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.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner 2015

Our Thanksgiving Meal
Friday, November 27, 2015 

Beverages


Appetizers


Entrée


Side Dishes

Dinner Rolls

Dessert


Sausage Stuffing

Sausage Stuffing
I usually make stuffing with just onions, carrots and celery, but this Thanksgiving I added crumbled sausage. It dramatically boosted the flavour up several notches. No need for butter, since the stuffing was cooked in the drippings from the crumbled sausage. To make your own Stove Top stuffing follow this recipe.

Steamed Balsamic Asparagus Topped with Crumbled Bacon

Asparagus with Crumbled Bacon
Tender asparagus spears, steamed and tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette and garnished with crumbled bacon taste wonderful! Somewhere on the worldwide web I read (and tried) a tip that bacon strips baked between two cookie sheets prevents a mess caused by spattering and keeps the bacon from curling. It worked exactly as promised. I baked the strips of bacon in a 350*F oven for 20 minutes until browned and crisp, then crumbled them.


Baked Baby Potatoes

Baked Baby Potatoes
These little red and yellow potatoes are so delicious baked in their jackets. They were a hit at our Thanksgiving table this year. The yellow potatoes were tossed with olive oil, dried onion bits and dried rosemary and the red potatoes were tossed with olive oil, dried garlic and dried rosemary before roasting. They're added to the baking pan during the last half hour of baking the turkey, so it's one way of heating them up just before dinner.

Microwaving them for 5 minutes in the microwave oven before baking ensures the potatoes are fully cooked. 


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.