Monday, January 14, 2019

Keema Alu Matar - Ground Meat, Potaoes and Peas

Keema Alu Matar
This dish is commonly served at roadside eateries that are frequented mostly by truck drivers along the highways in India. These roadside eateries are called 'dhabas'. I fell in love with it while living in Defense Colony in New Delhi where I was introduced to a 'dhaba' at the corner of our street. To give her a day off, our help would get food from the 'dhaba' once a week. Our favourite items were Keema Alu Matar, Baingan Bhartha and Dal Makhani, accompanied by Naan/Romali Roti. This keema dish was also a favourite during our adolescence spent in Darjeeling.

Any kind of keema/ground meat can be used, such as chicken, lamb or beef. I tried Everest meat masala powder for the first time today and was pleased with the robust flavour it imparted to the minced meat. Another unusual ingredient used today is mace.

Mace is a spice consisting of the dried and lacy covering of the nutmeg fruit of a  tropical evergreen tree. It has a slightly warm taste and a fragrance similar to that of nutmeg.

The most laborious part in the preparation of this dish is browning the ground meat. The rest was easy because it was made in the pressure cooker, using just one pot.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Deem Posto - Eggs in White Poppy Seeds Sauce

Deem Posto
Posto (the Bengali name for white poppy seeds) dishes are a common item at Bengali tables. The poppy seeds are soaked in boiling water, cooled and blended with green chilies and salt until smooth and creamy. This sauce is used in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. The general procedure is to temper the oil with nigella seeds (kalo jeera) and green chilies, add the vegetables or hard-boiled eggs in this case, simmer them with ginger until cooked and add the posto before taking off the stove.

A word of caution for anyone who has a drug test coming up, I have been told that consuming any food containing poppy seeds (black poppy seed muffins, for example) may affect the results of the drug test.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Chicken Porcupines

Chicken Porcupines
The next time homemade meatballs are on the menu, reserve 10-12 meatballs for this appetizer, especially if you have young children around. These 'porcupines' are kid-friendly because they're bite-sized and small enough to hold in their little hands. The porcupine quills are formed by rolling the meatballs in long-grain rice and steaming them.

These were steamed in a rice cooker at the base of which egg-drop soup bubbled happily. They're ready when the grains of rice begin to stick out of the meatballs, resembling porcupine quills. This could take a while so be patient.

Serve with a drop of Sriracha sauce or ketchup, as shown above, or make a dip as described below. These are great for starters and could also be served at a potluck or picnic because they're convenient to transport and eat.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Ghoti Kalai Dal

Ghoti Kalai Dal

Ghoti refers to the people of West Bengal. Kalai/urad dal is good for controlling diabetes because of its alkaline nature. This ginger and 5 spice perfumed dal was a popular dish prepared in my sister's 'shoshur bari' or in-laws' home. During one of our frequent phone calls, she gave me this recipe or rather what I remember of her instructions.

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 which is now online, 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.