This blog is dedicated to Mum, my greatest mentor. It is a compilation of simple recipes - Bengali, Indian, Burmese and Continental, among others. All of these recipes have been tested in my kitchen. Most use everyday ingredients found at your local market, but some use specialty ingredients available at Asian and/or Indian markets. Comments are welcome and members are invited to send in any recipes they would like to share.
We are so fortunate in North America to have foods from all over the world available to us in our local supermarkets. It's a delight to walk up and down the aisles to pick and choose what we'd like to have today or this week.
Melissa's French Crepes
These delicate, faintly sweet crepes come ten to a package, each separated from the next by wax paper which makes them very easy to roll with filling of my choice. They are versatile and sets my mind racing with ideas such as Crepes Suzette, a French dessert in which crepes are folded in triangles and doused in a sauce of caramelized sugar and butter, orange zest and Grand Marnier or orange Curacao liqueur, served flambé. Then there's Patishapta, a popular Bengali dessert of thin crepes stuffed with a delectable filling of coconut and gur or jaggery.
For a quick and easy main dish with an Asian flair, few dishes can beat this eggplant and pork stir-fry. A combination of oyster sauce, chili-garlic sauce, balsamic vinegar and fish sauce form the base for ground pork that is browned along with diced onions and garlic. Bite-sized pieces of Japanese eggplant are added at the tail end so that they retain their texture and don't disintegrate.
Chinese and Thai restaurants have a form of this recipe on their menus. My problem is that they always seem to over-salt the dish, so I prefer to replicate it at home so I can control the amount of salt that is added. In fact, no salt was added in this recipe because the different sauces are salty to begin with. Adjust the salt at the end of the cooking cycle to suit your taste.
A trick to break down the ground pork with little effort is to hand-mix it with 1/2 tsp. salt and 2 Tbsp. oil and set aside for 15 minutes. The oil acts to separate the nodules of ground meat which makes it easier to brown.
Faluda is layered dessert in a glass that originated in Iran. It's a multi-textured summer drink which the Parsis, who migrated to India from Iran, introduced to the Indian people who in turn took it with them to Burma. It is an integral part of the menus at ice cream parlours and restaurants which serve variations of this sweet beverage. The closest comparison I can think of is milk shake pumped up with nuts, seeds and very thin spaghetti.
Weekends were very special when we were growing up, made even more festive by Mum's cooking. She was a consummate cook of Indian, Burmese and Asian cuisines and passed on her love for cooking to all eight of us. We were curious and eager to try all kinds of food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
Being a single mother of eight and a professor in a women's college meant that she was not able to spend as much time in the kitchen as she would have liked. Evenings and weekends were festive affairs because visitors dropped by unannounced, tea and snacks were constantly being served and meals were prepared by Mum with a lot of help from all of us and the hired help. There were occasions when her Thai students who lived at the hostel would arrive with all the necessary ingredients to prepare a feast for all of us. They were so happy to have a kitchen that was open to them so they could enjoy their cuisine, which they missed terribly. This stir-fried cabbage dish is one that I associate with Mum's loving and nurturing nature. Cabbage is totally tasteless on its own, but is transformed when stir-fried until crisp, flavoured with the zing of black pepper powder and the umami of fish sauce. Add eggs into the mix and it assumes an unforgettable contrast in texture from the crispness of the cabbage to the creaminess of the scrambled eggs.
This is served as a side dish to accompany any Asian meal and is best suited to be had with hot, steamed long-grain rice.
Fresh herbs in the supermarket come in big bundles so I made a stir-fry using eggplant and potatoes and flavoured it with dill and used the rest of the bundle for this salad.
My love for dill began in Toronto in the late 1970s at the home of a girl who was born and raised in Iran. She invited us over for a fabulous dinner, and the one item that stood out that I remember to this day was a pulao she made with steamed Basmati rice that she mixed, by hand, with salt, dill and olive oil.
Recently we went to a French-inspired Vietnamese restaurant and ordered grilled Tilapia flavoured with turmeric and dill. It's an outstanding dish unlike anything I've had before.
This salad can be paired with biryani, pulao or grilled meat, fish or seafood. It would also taste great in a sandwich. I found the recipe on the Epicurious website.