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.