of Fiesta Ranch Dip Mix which was poured over the potato and tomato halves before baking them. The other half of the package of Fiesta Ranch Dip Mix was used in the crab cakes in place of the middle section of the ingredients. This packaged dressing may not be available everywhere which is why the alternative is provided. I used two greased baking sheets, one for the crab cakes and the other for the tomatoes and potatoes. All of it baked in a 400*F oven for 20 minutes.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tiny Whitebait in Onion & Tomato Gravy - Puti Mach-er Jhol

Puti Maach-er Jhol
They're called whitebait in English and keski or puti maach in Bengali. Compare the thickness of the translucent strips of onion in the picture above to the opaque, skinny whitebait. 

I had whitebait for the first time at my sister, Rene's, home and she advised that to remove any fishy smell, the fish should be marinated in turmeric and garlic paste as soon as they're thawed. Stir-fried in onions and tomatoes, there's no need to add water to get a gravy because more than enough moisture is released by the sliced onions and tomatoes.

Mustard oil would be the best oil to use for this dish, but if it's not available vegetable oil would work just as well.

Frozen Blocks of Whitebait
Whitebait comes in blocks of ice, two to a package, in the Vietnamese market. The package is labelled silverfish mainly because of the translucent, silvery colour of the fish. In some Asian markets the fish is called Chinese Whitebait.

Thawed Whitebait
When they're thawed, whitebait look like silvery threads that are about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in length which turn white when cooked.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mung Dal-er Khichuri - Mung Beans Lentil Stew

Mung Dal-er Khichuri for Lunch
Khichuri is a lentil stew that is usually made with lentils and rice. I spied a South Indian pongal preparation on Facebook that combined lentils with oatmeal which appealed to me because I have to watch my carbohydrates. The resulting khichuri, which I made with split mung bean lentils and oatmeal, was thick and creamy and totally yummy!

Mung Dal-er Khichuri for dinner
For dinner we had the khichuri topped with Cajun-grilled fish fillet and hard boiled eggs.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Meatball Stew

Meatball Stew
It was one of those days when dinner was the last thing on my mind and the fridge was as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard. If I'd planned for it, I may have made my own meatballs from scratch, but it's real handy to have Italian-style meatballs in the freezer. The ones I buy are cocktail sized meatballs and there are about 120 in a bag. I separate them in Ziploc bags of 20 since there are usually only the two of us to cook for.

In our home, meals are eaten on time every day. Breakfast is the one exception, but lunch is always at noon and dinner at 6 p.m. It was already 5 in the evening with no time for much so I put on a cup of mung dal to boil, fried some cauliflower along with the tempering for a Mung Dal with Cauliflower dish. Then I raided the pantry for a can of Del Monte diced new potatoes so I wouldn't have to mess with or waste time scrubbing & peeling potatoes. Hard to believe, but I had dinner on the table in under an hour. The basmati rice took 18 minutes to cook in the microwave.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Burmese Tofu Salad

Tofu Salad
I've been trying to include more protein in my diet, so tofu has featured on my grocery list  of late. I have it in Miso Soup and thought why not substitute soybean tofu for chickpea tohu. Admittedly, it's not half as tasty as Burmese Tohu Salad, but it satiated my craving for Burmese flavours just as well. I used dry balachaung and pickled jalapeno peppers to garnish the salad.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Paneer & Apple Payesh

Paneer & Apple Payesh

I found a recipe for this payesh on Sanjeev Kapoor's website but, as you will notice, I modified it to suit my dietary needs. I replaced the sugar with Splenda and the condensed milk with a mixture of evaporated milk and Gits kulfi mix. 
We were halfway through the dessert before I remembered to take a picture. It was delicious!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Green Beans Kasundi

Green Beans Kasundi
Indian markets can now be found in practically every town in Michigan. A Bangladeshi market opened up recently just 3 miles down the road and I found a bottle of kasundi which looked really tempting.

Weikfield's Kasundi

Kasundi is a fiery mustard sauce that originates in West Bengal in India. It is used as a condiment at the Indian table for dipping fried foods and as a sauce for stir-fried spinach. Today I decided to spice up my green beans dish with a dollop of this sauce. Taken on its own, it imparts a pungent flavour of mustard that can make your sinuses flow. 

Even though there is no comparison between the two, if kasundi is not available, try substituting with coarse-ground dijon mustard.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

Musuri Dal Begun Diye - Red Lentils with Eggplant

Musuri Dal Begun Diye
I've used Japanese eggplant here, but any variety of eggplant will work as well. The lentils are first cooked until tender, the eggplant cooked separately and the two merged at the end and garnished with ghee, cilantro and green chilies. It's a wholesome side dish which can be accompanied, by chicken, meat, fish or egg curry and served with rice or chapatis.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Phool Kopi Karaishuti Posto - Cauliflower & Peas in White Poppy Seed Sauce

Phool Kopi Karaishuti Posto

White  poppy seed (posto in Bengali) is very versatile and can be added to any combination of vegetables. It is especially tasty with cauliflower and peas. 

This dish was introduced to me by my sister, Rene, who lives in Toronto in Canada. I specifically remember the evening she made this on one of my visits to Toronto. She had also made Chicken Razala whose leftovers she told me she'd packed for my husband to have when I got back home to Michigan. 

At the U.S. border, a female customs official questioned me about what food I was carrying in the car and I told her about the chicken. She asked me to pop the trunk and examined the ice chest, came back to me in a fit of anger and informed me that she could impound my car. Really startled, I asked her what the problem was and she said she found some cauliflower along with the chicken. I told her to take the entire contents of the ice chest and throw everything in the trash, for all I cared. Honestly! Give a woman a little bit of power and she's likely to go bonkers!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kosha Murgi Alu - Chicken Curry with Potatoes

Kosha Murgi
This is a simple stir-fried chicken curry with cubed potatoes. It's cooked on the stove-top rather than in a pressure cooker because the chicken cooks quickly in about 20 minutes on a simmer. This dish goes well with hot Basmati/jasmine rice or any Indian bread, accompanied by a dish of lentils or vegetables.

Skinless and boneless chicken thighs come in packages of 12-16 pieces at Sam's Club so I cut each into bite-size pieces, marinate them in ginger & garlic paste, salt, Kashmiri mirch and oil, divide them into 4 separate Ziploc bags and freeze them. The night before cooking a chicken dish, I transfer a bag of marinated chicken from the freezer to the refrigerator so that the chicken is completely thawed. A couple of hours before cooking, I take the package out of the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature on the kitchen counter. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mango & Tapioca Pudding

Mango & Tapioca Pudding
This is a delicious, refreshing dessert that hits the spot on a hot and humid summer day. Mango pulp is easy to make with a ripe mango that is blended with sugar. But, lucky for me, the pulp of alphonso mangoes is available in cans at the Indian market which saves me the time it would take to peel, cube and blend a fresh mango. The mango pulp is sweet enough for me but, if need be, more sugar can be added according to taste.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Miso Soup

Miso Soup
This soup was so quick and easy to make, it was perfect for lunch served alongside fried dumplings. It tasted just like the miso soup served in Japanese restaurants. Another use for the yellow miso paste that sits in a large tub in our fridge. Thank goodness it lasts in the fridge forever. Notice there is no mention of salt and that's because the miso is quite salty. Adjust salt according to taste. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Burmese Coconut & Mango Kyauk Kyaw or Jello

Mango Kyauk Kyaw
Agar agar is a gelatin substitute that is used in south-east Asian countries. It is a plant-based extract which makes it a great vegetarian alternative to gelatin which is animal-based. The texture of jello made with agar agar is much firmer than gelatin which I, personally, find addictive. 

Kyauk Kyaw made with just coconut milk is supposed to separate into two layers, a transparent layer on the bottom and opaque on the top where the cream settles. I've been experimenting with Kyauk Kyaw for quite a few years and have not been able to create this layered effect. I think it may be because I've always used canned coconut milk instead of fresh. So making two separate layers of mango and coconut milk gives me great satisfaction. 

Agar agar is available in strands or powder form. I've used Telephone brand of the powder which is really convenient. For this dessert only 3 teaspoons of the powder was used which was only about a quarter of the packet. It's important to thoroughly dissolve the powdered agar agar in cold water before bringing it to a boil to avoid clumps. The mango layer is made first, poured into the serving dish and allowed to come to room temperature by which time it sets. The coconut layer is then poured over the mango layer to get a two-tiered effect.

Gelatin takes hours to set in the refrigerator. Agar agar sets once it comes to room temperature in less than half an hour and needs refrigeration only to chill. Chilled kyauk kyaw tastes better so make sure to refrigerate it overnight before serving.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Cucumbers & Jalapenos Pickled in Balsamic Vinegar

Pickled Cucumbers & Jalapenos
The pickled cucumbers served in Vietnamese restaurants taste so good because of their sweet & sour flavour. It's easy to make at home with minimal fuss. These taste great on hamburgers or along with with biryani or fried rice. Salting the cucumber slices before soaking in vinegar keeps them nice and crisp. I made the pickled cucumbers first and had a lot of pickling juices left after eating the cucumbers, so added sliced jalapeno peppers to the brine. Once the heat from the peppers seep into the brine, it can be sprinkled on just about anything for a sweet, tart and spicy tang. The sliced peppers can also be eaten if you can handle the heat.
Pickled Cucumbers

1 English seedless cucumber, sliced & tossed with salt
4 Tbsp. white balsamic or plain vinegar
4 Tbsp. sugar or Splenda or half sugar half Splenda
1 tsp. finely ground chili flakes

  1. Do not peel the cucumber.
  2. Toss cucumber slices with salt and leave in sieve to drain overnight in fridge.
  3. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  4. Chill in fridge overnight before serving.
After the cucumbers are eaten, slice jalapeno peppers into the remaining marinade for a sweet chili pickle. Allow the peppers to marinate for at least 2 days for the flavors to develop fully and store in the refrigerator.