Thursday, August 17, 2017

Quick & Easy Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani

Here is a really quick & easy way to make biryani which is served on festive occasions. Our cause for celebration was to break a fast from eating bland food because Hubby was suffering from a digestive ailment. If you've read my past posts on the subject, they will seem labor-intensive - see Chicken Biryani and 

Served with Shrimp Curry
Choto Alu'r Dum
We had this biryani with Shrimp Curry and Alu Dum, but it tastes great accompanied by a salad or raita.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Orange Marmalade

Orange Marmalade
There are so many blessings in my life, not the least of which is my big sister, Rene. Our telephone conversations always end up on the topic of food and she's a fountain of information and wisdom on the subject. Mandarin oranges are in season in the summer in Darjeeling, India. I grew up and went to school there and one of my fondest memories was of Mum making orange marmalade. Mandarin oranges were sold in big baskets for a very cheap price and they had to be consumed in a short time so they didn't spoil.

Marmlade Using Just Two Ingredients
So, during one of our marathon calls between Rene and me, these memories surfaced and we reminisced about the steps Mum went through to make marmalade. We would have to peel all the oranges, remove the skin around each segment and collect just the pulp. The peels were set aside to make the rinds in the jam and the orange pulp with sugar was cooked on the stovetop until they reached jam consistency. The result was a clear jelly-like marmarlade with strips of rind floating in suspension.

Fast & Easy Marmalade
That's when Rene mentioned watching a food show that reduced the tedium to nil by introducing the food processor. This process produces a marmalade that is thick and rustic and oh so flavorful! The aroma that permeates through our home is heavenly! The pith just under the peel is usually removed because it's so bitter, but that's what I love about marmalade so I leave it in.

A No-Fail Method
Once I tried this no-fail method of making marmalade, I've never looked back. It's quick and easy, aromatic and full of flavor. Use it on toasted bread, English muffins or waffles. I've also wrapped cream cheese and marmalade in crescent dough to make a marmalade danish. Yumm! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Burmese Htamin Let Thoke - Hand-Tossed Noodle & Rice Salad

Burmese Htamin Let Thoke
Also known as Let Thoke Sone or A-Thoke, this carb-rich salad is a popular street food in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Htamin (rice) Let (hand) Thoke (tossed/mixed), like many other Burmese hand-tossed salads, is made from 12 or more ingredients, most of which are readily available in your local supermarkets. Specialty items like deep-fried onions and garlic can be made from scratch, but is a laborious process. Asian markets stock those along with spicy shrimp floss for which I like to use Balachaung as a substitute. Tamarind paste also is available in Asian and Indian markets.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dilled Tilapia

Dilled Tilapia
The tilapia fillets that were defrosted today were too thin to withstand a gravy, so they were chopped into little cubes and quickly stir-fried with potatoes. Dried dill weed is not often used in my kitchen, but was a great substitute for cilantro which I did not have. This stir-fry was quick & easy to prepare and tasted quite awesome.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Burmese Eggplant & Fried Anchovies in Coconut Sauce

Khayun Thee
Japanese eggplant are my favourite because they are practically seedless. It's only recently that this type of eggplant is being stocked at our local supermarket. Hubby usually does our regular grocery shopping, but it's my pleasure to shop at the Asian markets. We have Indian, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean markets within 5 miles of our home. Each market has something different and unique to offer foodies like me, like these Korean fried anchovies.

Korean Fried Anchovies
The anchovies are fried with chili powder and packed in oil. Stir-fried eggplant takes on a whole new flavour when they are cooked with anchovies. The dish could be cooked until dry and served with hot rice.

Dry Fried Eggplant & Anchovies
A slight twist was introduced today to add a cup of coconut milk to the pan just before removing from the heat. This left a little gravy that is always welcome when anything is eaten with rice.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Muttar Keema Gobi - Shredded Cabbage with Minced Meat & Peas

Shredded Cabbage with Minced Meat & Peas
This is another dish inspired by Mum. She would take a whole cabbage, remove the core and stuff it with spiced, seasoned and browned ground meat. The cabbage would then be bound with kitchen twine so it wouldn't fall apart and browned on top of the stove. From the frying pan, the bound cabbage would be transferred to the pressure cooker with a wee bit of water, brought up to full pressure and cooked over medium-low heat for about half an hour. The yummiest stuffed cabbage there ever was!

I deconstructed it and made a stir-fried, shredded cabbage with ground sausage meat. The longer the cabbage is cooked, the sweeter it tastes, so take the time to simmer and stir till the cabbage turns golden brown.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Effortless Balachaung

Store-bought Balachaung
Less than half a mile from our home, a tiny grocery store opened its doors a couple of years ago. It's stuck at the end of the strip mall and beckons passersby with its flashing lights strung around the perimeter of its windows. It has a magical name - Alladin Spices & Groceries. From the name it's a good guess that it's an Indian store - in particular, a Bangladeshi store. When it first opened, Prasun & I ventured in, but we weren't terribly impressed because it was cramped and dingy and they were still stocking their shelves. Besides, the products didn't look too interesting. No kasundi available, for example, so not truly a Bengali store.

Two years later, I needed to buy red lentils, also known as masuri dal. I was reluctant to travel 5 miles to Patel Bros. and decided to pick it up at Alladin. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the store appeared much bigger and brighter. The bag of lentils I needed was close enough to the entrance that I could have made a quick exit, but decided instead to give the store another look-over. Kasundi on the shelf (yay!) and even though I couldn't understand the lingo uttered by the stock boys, words like 'balti' and 'kumurehsah' makes me believe they were speaking chydgah, a dialect from Chittagong. The inventory was much more varied and as I walked around the back of the store, came across this gem.

Balachaung in a Package!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Adraki Gobi - Cauiflower in Ginger Sauce

Adraki Gobi
My sister and her daughter 'fast' one day every week. It's not a total fast, they just stick to vegetarian cuisine that has no onion or garlic. This cauliflower dish would be ideal for them because it is flavoured simply with ginger and tomatoes.
Fresh, minced ginger would be perfect, to get that strong ginger taste, but I often resort to using ginger paste for convenience.

No water was used in this recipe to keep the cauliflower dry. To make it saucy, add half a cup of hot water at the end and bring everything back to a boil. I added a diced russet potato to suit my Bengali palate, but it may be omitted if you wish.

Serve Adraki Gobi as a side dish especially if you are catering to a vegan and/or vegetarian guest.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Chicken Do Pyaza - Chicken in Onion Sauce

Chicken Do Pyaza
I modified my Butter Chicken recipe to create this Chicken Do Pyaza which translates to Chicken 2 Onions. It gets its name from the two types of onions that are used. The chicken is first stir-fried with minced onions and at the end is combined with deep-fried onions or birista.

Butter Chicken Sauce
Half a package of this off-the-shelf butter chicken sauce was the perfect gravy to use in this dish. One and a half pounds of boneless & skinless chicken thighs were cubed and marinated in paprika, the juice of one lime and salt. The pieces were then stir-fried until golden brown, the sauce added and the whole thing simmered over medium-low heat for half an hour. The fried onions were then added and stirred into the sauce to make it thick and glossy. 

Serve this chicken as a main dish with hot, steamed rice or any Indian bread.

Meetha Sev - Sweet Vermicelli Dessert

Meetha Sev
This dessert reminds me of Khan, our cook in Bombay in the early 1970s. He was an excellent cook who went to the market early each morning and based our menu on what was available that day. His food was in the Mughlai style and quite rich. This was his way of preparing toasted vermicelli and was quite unusual for us because we were used to the milky payesh that Bengalis generally make.

Toasted Vermicelli
Toasted vermicelli or sev is available at Indian markets. If it's not available in toasted form, it adds a step to making desserts because it has to be toasted in butter or ghee until golden brown. Coating sev with butter keeps each strand separate and prevents it from becoming mushy.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Easiest Potato Salad

Potato Salad
Summer's just around the corner which makes this the ideal time for backyard bargeques and picnics. Potato Salad is the easiest and most portable of picnic foods that is sure to please all, big and small. I was requested to make a Ranch Potato Salad for my son's Mother's Day BBQ not too long ago. 

Mother's Day Gift
There are few more satisfying stages in life than being a grandmother. We have three gregarious Grand-Boys and the eldest gifted me this plant stand made lovingly by his own two hands. The tulip and leaves are made of foam and the pot holder is made of wood. It holds a live flowering plant and I love it!

So Simple & Easy to Make
The potato salad was so easy to make. Red-skin potatoes were either quartered or halved and boiled just until al-dente. The potatoes were left skin-on and were dropped in boiling water and simmered for exactly 10 minutes. The best way to test for doneness is to stick the tip of a knife into the skin and if the potato falls off the knife without difficulty, they're done.

Just 5 Ingredients
The salad needs just 5 ingredients and requires only a quick toss of the potatoes with the other four ingredients. It was chilled for six hours and tasted perfect served right out of the fridge. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fish in Mustard Sauce - Maacher Sorshe Bata Jhaal

Maacher Jhaal
If time is of the essence and processing mustard seeds seems like a chore, the next best thing is to use Coleman's Mustard Powder, dissolved in some water. This is a fast and easy way to prepare any fish fillets or steaks. I've used fillets of flounder in this recipe, but will avoid it in the future because they just can't help falling apart as they cook. Steaks would probably work a lot better, if your family can handle the bones. Any fish works well, salmon steaks taste lovely, but ilish maach or hilsa cannot be beat. Only problem is that hilsa are not readily available outside India.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Scrambled Eggs, Cabbage & Peas

Scrambled Eggs, Cabbage & Peas
Here's another dish that places Mum's presence front & center in my consciousness. I remember having this with hot rice in Rangoon and more frequently in Darjeeling. It's really simple to make with just a few ingredients and is so delicious! It goes well with rice or tortillas.

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:

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.