Nov 27, 2010

Shirazi Samosa Special!

We love snacks.... a lot! Besides cooking elaborate meals as often as possible, we do a lot of snack making on weekends. Especially now with the weather cooling off considerably, damn its actually really cold, hot yummy snacks work like cosy parka’s for the tummy. Some of my typical favourites in winters are pan rolls (recipe coming up in a couple of days!), samosa’s, falafel, ‘pakora’s’ and hand cut, potato wedges ... the secret is to lightly roll them in a thin batter of cornflour, herbs and seasoning.. awesome! And since health is on our minds albeit occasionally, we bake snacks too, puffs, calzones, mini pies and the like. This weekend I made our first winter batch of samosa’s, last week’s pan rolls (1 dozen!!!) lasted for 2 days so by Wednesday we were out of homemade quick fry snacks! Hopefully the samosa’s will last a bit longer!


250 gms mince meat
2 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Few sprigs of coriander, finely chopped

You can adjust the salt and spice balance depending upon your family’s taste, I sometimes add 1 finely chopped green chilli as well. Heat the oil in a wok, throw in the onion and garlic, fry till light brown, add the dry spices and seasoning and fry for about 2 mins on low. Add the mince and mix it all up really well. You can add a little water if it sticks, but we need this to be dry so avoid it if possible. Remove from the fire and sprinkle the coriander on top, give it a quick mix and leave to cool.

The casing is easy as hell, the idea of not getting a crispy, oily pastry lies in the temperature of the oil and the thickness or thinness of the casing. I roll mine a bit thick-ish, we don’t like very crispy stuff and certainly not one with little bubbles of oil ...ewwww!

1 cup all purpose flour
Water to make dough
2 tbsp oil

Make a nice tight dough, like you would for ‘poori’s’... basically don’t make it too sticky. Dough will always eventually come together no matter how gooey it looks at first, the idea is to hold the water, so you don’t end up with dough that needs a constant smattering of flour to come together, that will just make the whole think unmanageable, ruin proportions and most likely the gluten will work more in the flour you initially used than the batch you added as you made the dough. Let the dough sit for a bit, leave it outside, I always feel the refrigerator dries out the dough. After about ½ hour or so make small rolls of dough and roll it into a 4"-5" diameter circle. Cut it into two parts like semi-circle.

Now take one semi circle and fold it like a cone. You can moisten your fingertips for this. Place a spoon of filling in the cone and seal the third side using a drop of water. Heat oil and deep fry till golden brown. Drain and serve with coriander mint chutney or ketchup.

Nov 23, 2010

Yum Rum Balls

I made these the week Andy was away because he doesn’t like them! I rarely make foods that my entire family can’t enjoy together, so this Andy-less week was very different for all of us, in the culinary sense. Ally ate regular home food, very happily (hmmmm....!) that was supplied by her grandfather’s kitchen, one she is familiar with since birth so I figured it was symbolically comfort food for her while her dad was away! I cooked diet food for varun which actually turned out very well, he loved it and he had been living on a low carb, low protein, high fibre crap! I ate a combination of veggie leftovers, which I actually love, especially since I don’t have to cook them. I ate out a lot. I went back for the chopstick licking great sweet and sour pork at Jing (in Gurgaon) with heavenly smoked chicken and lettuce fried rice ...a few shots of jasmine tea and dark chocolate for dessert, bliss!

I have been to share this easy as hell rum ball recipe for days, especially for one dear friend. What worries me is that these were so easy that I’m scared she may wonder why she liked them so much, I guess its the dollop of love that goes into everything from my kitchen!

1 can condensed milk

3 rows/layers of butter cookies, you know from the gift tin boxes, we usually get those for Diwali and they seem to last and last till they are pledged to Tiramisu base or Rum ball mix.

5-6 tbsp dark cocoa, invest in good cocoa, only the Cadbury one qualifies in India but Hershey’s dark cocoa does a super job.

75-100 ml of dark rum, use good old Old Monk, amazing aftertaste

½ cup chopped butter roasted walnuts, i love roasting nuts in salted butter, a hint of salt adds a lot of chocolate preparations like this. Though this is an optional ingredient, for nut lovers, you can do this with hazelnuts or almonds too.

Crush the cookies in a bag, not fine, leave a slight bite to the crumbs. If I feel indulgent, I roast the crumbs in salted butter on very low fire for 3-4 minutes, but it is absolutely fine if you don’t do that. Mix the cookie crumbs with the condensed milk (this is when I add the roasted nuts), blend in the cocoa powder with a spatula, mix well, till the crumbs blend in and just a few bites poke out. Pour in the rum slowly, you don’t want the mix too runny, start with 50 ml and build up. Mix well and refrigerate (cover with plastic wrap) for 4-6 hours, this is quite like ganache and needs time to set before you can roll balls out of the mix. Once the mix is firm, roll out balls and place in mini cupcake liners. You can roll them with different coatings for additional flavouring but if I have added nuts and rum, then I don’t do a coating. Leave out the nuts and try coatings like grated coconut, chocolate sprinkles, mint sprinkles, roasted and crushed peanuts ... enjoy!

Nov 15, 2010

Shirazi Chinese Dinner

I met a lovely young girl yesterday…one who chucked it all to go to Culinary school and actually ended up in Culinary Institute of America. She is a pastry chef and here is how she described her future “I am planning to open a pastry kitchen, that will be my playground and then a shop too”… her playground..what a wonderful and apt word. Lucky girl! Andy and I met her at a Korean food orientation session. I am not going delve into that cuisine just as yet, I have only begun to learn about this cuisine though I am surprised at how open my palate was to it. I am waiting for my next tryst was beef and then I shall try Bulgogi!

Tonight was Chinese food night in our kitchen. I made batter fried chicken strips served with a chilli garlic sauce with babycorns marinated and fried in the same way and ham, lettuce, spring onions and egg fried rice. I like the way the meal has shaped up. I kept the lettuce as fresh as possible, I added it last, so that’s our ‘green’ element in the meal. I am becoming vaguely conscious of the lack of vegetables in our meals. I always make a side of veggies but it is never the highlight of the meal and I rarely respect it enough to even chronicle it. Sad! Ally gets her fair share of veggies because her lunch is invariably vegetarian and she is very fond of Indian home food – all the dals, all the dried beans (rajma, lobiya), kadhi, alu puri, stuffed paranthas, stuff Andy and I rarely dig into even when it’s made every day. Strange are the longings of the heart (that’s where food longings live, much like love!)

Start with the rice, you can do the sauce on the side, since you need finely chopped spring onions for both.

Ham, Lettuce & Egg Fried Rice

4 cups boiled white rice, we don’t like it lumpy but a lot of people do. I usually use the rice from a day before or at least a bowl that’s been refrigerated for a couple of hours, so say rice from lunch time.
2 tsbp dark soy, I use Kikkoman, just the right fermenti-ness and saltiness
3 spring onion, sliced fine. Use as much of the greens as possible, buy fresh so you have a lot of leaves.
½ cup of chopped ham, I make small pieces but not small enough to shrivel up and get lost in the rice. Use ham that is less fatty so that it doesn’t overcook and toughen up. You can use bacon too.
1 cup shredded lettuce, I use iceberg, I mentioned before that I love combining hot and cold foods, I love the crunch of water rich iceberg in a bite. Avoid salad leaves though, the colour sucks even after few minutes in the heat (of the rice!).
½ tsp salt
1 egg, beaten and cooked into an omelette, cut into little squares. Add a little salt.
1-2 tsbp cooking oil

Heat the oil, make it hot, add the spring onions and fry for 2 minutes, don’t let it burn, add the soy sauce, caramelize for a minute, add the ham, another minute, rice and salt. Toss on high for 2 minutes or so and add the lettuce leaves, another 2-3 minutes and lastly the egg. Take off the fire and serve. Again you can re-heat in the micro but nothing like off the fire!

Chilli Garlic Sauce

4 spring onion heads, sliced fine
6-8 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsbp chilli garlic sauce, use any decent oriental variety. Most of the commercial ones aren’t very pungent unless indicated otherwise but do take a quick lick to see how hot and garlicky it is so you can adjust the flavours.
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 capsicum, cut into thick squares, make 8 pieces of regular sized one.
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp cornflour dissolved in 200 ml of cold water, to thicken the sauce

Heat oil, fry the garlic for a few minutes, add the spring onions, fry till they are transparent and the greens are still green. Add the soy sauce, caramelize for a minute or so and add the stock and the capsicum, bring to a boil, add the chilli garlic sauce and simmer for a minute or two. Stir in the cornflour/water mix while the sauce simmers, it will thicken pretty fast, once it is thickening, turn of the fire, the residual heat will take care of the rest. Check the seasoning, you can cut excessive pungency with a tbsp of ketchup. The capsicum stays a bit al dente in this dish, it’s nicer that way.

Batter Fried Chicken Strips

2 chicken breasts cut into thin slivers, keep the cuts even
Marinade: 1 tbsp soy sauce, ½ tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsbp chilli vinegar, 1 tsp garlic powder, marinate for at least 2-3 hours.
½ cup cornflour (season with ½ salt)
1 egg, beaten
Oil for deep frying

Drain off the marinade. Dip each chicken strip in the egg and then pat lightly with cornflour and fry in hot oil. Once you add some of the strips, the oil will cool but heat back again pretty fast so you may want to do this on low, cornflour doesn’t really brown very fast, so fry to a light colour for about 3-4 minutes. Drain and serve immediately. So this is the only last minute thing on the menu but it’s worth it.. you can cook and keep but I have no good way of re-heating deep fried foods, the taste and texture alters dramatically.
Serve the chicken, sauce and rice separately, let the family construct their meal. I actually avoid the sauce and have the rice with the chicken, a dash of chilli vinegar and thick soy sauce…yum!

Nov 12, 2010

Joy's Bhindi Gosht

"For lady fingers and mutton ..heat oil and drop in a few green cardamoms, a stick of cinnamon, a few peppercorns. Fry chopped onions. Put in the ground masala..(garlic,ginger,tomatoes, turmeric, red chilli pwdr, coriander pw...dr, cummin pwder grnd together) Stir fry till oil separates. Put in the mutton, add salt, and cook till mutton is just about 5-10 minutes from being done well. Drop in the whole okra (slit on the side). You'll have to time it well so that the okra isn't overdone. If not too sure about timing one could stir fry the lady's fingers and then add it and cook in mutton gravy for a few minutes. Personally I prefer the former.
The gravy has to be thick, almost like bhoona gosht, tastes better with rotis/naans/phulkas (the thinner variety is good if using it with rice)..... I usually sprinkle home made garam masala before serving and we add a squeeze of lemon. But the lemon is optional." - Joy Clarkson, on The Shirazine's FB page!

This was her original post on The Shirazine's Facebook page. I tried the recipe over the week and found it - amazing! Thankfully I got this before okra season was out, in fact it is almost just in time! I standardized it a bit to make it easier for home cooks to try. We had this with warm Khubus (Iranian bread) but Andy tells me that it was amazing with steamed rice too!

1/2 kg mutton cut in curry pieces, ask for the shoulder, the famous 'raan' or hind leg is best roasted or grilled.
3-4 cardamoms
6-7 peppercorns
1" stick of cinnamon
2 onions, minced or grated
3-4 cloves of garlic, pureed
1" stick of ginger, pureed
1 tomato, cubed
1 tsp turmeric,
2 tsp red chilli powder,
2 tsp coriander powder,
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp cooking oil
250 gms of lady fingers, whole, slit on the side
1 cup warm water
sprinkle of garam masala for final seasoning
juice of 1/2 a lemon before you serve :)

Grind the garlic,ginger,tomatoes, turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder and cumin powder and set aside. Heat oil, fry onions till golden brown, add ground masala and fry for another 3-4 minutes by which time the oil should separate. add the washed and dried mutton pieces along with the salt. cook for 30 minutes or so on a low flame. stir occasionally. Add the lady fingers about 20-25 mins into the cooking time, put in all the pieces with 1 cup of warm water. cook til the lady fingers are done, I didnt like the idea of frying and adding either but if that is what is likely to work better for you then go ahead and fry 'em! Sprinkle garam masala on the top before you serve and add a wedge of lemon in case someones wants to add a bit of a twang to the dish!


Friday Nite Dining

This is my ultimate Friday night menu developed specially for winters. I am so excited about the puff pastry dough in my fridge and my after office list includes fresh chicken breasts, a pack of Lebanese bread (I prefer those to regular soft tortilla’s) and sea salt. You may need to use a toothpick to hold the bread fold, specially if you plan to stuff the quesadilla, a lot of people prefer tortilla bread, so try one with that.

Ah yes my hunt for sea salt continues...sadly! Anyway, fortunately I have some chicken stock leftover from the stew I made yesterday, that ought to be an awesome base for my mushroom mix for the patty. I don’t usually like using premixed packs and packaged soups and sauces but if you are pressed for time, then you can use a pack of cream of mushroom soup for the patties filling. Though if the filling is too creamy then it can leak during baking time! Make sure the filling is cooled before you start working with the puff pastry, with that kind of margarine, the dough will be putty in your hands in no time. Also keep the dough refrigerated while you bake, you dont want it to get all melty on you!

Blackened Chicken Quesadillas

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 2” long ½” thick strips
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
2 Tbsp. Cajun spice blend*
2 flour tortillas breads or if you get the thin Lebanese variety, even better
2 cups mix of grated mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, divided
2 tsp olive oil

Coat chicken with the Cajun spice blend. Sauté in oil on low flame until blackened, 4–5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan; let it sit for 5 minutes, then slice thin against the grain. To assemble the quesadilla’s, first, coat a non-stick pan with olive oil (lightly) and heat over medium. Place tortilla in pan and sprinkle 1 side with 1/4 cup cheese, sliced chicken, and another 1/4 cup cheese. Fold empty side of tortilla over and cook until golden on each side, 2–4 minutes. Repeat process with remaining tortillas. Slice into wedges and serve with salsa.

*This spice mix is tweaked as per the ingredients available and personal choice.

Combine the following to make you own batch of Cajun Spice blend:

1/2 Cup of sea salt or ¼ cup table salt
2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. paprika
1-1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. freshly ground white pepper
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small jar. (The spice mix can be stored in a tightly covered glass jar in a cool dry place out of direct light for up to 4 months.) Makes about 1 cup.

Mushroom patties

2 sheet of puff pastry dough
200 gms of button mushrooms, sliced thin (learnt from Masterchef Australia the other day that if you slice these thin then you get more flavour out of the mushrooms because there is more surface area!)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 ½ cup chicken stock
1 onion thinly sliced
Salt and pepper seasoning

Sauté the onions in butter till transparent, add the mushrooms and the stock, bring to boil, and then simmer for 7-10 minutes. Let the stock reduce till the mushrooms are moist but not in gravy. Stir in the cream, season well and cool to fill the pastry pockets. Roll out the puff pastry (don’t make it too thin) to a 4x4 inch size. Place a tbsp of the mushroom mix in the centre, fold over and seal press with a fork, dip the prongs in water to get a tight seal. Brush lightly with butter or egg white or olive oil and bake till golden and done (about 4-5 mins) on 180 C.

Tomato soup: sorry guys this one will be from the pack but I do have a few fortification ideas you can use.

- Add grated parmesan cheese
- Make an egg drop, pour in a beaten egg through a sieve
- Fry croutons of seasoned breads like leftover focaccia, garlic loaves, baguettes
- Add a tbsp of cream... mmmmm!

Rum balls:

ok, as of now these are in a bit of trouble, I am hoping they set in the fridge. The combination is basically crushed cookies (I used NICE for the coconut tinge, didn’t want to use desiccated coconut) and condensed milk with cocoa powder and an option of chopped nuts. The recipe shall follow once rum balls are successfully shaped and served ...and of course applauded ...kidding!

Nov 10, 2010

The Shirazi Moussaka

We had a lovely Diwali season this year. It wasn’t full of card parties and random people whom we will never meet again, it was full of real friends, food and total fun. I spent 4 blissful days in the kitchen and we only finished the leftovers last night! Thank god because as the cook there is absolutely no fun in cooking an entire meal and then eating it for 3 days straight! One of the important dinners of the week was for a set of Korean friends, a lovely young couple who happened to own the only Korean restaurant in the city. Along with them we were expecting yet another foodie friend who’s knowledge of food and love for food made me slightly nervous. So this one had to go off well!

The menu was insane according to Andy, though I always feel a huge spread is simply endearing! The ultimate picture of people having a good time, at least in my head is one with a huge dining table, laden with food, with arms passing all kinds of bowls and platters back and forth and the comforting din of people talking and laughing! Fortunately for us, the evening turned out exactly like that. Here’s a peek at the menu –

Starters: Lamb chops (ya ya I know, I always do them!), Mince Snackers,
Dips: Thoum, Hoummous, Baba Ghanoush
Salad: Iceberg, Romaine and Swiss Chard combo and another one with grilled cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and deep fried babycorn
Main Course: Lamb Moussaka, Malay Fish Curry, Prawn and Okra curry, Foccacia bread and steamed rice
Dessert: Tiramisu and homemade chocolate truffles


For the Mince:

½ kg lamb mince (beef is even better)
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 large tomatoes cubed
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
8 cloves of garlic smashed
2 tsbp of olive oil
1 tsp red chilli flakes
Salt and pepper seasoning

Saute the onions and garlic till light brown. Add the mince and sauté for another 5 mins, I like adding the pepper now, I love the way it sears all over the meat. I like the sauce peppery too but it’s a lovely flavour to rub off on the meat. Add the tomatoes, cook for few minutes and add the sauces with some salt and more pepper. Hold the herbs for the end, I don’t like cooking herbs too much especially if they are dried herbs. Cook covered for about 10 mins on low flame. Sprinkle the herb seasoning on top and keep covered.

The Veggies:
1 large round Brinjal, that’s what the round one is called so you can even ask for aubergines just ask for the round ones. Slice them thin and even, sprinkle with salt and leave standing in a plate for about 15-20 mins. This makes all the excess moisture and bitterness leave the vegetable. You can keep the plate at an angle so that the excess drains off.

2 firm potatoes, thinly sliced
Olive oil for shallow frying
Heat oil in a frying pan, just enough for shallow frying, fry the potato slices first and set aside then the aubergine slices. The aubergine soaks a lot of oil, that will help it fry better, so don’t add more. Keep these aside for assembly.

The Sauce: this is a basic béchamel with a seasoning of mixed Italian herbs – oregano, rosemary, thyme and basil, I used only these.
100 gms flour
100 gms butter
1 lt. Milk
Seasoning of herbs, salt and preferably white pepper or the sauce gets all spotted and gritty looking.

The Topping: Grated cheese, mix cheddar and parmesan – 1 full cup

Melt butter (use a double boiler if you need too), add the flour and lightly sauté for few minutes, the texture should be like butter coloured breadcrumbs. Take off the fire, cool for few minutes and add warm milk. Add in two batches, so you can gauge how your sauce is thickening. Thicken to the consistency of cake batter, season well and reserve for assembly. This sauce will thicken as it sits, so it is better to make it last, just before assembling the dish.

Now that you have your mince filling, fried veggie slices and sauce ready, you can start putting together the moussaka. Use an 8 inch pyrex dish or a shallow square baking dish. Lightly grease with olive oil. Make a base of the fried potato slices. Top it up with all the mince. Lather the mince with the rich and creamy white sauce, sprinkle some Italian seasoning on top, it gets nice and roasted when you serve. Add the grated cheese finally and bake for 5-7 mins on 200 C or till the cheese melts and browns! Another topping suggestion is to add 2-3 slices of tomatoes and 2-3 slices of fried aubergines on the cheese, so when it melts, these veggie slices settle in and simply look pretty!

The coolest part of the evening was when I saw both Jin and his wife Harim loving the moussaka even though Koreans don’t eat lamb, it’s not in their food culture and they actually find it smelly! The evening was as warm and wonderful as this hearty meaty dish. Enjoy it with a nice crusty bread.