Friday, December 15, 2017

Salmon Maacher Pulao - Fish Pilaf

Fish Pilaf
A complete one-dish meal, this pilaf combines salmon, cauliflower and potatoes with rice for a flavour-filled dish. Fish pilaf needs a strong tasting fish such as ilish or salmon. Both kinds of fish are fatty, omega-3 rich varieties that impart the required flavour to the mild flavours of the rest of the ingredients. It's best to use bone-in fish to maximize on taste so fish heads would also work here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mixed Berries Jam

Mixed Berries Jam
This was a great way to use up those frozen berries stashed in the deep interior of the freezer. They're supposed to be used in smoothies, so I have no idea how they got in the freezer because we're not 'smoothie types'. 
Frozen Berries (48 Oz./3 Lb.)
Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are what were listed on the package and all of them are rich in pectin so I decided to make jam. It turned out to be the easiest ever to make with the simple addition of some sugar to the package of berries.
No Additional Pectin Needed
Amazing how good just 2 ingredients can taste! It took about an hour to cook this jam and the test is simple to make sure it's reached jam consistency - a dollop of the berries on a little plate placed in the refrigerator to cool stays in place without running when it's tilted. It needs minimal baby/jam sitting, but must be stirred frequently to prevent scorching.

15 Oz. of Jam
Since it will be consumed in a short time, it was transferred to a clean salsa jar and refrigerated after it came to room temperature. Perfect on toast or English muffins, I've also had it on waffles, pancakes and as a condiment for Honeybaked ham.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Saag Chicken

Saag Chicken
This dish was inspired by a post in Facebook that recommended that the chicken be cooked in the usual way and then simmered with spinach that is blanched and blended with tomatoes and green chilies. It worked out really well with minimal effort.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
The grand-boys were delighted with these ice cream cone cupcakes which were  inspired by an idea on the Betty Crocker website. A chocolate cake mix was used to fill each cone halfway. Most children like to show off their creativity, and allowing them to frost and decorate their own ice cream cupcake makes it fun for everyone. 

Baked Cones in a Muffin Pan
It's important to find flat-bottomed medium sized ice cream cones. A muffin pan makes a great baking pan and foil was used to fill the gaps in the muffin cups to keep the cones straight while baking. The fear of the cones burning was completely misplaced. It was so amazing that they didn't even deepen in colour.

The Cones Filled in Nicely
The cake reached all the way to the bottom. It's fool-proof and almost impossible to make a mistake with this dessert.

Topped with
Ice Cream & Sprinkles
One option is to top the cone with ice cream. Serving ice cream in this way is mess-free and holes poked in the cake allowed the ice cream to seep all the way through to the bottom, so it's good to the last crumb. Another option is to pipe icing on each cupcake. In that case I would pour more batter into the cones because icing would stay more firmly in place.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Maacher Muro Diye Bhaja Mooger Dal - Fish Head in Toasted Split Mung Bean Lentils

Maacher Muro Diye Bhaja Mooger Dal
Maacher muro or fish head adds an enormous amount of flavour, also known as umami, to anything to which it is added. Umami, in my opinion, is that robust taste that is tough to satisfy; it makes the epicure crave more of the same. There are a myriad ways to prepare fish head and since I have so many of them in my freezer, I plan to serve them up in all the known ways. 

I have blogged about a few of these ways - Fish Head Pilaf, Squash with Fish Head and Bottle Gourd with Fish Heads. Toasted mung bean lentils serves as a creamy base for fish heads. The whole head is pan-fried to a golden brown crisp before immersing in the lentils to finish cooking.

Served with a steaming bowl of Basmati rice, I need nothing more than some peace and quiet so I can focus on removing the bones before enjoying this dish.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Irish Oatmeal Pilaf

Steel-Cut Irish Oatmeal Pilaf
During a phone call to my sister-in-law about a month ago, she suggested I try this pilaf for lunch. Admittedly, it didn't sound very appealing because porridge is porridge and nothing like pilaf. It was a good thing I decided to try it anyway.

McCann's Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Steel-cut oatmeal is available in the British/UK section of the international aisle of the grocery store. Because of how long it takes to cook, this type of oats is given a wide berth, but after wrapping my mind around pilaf, I decided to treat it just like rice. This tactic worked well and the pilaf tasted amazingly good!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Maacher Deem Bhaja - Fried Fish Roe

Maacher Deem Bhaja
Sometimes, I wake up in the morning with an incredible feeling of being blessed beyond imagination. This feeling persists as hot water pours out of the taps and I find a comfortable spot to enjoy my iced coffee with an almond biscotti. Our stress-free life in the most comfortable place in the world is just one of the ways in which we benefit from growing older. Going away on vacation is very exciting, but the best part is returning home. There is no place on earth I'd rather be than exactly where I am today.

In my recent blogs, I've mentioned Hubby's ex-colleague & fisherman who has been supplying us with fresh fish. His last batch included an enormous amount of fish roe which to a Bengali is as precious as gold. In its fried form fried roe is served as a starter but the fried nuggets are also cooked in mustard gravy or any fish gravy. They have to be pan-fried first in any case, so here is how fish roe is prepared, using just five simple ingredients.

Maacher Chop - Fish Cakes

Maacher Chop
Usually served as a first course in a Bengali meal, these fish patties can be made with any fish, such as salmon, tuna or tilapia. Mashed potatoes are most commonly used for binding, but bread crumbs work too. The shape varies from the long, cylindrical croquettes to these round patties. Filleted fish is the easiest to work with because most of the bones have been removed, but an effort should be made to remove any remaining bones by hand.

The process is quite simple. The fish needs to be poached, flaked and deboned. Russet or baking potatoes have to be boiled for 20 minutes, peeled and mashed. Aromatics made up of onions, garlic, ginger, green chilies, mint and cilantro need to be minced and stir-fried before adding the fish and further stir-frying, seasoned with salt and a pinch of pepper. This needs to be cooled to room temperature before combining with mashed potatoes and formed into patties.

The easiest way to pan-fry these is to dredge the patties in flour before frying or for a crispy coating, they can be dipped in beaten eggs and panko crumbs. Decorate the serving platter with sliced onions, tomatoes and wedges of lime, pile the patties on and serve with sweet chili sauce, ketchup, tamarind or mint chutney.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Egg-Topped Glass Noodles Soup

Egg-Topped Glass Noodles Soup
Fall is in the air which fits the bill for hot and soul-satisfying soups for lunch. All the left-over bits of vegetables and tofu from the fridge form the base for this meal in a bowl. 

Egg Adds More Protein
My preference for glass noodles over egg noodles lies in its make-up. Glass noodles are made from mung beans whereas egg noodles are made from wheat so there are less carbohydrates in the former. Tofu is high in protein and low in fat which makes it an excellent choice for this meal, but any form of protein works in the soup.

Fast & Easy Prep
The ingredients for the soup were previously chopped and left over, making it really easy to dump into some chicken broth. The glass noodles simply need to be soaked in boiling broth and cut with scissors into smaller lengths directly in the saucepan. I used triple-washed baby spinach, kale and other greens that came prepped from the store. To add some more flavour, the egg was beaten with a touch of chicken bouillon powder before topping the soup.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Chingri Maacher Malai Curry - Shrimp in Coconut Sauce

 Chingri Maacher Malai Curry
The perfect festive dish to take along to a potluck, this shrimp curry is a Bengali favourite at any gathering. Malai means cream, but instead of using whipping cream, cream from a can of coconut milk is used. Suppress the natural inclination to shake the can before opening, and remove the cream that collects on the inside of the can top and keep scooping out the coconut cream from the can until the thin coconut milk becomes visible.

Purchase the largest raw shrimp that is available. I was lucky enough to find peeled & deveined shrimp that tasted divine. My indication of success is when children like what I cook and had fun watching the littlest kids clamoring for 'fish!' last night at a Diwali potluck.

First Cooking of Shrimp

To keep the shrimp soft and succulent, I introduced them to the sauce at the start, removed them and reintroduced them at the end of the cooking process.
Knowing there were going to be children at this get-together, I kept away from the stronger spices and kept the sauce simple.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Scrambled Tofu & Eggs Akuri

Scrambled Tofu & Eggs Akuri
Eggs Akuri is a common Parsi breakfast dish that is served all over India.

Prepped 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 mashed with a fork and soaked in beaten eggs before scrambling.

Chicken Bouillon Powder
No salt was added because the bouillon powder was salty enough.

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!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Burmese Fish Ball Sipyan

Burmese Fish Ball Sipyan
Fish balls remind me of the time a group of co-workers and I went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant and I ordered fish ball and watercress soup. A Chinese lady and I were the only ones who had ever heard of fish balls, so it was the source of much amusement and glee for our meat-and-potatoes comrades. 

Fish balls can be made at home, but are readily available in Asian markets here in North America. When made from scratch, all the tastes that make them uniquely Burmese can be added to the fish mixture so that the flavors permeate from the inside out. Using generic fish balls from the market requires that they be simmered long and slow and, for this, the sipyan method works best. 'Sipyan' translates to 'oil returns' which requires a simmering process on medium-low heat that evaporates the liquid until all the oil rises to the surface.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Lau Chingri - Bottle Gourd/Chayote Squash with Shrimp

Lau Chingri
This is a Bengali recipe that traditionally uses bottle gourd, which I often replace with chayote squash because it's more readily available. Zucchini also works well in this recipe.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Burmese KyaukKyaw with Sliced Peaches - Coconut Jello with Peaches

KyaukKyaw with Sliced Peaches
I've spent most of my adult life trying to achieve the perfect Kyauk Kyaw that has two distinct layers, one translucent and the other opaque. Finally the secret was revealed to me when my sister posted a video of it on Facebook. So thanks to Dany Kao for her instructions for a perfect dessert. The secret is to make this with a 1:5.5 ratio of coconut milk to water. I've modified her recipe to include more specific measurements pertaining to the size of cans and amount of agar-agar.

Agar Agar is a popular dessert ingredient in South East Asian countries where it is used as a substitute for gelatin. Agar agar, a seaweed extract, is a good vegan substitute for gelatin which is derived from animal products. Agar agar comes in several different forms - flakes, strands and powdered.  The powdered form of agar agar is much more potent than the flakes or strands. It takes 1 tablespoon of flakes or strands to thicken 1 cup of water, whereas 1 teaspoon of the powder is sufficient to thicken 1 cup of water.

Serve on its own or with canned fruit cocktail or peaches.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tomato Chutney

Tomato Chutney
Our neighbours and friends grow beautiful blemish-free tomatoes during the summer and we are blessed with their bounty. The 6 yr-old boy next door with the help of his friend set up a little table by the curbside, giving away the cutest home-grown cherry tomatoes. They were free, we were told, with the only stipulation that only 8 tomatoes were allowed per person. They provided the ziploc bags and the two boys had the time of their lives, waving down passing cars and neighbours taking a walk.

Another friend invited me over for lunch and filled up a whole bag with plum tomatoes that looked like mini-roma tomatoes. Yet another friend grew regular-size roma tomatoes, so all this bounty resulted in a delicious chutney.

Mum made this chutney on festive occasions which is where the recipe is derived. I used a quarter pound of date jaggery (khejur-er gur in Bengali) which gave the chutney a depth of flavour that is almost impossible to achieve with plain sugar. The jaggery combined with very thin slivers of ginger, diced tomatoes and raisins were all that were needed to make this chutney. 

It was easy to make and basically cooked on medium-low heat with little intervention. Served as an accompaniment to any Indian meal, this chutney gives a festive air to a gathering of friends to celebrate the fall season.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stir-Fried Spinach, Eggplant & Shrimp

Stir-Fried Spinach, Eggplant & Shrimp
Shrimp added to any vegetable dish ramps up the flavour a hundred fold. Here, spinach and eggplant are stir-fried and salad shrimp added just before taking off the stove. Very easy to make, using the simplest of readily available ingredients, this is a must-try recipe for shrimp lovers.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sujir Payesh with Dried Apricots - Semolina Pudding with Dried Apricots

Sujir Payesh with Dried Apricots
Soft and creamy, this adaptation of a childhood comfort food appeals to young and old alike. Semolina or cream of wheat or suji is a familiar food in the breakfast aisle of the grocery store. The breakfast cereal packages contain semolina in its instant form which is not what is used in this recipe because when it is cooked in this way, it turns to a mushy paste. So visit an Indian market and get unprocessed large grains of semolina in a bag. Kept in a cool, dark place, the bag will last several years if kept in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

The semolina is first toasted in a skillet with butter until golden brown and fragrant. Meanwhile, milk is scalded with raisins & sugar in another pan and the two are combined to produce a smooth and creamy pudding. Just to be different, I decided to use coconut milk instead of regular milk and replaced the raisins with minced, dried apricots. 

A gentleman who loved to have this with heated tortillas for breakfast once told me that the semolina, sugar and butter should be used in a 1:1:1 ratio and the milk to semolina ratio should be 2:1. I admit this tastes heavenly, but not so good for diabetics or people with high cholesterol levels, so I toned it down significantly. A hint of cardamom powder gives this pudding a decadent touch.

Phulkopi Diye Bhaja Mooger Dal - Toasted Mung Bean Lentils with Cauliflower

Toasted Mung Bean Lentils
With Cauliflower
Split mung bean lentils taste quite different when they are toasted in a dry pan until light brown. The lentils are cooked until soft and mashable, then combined with cauli-florets that are stir-fried separately. Tomatoes add a tangy note and green chilies add a tongue-tingling heat. This dal pairs well as a side dish with tortillas or hot rice.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dim'er Korma - Eggs in Onion Gravy

Dim'er Korma
Taking the definition from Wikipedia, korma is a dish originating in the Indian subcontinent, consisting of meat or vegetables braised with yogurt/cream and spices to produce a thick sauce or glaze. I used evaporated milk instead of cream and cooked the eggs and potatoes long and slow over a low flame. Onions that are grated or blended into a paste tend to take a long time to cook enough to remove it's strong aroma. I read that blanching onions before blending takes care of this problem. A thick sauce is produced by adding simmering water when making the gravy. Somehow, cold water or broth added to simmering spices thins out the gravy, so make sure to keep a simmering cup or two of water/broth close at hand.

To make perfect hard-boiled eggs, bring the eggs to a rolling boil over medium heat, cover the saucepan and simmer for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the saucepan for another ten minutes. Drain the eggs and rinse under cold water then fill the saucepan with cold water and leave the eggs to cool down completely. They'll be easy to peel with no blemishes at all. Slit the eggs vertically four or five times to make sure the gravy penetrates to the core. Lightly fry the eggs until golden brown before releasing them into the gravy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bottle Gourd with Fish Heads - Lau'er Muro Ghonto

Lau'er Muro Ghonto
A friend of Hubby's enjoys fishing and brought me some of his catch. We got into a discussion of how the fish he catches is cleaned. He catches salmon and trout that are pretty big in size. Fish is my protein of choice and he was quite surprised to hear that the head is the most tasty part of the fish. He throws the heads away, so I begged him to save a couple for me the next time he went fishing.

Today he dropped by with six big heads. So I'm all set for the next month. Can't believe I don't have to go to the Asian store and pay for my next fish head. These heads are so fresh which I could tell by the bright red color of the gills. It took me a fair amount of time to clean the heads, discarding the mouth, fins and gills.

Fish head or muro in Bengali is prepared with a number of different vegetables, such as spinach, potatoes, eggplant, cabbage and even in pilaf with cauliflower. Bottle gourd (chayote squash is a good substitute) also pairs well with them, so I spent this afternoon making Lau'er Muro Ghonto. Regardless of how big the squash is, it amounts to practically nothing once it's cooked and releases its juices, so use 2 bottle gourds or 5 chayote squash, if necessary.


Salmon Cooked with Onions & Tomatoes in a Mustard Gravy

Salmon Maacher Jhaal
Daddy loved fishing, although he didn't get much time for his hobby. He worked as a family physician at his clinic from Monday through Saturday and half-day on Sunday. I remember the time when, from one of his fishing expeditions, he brought home a sea turtle and laid it on the kitchen floor. We were fascinated by this sea creature, but strangely enough, I can't remember what happened to it. We didn't have it for dinner, I don't think.

When I was living in California, my aunt and I met a family from Burma and Mr. Fenton also loved to fish. His favorite fishing spot was Puddingstone Reservoir and he would return home with loads of blue gill which he would drop off at my place to clean. Blue gill tastes a lot like climbing perch (Bengalis call it koi maach). The taste of fresh caught fish just can't be beat.

Here in Michigan, Hubby has re-connected with a friend from work who has been fishing since he was a young boy. He goes fishing in the St. Clair river and showed me a picture of the salmon he caught a couple of days before. His question was whether we'd like some fresh salmon or smoked, so I asked for a little of both. The smoked salmon was outstanding and I marvelled at how well he had cleaned the fish. There was not a scale in sight and believe me, they were miniscule.

So the fresh piece of salmon brings me right back to this blog. I cut the fillet into cubes and cooked it the way Bengalis love their fish - in mustard gravy. Salmon reminds me of Ilish (or Hilsa) and they both have similar spawning habits. Both species of fish live in the sea or ocean, but make their way back to the river in which they were born and swim against the current to spawn. Just like Ilish, Salmon is an oily fish and is full of flavor.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Asian Vermicelli Chicken Salad

Asian Vermicelli Chicken Salad
A light & fresh salad that is perfect for the hot days of August, this glass noodle salad is versatile and so tasty! 

Chopped Fresh Ingredients &
Rotisserie Chicken
Combine any variety of fresh, salad ingredients along with a protein, whip up an Asian dressing and it's ready to eat in less than 15 minutes. On the cutting mat clockwise from top left are rotisserie chicken, green onions, romaine lettuce, glass noodles with shredded lime leaves sprinkled on top, English seedless cucumbers, beefsteak tomatoes, sliced onions and wedges of lime. Before serving, the salad is garnished with crunchy ramen noodles (omit for gluten-free diets) and sliced almonds.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Ghoogni or Channa Masala - Curried Chickpeas

Ghoogni served with light and puffy luchis are a favorite snack among Bengali households. A mild hint of sour taste from tamarind pulp in a thick onion and tomato gravy makes it perfect for an accompaniment to luchis. I generally have it with tortillas because they are readily available and less work than making luchis. 

Soaking dried chickpeas overnight can be substituted with a can of already cooked chickpeas or garbanzo beans in the Western hemisphere. I find that russet potatoes are a good addition. Remember that Bengalis love their potatoes and we add them to any and everything!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Quick & Easy Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani
Fluff with a fork to reveal the
pretty orange hue of the saffron
Here is a really quick & easy way to make biryani which is served on festive occasions. Our cause for celebration was to break a fast from eating bland food because Hubby was suffering from a digestive ailment. If you've read my past posts on the subject, they will seem labor-intensive - see Chicken Biryani and 

Served with Shrimp Curry
Choto Alu'r Dum
We had this biryani with Shrimp Curry and Alu Dum, but it tastes great accompanied by a salad or raita.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Orange Marmalade

Orange Marmalade
There are so many blessings in my life, not the least of which is my big sister, Rene. Our telephone conversations always end up on the topic of food and she's a fountain of information and wisdom on the subject. Mandarin oranges are in season in the summer in Darjeeling, India. I grew up and went to school there and one of my fondest memories was of Mum making orange marmalade. Mandarin oranges were sold in big baskets for a very cheap price and they had to be consumed in a short time so they didn't spoil.

Marmlade Using Just Two Ingredients
So, during one of our marathon calls between Rene and me, these memories surfaced and we reminisced about the steps Mum went through to make marmalade. We would have to peel all the oranges, remove the skin around each segment and collect just the pulp. The peels were set aside to make the rinds in the jam and the orange pulp with sugar was cooked on the stovetop until they reached jam consistency. The result was a clear jelly-like marmarlade with strips of rind floating in suspension.

Fast & Easy Marmalade
That's when Rene mentioned watching a food show that reduced the tedium to nil by introducing the food processor. This process produces a marmalade that is thick and rustic and oh so flavorful! The aroma that permeates through our home is heavenly! The pith just under the peel is usually removed because it's so bitter, but that's what I love about marmalade so I leave it in.

A No-Fail Method
Once I tried this no-fail method of making marmalade, I've never looked back. It's quick and easy, aromatic and full of flavor. Use it on toasted bread, English muffins or waffles. I've also wrapped cream cheese and marmalade in crescent dough to make a marmalade danish. Yumm! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Burmese Htamin Let Thoke - Hand-Tossed Noodle & Rice Salad

Burmese Htamin Let Thoke
Also known as Let Thoke Sone or A-Thoke, this carb-rich salad is a popular street food in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Htamin (rice) Let (hand) Thoke (tossed/mixed), like many other Burmese hand-tossed salads, is made from 12 or more ingredients, most of which are readily available in your local supermarkets. Specialty items like deep-fried onions and garlic can be made from scratch, but is a laborious process. Asian markets stock those along with spicy shrimp floss for which I like to use Balachaung as a substitute. Tamarind paste also is available in Asian and Indian markets.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dilled Tilapia

Dilled Tilapia
The tilapia fillets that were defrosted today were too thin to withstand a gravy, so they were chopped into little cubes and quickly stir-fried with potatoes. Dried dill weed is not often used in my kitchen, but was a great substitute for cilantro which I did not have. This stir-fry was quick & easy to prepare and tasted quite awesome.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Burmese Eggplant & Fried Anchovies in Coconut Sauce

Khayun Thee
Japanese eggplant are my favourite because they are practically seedless. It's only recently that this type of eggplant is being stocked at our local supermarket. Hubby usually does our regular grocery shopping, but it's my pleasure to shop at the Asian markets. We have Indian, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean markets within 5 miles of our home. Each market has something different and unique to offer foodies like me, like these Korean fried anchovies.

Korean Fried Anchovies
The anchovies are fried with chili powder and packed in oil. Stir-fried eggplant takes on a whole new flavour when they are cooked with anchovies. The dish could be cooked until dry and served with hot rice.

Dry Fried Eggplant & Anchovies
A slight twist was introduced today to add a cup of coconut milk to the pan just before removing from the heat. This left a little gravy that is always welcome when anything is eaten with rice.