Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Singapore Rice Noodles with Asparagus & Chicken

Singapore Noodles
This is one of my favourite dishes to order at a Chinese restaurant. It's made with thin rice noodles (Mei Fun) which are available in the international aisle of our local supermarket. 

Pre-cooked Rice Noodles
These packages of rice noodles are conveniently packaged in 5.3 ounce pouches, are shelf-stable and don't require refrigeration. 

Recipe on back of package
The recipe for Singapore rice noodles and a list of ingredients are provided on the back of each package, but many substitutions were made when I prepared my noodles. 

Curry Powder
The main ingredient in this recipe is curry powder and S&B Oriental Curry Powder is my choice. It's full of flavour, aromatic and tasty without too much spicy heat. I find that boiling it in some chicken/vegetable broth and then suffusing the noodles in this liquid helps the seasoning to permeate throughout the noodles. Boiling the curry powder also helps to reduce the raw taste of the spices.

Singapore Vermicelli Noodles with Shrimp
I generally make Singapore noodles with shrimp and bean sprouts, but there were rotisserie chicken and asparagus on hand, so that's what I used with the rice noodles today. This is a one-dish meal that can be made in under 30 minutes and is a great lunch idea.

Ingredients:
2 (3.4 oz.) pouches Kame Singapore Express Rice Noodles, pre-cooked
8 oz. cooked rotisserie chicken and tofu, sliced
1/2 cup chicken/vegetable broth or water
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. grated ginger or paste 
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced
1 + 1 green chilies, diced
1/2 large beefsteak or 1 medium Roma tomato, diced
1 bundle asparagus spears, cut in 1-1/2" lengths
2 stalks green onions, sliced
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. Ajinomoto (MSG), optional 
salt to taste

Directions:
  1. Remove noodles from package and separate to remove clumps.
  2. Simmer curry powder, salt & black pepper in broth for 3 minutes.
  3. Off heat, soak noodles in broth until water is absorbed. 
  4. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and saute ginger, garlic and 1 green chili.
  5. Add onions and tomatoes and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add noodles, asparagus, chicken, tofu and salt to taste.
  7. Make a well in the center, pour some oil and beaten eggs and allow to set.
  8. Turn heat down to medium, add noodles and MSG, stir and cook until noodles are coated with eggs.
  9. Garnish with sesame oil, remaining diced chilies and green onions.
Serve right away.










Spiced Apple Cider

The Brew
After a festive meal is prepared, this is a wonderful brew to put on the stove to fill your home with the aroma of apples, oranges and spices. Have it hot on a cold wintry or rainy day, or chilled on a hot and humid day. 

Spiced Apple Cider
The recipe contains 5 simple ingredients, all of which are available in any supermarket. If oranges are not in season, replace them with slices of one lemon or lime. And make sure to set the spiced orange segments aside after draining the cider for dessert, topped with ice cream or brandy.

Spiced Orange Segments
The remnants after straining the cider can be simmered with water to serve as a potpouri to welcome your guests.

Potpouri 

Ingredients:
1/2 gallon apple cider
6 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup brown or coconut sugar
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 navel or 2 mandarin oranges, sliced

Directions:
  1.  Place all ingredients in a large stainless steel saucepan.
  2.  Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves.
  3.  Lower heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4.  Strain spiced cider and serve hot or chilled overnight in the refrigerator.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Stir-Fried Cabbage with Fish

Maach Diye Bandha Kopi
Cabbage cooked with fish bones and head is very tasty, but it takes some skill to safely remove the bones. In this case, I've taken pieces of filleted fish that flake too easily and fall apart when added to a gravy and used them to flavour the cabbage. Stir-frying cabbage until golden brown makes it much sweeter so that no sugar is needed. This side dish goes well with either steamed rice or any form of Indian bread.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Alu Posto - Bengali Baby Potatoes in Poppy Seed Sauce

Alu Posto
A favourite at the Bengali table, Alu Posto is surprisingly easy to make. White poppy seeds are soaked in boiling water for an hour or as long as it takes to come to room temperature. This softens the seeds sufficiently to blend to a smooth paste. 
Variety of Baby Potatoes
Microwaved for a quick three minutes, these little potatoes cook just enough to be easy to peel. The dish comes together very quickly and is so delicious!

Stir-Fried Baby Potatoes

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Peppermint Kisses

Peppermint Kisses

It was my turn today to take goodies to our 52-member quilt guild meeting. I decided on these Peppermint Kisses that are the easiest, most refreshing and delicious cookie dessert made in under 10 minutes using just 5 ingredients. 

A Tray of Kisses Ready for Transporting
They made his eyes sparkle with surprise and delight, as my candid food critic at home gave his stamp of approval to these delicate morsels, comparing them to Bengali sandesh. A popular milk dessert on the Bengali table, sandesh is made from homemade cottage cheese following a lengthy and tedious process.

A Lone Kiss
In contrast, Peppermint Kisses need no cooking or baking. Four of the five ingredients are simply combined thoroughly, formed into balls the size of quarters and finished with Hershey's peppermint kisses. Just make sure all ingredients are brought to room temperature before assembling. What could be simpler!


Thursday, March 03, 2016

Chicken Razaila

Chicken Razaila
Mum's Razaila was always delectable. She made it with bone-in chicken pieces that were fried until golden brown and then marinated in whipped yogurt. Her chicken razaila was succulent and delicious! 

Mine is a lazy (wo)man's shortcut that still tastes very good. It involves massaging the yogurt marinade into the chicken and setting it aside for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. I prefer using Greek yogurt so that there is less chance that it will curdle during the cooking process. Adding a teaspoonful of cornstarch to the yogurt will thicken the gravy as the chicken simmers. Greek yogurt should be brought to room temperature before marinating.

A surprising twist to the traditional razaila recipe is to add ground white pepper. It adds a spicy heat and the white pepper keeps the gravy light-coloured and creamy.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chicken & Broccoli Lo Mein

Chicken & Broccoli Lo Mein
Any noodle dish, whether in the form of a soup or stir-fried is so comforting, especially during these cold winters. Today we had a lo mein with chicken & broccoli that was drenched in a garlic-soy sauce which was poured over and tossed with a package of Ajinomoto Vegetable Chow Mein. Delicious!

If you're making your own there's no need to add sauce to your noodles. Use this sauce instead.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuna, Chickpeas & Potato Salad

Tuna, Chickpeas & Potato Salad
Tuna salad, potato salad and chickpeas/garbanzo beans individually are among my favourite foods. Here, all three were combined with red and orange rainbow peppers to produce a refreshing salad when it's chilled and served for lunch. The dressing is composed of yogurt, mixed with ranch dressing and the salad is garnished with green onions.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Maach er Malai Curry - Fish Cooked in Coconut Milk




Use any white fish steaks or pieces in this delicious coconut milk gravy which tastes best served on a bed of steamed Basmati rice. I've used catfish, rock cod and telapia fish, all with excellent results. 

Freshly grated coconut tied in muslin cloth and squeezed to extract the milk works the best, but in the Western hemisphere, canned coconut milk is most readily available and makes a good substitute for fresh coconut. If coconut milk is not available, unsweetened evaporated (not condensed) milk can be used as a substitute.

This same process can also be used with chicken legs and thighs for another variation of malai curry, which is also true for shrimp, which is especially delectable. 

The fish I used today came from a membership supermarket (Costco/Sam's Club) in a 3 lb. fresh pack. I sliced them up, divided them between 3 Ziploc bags, seasoned them with turmeric powder and salt and froze them for later use. Thawed in the sink, it makes life much easier when it's comes time to cook. 




Saturday, February 06, 2016

Tomato Pulao or Tomato Fried Rice

Tomato Pulao
A pulao is usually made with uncooked rice, but I had a whole 2 cups of it sitting in the fridge so I used that instead. It came together very quickly and goes well as a side dish with Begun Bhaja and/or Fuji Apple Raita.

The curry leaves in this pulao give it a South Indian flair.

Crockpot Begun Bhartha - Slow-Cooked Eggplant

Slow-Cooked Begun Bhartha
I was first introduced to Baingan/Begun Bhartha while living in Defence Colony, a suburb of New Delhi in India. Around the corner from where we lived was a dhaba or roadside restaurant which are most often found on highways and the outskirts of cities, towns and villages. Dhabas serve Punjabi food and are frequented by truckers because the food is generally simple, rustic and cheap. My favourite dishes to order from our neghbourhood dhaba were Baingan Bhartha, Keema Mattar and Naan. 

Begun or baingan is eggplant and bhartha refers to any vegetable that is roasted and mashed. Begun bhartha is the most common dish prepared in this way. The big and round eggplants are usually roasted over an unoon or charcoal stove. The charred skin is then removed, the pulp mashed and cooked with tomatoes, onions along with other ingredients on the stovetop. It's a rustic dish that requires a labour-intensive and time-consuming process.

This is where the crockpot, once again, comes to the rescue. I like Japaness eggplant which is diced along with all the other vegetables, dumped into the crockpot and allowed to cook on low without manual intervention for 3-4 hours. The resulting bhartha comes out looking like baba-ghanoush and tasting delicious!



Friday, February 05, 2016

Parshey Maach-er Jhaal or Mullet in Mustard Gravy

Parshey Maach-er Jhaal

Fish is a staple in Bengali households. For those who can afford it, a Bengali has four meals a day: breakfast, lunch, tea & snacks and dinner. Lunch and dinner comprise at least 3 dishes consisting of vegetables, lentils and meat, poultry, fish, shrimp or seafood, accompanied by rice or rootis/chapatis. 

White mullet or parshey maach is a sweet and delicious fish that requires a light touch because it breaks apart easily. This preparation, therefore, is ideal because it doesn't require too much stirring. In fact, it is even easier if the fish is combined with the rest of the ingredients (except for the mustard oil and cilantro used for garnishing) and simply slid into hot oil which has been sputtered with nigella seeds, covered and simmered over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes.

To add more heat to this fish dish, reserve a few slit green chilies to garnish before serving.


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Crockpot Rogan Josh - Slow-Cooked Lamb Curry



Crockpot Rogan Josh
The crockpot is probably the most under-utilized appliance in my kitchen. It's ideal for these wintry days when temperatures plummet to single digits which makes it bone-chilling to open doors and windows so the house can be aired out. Today I dusted off the crockpot and boldly plugged it in. 

I've never used the crockpot (or slow-cooker as it's sometimes called) to cook Indian meat curries. My sister has, but I think she did a lot of the prep on the stovetop and then put it all in the crockpot to cook slowly. I decided to take the shortest shortcut possible, combined everything in the crockpot and allowed it to do its thing. The result was totally amazing. 

My Beli Mashi (Mum's sister) spent a few months with us when I was living in California and she taught me to make Kashmiri Rogan Josh. I marinated the meat with the rest of the ingredients for a couple of hours, then dumped all of it into the crockpot with sliced onions and set it on high for 2 hours. After giving everything a good mix, the crockpot was set to low, potatoes were added and cooked for 5 hours.

The meat just fell off the bones and the potatoes were cooked to perfection. I doubt meat curries in my house will ever be cooked on the stovetop again. Without the botheration of stirring and making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, it was completely stress-free cooking!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Lamb & Potato Biryani

Lamb Biryani
Mum's Yakhni Pulao made with mutton or lamb was unforgettable. It was quite a complicated recipe, but unfortunately, there is no record it. I've tried to reproduce it to the best of my ability, and this attempt tasted quite delicious.

My pressure cooker came in handy to pre-cook the pieces of meat, but this step could also be done on the stove top. It would just take an hour or longer instead of 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. 

Shan pulao/biryani masala mix, available in Indian markets, contains a mix of spices that give biryani its distinctive taste and aroma. I used a tea strainer to sprinkle the spices over a plate. That leaves all the solid spices in the strainer which I use for tempering, remove from the oil and enclose them in a tea ball (or cheescloth tied with kitchen string is a good substitute) which is tossed into the saucepan to cook along with the biryani.
Packaged Birista

Bottled 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 Asian markets.

Fuji Apple Raita

CucumberTomatoOnion Salad
Biryani is pretty filling as a main course, but is great paired with a raita or simple salad. The grated fuji apple raita on the left is dressed with yogurt and a tempering of raisins, mustard seeds and curry leaves. On the right, a simple salad of cucumber, tomatoes and onion is dressed very simply with salt and lime juice.


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Stir-Fried Chicken On a Bed of Kale & Spinach

Chicken on Kale & Spinach
An interesting twist on our Indian Saag Chicken, I replaced the Indian ingredients with Chinese sauces to come up with this delicious dish. 

Taylor Farms Organic Kale Medley
This recipe is a great way to use the one pound packages of triple-washed baby spinach and kale that we get from the membership markets. 
Skinless and boneless chicken thighs come in 6 lb. packages at the membership stores. I chop the thighs into bite-sized pieces, hand-mix them with ginger-garlic paste, paprika (Kashmiri mirch), salt and oil, divide them among 4 Ziploc bags and freeze until ready to be cooked. Soaked in a bowl of tap water, the frozen bags thaw and come to room temperature within half an hour.

I've used this marinated chicken in Indian and Asian dishes with great results.


Saturday, January 02, 2016

Eggplant in Oyster Sauce

Eggplant in Oyster Sauce
Another favourite at Chinese restaurants, this eggplant dish is simple to make at home. 
Japanese Eggplant
In my opinion, Japanese eggplants are sweeter and tastier than other varieties and are now available at all supermarkets. 

The ingredient list is short and should be available locally. The oyster sauce is salty, so do a taste-test before adding more salt.

Vegetarians and vegans can substitute diced tofu for minced chicken and mushroom sauce for oyster sauce.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Tofu Eggs Akuri - Indian-Style Scrambled Eggs with Tofu



Tofu Eggs Akuri
Eggs Akuri is a common Parsi breakfast dish that is served all over India. 


The Ingredients
Beaten eggs are combined with diced onions, tomatoes, green chilies and cilantro for a very tasty accompaniment to buttered toast. In Bengali households this style of scrambled eggs are given a bright golden colour with the addition of turmeric powder.

Extra-Firm Tofu
I figured tofu would taste great with the scrambled eggs because of its firm and silky texture. To give it an Indo-Chinese twist, the diced cubes of tofu were tossed in chicken bouillon powder to give the tasteless tofu some punch. After allowing them to sit for 10 minutes, the cubes of tofu were soaked in beaten eggs before scrambling. No salt was added because the bouillon powder was salty enough.
Chicken Bouillon Powder
These scrambled eggs taste great with buttered toast or hot chapatis or even steamed long-grain rice. I can imagine them stuffed inside egg parathas or bread pakoras...the possibilities are endless!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ghoogni - Curried Chickpeas


Ghoogni
Diced Garnishes
Mixed Together with Lime












Ghoogni or curried chickpeas are a popular street food found all over Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta). In Bengali households it is a snack that is served between lunch and dinner, right around 4 p.m., with a cup of steaming, hot tea sweetened with sugar and lightened with milk.

My most vivid memory of this tea-time snack brings to mind the young master of the house across the courtyard from our flat/apartment in Jodhpur Park. I say 'young' because in the joint-family that lived there, his father was the patriarch of the family. Either my eyesight at that time was at its peak or the courtyard was not very big, because tea-time snacks or jol khabar in that household were served on their spacious wrap-around balcony and I could observe what was served when the young master returned from work in the evening.  Ghoogni & luchi, or curried chickpeas & puffed bread, must have been one of their favourite meals with hot tea. He and his father would be served in style while he sat across from his father with his mother and wife hovering over them to make sure every one of their needs were met. Preparing this dish took quite a bit of effort because the dry beans had to be soaked overnight and pressure cooked before the curry could be prepared.


Fast forward 45 years across the ocean from Kolkata where packaged, pre-cooked chickpeas are available year-round in the supermarkets. This makes it simpler and faster to bring ghoogni to the table. Luchi is not a staple in our home because they are deep-fried. Instead, we have ghoogni with chapatis or tortillas for lunch.


If dried chickpeas are the only option, soak them overnight in plenty of water, drain them the next day and pressure cook in enough water for 20 minutes before adding them to the gravy. Curried chickpeas are vegetarian and vegan, packed with protein, among other valuable nutrients, and are both hearty and delicious!



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Maach Alur Tomato Jhol - Fish & Potatoes in Tomato Gravy

Maach Alur Tomato Jhol
A typical Bengali fish preparation, this dish is light and perfect for a midday meal. It's usually served with a starter such as begun bhaja or pan-fried eggplant and a lentil dish with steamed long-grain rice.

Any kind of fish, filleted or cut in steaks, can be used in this method of cooking the gravy. The distinguishing features of this sauce are the use of mustard oil, nigella seeds and green chilies, used for tempering. The tomatoes are cooked until they break down completely to provide a slightly sweet and tart flavour to the gravy.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Kumro Bati Chorchori - Simple Stir-Fried Pumpkin/Butternut Squash

Kumro Bati Chorchori
Kumro (pumpkin) Bati (dish/one-dish) Chorchori (stir-fried curry) is a delectable Bengali preparation with pumpkin or butternut squash. In North America, the latter is far more readily available and makes a good substitute for pumpkin.
Types of Pumpkin
A cross-section of each type of pumpkin makes it recognizable in the supermarket. Butternut squash is a hard winter vegetable which I generally avoid because it is so difficult to peel and chop. 
Chopped Butternut Squash
Imagine my surprise and delight when I came across this 3 lb. bag of chopped butternut squash at our membership supermarket. It takes away all the intimidation presented by this hard vegetable and makes it more of a staple in my kitchen.
Frozen Cubes 
After heating and tempering the oil, these frozen cubes of butternut squash were taken straight from the freezer into the frying pan. Once they thawed, they cooked in a jiffy with minimal spices.
Stir-Fried Butternut Squash
The dish was ready in less than 20 minutes! Makes a colourful and lovely side dish, served with hot, steamed Basmati rice or any Indian bread.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Stained Glass Kyauk Kyaw/Jello

Stained Glass Kyauk Kyaw
Kyauk Kyaw, a popular dessert in Burmese cuisine, is a form of jello made with agar-agar instead of gelatin. Agar agar is a vegetable gelling agent extracted from red algae suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. I've used the Telephone brand of agar agar powder in this dessert.

Stained Glass Jello Cubes
There are several Stained Glass Jello recipes on the worldwide web made with gelatin and I've been wanting to try it for a while. A potluck for Christmas was the ideal event for this festive dessert. I adapted a traditional recipe to my Burmese tastes by incorporating coconut milk into the recipe. It was a huge success! The neat thing about this dessert is that it can be changed to suit any holiday, simply by switching the colors of jello to suit the occasion. I used green (lime), red (strawberry) and yellow (lemon) packets of jello to represent the Christmas season. The white portion of the jello is the portion that is composed of coconut milk, condensed milk, water and agar agar. This is the kyauk kyaw part of the recipe.

To make this a semi-diabetic-friendly dessert, I used sugar-free Jello gelatin packets to reduce the sugar content which took nothing away from this dessert because the condensed milk is loaded with sugar and overly sweet.


Saturday, December 05, 2015

Pork Lo Mein

Pork Lo Mein
Watching Sandra Lee's Semi Homemade show on TV taught me to simplify some of my cooking by using store-bought foods instead of making everything from scratch. 

Frozen Vegetable Chow Mein
Ajinomoto makes a frozen Vegetable Chow Mein that is always available at the membership club store I frequent. It's fully cooked with an assortment of Chinese vegetables so all I have to do is take it up a few notches with the addition of baby spinach or baby kale leaves along with meat or seafood. I take one package of chow mein out of the freezer an hour before cooking and allow it to thaw on the kitchen counter at room temperature. The box contains 6 packages, each of which easily feeds two people. To make your own noodles from scratch, I found this recipe on the world wide web that looks delicious!


For Thanksgiving this year I made a sausage stuffing with onions, carrots and celery, so I saved a portion of each of these ingredients for this lo mein. I used sweet Italian sausage meat and also added a 16 oz. package of baby kale leaves. The sausage meat had enough flavour and fat that required no more oil or sauces to be added to the pork lo mein.