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

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 vegetable) 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 




Side Dishes

Dinner Rolls


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 leftthe green chilies whole and mashed them 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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chaal Diye Muror Ghonto - Fish Pilaf

Chaal Diye Muror Ghonto
In Bengali, muro means fish head and ghonto is a melange of different ingredients. Adding rice and potatoes is one way to cook fish heads in the Bengali style. Muror Ghonto can also be made with a variety of vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage or bottle squash. It can also be combined with mung dal and served as a lentil course. 

Most Bengalis love fish. Filleted fish is only used to make breaded fried fish. In most Bengali households, the entire fish, bone-in and including the head and tail, is consumed. In fact, fish head is considered to be the tastiest part of the fish. In my experience, the heads of rui or katla (both of which belong in the carp family) are the tastiest. I've tried using salmon head and love its flavour, but the bones are very sharp and takes expertise to remove in order to avoid injury to the throat. Today I was in the Asian market and picked up a package of grouper head. Unfortunately, rui & katla are not as readily available.

Hubby won't touch fish head because of a fear of its bones, but enjoys the rest of this pulao. For him, I included a few pieces of fish, devoid of bones. Make sure to marinate the fish head in a lot of garlic paste to get rid of the fishy odour. Even though it's getting very cold outside, the doors and windows were opened wide while this was cooking. 

A combination of mustard and olive oil has been used to cook this dish, but any vegetable oil will do. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Spanish Rice with Chicken Sausage

When the GrandBoys (8 & 9 year-olds) have dinner with us once a week, it's a challenge to come up with tempting, yet nutritious meals. I was a little hesitant to try rice on them and was taken by surprise when they loved it and ask for more. Here the Spanish rice is served with chicken sausage with asiago cheese and spinach.

I made the rice the same way I make pulao/pilaf. The rice is washed until the water runs clear and left to drain in a sieve until it's needed. In order to avoid detection, the onions, peppers, carrots and tomatoes are diced into minute pieces. 

The Spanish flavour is achieved through the use of dry fiesta ranch dip mix.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Crab Cake Meal

Crab Cake Meal
I made this for dinner one night when we were looking for a break from Indian food. Lump crab meat is available at most supermarkets which is convenient because the crab meat is already picked clean of any remnants of shell. Making the crab cakes was as easy as making fish cakes. The hasselback potato is made from an old recipe, except that I switched out all the ingredients except for the oil and substituted half a package of Fiesta Ranch Dip Mix which was poured over the potato and tomato halves before baking them. The other half of the package of Fiesta Ranch Dip Mix was used in the crab cakes in place of the middle section of the ingredients. This packaged dressing may not be available everywhere which is why the alternative is provided. I used two greased baking sheets, one for the crab cakes and the other for the tomatoes and potatoes. All of it baked in a 400*F oven for 20 minutes.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tiny Whitebait in Onion & Tomato Gravy - Kachki Mach-er Jhol

Kachki Maach-er Jhol
They're called whitebait in English and keski or kachki maach in Bengali. Compare the thickness of the translucent strips of onion in the picture above to the opaque, skinny whitebait. 

I had whitebait for the first time at my sister, Rene's, home and she advised that to remove any fishy smell, the fish should be marinated in turmeric and garlic paste as soon as they're thawed. Stir-fried in onions and tomatoes, there's no need to add water to get a gravy because more than enough moisture is released by the sliced onions and tomatoes.

Mustard oil would be the best oil to use for this dish, but if it's not available vegetable oil would work just as well.

Frozen Blocks of Whitebait
Whitebait comes in blocks of ice, three to a package, in the Vietnamese market. The package is labelled silverfish mainly because of the translucent, silvery colour of the fish. In some Asian markets the fish is called Chinese Whitebait.

Thawed Whitebait
When they're thawed, whitebait look like silvery threads that are about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in length which turn white when cooked.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mung Dal-er Khichuri - Mung Beans Lentil Stew

Mung Dal-er Khichuri for Lunch
Khichuri is a lentil stew that is usually made with lentils and rice. I spied a South Indian pongal preparation on Facebook that combined lentils with oatmeal which appealed to me because I have to watch my carbohydrates. The resulting khichuri, which I made with split mung bean lentils and oatmeal, was thick and creamy and totally yummy!

Mung Dal-er Khichuri for dinner
For dinner we had the khichuri topped with Cajun-grilled fish fillet and hard boiled eggs.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Meatball Stew

Meatball Stew
It was one of those days when dinner was the last thing on my mind and the fridge was as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard. If I'd planned for it, I may have made my own meatballs from scratch, but it's real handy to have Italian-style meatballs in the freezer. The ones I buy are cocktail sized meatballs and there are about 120 in a bag. I separate them in Ziploc bags of 20 since there are usually only the two of us to cook for.

In our home, meals are eaten on time every day. Breakfast is the one exception, but lunch is always at noon and dinner at 6 p.m. It was already 5 in the evening with no time for much so I put on a cup of mung dal to boil, fried some cauliflower along with the tempering for a Mung Dal with Cauliflower dish. Then I raided the pantry for a can of Del Monte diced new potatoes so I wouldn't have to mess with or waste time scrubbing & peeling potatoes. Hard to believe, but I had dinner on the table in under an hour. The basmati rice took 18 minutes to cook in the microwave.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Burmese Tofu Salad

Tofu Salad
I've been trying to include more protein in my diet, so tofu has featured on my grocery list  of late. I have it in Miso Soup and thought why not substitute soybean tofu for chickpea tohu. Admittedly, it's not half as tasty as Burmese Tohu Salad, but it satiated my craving for Burmese flavours just as well. I used dry balachaung and pickled jalapeno peppers to garnish the salad.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Paneer & Apple Payesh

Paneer & Apple Payesh

I found a recipe for this payesh on Sanjeev Kapoor's website but, as you will notice, I modified it to suit my dietary needs. I replaced the sugar with Splenda and the condensed milk with a mixture of evaporated milk and Gits kulfi mix. 
We were halfway through the dessert before I remembered to take a picture. It was delicious!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Green Beans Kasundi

Green Beans Kasundi
Indian markets can now be found in practically every town in Michigan. A Bangladeshi market opened up recently just 3 miles down the road and I found a bottle of kasundi which looked really tempting.

Weikfield's Kasundi

Kasundi is a fiery mustard sauce that originates in West Bengal in India. It is used as a condiment at the Indian table for dipping fried foods and as a sauce for stir-fried spinach. Today I decided to spice up my green beans dish with a dollop of this sauce. Taken on its own, it imparts a pungent flavour of mustard that can make your sinuses flow. 

Even though there is no comparison between the two, if kasundi is not available, try substituting with coarse-ground dijon mustard.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stewed Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes

Stewed Chicken with Carrots & Potatoes
I made this stew once before, but I left out the yogurt this time and added carrots and potatoes.