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

Ingredients:
1 cup cream of wheat, toasted
1 cup Greek yogurt, whipped
1/4 cup water, or more to make a thick batter
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pam olive oil spray
2 cups Yellow Alu

Directions:

  1. Combine first 5 ingredients, set aside 30 minutes or overnight and stir well.
  2. Spray 2 idli steamer trays with Pam spray.
  3. Separate yellow alu into 8 portions, flattening each a little.
  4. Pour 1 tablespoon idli batter into each of 8 idli depressions, top with a portion of potatoes and pour another tablespoon over the top.
  5. Steam for 12-15 minutes, remove the two trays from wok and set aside for a few minutes before plating the idlis.
  6. Serve with coconut chutney, more yellow alu and sambar.



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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Koi Maacher Jhaal - Climbing Perch in a Hot Sauce

Koi Maacher Jhaal
Maacher Jhaal comes in two varieties. There is Sorshe Batar Jhaal or fish in mustard sauce and there is Maacher Jhaal which simply means it is hot and spicy. This dish is of the second variety. It usually is made with only 5 ingredients: fish, nigella seeds, diced green chilies, turmeric powder and chili powder or Kashmiri mirch. Loving tomatoes as much as I do, a beefsteak tomato went into the mix.

Climbing Perch or Koi Maach, available in the Asian markets, are flash-frozen before being packaged for export from places like Vietnam. Flash-freezing is an accelerated process in which fish are individually frozen solid at extremely low temperatures immediately after being harvested. This allows fish to be caught, processed and frozen solid in hours rather than days. Flash-freezing prevents fish from getting freezer burn so that we, the consumers, are able to enjoy fish at its peak of perfection. Of course there is no comparison to fresh-caught fish from local Indian markets, but we are grateful that the varieties of fish we grew up with, are available to us at all!

This dish generally has a layer of oil (usually mustard oil) floating on the top, but I scaled it down to a mere 4 tablespoons.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Cauliflower in Yogurt Sauce - Doi Phoolkopi

Doi Phoolkopi
It's hard to keep cauliflower from turning to mush when it's cooked in a gravy base. Today I learned a new trick from the internet food blogs, to microwave the florets for 3 minutes and allow them to soak for 15 minutes in the hot water. The texture remains firm after cooking in the yogurt sauce. Another trick I learned today was to add a teaspoon of besan (chickpea flour) to the Greek yogurt while whipping it, which prevents the curds separating from the whey when it's heated.

To save some cooking time, a can of Del Monte's sliced potatoes came in handy in place of the russet potatoes I would have otherwise used.  

To give this dish a taste of Kashmir, the ground spices consist of Kashmiri mirch (paprika) along with powdered ginger and fennel seed powder.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Pumpkin Angel Food Cake

Pumpkin Cake A La Mode

The easiest dessert ever! We had this for Thanksgiving dinner this year and I preferred it to the pumpkin pie of past Thanksgiving dinners. 


3 Ingredients Only
Using just 3 ingredients and a cup of water, this cake was surprisingly simple and quick to make. The angel food cake mix gives it a lovely airy yet dense texture.


Pumpkin Angel Food Cake 
And it tastes just as good without ice cream.



Saturday, November 12, 2016

Banana Walnut Friendship Bread

Banana Walnut Friendship Bread

This is a nostalgic bread/cake that goes back to the days when we first arrived in Toronto, Canada in the late 1970s. My then-brother-in-law worked at Proctor & Gamble (P&G) and brought home a recipe book featuring Crisco Oil. This Banana Nut Loaf recipe, modified by me many times over, originated from that P&G recipe book. 

Some of the changes I made were to replace granulated sugar with dark brown sugar to improve the colour of the bread, to add sour cream to improve the moistness of the bread and most recently, to add Amish Friendship Bread Starter to the batter to give a yeasty aroma and taste to this banana nut loaf. The Amish Friendship Bread Starter can be omitted for a denser, cake-like banana nut loaf. Using the starter gave it a more bread-like texture.

Use the darkest brown sugar you can find, the darker the better. I had only light brown sugar on hand, which accounts for the lightness in the center of the bread. And if you skimp on the Crisco oil, your bread will be dry and horrible. I'm sure substituting another vegetable oil for Crisco will work just fine but, some forty years later, I continue to use Crisco oil.


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Prawns in Mint Sauce

Bhapa Pudina Chingri
Inspired by Mahesh Khole's recipe on Facebook, this prawn dish was quick and easy to prepare and took just a few minutes to simmer on the stovetop. 

If it was on hand, I would have added cilantro stalks to the paste for more flavour. But it was delicious with mint and green chilies. Prawns take so little time to cook that it's ideal to prepare when there's not much time to spare. It's such a pity that prawns in the supermarket are sold headless. The heads of the prawns add so much flavour to the sauce.

To rid the onions of their strong smell, I blanched onion chunks in boiling water along with garlic before blending to a paste.


Red Lentils with Cauliflower Stalks


Musuri Dal r Phool Kopi'r Danta

This was one of Mum's favourite ways of preparing red lentils. It tastes great garnished with cilantro and a touch of ghee or butter.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Astho Dim-er Malai Curry - Whole Eggs in Coconut Sauce

Astho Dim-er Malai Curry
Fried Whole Eggs
Fried Eggs

Malai Curry is a favourite sauce made with coconut milk that is most commonly combined with shrimpfish or chicken. Today I decided to cook eggs in coconut milk. I've made this before with eggs cut in half, but today they were left whole. The hard-boiled eggs and chunks of potatoes are fried (separately) to a golden-brown colour, then simmered in the coconut sauce. The eggs are shelled and scored across the circumference 4-5 times through the egg white to the egg yolk, so that the sauce can penetrate them to the core.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Alu Gobi Mattar - Potatoes, Cauliflower and Peas Curry

Alu Gobi
There are so many ways to prepare this all-time favourite Indian dish. It's vegetarian, vegan if ghee is omitted and is the perfect side dish to accompany lentils and a non-vegetarian main dish. Alu gobi is versatile enough to be served with either steamed rice or any Indian bread.

In this preparation, I've saved time by dicing onions instead of making a paste and used a whole can of pureed tomatoes to create the gravy. By parboiling the vegetables beforehand, the gravy permeates throughout the dish to tie in all the flavours. A handful of shredded cilantro gives a fresh and aromatic finish to this vegetable side.



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Easy Chicken Salad

2 lbs. of Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad Crescent Sandwiches


Chicken Salad Meal

It's best to use fresh chicken breasts for a pure white color, but canned or shredded rotisserie chicken also works. To poach fresh chicken breasts, place them in a saucepan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Add cold water so it just covers the chicken. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool before dicing.

Water chestnuts add extra crunch to this salad and can be found in Meijer's Chinese section of the International aisle. They come sliced in 8 ounces (226 gm.) cans.


Sunday, September 04, 2016

Mohinga Thoke - Burmese Cold Noodle Salad

Mohinga Thoke 
Prepped Ingredients
An Internet recipe served as the basis for this salad but I made many adjustments to suit my taste. The addition of dark sesame oil (toasted), fried legumes (pei kyaw) and minced green chilies pumped up the heat along with added crunch and flavour. Blanching the shredded cabbage is how I prefer to use it in Burmese salads. My husband and fiercest food critic ate every last crumb on his plate while his eyes watered and his scalp perspired. It was made with just me in mind so the peppers were diced with the seeds intact, but he asked to try it and loved it!

The recipe called for rice vermicelli, but all I had was tapioca vermicelli that had no instructions on the package. My first attempt at cooking these noodles turned to mush, so I soaked the noodles in hot tap water and microwaved on high power at 30 second intervals for a total of 2 minutes with excellent results.

Note: There's no need to add salt because the fish sauce is salty enough.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ground Chicken and Eggplant Stew

Ground Chicken & Eggplant Stew

I came across a picture of this dish on Facebook, but the recipe had not been added at the time, so this is my take on the dish. Eggplant is a favourite vegetable and combining it with ground chicken sounded too good to pass up. I added diced potatoes because that's what Bengalis do...add potatoes to everything!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Kale & Spinach with Sweet Potatoes

Kale & Spinach with Sweet Potatoes
Frozen cut kale and spinach are stir-fried with diced sweet potatoes. Make sure to soak the sweet potato as soon as the first cut is made to keep it from discoloring. There's no need to add sugar because the diced sweet potatoes impart enough sweetness. Serve as a side dish to an Indian meal accompanied by chapatis or rice. The use of ghee is optional for vegans.


Saturday, July 09, 2016

Burmese Kyauk Kyaw - Perfected Technique

Kyauk Kyaw or Coconut Jelly
I've spent most of my adult life trying to achieve the perfect Kyauk Kyaw that has two distinct layers, one translucent and the other opaque. Finally the secret was revealed to me when my sister posted a video of it in Facebook. So thanks to Dany Kao for her instructions for a perfect dessert. The secret is to make this with a 1:5.5 ratio of coconut milk to water. I've modified her recipe to include more specific measurements pertaining to the size of cans and amount of agar-agar.

Agar Agar is a popular dessert ingredient in South East Asian countries where it is used as a substitute for gelatin. Agar agar, a seaweed extract, is a good vegan substitute for gelatin which is derived from animal products. Agar agar comes in several different forms - flakes, strands and powdered.  The powdered form of agar agar is much more potent than the flakes or strands. It takes 1 tablespoon of flakes or strands to thicken 1 cup of water, whereas 1 teaspoon of the powder is sufficient to thicken 1 cup of water.


Friday, July 01, 2016

Bread & Yellow Alu (Potato) Croquettes

Potato Croquettes
In what now seems to be a distant and past life, I was fortunate to be mentored by a gourmet cook who taught me a lot of what I know today about feeding my family. Mum was a huge influence throughout my life but when I left home, the coaching continued as I grew up and had a family of my own.

Yellow Alu
The basis for this appetizer is the leftover Yellow Alu I made yesterday.  Replacing the potatoes with spiced ground lamb creates a delicious non-vegetarian croquette. I like to use Japanese panko crumbs to roll these in because they remain crisp and absorb little to no oil. 


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Crepes Stuffed with Yellow Alu and Served with Sambhar


Masala 'Dosa' with Sambhar
We are so fortunate in North America to have foods from all over the world available to us in our local supermarkets. It's a delight to walk up and down the aisles to pick and choose what we'd like to have today or this week.

Melissa's French Crepes
These delicate, faintly sweet crepes come ten to a package, each separated from the next by wax paper which makes them very easy to roll with filling of my choice. They are versatile and sets my mind racing with ideas such as Crepes Suzette, a French dessert in which crepes are folded in triangles and doused in a sauce of caramelized sugar and butter, orange zest and Grand Marnier or orange Curacao liqueur, served flambé. Then there's Patishapta, a popular Bengali dessert of thin crepes stuffed with a delectable filling of coconut and gur or jaggery. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Eggplant & Pork in Oyster Sauce

Eggplant & Pork in Oyster Sauce
For a quick and easy main dish with an Asian flair, few dishes can beat this eggplant and pork stir-fry. A combination of oyster sauce, chili-garlic sauce, balsamic vinegar and fish sauce form the base for ground pork that is browned along with diced onions and garlic. Bite-sized pieces of Japanese eggplant are added at the tail end so that they retain their texture and don't disintegrate.

Chinese and Thai restaurants have a form of this recipe on their menus. My problem is that they always seem to over-salt the dish, so I prefer to replicate it at home so I can control the amount of salt that is added. In fact, no salt was added in this recipe because the different sauces are salty to begin with. Adjust the salt at the end of the cooking cycle to suit your taste.

A trick to break down the ground pork with little effort is to hand-mix it with 1/2 tsp. salt and 2 Tbsp. oil and set aside for 15 minutes. The oil acts to separate the nodules of ground meat which makes it easier to brown.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Faluda - Rose Syrup Flavoured Milky Beverage Topped with Jello

Faluda
Faluda is layered dessert in a glass that originated in Iran. It's a multi-textured summer drink which the Parsis, who migrated to India from Iran, introduced to the Indian people who in turn took it with them to Burma. It is an integral part of the menus at ice cream parlours and restaurants which serve variations of this sweet beverage. The closest comparison I can think of is milk shake pumped up with nuts, seeds and very thin spaghetti.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Burmese Stir-Fried Cabbage with Scrambled Eggs

Cabbage with Scrambled Eggs
Weekends were very special when we were growing up, made even more festive by Mum's cooking. She was a consummate cook of Indian, Burmese and Asian cuisines and passed on her love for cooking to all eight of us. We were curious and eager to try all kinds of food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. 

Being a single mother of eight and a professor in a women's college meant that she was not able to spend as much time in the kitchen as she would have liked. Evenings and weekends were festive affairs because visitors dropped by unannounced, tea and snacks were constantly being served and meals were prepared by Mum with a lot of help from all of us and the hired help. There were occasions when her Thai students who lived at the hostel would arrive with all the necessary ingredients to prepare a feast for all of us. They were so happy to have a kitchen that was open to them so they could enjoy their cuisine, which they missed terribly.

This stir-fried cabbage dish is one that I associate with Mum's loving and nurturing nature. Cabbage is totally tasteless on its own, but is transformed when stir-fried until crisp, flavoured with the zing of black pepper powder and the umami of fish sauce. Add eggs into the mix and it assumes an unforgettable contrast in texture from the crispness of the cabbage to the creaminess of the scrambled eggs.

This is served as a side dish to accompany any Asian meal and is best suited to be had with hot, steamed long-grain rice.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Cucumber and Onion Salad with Dill

Cucumber and Onion Salad with Dill
Fresh herbs in the supermarket come in big bundles so I made a stir-fry using eggplant and potatoes and flavoured it with dill and used the rest of the bundle for this salad. 

My love for dill began in Toronto in the late 1970s at the home of a girl who was born and raised in Iran. She invited us over for a fabulous dinner, and the one item that stood out that I remember to this day was a pulao she made with steamed Basmati rice that she mixed, by hand, with salt, dill and olive oil.

Recently we went to a French-inspired Vietnamese restaurant and ordered grilled Tilapia flavoured with turmeric and dill. It's an outstanding dish unlike anything I've had before.

This salad can be paired with biryani, pulao or grilled meat, fish or seafood. It would also taste great in a sandwich. I found the recipe on the Epicurious website.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Chicken Biryani


Chicken Biryani
Biryani is a delicious and wholesome combination of rice, layered with meat or vegetables and potatoes, cooked with aromatic spices and garnished with deep fried onions. Making a traditional biryani is a long and complicated process which was beyond my comprehension until my brother who is a wonderful cook, allowed me to watch him produce outstanding results using a very simple process. I came back home after that weekend in Toronto and tried it without the same success.

Chicken Biryani Plated
My brother cooks the chicken on the stovetop, cooks the rice in a rice cooker and pours the chicken and all its juices over the rice and sets the biryani aside until dinnertime. His biryani tastes simply awesome, but I was not able to replicate it. 

My way is to cook chicken and potatoes in a big saucepan, cover the top with Greek yogurt, top it with rice that has been soaked and strained well, add chicken broth in proportion to the rice, bring it to a boil and then cover and simmer it over low heat for 25 minutes. It sounds complicated, but is really easy to do.






Varieties of Ready-Made Birista

Birista or deep fried onions are an essential garnish for both pulaos and biryanis. They're easy to make but is a tedious and long process. Much easier to pick up a bottle or package of birista at the oriental markets.
Shan Pilau Biryani Mix



Recipe on back of package
The recipe that follows was inspired by the recipe on the back of the spice mix with a few modifications which were made to simplify the process. 

Simple Salad
Serve this biryani with a simple salad of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green chilies, salt and lime juice. Or accompany the biryani with one of the following raitas.

   
Fuji Apple Raita
Tzatziki or Cucumber Raita