Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Buttermilk Hidden Valley Ranch Oyster Crackers

Years ago, while I was still a working woman, a co-worker brought in this snack for a potluck. It's so crunchy, delicious, and easy to assemble that I wonder why it's taken so long to resurface.

1 (0.4 oz. pkg.) Buttermilk Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. dried dill
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 (12 oz.) pkg. oyster crackers


  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
  2. In a small bowl, stir oil, dressing mix, dill and garlic powder until mixed through.
  3. Pour crackers in a large pan and pour prepared oil over crackers..
  4. Toss crackers until well coated with oil.
  5. Arrange crackers on an ungreased cookie sheet in a single layer.
  6. Bake at  250°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until crackers are golden brown.
  7. Store in an airtight container after cooling to room temperature.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Easy Kosha Mangsho - Simmered Lamb Curry

Kosha (stirred & simmered) Mangsho (meat) produces a lamb curry that is bathed in a thick gravy. Note that no water or watery ingredients are added during cooking in order to ensure a thick sauce or gravy. Tomato ketchup or paste is used, not pureed tomatoes, for this reason. Why call this recipe easy? Because it takes a couple of hours or more to cook this on the stove top. By using a pressure cooker, the cooking time is reduced drastically and the meat falls off the bones.

Bone-in leg of baby lamb works best for this recipe and purchasing from a halal meat store ensures tenderness and good quality meat. I ask the butcher to cut the leg into pieces suitable for stewing and to pack it in 3-4 separate portions. That cuts down on work once I get it home, so all I have to do is freeze it until ready to be cooked.

We generally don't eat lamb unless company's coming, so that makes it an extra-special meal. Most of the fat is removed during the butchering process, but a sufficient amount remains which gives the lamb its familiar flavor. 

It's a family tradition to add potatoes to meat dishes and I've used one large russet potato chopped into pieces similar in size to the pieces of lamb. For an added festive touch, this dish can be garnished with deep fried onions just prior to serving.

2 lbs. lamb, cut in big chunks & washed
2 tsp. Kashmiri mirch or paprika
1 Tbsp. ginger paste
1 Tbsp. garlic paste
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. cumin-coriander powder
2 Tbsp. tomato ketchup or paste (not pureed)
salt to taste

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. shah jeera or cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
3 large black cardamom
1 star anise
2 large onions, halved & sliced in crescents

1 russet potato, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 tsp. Bengali garam masala (ground cinnamon, cardamom & cloves)
salt to taste

  1. Marinate lamb in next 7 ingredients, mixing thoroughly.
  2. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  3. Take lamb out of the fridge and bring to room temperature.
  4. Heat pressure cooker over medium-high heat and add oil.
  5. When oil is hot, sputter next 4 ingredients until aromatic.
  6. Stir-fry onions until translucent and add lamb.
  7. Stir well and simmer until juices are released.
  8. Cover pressure cooker & bring to full pressure.
  9. Simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes & remove from heat.
  10. Allow pressure to dissipate completely before removing cover.
  11. Add potatoes, stir well and place over medium-low heat.
  12. Simmer for half an hour or until potatoes are tender.
  13. Adjust salt to taste and stir in garam masala.
  14. Serve with Indian bread or steamed Basmati rice.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Burmese Stir-Fried Garlicky Shrimp

Pazun Hsipyan
These shrimp (pazun) are stir-fried until the "oil resurfaces" (hsipyan). Most of the effort in preparing this dish is spent in shelling and deveining the shrimp, which take no time at all to cook. Keep this recipe in your repertoire of dishes that can be prepared in a hurry. The shrimp can be cleaned and marinated in advance and then cooked just before serving.

1 lb. shrimp, shelled & deveined
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled & diced
1 large onion, peeled, halved & sliced in thin crescents
1 large tomato, diced
1 serrano pepper, diced
1 bunch cilantro stems, diced
1/2 tsp. Kashmiri mirch or paprika
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
salt to taste

  1. Marinate shrimp with turmeric & fish sauce for 15 minutes or longer.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet/wok over medium-high heat and add paprika.
  3. Stir-fry onions, peppers & garlic until onions are translucent.
  4. Lower heat to medium, add tomatoes & simmer until oil resurfaces.
  5. Add shrimp & cilantro stems and stir-fry until shrimp are no longer pink.
  6. Adjust salt to taste & serve immediately over steamed long-grain rice.
Note: No water is used in cooking this dish. The gravy/sauce is the light olive oil (white & odorless) that I used which turned red from Kashmiri mirch and tomatoes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Baked Mushroom Pilaf

Baked Mushroom Pilaf
Did you know you can bake rice from scratch in the oven? It works really well and combined with a couple of cans of soup and mushrooms, it tastes amazing! Oh, I almost forgot to mention that most of the taste comes from the butter which is the fifth ingredient! No need to add salt because the soups have plenty.

Facebook is my #1 go-to source for recipes these days. A couple of days ago, I came across a recipe called Stick of Butter Rice which I vowed to try as soon as possible. It sounded divine. Today was the perfect time to experiment because I have to take something for a Christmas potluck tomorrow. 

Normally I would just point you to the original recipe, but because I used Basmati rice, baking times were a little different and I added fresh shiitake mushrooms. The umami from the mushrooms and butter make this a winner!

1 cup Basmati rice, rinsed in several changes of water & drained
1 (10 oz.) can Campbell's Cream of French Onion soup
1 (10 oz.) can Campbell's Beef Broth
1 (1/2 cup) stick of butter, sliced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425*F.
  2. Place drained rice in a 9X9 inch glass baking dish.
  3. Pour both cans of soup over rice.
  4. Layer mushrooms over top and dot with sliced butter.
  5. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake at 452*F for 30 minutes.
  6. Take foil off & bake for another 20 minutes just until edges crisp & brown.
  7. Turn oven off and take baking pan out of oven.
  8. Cover dish with foil and leave at room temperature for 10-20 minutes.
Serve with a salad or raita such as Fuji Apple Raita. It tastes yummy!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Baked Tandoori Cauliflower & Potato Casserole

Tandoori Cauliflower & Potato Casserole
One of my favorite food blogs is The English Kitchen, which inspired this dish. I've switched out and added several ingredients to favor my Indian palate and it turned out to be perfect!

Take it easy with the salt because grated cheese has plenty. Serve as a side dish with grilled meats, chicken, fish or shrimp.

1 large russet potatoes, peeled, sliced & blanched
1 large cauliflower, trimmed, sliced & blanched
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 oz. Greek/hung yogurt
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
2 (8 oz.) cups grated Mexican blend cheese 
2 tsp. tandoori masala powder
1 tsp. Kashmiri mirch/paprika
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
butter to dot the top
salt to taste

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350*F.
  2. Heat oil, and stir-fry onions, cauliflower & potatoes, cover and simmer until cooked.
  3. Season with tandoori powder, paprika and pepper and cook for another 3 minutes.
  4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in yogurt, mixing it into gravy.
  5. Spray a baking dish with Pam non-stick butter spray.
  6. Layer onions, potatoes, cauliflower and cheese twice.
  7. Pour chicken broth around edges and dot top with butter.
  8. Bake at 350*F for 20-25 minutes until bubbling & golden brown.
Serve hot as a side dish with grilled meat, fish or shrimp.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Chicken Rezala with Mint

Chicken Rezala with Mint
Legend has it that Chicken Rezala was born in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) by bawarchis (cooks) in the kitchen of the Nawab of Lucknow. It is an elaborate preparation involving the paste of poppy seeds & nuts, yogurt & ghee, among other ingredients.

Here is a simplified version of the same, taken up a notch with the addition of mint chutney, that is light, delicious and perfect for lunch with loochis (puffed bread) or hot Basmati rice. If mint chutney is not available, make your own by blending a bunch of mint leaves with cilantro stems, lime juice, salt to taste and a smidgen of sugar. This chutney goes well with Indian appetizers such as samosas or pakoras.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cauliflower Stir-Fried with Yogurt

Doi Kopi
Whipped Greek yogurt adds a creaminess to simple stir-fries. Here cauliflower has been sliced in bite-sized pieces and stir-fried until it's cooked, but still crunchy. The secret is to soak the cut cauliflower in hot water and leave it to cool. This also saves cooking time, so this dish comes together quickly. 

I like to keep the ingredients simple, so the only spices used are fennel powder & Bengali garam masala powder comprising ground cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Black cardamoms are big cardamom pods that are easily removed from the dish prior to serving. Squeeze the tip of each pod to crack it so that the flavor penetrates the gravy without releasing the seeds. The small green cardamom pods are an irritant when they unexpectedly lodge in the teeth and are better served ground into a powder.

1 cauliflower, sliced in bite-sized pieces 
2 cups boiling water, flavored with salt and turmeric
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. hing/asafetida powder
1/4 tsp. shah jeera/cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 black cardamoms
2 onions, diced
1 tsp. ginger paste
1 tsp. garlic paste
1 tsp. fennel powder
1 tsp. Bengali garam masala powder
1 cup Greek unflavored yogurt
1 green chili, diced
4 green chilies, slit & left whole
1 tsp. ghee
1/2 cup cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped
salt to taste


  1. Pour boiling water over cauliflower and leave to soak until cold.
  2. Heat oil, sputter hing, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and cardamom.
  3. Add diced green chilies and onions & stir-fry until translucent.
  4. Scoop cauliflower out of soaking liquid and stir into skillet.
  5. Mix ginger & garlic pastes with fennel, garam masala powders and yogurt.
  6. Pour over cauliflower in skillet and stir well.
  7. Cover and simmer over medium heat until oil resurfaces.
  8. Adjust salt to taste and garnish with ghee, whole green chilies & fresh cilantro. 
Serve with hot Basmati rice or any Indian bread.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Burmese Squash with Salad Shrimp

Chayote Squash with Shrimp
Chayote squash is practically tasteless and takes on the flavor of whatever it's cooked with. Shrimp goes really well with this squash, especially when it's cooked in the Burmese way with a hint of shrimp sauce or ngapi.

This dish reminds me of Mum who made this often with fresh shrimp. To speed up the cooking process, I pressure cooked this dish which cooked the squash in ten minutes. The shrimp was added at the tail-end of the cooking process to prevent over-cooking.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Spooky Orange Faces

Healthy & Easy Halloween 'Carvings'
We had a wee, four-year-old guest this last weekend, who was tickled pink by these spooky orange faces, inspired by a pin on Pinterest.

Once There Were Four Spooky Faces
I used a black washable marker to draw the faces on these California cuties.

A real sweetheart, cheerful and full of life, our tiny guest kept us entertained with her chatter, stories and songs. The house seems so quiet and empty without her.

The weather was perfect for a quick trip to Port Huron & the Blue Water Bridge.

The little girl had fun counting Canadian Geese.

We nicknamed her Miss Spotify because she's so good at spotting ships and yellow cars! This was taken at Freighters' restaurant which is located on the St. Clair river, overlooking Blue Water Bridge.  She spotted 2 ships that sailed right by the window.

Her hand turkey was added to our refrigerator art wall (bottom right corner), along with various and sundry other pieces of artwork. She's promised to return soon and we're looking forward to that!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Burmese Squash with Dried Shrimp

Squash with Dried Shrimp
Chayote squash is practically tasteless and takes on the flavor of whatever it's cooked with. Shrimp goes really well with this squash and dried shrimp even better! 

This reminds me of Mum who made this often, but she used fresh shrimp. Dried whole shrimp has intense flavor but is chewy, so I microwaved the package of shrimp in a cup of water. To speed up the cooking process, I also pressure cooked this dish which softened the shrimp and cooked the squash in ten minutes.

Be careful with the salt because there's plenty of it in the dried shrimp.

Pickled Habaneros In Mustard Oil

Pickled Habaneros In Mustard Oil
Over the summer my habanero plant produced a bumper crop of hot peppers. It was an orange habanero plant, identified as Oh (orange habanero) on the Scoville Scale with a rating of 150k-325k. In comparison, the jalapeno pepper has a Scoville rating of 2.5k-8k.

Home-grown Habanero Peppers
About a week ago, I harvested the last batch of peppers before the frost set in. I soaked them in a sink full of water for 2 days, to wash off the dust and grime. 

The Main Ingredients
My sister, Rene, gifted me a 'hamam dista' or mortar & pestle which I used to grind black mustard seeds with salt.

Pickling Spices
The ground mustard was combined with roasted chili powder, turmeric and poured onto the cut peppers in a sterilized glass jar. 

Peppers Covered with Mustard Oil
Mustard oil was poured to cover the peppers and spices. The bottle of pickled peppers was placed in the sun for a week and are now ready to be enjoyed with dinner.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Jhinge Posto - Ridge Gourd in White Poppy Seed Sauce

Jhinge Posto
Ridge gourd is a dark green, tough skinned vegetable that is soft and spongy on the inside with a similar texture to zucchini.
Ridge Gourd
Notice the spines on the surface from which it gets its name. The spines are inedible and have to be peeled away prior to cooking. Some people, including me, like to leave the rest of the skin intact, but I peel the ridges and skin because Hubby prefers it that way. 

It takes very little time to cook, so this is one dish I like to include in my weekly meals. Ridge gourd is not commonly found in North American grocery stores. It is available in Indian, Asian and specialty markets. 

White poppy seeds, called posto in Bengal, India and khus khus in other parts of India, are rich in iron and is known to have a calming effect. To soften the seeds in order to get a smooth paste, it is necessary to pour boiling water over the poppy seeds, soak them and allow to cool before blending. Salt and a green chili is added to the soaked seeds to add to the flavor. The blended paste is added a few minutes before taking the dish off the fire and serves to also thicken the sauce.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Stir-Fried Spinach Mushrooms & Peas

Paalang Shaag Bhaja
"Spinach is rich in potassium and folic acids, both of which act as a defense against high blood pressure. Spinach is also rich in lutein, a plant carotenoid which not only protects against age related macular degeneration but also prevents heart attacks by keeping arteries free from cholesterol build up." This quote was taken from Facebook, It pretty much sums up why spinach is a nutritious choice in our diets.

This stir-fried dish combines three of my favorite vegetables: spinach, mushrooms & peas. All three are flavorful in their own right, so there's no need to add much more. I used frozen spinach, but fresh spinach, spun-dry after washing thoroughly and chopped, tastes better. Sliced button mushrooms taste so good when paired with spinach.

Try this for a quick and tasty side dish served with steamed Basmati rice or chapatis/tortillas.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Green Beans & Mung Dal

Green Bean & Mung Dal
Stir-Fried with Onions & Tomatoes
A group of buddies at work decided to have lunch at an Indian restaurant one day. We decided to go to one that served a buffet at lunch time. Indian food pre-Y2K was not as commonplace as it is in Michigan today. So we all lined up to fill our plates and returned to our seats at the lunch table to eat. All of a sudden the guy sitting across from me turned red in the face and began choking over his food. It turns out he had helped himself to some innocuous-looking whole green chilies, thinking they were cut-up green beans. Poor chap took a while to calm down enough to enjoy his lunch.

Mum often made a green beans dish which inspired me to try with mung bean lentils that were pre-soaked for about an hour. Mum's green beans were cut in one-inch lengths and stir-fried over high heat along with onions, tomatoes and quite a bit of ground black pepper. Yummy to eat with both hot rice and puffy chapatis or tortillas.

I diced the green beans and stir-fried it the same way as Mum used to, except that I added the softened mung dal. It was just as yummy with an extra bite from the lentils.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Burmese Stir-Fried Cabbage with Dried Shrimp & Eggs

Burmese Stir-Fried Cabbage
with Dried Shrimp & Eggs
Credit for this recipe goes to Mum who used to cook shredded cabbage with black pepper and eggs. I've blogged before about Grated Cabbage that is similar to this. Adding the shrimp powder (entirely optional) adds a lovely Burmese touch to this dish.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Burmese Minced Pork with Chayote Squash

Burmese Minced Pork with Chayote Squash
Chayote Squash is called Gurkha Thee in Burmese, probably because they were introduced to the Burmese people by Gurkha soldiers.

This squash acts as a tenderizer for all kinds of meat and is a popular vegetable that grows profusely in the higher altitudes of the Himalayan mountains. The Nepalese call it Eskuus or Darjeeling Squash. We grew up eating this squash which was usually cooked with meat. 

I'd forgotten about it until a friend from Texas showed me around her vegetable patch. She had it growing in the ground but suggested growing it in a container because it spreads out of control. Apparently, a green thumb is not necessary to grow chayote squash. All one has to do is bury the whole fruit in a container of soil and water on a regular basis. Each plant produces several squash and the tender greens are delicious in their own right. 

Serve this as a main dish with steamed rice as part of your Burmese meal.

1 lb. minced pork, marinated for 30 minutes in
   2 Tbsp. fish sauce
   1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
5 chayote squash, peeled & cut in strips
2 onions, peeled & diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1 tsp. Kashmiri mirch/chili powder
2 green chillies, diced
3 stalks green onions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat and brown pork, along with diced onions.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except green onions and cilantro.
  3. Stir-fry on high heat until squash is tender.
  4. Adjust salt to taste & garnish with green onions & cilantro.
Serve with steamed Basmati or other long-grain rice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spanish Rice with Chicken

Coming up with something new, interesting and tasty for our Tuesdate night with a GrandBoy is always a challenge. Spanish rice with chicken came to mind because the boys seem to enjoy eating at Taco Bell. Served with sliced cucumbers and shredded lettuce, the fried rice can be rolled up in soft, flour tortillas and eaten like a burrito. Hope Kole likes his dinner tonight. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chicken Fajita Casserole

Chicken Fajita Casserole
This deconstruction of a chicken fajita meal combines all its ingredients into a hot & bubbling casserole. I had to come up with something quick that would also appeal to our grandsons (6-8 year-olds) and this met the criteria, especially because we had chicken fajita strips in the freezer. The young boys and their grandparents enjoyed scooping it up with Doritos and heated flour tortillas.


1 pkg. (16 oz./1 lb.) fajita chicken strips, cubed or shredded
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced new potatoes
1 can (10.5 oz.) Campbell's cream of chicken soup
2 Tbsp. low-fat sour cream
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
1 pkg. (16 oz./2 cups) reduced fat grated cheese

6 stalks green onions, whites only chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Set aside 1 Tbsp. grated cheese for garnish.
  3. Mix remaining ingredients together and place in an 8" x 8" Pyrex dish.
  4. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, garnish with grated cheese.
  5. Return to oven and bake for 5 minutes more until cheese melts.
  6. Serve hot with Doritos or tortillas.
I shared this on:

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Baby Catfish (Tyangra Maach) in Fennel Seed Sauce

Tyangra Maach er Mouri Bata Jhol
This same fennel seed sauce was borrowed from a previous post that used Climbing Perch or Koi Maach. Baby catfish is considered to be nutritious, especially if the fish is sold live in the fish market. The fish monger willingly guts and cleans the little fish after weighing them. In the West, fish consumed by Bengalis is available in Bangladeshi markets and fish, like tyangra, come frozen in slabs of ice. They can be defrosted by placing the package on a plate in the refrigerator overnight. If need be, should the block still be frozen the next day, it can be placed in a sink filled with water to thaw. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

Sewai Payesh - Toasted Vermicelli Cooked in Sweetened Cream

Sewai er Payesh
The key ingredient in this dessert dish is toasted vermicelli, also known as sewai or semiya. Payesh is thickened & sweetened whole milk that is simmered down to half its original volume. The resulting sweet cream blends with the vermicelli to create a wonderful dessert. To save time, I've substituted the sweet cream with a package of Gits Kulfi Mix and was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked in this dessert.

Vermicelli is very skinny pasta that is available in Indian markets already toasted to a golden brown color. It also comes untoasted, but it's really easy to stir-fry in a dry skillet until golden brown. Toasting vermicelli in melted butter ensures that each strand remains separate and prevents it from becoming mushy.

Garnished with Fried Raisins & Nuts
It takes a ratio of 2:1 cups of liquid to vermicelli to cook till soft. This is a dry version of the payesh, but Bengalis generally prefer more of a saucy consistency to their sewai payesh.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Begun Bhaja - Pan-Fried Eggplant Slices

Begun Bhaja
The people of Bengal in India are very fond of eggplant. The big & round eggplant are the most common variety found in India. The long & thin oriental eggplant are, in my opinion, sweeter and have less seeds. Cut down the center vertically and then cut into four pieces, they are tossed with turmeric and salt and left to rest for 10 minutes before pan-frying. Covering the skillet while they fry allows steam to collect in the pan which cooks the eggplant faster without using much oil. I find that oriental eggplants use less oil to brown than the round varieties.

Begun bhaja is had as part of a daily meal as well as a starter for a festive meal. It's quick & easy to prepare and should be pan-fried just before the meal is served.

Baked Rosogollas

Broiled Rogollas
Baked rosogollas are a relatively recent phenomenon in the Bengali sweet shops or misti dokan of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). I started with the rosogolla payesh recipe recently posted and placed one serving under the broiler until the tops caramelized. 

Since Hubby enjoyed this small transformation thoroughly, I decided to bake the remaining payesh at 350F degrees and sprinkled some saffron over top. Either way, finishing off this sweet dish in the oven imparts a caramelized & smoky flavour to these delectable fresh cottage cheese dumplings. 

Kosha Mangsho - Simmered Lamb Curry

Kosha Mangsho
This lamb dish brings back memories of our days in Darjeeling (nestled in the Himalayan mountains in India) during Bijoya Dashami, the tenth day of Durga Puja. All Puja festivals are celebrated by offering food, usually vegetarian food, to Hindu deities and sharing that blessed meal with family and friends. Bijoya is a little different in that it is one of those rare occasions when non-vegetarian food is served to family and friends.

Mum always cooked all festive meals herself. Daily meals were prepared by the kanchi (Nepali word for household help) because Mum worked as a professor at an all-girls' college. On weekends and holidays, she enjoyed cooking for us all and for any of her own and/or our friends who dropped by. On Bijoya Dashami she'd prepare this type of lamb/goat curry served with luchis (Bengali deep-fried white puffed bread).

Today is Bijoya Dashami and we had friends over for lunch. I made Kosha Mangsho the way I imagined Mum would have made it. It was served with steamed Basmati rice because I'd need the patience of Mum to make luchis.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Rosogollar Payesh - Cheese Dumplings Soaked in Sweetened Cream

Rosogollar Payesh/Rasamalai

This Bengali dessert is delicious and requires just a few ingredients!  It consists of fresh cottage cheese dumplings that are soaked overnight in sweetened cream. Canned rosogollas are available in most Indian markets in North America. Using these pre-made rosogollas saves a great deal of time.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Alu Diye Chingri Maacher Jhol - Shrimp & Potatoes in Gravy

Alu Diye Chingri Maacher Jhol
Coconut milk is what gives this shrimp dish its rich flavour. The old-fashioned way of grating a fresh coconut and extracting the juice is still the best choice. It's a tedious job and convenient only if help is available (as it is in India). To see a photograph of the traditional coconut scraper used in some Indian households and details visit Traditional Kitchen Equipments blog.

Indian markets in North America stock frozen, scaped coconut which can be soaked in hot water to extract the milk. This probably comes a close second to using a fresh coconut. Coconut milk powder is also available which can be dissolved in water or added directly to whatever it is you're cooking.

Canned coconut milk is a real time saver and that's what was used in making this dish. The coconut cream which collects at the top of the can was removed and used in the first part of the cooking process and the rest of the coconut milk was added later to make the gravy. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chingri Maacher Malai Curry - Shrimp in Coconut Cream Sauce

Chingri Maacher Malai Curry
Shrimp in Coconut Cream Sauce
A popular & festive main course in Bengali homes, this shrimp dish is usually prepared with the heads intact. I had a package of wild caught shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico that were beheaded (no pun intended) so that's what I used. The heads of shrimp contain flavorful oils full of omega-3, so if you can find 'heads-on' shrimp, they are definitely recommended.

Canned thick coconut milk, if opened without shaking first, has a thick layer of cream on top. Using a spoon, remove this cream and use it to make the sauce for this dish. The rest of the coconut milk can be saved in the refrigerator for another use.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tortilla Omelette Stuffed with Vegetables - Anda Paratha

Bengali Dimer Paratha
For a quick and nutritious lunch, reach for an egg, a tortilla and a cast iron skillet. Kati rolls as they are called in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, India are a favourite 'grab-and-go' sandwich cooked on demand in small food stalls on the street. These egg rolls are generally filled with mutton, beef or chicken.

I had only me to please today, so I decided to make a kati roll stuffed with minced onions, tomatoes, green chillies and cilantro. We have several sizes of cast iron skillets in our kitchen and there's one in particular which we use for making omelettes and it was the perfect size to accommodate a flour tortilla.

Here's how I made it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Quick & Easy Burmese Ohno Khauk Swe - Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup

Ohno Khauk Swe in the Bowl
Boiled Egg Noodles
Chicken in Coconut Soup
This Burmese meal is a popular street food that is brought to your doorstep by hawkers on foot in Yangon, Myanmar. It is a breakfast meal which we can now have any time of the day because it's prepared at home.

Ohno Khauk Swe in the Bowl
The one-pot meal comprises a bowl of noodles topped with chicken in a coconut soup and garnished with a number of fresh and deep-fried condiments. Gather friends and family together to share in this heartwarming meal that is ideal for a rainy or snowy day.

Boiled Egg Noodles
Fresh egg noodles are readily available in North America at Asian markets. These are easy to prepare by simply soaking in boiling water for less than 5 minutes. Dried egg noodles take between 10-12 minutes to cook through. Either way, the noodles should be cooked just prior to serving and should be drained and rinsed in cold water to prevent clumping.

2-3 limes, cut in wedges
Cilantro, chopped
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled & diced
Deep-fried garlic
1 large or 2 medium white onion, sliced
1 bunch green onions, diced
Deep-fried diced onions
2 Tbsp. chickpea flour, toasted in a dry skillet until golden brown

Chicken in Coconut Soup
This soup could be quite tedious to prepare as outlined in a previous post. I've been toying with this quick and easy method for preparing this dish which usually requires that the chicken be browned and onion made into a paste in the blender. 

The shortcuts used to make this soup included the use of a pressure cooker to cook a whole chicken in a red lentil soup base that was flavoured with diced onions, garlic, lemon grass powder and paprika. The cooked red lentils served to thicken the soup and flavour it.

An alternative method to cooking this in a pressure cooker is to use a slow cooker or crock pot. Follow steps 1 through 7 on low setting for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours. Shred the chicken as in step 7 and add back to the crock pot along with the coconut milk and cook for another half an hour.

1 whole chicken, cut in 8 pieces & marinated in 1/2 salt & 1/4 tsp. turmeric.
1 cup red lentils or masoor dal, washed and drained
4 cups chicken broth or water
1 large onion, peeled & minced
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1 tsp. Kashmiri mirch/paprika/cayenne pepper
1 tsp. lemon grass powder
1 tsp. shrimp powder
1 tsp. shrimp paste
1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk (cream settles on top of can)

  1. Combine all ingredients, except coconut milk, in a pressure cooker.
  2. Bring to a boil and adjust salt to taste.
  3. Cover, bring to full pressure and lower heat to medium.
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes, remove from heat and allow pressure to dissipate.
  5. Remove cover from pressure cooker and carefully take out chicken pieces.
  6. Separate chicken from bones & discard skin and bones.
  7. Chop chicken into bite-size pieces and return to pressure cooker.
  8. Add coconut milk plus cream and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
Allow guests to serve themselves with noodles, soup and garnishes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stir-Fried Green Beans, Potatoes and Salad Shrimp

Farashi Bean, Alu aar Choto Chingrir Chochori
When there are just of handful of green beans available, a russet potato always comes to the rescue to add a soft and silky contrast to the crunch of the beans. Tiny salad shrimp pump up the flavour and when all of it is stir-fried and simmered over low heat, this dish cooks in its own juices without any added water. Adding salt when the green beans are added to the skillet and cooking this without a cover ensure that the green beans retain their vibrant green colour and crunch.

Serve this as a side dish to any Indian meal with steamed Basmati or other long-grain rice or chapatis.