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.