Sunday, December 30, 2018

Chicken Curry with Mint & Cilantro

Minty Chicken Curry
Mum used to make her father's scrumptious recipe which she called Ceylon Chicken. Dadu (grandfather) was a wonderful cook and enjoyed international cuisine as much as Indian food. 

Using bone-in chicken in this dish would make it immensely more flavourful, but that's a matter of personal preference. I've used boneless and skinless chicken thighs for dinner tonight. Serve this as a main course with steamed rice or chapatis.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Lamb Rogan Josh

Lamb Rogan Josh
Over 3 decades ago, during time spent in California, Mum's sister and my aunt came to visit us for a number of months. She enjoyed talking about her (and Mum's) childhood in Burma. It was during her stay that we met 3 families from Burma, also living in Southern California. My most precious memories of her are the endless hours we spent in the kitchen while we prepared a number of her favorite dishes. She taught me how to make tandoori chicken in the toaster oven, plump and juicy gulab jamuns and this lamb curry that originated in Kashmir, India.

The lamb simmers on the stove top for 2-1/2 hours until fall-off-the-bone tender and tastes delicious served with rice or any Indian bread.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Bori Diye Bandhakopi - Stir-fried Cabbage with Lentil Dumplings

Bori Diye Bandhakopi
Boris or lentil dumplings add flavour and crunch to vegetable and fish dishes. Each is shaped like a little pagoda with a rounded base and a tiny pointed steeple. Just like garam masala powder, boris vary widely depending on each region in India. 

Lentil Dumplings
Bengali boris are small and delicately flavoured predominantly with asafoetida/hing and are made from a wide variety of lentils and/or vegetables as pictured above. This picture which I was lucky to find on the BongHaat website on the internet ( features Til/Sesame, Posto/White Poppy Seed, Hing/Asafoetida, Fulkopi/Cauliflower, Chalkumro/Ash Gourd, Motor Dal/Split Pea, Kalai/Split Black Gram and Masoor/Red Lentil. Wadis from other parts of India are much larger and heavily spiced, predominantly with chili powder.

Cabbage is one of those vegetables that's available year-round here in North America. My favourite preparation with cabbage is to make it with shrimp, but we have recently developed an allergy to shrimp which we now try to avoid. On its own, cabbage is tasteless so adding boris is a great idea!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Jeera Guro Diye Maacher Jhol - Fish in Cumin Gravy

Jeera Guro Diye Maacher Jhol
Another quick and easy gravy for fish. Any white fish such as snapper, carp or whitefish works in this recipe. Since we all love eggplant, it's one way to sneak vegetables into a meal. Cumin seeds are roasted in a dry pan without oil and ground to a fine powder for the gravy.

This main dish is best served with basmati or jasmine rice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Oven-Baked Lamb Stew

Lamb Stew
Cooking meat dishes in the oven in the winter time has the huge benefit that it can be left to cook unattended with practically no interference. Another bonus is that winter can be shut out and left outdoors where it belongs because cooking in the oven doesn't release too many aromas. It took just 15 minutes to prepare the meat and vegetables for the oven. This was so quick and easy that I was a little unsure of how it would turn out and was pleasantly surprised.

After layering all the ingredients in the baking dish it took 3.5 hours to bake this stew in the oven. By the time we sat down to dinner the lamb was fork tender and falling off the bones. And because it baked for so long, there was no need to brown the meat which was a huge relief. The baking dish also served as a serving dish so there were no pots and pans to clean. So I will be filing this under my 'stress-free recipes' category.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Tilapia Maacher Tel Jhol - Tilapia in Mustard Oil Gravy

This is a delectable way of preparing fish when you're craving a tasty fish dish to have with hot, fragrant Basmati rice. It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare on the stove top and is finger-licking good! To save time on the days I cook, when fish arrives home on marketing day, they are cut into serving size pieces, rubbed with salt and turmeric powder and stored in Ziploc bags, ready to slide into a skillet on demand.

The gravy is so simple to assemble that the resulting goodness at the end is a pleasurable surprise.  It's perfect for those busy days when the choice between going out to eat or enjoying a hot rice bowl with fish at home is a no-brainer! And it uses only 5 ingredients if spices are omitted.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Burmese Egg Curry - Chet Oo Chin Hin

Chet Oo Chin Hin
Egg curry in Burma is generally made from duck eggs (bae oo) but in North America duck eggs are scarce, so chicken eggs (chet oo) are more commonly used. I've left the eggs whole to keep them in tact. Halved eggs tend to lose their yolks during this cooking process.

A Burmese lady in our Burmese food group on Facebook introduced us to her hassle-free way of cooking egg curry. After hard-boiling and peeling the eggs and potatoes, all the ingredients are combined in a saucepan with enough chicken broth and/or water to cover and slowly simmered together until the potatoes are cooked through and the gravy thickens.

This spicy-hot and sour curry is best enjoyed with steamed rice.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Panch Mishali Tarkari - 5 Vegetable Medley

Panch Mishali Tarkari
Panch means five, Mishali means mixed or medley and Tarkari means curry. This vegetable medley comprises spinach, sweet potato, potato, chayote squash and green peas. Any combination of vegetables can be used and it's a great way to use up scraps of leftover vegetables hiding in the crisper.

Firm vegetables that take longer to cook are stir-fried first until almost cooked, followed by the more delicate vegetables, to keep the latter from turning to mush.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

A Chicken Pot Pie turned inside out, with the potatoes on the outside instead of inside, this fun casserole will become a favourite with young and old alike. It's quick to assemble and a great meal to serve the family on busy days like the day before Thanksgiving when preparations are underway for a big meal the next day.  

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Jhinge Alu Posto

Jhinge Alu Posto
Jhinge is known as ridge gourd in English and, in North America, is available almost exclusively at Indian markets. It is a watery vegetable that reduces to practically nothing, so make sure to get 4-5 of them, if possible.

Spines on the surface give it its name
Posto are white poppy seeds that are soaked in boiling water, set aside until it cools to room temperature and then blended to a creamy paste with salt to taste and green chilies. It tastes wonderful with hot rice or any variety of Indian breads.

Kosha Mangsho - Slow Cooked Lamb or Goat Curry

Kosha Mangsho 
Kosha Mangsho is a lamb or goat curry that is simmered for hours over low heat until the meat falls off the bones, leaving a golden brown gravy that is silky and delicious! I went looking for a whole baby goat leg, but all they had at the halal meat shop was baby lamb shoulder. I much prefer goat because lamb has a horrible smell, but was pleasantly surprised to find that baby lamb doesn't smell bad at all! The shoulder was cut into 'stew' pieces by the butcher and it had lots of meaty bones which gives the curry so much more flavor than boneless cuts of meat. Besides, I love chewing on the bones and the marrow is to die for.

Kosha Mangsho with Baby Potatoes
Adding baby potatoes to lamb curry is my favorite way of preparing meat dishes. They add a different texture to the meaty parts of the dish and are so satisfying too! Marinating the lamb overnight in the refrigerator tenderizes and allows all the spices to penetrate the chunks of lamb from the inside out.

Simmered for Hours on the Stove Top
Rather than cook this quickly in a pressure cooker, I chose to cook it in a skillet over low heat on top of the stove. It simmered for 2-1/2 hours while I prepared the rest of the meal and was outstanding as a result of the slow cooking. This lamb curry is best served with steaming hot rice (in my humble opinion) but also goes well with any variety of Indian breads.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Eggplant Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Begun-er Raita
Raita is an Indian side dish or salad of yogurt containing chopped cucumber or other vegetables and spices. It is usually served alongside rich dishes like biryani, pulao or with kababs. The yogurt dressing helps to tone down spicy dishes, soothing the palate with its creaminess. Greek yogurt is a good option, as opposed to regular unflavoured yogurt, because it is already drained of its whey, making it thick and creamy.

Cutting the eggplants into thick rondelles and lightly frying them preserves the integrity and texture of the vegetable, otherwise eggplants tend to break down easily and turn mushy. Marinating the rondelles of eggplant with salt and powdered spices like turmeric, fennel and Kashmiri mirch (paprika) serves to saturate the eggplants with flavor from the inside out.

To keep the yogurt dressing from curdling or separating, it is added and stirred into the eggplants after removing the skillet from the heat source. This salad tastes best if it is chilled in the refrigerator prior to serving.

Fish with Garlic, Tomatoes and Green Onions

Rosun r Pyaj Koli Diye Maacher Jhol
My previous post detailed my memories attached to this dish. After consulting with my big sister, I was able to reproduce my Mamima, or aunt's recipe more accurately. The coarsely ground mustard seeds in my prior post were replaced with garlic which gives this gravy a lighter, fresher appearance and taste .

Any white fish, such as snapper, tilapia or carp, will work for this recipe and it goes without saying that fish cut in steaks with the bones intact, always taste much better than filleted fish. I used both sliced onions and onion paste and also added potatoes to this fish curry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fish in Tomato & Green Onion Gravy

Pyaj Koli r Tomato Diye Maacher Jhol
My life and that of my entire family took a marked turn in 1964 when we left our home in Burma and moved to India. One of my clearest memories of that time is the happy times we spent with my Mum's family. Her brother's wife and our Mamima made fish this way with tomatoes and green onions.

So when I came across this recipe on the internet, it made me so inspired that I had to try it out immediately. The tempering at the start of the recipe, I was sure, was quite different from my Mamima's way of cooking the gravy. So I consulted my sister over the phone and she confirmed my suspicions. She used garlic instead of ground mustard for a more palatable flavour. The green onions she used were also different from the leafy onion chives we get outside India. The stems of the onion plant with flower buds at the top, available in India, have a much stronger flavour of onion which made the dish outstanding in every way.

But I decided to try this recipe the way it was written, adding my own adaptations along the way. Any white fish, such as snapper, tilapia or carp, will work for this recipe and it goes without saying that fish cut in steaks with the bones intact, always taste much better than filleted fish. I'll try my Mamima's recipe another time and hope to have luck in my hunt for onion stalks in the Asian markets.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Keema Alu Mattar - Ground Lamb with Potatoes & Peas

Keema Alu Mattar
Our local supermarket now carries Australian lamb and it was a pleasant surprise to find no unpleasant aromas while cooking their ground lamb. There is some fat in the meat, so I'll be sure to use less oil the next time.

There was no cilantro (coriander leaves) in the house, so curry leaves were added to the usual recipe.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Stir-Fried Tofu & Bok Choy

Stir-Fried Tofu & Bok Choy
A quick and easy stir-fry that took under 15 minutes from stove to table, was our dinner last night. Extra-firm tofu is a staple in our fridge along with simple sauces like teriyaki and oyster sauces. A dash of sesame oil, as a garnish, made a delicious gravy that went well with a steaming bowl of rice.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Chicken and Scalloped Potato Casserole

Chicken & Scalloped Potato Casserole

It's time again to pamper Grandboy #2, it being Thursday today. I told him it was a lasagna because all three grandboys have let us know they don't like 'casseroles'. 

Just one slice was filling enough for dinner, accompanied by a salad and chips. It was an interesting experiment and pleasantly surprising that there was enough to make two casseroles. 

Scalloped Potato Pie
The second pie went to a neighbour who is a great help to us and is himself a chef. Hope he enjoys it.

A Slice of Pie
It's pretty amazing that this casserole took just a few ingredients. Any ground meat can be used; to keep it light, I used ground chicken. The chicken can be cooked and seasoned using your own recipe. I chose to use store bought marinara sauce in keeping with the 'lasagna' theme. The next time I make this, I'll be sure to line my bread pan and pie dish with parchment paper to make it easier to invert. Halve the ingredients if you wish to make just one casserole.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hsee Kyet Khauk Swe - Burmese Garlic Noodles

Burmese Garlic Noodles
My earliest recollection of Hsee Kyet Khauk Swe is of our school cafetaria that served this occasionally. Two or three of our friends would pool our lunch money to buy food to share family style. Hsee means oil, Kyet means cook and Khauk Swe are egg noodles. These noodles were boiled and stir-fried in oil and a lot of garlic. I added minced chicken and 3 forms of garlic.

Fresh garlic was used up front with sliced onions and browned, and minced chicken. Garlic oil was used as a garnish along with deep fried garlic. Half a head of shredded iceberg lettuce, fish sauce and toasted chickpea flour were some of the other ingredients in this dish.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Banana Nut Bread

Banana Nut Bread
Inspired by a recipe in a Crisco pamphlet, this is one of the first dessert breads I learned to make.  Over time and many tweaks later, I've perfected the recipe to my taste. 
Freshly Baked
Some ingredients in this recipe are more important than others. For example, I read somewhere that one teaspoon of baking soda (rather than half a teaspoon) produces a darker bread. Also, the recipe calls for a cup of white sugar, but I prefer using dark brown sugar which I believe helps give it a darker appearance. 
The First Slice for Tasting
The original recipe called for three-quarters of a cup of Crisco oil, which I switched to a cup of melted, unsalted butter which is more to my taste. Another change I make is to grease the pan with Pam butter flavoured spray and white granulated sugar in place of flour.  The sugar caramelizes during baking and produces a sweeter crust.

There can never be too many nuts
A happy mistake I made this time is going to be the norm from now on. I forgot to add the walnut pieces until after the batter had been poured into the pan. So I poured them all over the top and used a fork to push some into the batter. It worked better because when the nuts are folded into the batter, they tend to settle on the bottom and often burn. By inserting them right at the end, they remained towards the top which was a lot better.

After resting overnight
It's important to allow the banana nut bread to rest before slicing, but it's so hard not to taste it right away. Slicing it too soon causes the bread to crumble so it needs to be covered loosely with foil or Saran wrap and left on the counter overnight. Make sure not to tighten the foil/wrap so that the bread can dry out and not steam.

Best of all, this entire recipe can be prepared in one bowl by combining all the wet ingredients first and then sifting the flour and other dry ingredients directly into the mixing bowl and folding everything together with the help of a spatula.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ohno Khaukswe - Burmese Chicken Noodle Soup

Ohno Khaukswe
It's been a very exciting month for two reasons. First of all, two sisters who live in India are visiting family in Toronto, Canada and they, along with two brothers and our eldest sister-in-law, drove down to Windsor for lunch. My son who also lives in Toronto was visiting us here in Michigan, so we all met in Windsor at a Chinese restaurant. It was so nice to see my two sisters after 23 years.

Kyauk Kyaw
A school-mate with whom we reconnected as an alumni group on Whatsapp vacationed here with her son, who lives less than five miles away. It turns out her husband was born and spent his childhood in Pegu, Burma. It was an enormous pleasure to have them over for a Khaukswe meal and I also made Kyauk Kyaw, a coconut jelly, for dessert.

Coconut Chicken Soup
There are three parts to the khaukswe recipe of which the soup is the most complex. However, most of the components for this dish are available on supermarket shelves which makes life so much simpler. No longer do we have to scrape the meat out of the coconut and extract the milk, because coconut milk is now available in cans. Deep fried onions or shallots are imported from Holland, and deep fried garlic from Thailand.

Egg Noodles
The second component, fresh egg noodles, are available at Asian markets and come bundled in packages and simply need to be blanched in boiling water and strained. A touch of oil added after they are taken out of the boiling water prevents them from sticking together.

The third and final component are the garnishes, which clockwise from top left corner comprise lime wedges, minced cilantro, chopped boiled eggs, deep fried onions/shallots, sliced fresh onions, minced green onions, fried rice noodles, and toasted chickpea powder. Off to the side are chili-garlic oil and toasted chili flakes, not pictured here.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Meatballs Stroganoff

Meatballs Stroganoff
Grandboy's Day on Thursdays today, so I asked whether he prefers meatballs and spaghetti in a red or white sauce and he picked "white". Here is the stroganoff we had for dinner tonight. It was really easy to assemble depending on whether you like to prepare everything from scratch or go the semi-homemade route.

I like to use Italian meatballs from the freezer section of our supermarket unless I'm making an Indian dish. Italian meatballs served my purpose today. The other semi-homemade ingredient in this dish is Cream of Mushroom soup. If you prefer to make your own, a recipe is provided below.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Kofta Alu Biryani - Meatball & Potato Biryani

Kofta Alu Biryani
Bengali meals almost always include a rice dish as a staple which is why pulaos and biryanis are such a favourite side. Biryani is a layered dish of rice and meat or seafood, cooked in a saucepan with a well-fitting lid. Pulao is more like a fried rice. 

After our grandchildren arrived, I was re-introduced to meatballs and spaghetti, so our freezer is always stocked with Italian meatballs. They go from a frozen state to soft and bouncy balls by simmering in hot, chicken stock for 10 minutes. After draining, the remaining stock is reserved for cooking the rice.

Whole baby potatoes are a must for this biryani, but I've also used chunks of russet/baking potatoes. The other necessary ingredient is Shan's Pulao/Biryani spice mix. This is available in Indian markets and there's no way I could reproduce the combination of spices in my kitchen.

This biryani goes well with a raita (salad dressed with yogurt dressing) or the fresher pico de gallo style of salad comprising cucumber, tomatoes and onions dressed with lime and salt.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons
The simplest and easiest macaroons you could make, they took just 2 ingredients and 15 minutes to bake. The recipe was posted on the internet and seemed like the macaroons would be unbearably sweet, but they were perfect! An ice-cream scoop makes them uniform but I didn't have one. I must put it on my shopping list for the next time.

A friend suggested that a couple drops of almond extract pumps up the action, but that was after I'd made them, so I'm adding it as an optional ingredient. If you're making this for an Indian get together, you can flavor these with cardamom powder and call them narkoler naru in Bengali. It's important to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat to avoid a sticky mess. 

Remember that evaporated milk and condensed milk are not interchangeable.  Evaporated milk is unsweetened and not as thick as condensed milk; look for condensed milk when shopping for this recipe.

Store leftover macaroons in Ziploc bags in the refrigerator or freezer. They travel well and are suitable for picnics, potlucks or as a special treat in lunch bags. They're moist, chewy and totally satisfying!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Doi Begun - Eggplants in Yogurt Sauce

Doi Begun
Our nephew's wife first introduced us to this delectable dish and generously shared her recipe with me. It's the perfect semi-dry curry that goes well either with rice or chapatis/tortillas. Bengalis are natural-born lovers of begun and would gladly have this vegetable with every meal, if possible, which explains the myriad ways we have found for cooking with begun.

When cooked, eggplants soften turning creamy in the center. Greek yogurt combined with coconut milk makes a smooth and creamy sauce made even more delicious with a pungent touch of mustard paste and tang that is provided by the tomatoes. Green chilies serve to spice up this dish so use as much as you can handle.

If eggplants are not your thing, substitute them for thick slices of tofu or fish (for non-vegetarians), and use this same sauce to mound over a hot and steamy bed of rice. It makes for a delicious and satisfying meal that is hard to forget!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Murgh Makhani - Butter Chicken

Use bone-in chicken pieces or boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. The packaged butter chicken masala worked so well that it's now a staple in my pantry. If it's not available in an Indian market or the international aisle of your supermarket, try the recipe below.

Butter chicken goes well with hot rice or chapatis. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Green Beans Shorshe Bata - Green Beans in Mustard Sauce

Green Beans Shorshe Bata

A super speedy alternative to making mustard paste at home is to use hot mustard powder dissolved in water that is served in Chinese restaurants. The traditional method is to soak black mustard seeds in water overnight and grind it to a smooth paste the next day. 

These green beans were blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes, then stir-fried with diced potatoes and mustard sauce. Mustard powder needs to dissolve in water and set aside for at least 15 minutes to achieve maximum pungency. It's an easy side dish to serve with steamed rice or chapatis/tortillas.

2018 Father's Day Dinner

2018 Father's Day Dinner

Clockwise from top left:
Steamed Rice
Easy Tilapia & Cauliflower in Coconut Gravy
Masur Dal with Pickled Radish
Ghoogni - Chickpeas in Cream Sauce

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Pumpkin Amish Friendship Bread

Pumpkin Friendship Bread
A Mother's Day gift of Amish Friendship Bread starter batter began my fascination with a century-old tradition. I was given a 1 gallon Ziploc bag containing a cup of the batter along with written instructions for multiplying it four fold so it could be shared among friends. Using that bag of batter and nursing it over 10 days produced four 1 gallon bags of starter batter. 

The first 3 or 4 times of making this yeasty batter, I was able to find enough friends and neighbours willing to try it, but later I just froze the bags and used them up one at a time to make different flavours of friendship bread. The starter batter freezes indefinitely, so it's easy to make these sweet breads at a moment's notice.

There's always a can of pumpkin puree in the pantry after Thanksgiving. Following the recipe for Banana Walnut Friendship Bread and using a can of pumpkin puree in place of mashed bananas, produces a lovely bread without using a store-bought pumpkin bread mix.

Enjoy this bread for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Phool Kopir Ghonto - Cauliflower, Potatoes & Rice

Phool Kopir Ghonto
The difference between Phool Kopir Ghonto & Phool Kopir Pulao, in my humble opinion, lies in the ratio of cauliflower to rice. In a Ghonto, the ratio of cauliflower to rice is 2:1, and in a Pulao the ratio is 1:2. By adjusting the amount of gravy, it can be served wet or dry. This is a vegan and vegetarian dish that can be served on auspicious occasions.

I first had Phool Kopir Ghonto at my sister's place. She follows a vegetarian diet one day a week and has a amazing repertoire of vegetarian dishes. This dish has stuck in my memory and even though I haven't followed her recipe exactly, it tasted wonderful!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Burmese Chet-Tha Chin Paung - Roselle Leaves with Chicken

Chin Paung Chicken
Chin Paung Ywet or roselle leaves have a lovely tang. When roselle leaves are not available, sorrel can be substituted. Both have a tangy, citrusy flavour that taste great in their uncooked forms in salads and sauces.

Roselle Leaves

Sorrel Leaves
Even though they don't look anything like each other, they taste almost the same and can be cooked with shrimp, chicken or any meat. The greens tend to turn black when heat is applied to them, so I like to mix them with regular chopped spinach to cut back on the tang and to make them look green and vibrant.
Gongura Pickle
A touch of gongura pickle, available in Indian markets, gives this dish a punch of added flavour. Gongura is the South Indian name for roselle leaves.