Monday, November 28, 2016

Chicken Rezala - Boneless Chicken in Yogurt Sauce

Chicken Rezala
Mum made her rezala with bone-in, golden browned chicken which I've replaced with boneless, skinless chicken thighs to cater to the taste of people in my household. There are umpteen different recipes on the internet for this dish, some more complicated than others. I'm all for easy cooking, so please excuse me if you don't consider this the authentic way to make rezala.

In keeping with the white and creamy appearance of the gravy, the chicken pieces are not browned and white pepper powder adds a tinge of spiciness without darkening the look. If you prefer to use bone-in chicken, double the amount of chicken and increase the cooking time.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stuffed Rava Idlis

Stuffed Rava Idlis
Cream of wheat is known as rava in Hindi and suji in Bengali. Idlis are steamed cakes made from rice or cream of wheat. The batter is generally soaked the night before to allow it to set up. In this instant recipe, cream of wheat is combined with yogurt and spices and set aside for 30 minutes. I have to admit that instant idlis are not as soft and plump as the overnight recipe. So if time is not a constraint, it's better to prepare the batter the night before and leave at room temperature overnight.

Idli Stand
This recipe for idlis makes 8 idlis, so I used only 2 trays of the idli stand. Each tray can be removed from the stand by unscrewing the black knob on top, and separating each tray from the spindle in the center. They can then be reassembled by reversing the process.  I used my wok to hold the idli tray to steam the idlis, but a pressure cooker can also be used.

Yellow Alu

Here's another recipe that uses Yellow Alu or diced russet potatoes prepared the South Indian way

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sweet-Lime Salad

Sweet-Lime Salad
Chinese Seasoning Salt for Fruits

The perfect pick-me-up between meals, the sweet-lime this morning was not sweet enough for my palate, which prompted me to turn it into a salad. A friend from Taiwan brought me these tiny packages of seasoning salt for fruits which are sweet, sour and salty. I added a diced serrano pepper and minced mint which took it over the top! Let it sit for a few minutes after prepping to allow the flavours to meld.

To make your own seasoning salt, stir together the juice of 1/2 lime along with salt and sugar to taste.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mung Bean Lentils - Kacha Mooger Dal

Kacha Mooger Dal

Split Mung Beans
Rarely do I cook lentils without adding vegetables, but these split mung beans taste really good just the way they are, without embellishments. The traditional way to prepare split mung beans is to toast them to a golden brown before cooking them in water. Kacha means raw, i.e. not toasted. I generally put lentils on the boil first, before cooking a side of vegetables or the main meat/fish/seafood dish, so that by the time the rest of dinner is ready, the lentils are done and simply need to be tempered.

There isn't a simpler way to cook lentils than what I made today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Koi Maacher Jhaal - Climbing Perch in a Hot Sauce

Koi Maacher Jhaal
Maacher Jhaal comes in two varieties. There is Sorshe Batar Jhaal or fish in mustard sauce and there is Maacher Jhaal which simply means it is hot and spicy. This dish is of the second variety. It usually is made with only 5 ingredients: fish, nigella seeds, diced green chilies, turmeric powder and chili powder or Kashmiri mirch. Loving tomatoes as much as I do, a beefsteak tomato went into the mix.

Climbing Perch or Koi Maach, available in the Asian markets, are flash-frozen before being packaged for export from places like Vietnam. Flash-freezing is an accelerated process in which fish are individually frozen solid at extremely low temperatures immediately after being harvested. This allows fish to be caught, processed and frozen solid in hours rather than days. Flash-freezing prevents fish from getting freezer burn so that we, the consumers, are able to enjoy fish at its peak of perfection. Of course there is no comparison to fresh-caught fish from local Indian markets, but we are grateful that the varieties of fish we grew up with, are available to us at all!

This dish generally has a layer of oil (usually mustard oil) floating on the top, but I scaled it down to a mere 4 tablespoons.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Cauliflower in Yogurt Sauce - Doi Phoolkopi

Doi Phoolkopi
It's hard to keep cauliflower from turning to mush when it's cooked in a gravy base. Today I learned a new trick from the internet food blogs, to microwave the florets for 3 minutes and allow them to soak for 15 minutes in the hot water. The texture remains firm after cooking in the yogurt sauce. Another trick I learned today was to add a teaspoon of besan (chickpea flour) to the Greek yogurt while whipping it, which prevents the curds separating from the whey when it's heated.

To save some cooking time, a can of Del Monte's sliced potatoes came in handy in place of the russet potatoes I would have otherwise used.  

To give this dish a taste of Kashmir, the ground spices consist of Kashmiri mirch (paprika) along with powdered ginger and fennel seed powder.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Pumpkin Angel Food Cake

Pumpkin Cake A La Mode

The easiest dessert ever! We had this for Thanksgiving dinner this year and I preferred it to the pumpkin pie of past Thanksgiving dinners. 

3 Ingredients Only
Using just 3 ingredients and a cup of water, this cake was surprisingly simple and quick to make. The angel food cake mix gives it a lovely airy yet dense texture.

Pumpkin Angel Food Cake 
And it tastes just as good without ice cream.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Banana Walnut Friendship Bread

Banana Walnut Friendship Bread

This is a nostalgic bread/cake that goes back to the days when we first arrived in Toronto, Canada in the late 1970s. My then-brother-in-law worked at Proctor & Gamble (P&G) and brought home a recipe book featuring Crisco Oil. This Banana Nut Loaf recipe, modified by me many times over, originated from that P&G recipe book. 

Some of the changes I made were to replace granulated sugar with dark brown sugar to improve the colour of the bread, to add sour cream to improve the moistness of the bread and most recently, to add Amish Friendship Bread Starter to the batter to give a yeasty aroma and taste to this banana nut loaf. The Amish Friendship Bread Starter can be omitted for a denser, cake-like banana nut loaf. Using the starter gave it a more bread-like texture.

Use the darkest brown sugar you can find, the darker the better. I had only light brown sugar on hand, which accounts for the lightness in the center of the bread. And if you skimp on the Crisco oil, your bread will be dry and horrible. I'm sure substituting another vegetable oil for Crisco will work just fine but, some forty years later, I continue to use Crisco oil.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Prawns in Mint Sauce

Bhapa Pudina Chingri
Inspired by Mahesh Khole's recipe on Facebook, this prawn dish was quick and easy to prepare and took just a few minutes to simmer on the stovetop. 

If it was on hand, I would have added cilantro stalks to the paste for more flavour. But it was delicious with mint and green chilies. Prawns take so little time to cook that it's ideal to prepare when there's not much time to spare. It's such a pity that prawns in the supermarket are sold headless. The heads of the prawns add so much flavour to the sauce.

To rid the onions of their strong smell, I blanched onion chunks in boiling water along with garlic before blending to a paste.

Red Lentils with Cauliflower Stalks

Musuri Dal r Phool Kopi'r Danta

This was one of Mum's favourite ways of preparing red lentils. It tastes great garnished with cilantro and a touch of ghee or butter.