Jan 31, 2011

Dulce De Leche ...mmmm!

I am loving baking these days, I guess it’s the weather! But ever since I managed to go ahead and finally make pizza dough, calzone dough and puff pastry (after years!), there has been no stopping me. I manage to refrigerate meals for the next 2 days, so that means I get alternate days to bake. This past Sunday I had made a mincemeat mix for cutlets, I had a part done dish of Chicken Cacciatore for Monday and for Tuesday, I had a small jar of marinade ready, I plan to pick up fresh cut lamb on the way and make a spicy, rich curry. So that gives me Monday evening to bake. I have wanted a project for a while now, so when I came across a recipe for Chocolate Dulce De Leche bars, I knew this was fate. I had never actually made Dulce De Leche but I had bought bottled version before and it is a favourite in ice creams for me (Haagen Daz has a lovely one with Dulce De Leche). Also with a 5 year old, I try to be conscious as possible about packaged and bottled foods, so I decided to make it from scratch ... well hardly scratch, I used a can of condensed milk but then I was short on time!

All you have to do is open the can slightly (so it doesn’t burst with all the steam when it is heated), place in a pan and submerged 3/4th in water. Keep this on simmer for 2-3 hours, the top will top light but believe me, when you get that can out and stir, you will get the richest caramel colour ever. To be honest, that itself seems like such a culinary achievement! Be careful when you remove the can, I used oven mitts. So there I had it, a whole jar of lovely Dulce De Leche. It was just about enough for the chocolate bars I wanted to make, but I kept half to try other recipes.

Once you have the Dulce De Leche ready, here are a few things you can do with it –

Ice cream – vanilla, strawberry, coffee or chocolate

Melt the ice cream for 10 minutes or so, till it is easy to blend with a thick wired whisk. Churn the ice cream gently in a bowl (the same one you can use to reset the ice cream in the freezer). Use a tablespoon to pour the dulce de leche in circles over the ice cream. Use a spatula to give one fold and reset in the freezer till well set. When you serve you will get ribbons of Dulce De Leche in the ice cream.

Frosting for cakes and cupcakes

1 cup dulce de leche
1/3 cup nutella
½ cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
2-4 tablespoons milk

Place butter, nutella, and dulce de leche in the bowl of a standing mixer, and cream until fluffy. Add the confectioner’s sugar, salt, 2 tablespoons milk, and vanilla, and mix. Add more milk if icing seems to stiff, or add confectioner’s sugar if it seems too runny. The frosting will stiffen in the refrigerator. Beat icing until fluffy. Spread frosting over the cake when the cake you have made is completely cool. This is ideal for vanilla, chocolate, devil’s food, banana and apple cakes.

Filling for tarts, doughnuts and pies

You can use as is, depending upon how thick or thin you made the DDL. Cooking for 2-3 hours makes a relatively tanned and thick version, cook for an hour or so for a runny version. I prefer it thick because then I can thin it down and use in different preparations. For fillings I use combinations of DDL with Nutella, thick cream, melted chocolate, even coconut milk (very thick). These fillings are great if you want to make a quick pie or tart. If you bake with the DDL mix then the filling will set well, if you don’t it will be nice and soft.

Jan 20, 2011

An Italian Love Affair

I feel so culinarily misplaced in life. I actually don’t much care for Indian food except comfort foods when I am sick, I ought to have been born elsewhere. Somewhere in the Mediterranean, maybe Italy, even though they denied me a visa, I am drawn to this country ever so often in my kitchen! We just commissioned our bbq stove the other day, since we were looking forward to our gulf vacation we didn’t bother last month and Andy felt November wasn’t cold enough and now we have barely 8 weeks of winter left, so we just had to do this. I am made a batch of chicken kebabs (jujeh), Iranian recipe and they turned out lovely. The other day we did Koobideh, basically lamb seekhs with delicate flavouring and loads of personality. I always worry about how these will turn out because they are so delicate, so I decided to keep a simple Chicken Cacciatore ready as well, just in case! This is a genuinely simple recipe, do not taint it with masala’s of any kind, if you need to appease a fussy member of the family, hand them the new variant from Tabasco, the smoked japapeno’s hot sauce. This is one condiment that I personally feel jells very well with Italian tomato based dishes, despite the Latin kick, it has a nice blend.

Italian food can be so delicious and simple, all you need is the right ingredients and now with world class grocery stores sprouting everywhere, finding fresh produce isn’t hard at all. Invest in good olive oil, always use fresh garlic, thank God we’re Indian and don’t know the taste of canned tomatoes and last of all, don’t shy away from packaged pasta’s, the best fine dining restaurants in India still don’t make their own fresh pasta. And unless you master it, homemade fresh pasta can be overrated and you will miss the pasta press... like I always do!

I serve this dish with bread, Andy likes plain, white bread, it’s so tragic! I also serve spaghetti because Ally loves all things noodle-y.

1 onion , finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves , crushed
3 tbsp. olive oil
10-12 cherry tomatoes or 3 large, fresh and firm tomatoes cut into fours.
4 tbsp mascarpone, I substitute with Amul cream cheese, it doesn’t taste like much but it’s pretty good to cook with. In Delhi NCR do try the Impero range of fresh cheeses, by far the best local mascarpone ever!
6 leaves fresh basil, you can use a tbsp of dried but it won’t be the same!
4 chicken breasts , with skin if you can find it, in Gurgaon I order it specially from Green Chic.
Sea Salt & Pepper (fairly liberally, preferably from a pepper mill or coarsely crushed)
2 tbsp white wine (optional)
1 tsp sugar, really brings the tomato flavours out and evens the tanginess.

200 gms mushrooms (optional), sliced thick
8-10 black olives (optional), whole

Fry the onions and garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil till softened. Add the cubed tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and all the seasoning; simmer for 6-8 minutes, till cooked well and thick. Take off the fire and add cream cheese or mascarpone (whichever you choose to use, the sliced mushrooms, black olives and few of the basil leaves. Tear them up for maximum flavour. Heat the remaining tbsp of olive oil in a non stick pan and fry the chicken on both sides until browned, I sprinkle a little sea salt on the chicken for a nice shine.

Then transfer the chicken in to a baking dish and pour the tomato sauce over it. You need to cook this for another 15-20 minutes on 180 degrees C or until the chicken is cooked through. Garnish with basil. Serve right away while the cheese is still bubbling, many a palate have been burnt by this dish, mainly because the cheesy bits are most inviting and everyone digs for it first! I sometimes serve this with pasta’s, bow tie pasta goes very with the large chicken pieces and looks really pretty too.

Jan 19, 2011

Shirazi Chuck Roast

Made a pot roast after ages, actually got beef after ages. If you go back in my posts you will come to a brief (now seems like it!) span of 2 weeks I was overwhelmed by how many types of cuts a 2 kg chuck of beef produced. I had curry chunks, lean steaks, a rump roast and still some! That time has come upon me again and since this was last experienced over 2 months ago, I am all geared up to deal with the meat! I recognize this cut well, sadly it’s harder to cook but it’s perfect for a roast, this upper shoulder cut needs slow cooking and I have over an hour of low heat planned for it. The real secret to a good red meat roast is pre-cooking treatment, plenty of fortified hydration (i.e.: stock, chicken or beef, fresh or from a bouillon) and lots of time! The pre cooking treatment entails poking the hell out of the hunk (hahaha!) with a fork, that gets the flavours in, then you have the stock and you need to leave it be!

I used a nice rounded piece, around 400-500 gms in weight, I also used a heavy bottomed vessel to cook this in, in India its easiest to use a large pressure cooker without the lid and weight, use a simple lid instead. I had chicken stock from the soup I had made a couple of weeks back, I always keep a glass jar full of stock when I make soup.

500 gms chuck of beef

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar, use palm vinegar if you have some!
6 cloves
2” cinnamon
4 cardamoms
2 large onions
4 whole garlic cloves
8-10 pepper balls
1 tbsp crushed garlic
4 thick pieces of ginger, 1” length
Coarsely ground pepper
1 ltr. Stock, see the instructions on the bouillon pack or use fresh stock if you can, chicken will do too.
1 tbsp or more of sugar/honey

Pierce the meat with a fork all over. Rub the salt (sea salt if you have any), pepper and crushed garlic all over the meat, stick in a few cloves, into the meat and pat in a few pepper balls too. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed, deep pan, place the meat in the centre and fry on all sides till lightly browned all over. Lower the heat and then add the garlic cloves, whole spices, ginger, vinegar and more seasoning, I sometimes use Maggi Seasoning but it is available only at stores that stock international products so I don’t always have it. Pour in the stock and cover. Cook for 30 minutes on each side till the liquid dries off, depending upon the vessel and the flame, 1 litre can take anywhere from 40-60 minutes to cook off. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the roast every 20 minutes or so. Remember to keep pouring the liquid around the roast, over the roast to keep it moist and flavoured evenly. Add a little liquid (stock or water) if it is too dry towards the end of 60 minutes. Use a sharp knife to slice off a piece, try it for doneness, the meat inside shouldn’t be too pink, more like brown/cooked pink. If you need it to be more tender, add 200 ml more of liquid and cook another 15 mins. Once it is done, sprinkle the sugar over it and caramelize on a high flame, till the chuck is crisp brown.

Cool and slice, slice as thin as possible and use in wraps, sandwiches and rolls. You can cube up some of the meat for a ‘doner’ kebab kind of roll, put the meat on pita bread, add some garlic mayo, fresh tomato slices and lettuce leaves, you have a nice Mediterranean sandwich ready! You can also make a delicious roast burger, put a few of the slices in a burger bun along with a ladle full of the thick residual drippings in the pan and eat right away. This is such a convenient way to keep fresh cold cuts at home, you need to make it once a week because a 500 gm roast will reap a dozen slices and a sandwich just needs two. This is a good alternative to salt laden, frozen cold cuts we tend to keep for convenience. Enjoy!

Jan 16, 2011

Puff Pastry Palooza

Few recipes I tried with store bought puff pastry and loved each one of ‘em! I buy it locally from Modern Bazaar in Arjun Marg Market in Gurgaon. Abroad I have always tried to source local cold versions and never really tried the frozen imported varieties. I like foods like this to have shelf life in days and not months. Though there is no better way than scratch I am totally okay with accepting the fact that I don’t have the time or the patience to make puff pastry any longer. I would rather spend time trying new fillings and toppings with this wonderful dough!

Puff Pastry Cheese Straws

1 sheet of Puff Pastry Sheets
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese, I like Brittania’s, it is strong and dark
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed

Heat the oven to 200°C. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork or whisk. Stir the cheese, parsley and oregano in a small bowl.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 14x10-inch rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise. Brush the halves with the egg mixture. Top 1 half with the cheese mixture. Place the remaining half over the filling, egg-side down. Roll gently with a rolling pin to seal. Cut the pastry crosswise into 28 (1/2-inch) strips. Twist the strips and place on a baking sheet, pressing down the ends. Brush the pastries with the egg mixture. Bake for 10 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Remove the pastries from the baking sheets and let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes.

Mushroom Tartlets

1 pack of mushrooms, 200 gms, finely sliced
4 spring onions, sliced fine
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper
A dash of Tabasco

1 Sheet Puff Pastry dough

Heat oil, fry the spring onions and garlic, add the mushrooms and season. Fry for 4-5 minutes till the mushrooms are cooked. Add a dash of Tabasco and cool.
Heat oven to 180 C. Cut 2x2” cubes of the puff pastry sheet. Press down on each cube with a rolling pin, don’t roll just flatten. Top with a spoonful of the mushroom mix. Arrange on a baking tray and bake for 4-5 minutes or till the pastry is crisp.

Peanut Butter Cups

1 sheet puff pastry
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 bar (4 ounces) sweet baking chocolate, broken into 18 squares
2/3 cup miniature marshmallow

Heat the oven to 180°C. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into an 18x9-inch rectangle. Cut into 18 (3-inch) squares. Press the pastry squares into muffin-pan cups. Spoon 1 teaspoon peanut butter into each pastry cup. Top each with 1 square chocolate if you like. Bake for 10 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Let the pastries cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Jan 13, 2011

Cream Cheese Chicken

I got this recipe in a newsletter from Kraft and I fell in love with the whole idea of creamy, cheesy chicken after all the beef we had been having, to top that the picture of the dish was completely yum! It is only when I went through the recipe that I realized it was slightly package-y and I wanted something tad more wholesome. It is not that I don’t like bottled dressings, I do, only if they are not overdone with vinegar and I like them slightly emulsified which the long shelf life ones never are! This recipe called for KRAFT’s Zesty Italian Dressing, I had used that before but only for cold, leafy salads, I decided to make my own chicken seasoning and tweak this recipe with ingredients easier for us to find locally.

Cream Cheese Chicken

300 gms spaghetti, uncooked, I used Penne, because that’s all I had!
1 cup stir-fry vegetables – potatoes, carrot, zucchini, sliced
1 tbsp. Olive oil
½ kg boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 Large tomatoes, diced
1 large capsicum, sliced thin
Seasoning: (to substitute Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine or apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tbsp onion paste
1 tbsp crushed garlic
1 red bell pepper, minced
Coarsely ground pepper
2 tsp Italian seasoning (dried basil, dried oregano, dried dill, dried chives, make 2 tsp with all these to substitute)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp red chilli flakes

1/2 box Brittania Cream Cheese Spread
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp milk

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan as directed on package, adding stir-fry vegetables to the boiling water for the last 3 min, this cooks out the veggies a bit without mushing them up. Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan. Mix the seasoning , give it a bit of a whip so it emulsifies like a dressing, add the sliced chicken pieces to this mix and let it stand for few minutes. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken; cook 4-6 mins on high heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes and capsicum; bring to boil. Simmer on medium heat for 2 mins, stirring occasionally. Add cream cheese spread; cook and stir until cream cheese is completely melted and mixture is well blended. Gently mix in the veggies, fold them in. Take off the fire. Serve portions of pasta, dress with the chicken, garnish with chopped parsley and grated cheese and eat immediately.

We had it with penne pasta because that all we had handy. To be honest this can be had with any pasta. My only problem with restaurant pasta’s is they are always topped with the sauce and some if you don’t want your dish to go cold with all the mixing, you tend to get bites of pasta that are a bit bland. I always season my pasta before dressing it. Put a portion of the pasta in a bowl, dribble a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, then top with the sauce. The other thing you can do if you need to serve this dish at a later time is mix the chicken and the pasta, put in a baking dish, top with grated cheese and bake for 5-7 minutes just before you eat.

Picture Courtesy - KRAFT Foods

Jan 8, 2011

Kebab E-Koobideh ...Iranian Grills!

This is my favourite Iranian kabab dish, it is served in the famous Chelo Kabab platter, Chelo is basically rice, so there you have it, rice and meat...yum! it is the simplicity of this dish that makes it delicious, Persian food allows you to taste the meat, this cuisine is so wonderfully minimal that it is almost a shame to use as many masala’s as we do to make one curry. They keep everything to a bare minimum and from the looks of it all the emphasis is on the quality and cuts of meat and the coal and flame. They grill to perfection, no moisture is lost and certainly no flavour is lost!

This ‘keema’ mix is moulded on skewers and grilled for barely 5 minutes on a hot coal bbq grill. We were lucky to find flat skewers so when you turn the skewer the meat doesn’t get free and move separately. These are eaten with plain saffron rice, what I do is boil rice as normal, cool and sauté is butter and ½ tsp of Sumac powder or oregano, then I pour a mix of few strands of saffron dissolved in the juice of half a lemon. Since Andy prefers a moister meal I make some ‘Thoum’ dip with it, garlic paste blended with yoghurt and mayo (ratio 2:1), seasoned with salt. Also grill some whole tomatoes and onions, goes very well with the whole meal. Ohhh better still, grill the heads of spring onions, keep all the light green part of the stalk, it turns out buttery, oniony and delicious, don’t forget to baste it when you baste the meat. We use a very very simple basting across the board, unless a BBQ recipe suggests otherwise, I heat olive oil and melt butter in it, 100 gms of butter, 100 ml of olive oil. This can be made into several variants with add-ons like garlic for fish grills, honey for BBQ sauce grills, lemon for simple chicken grills, coarse sea salt and pepper for lamb (add a sprig of thyme for a true kick, better still, baste with a bunch of thyme sprigs.... oh man ... I am totally getting ahead of myself, this needs to be in a BBQ blog some other time!)

½ kg minced lamb
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 small red onions, grated
1 tsp sumac powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 large egg, beaten
Salt & Pepper

Mix all the ingredients together well, use your hands so you can make sure that the mixture is well blend, sticky and gooey by the end of it. Refrigerate overnight, a whole day is even better. Remove from the fridge and mix well once more. Shape like seekh kebabs on a skewer, moisten your hands with water to keep the meat from sticking to your fingers instead of the skewers. If you aren’t using a coal grill or BBQ then you can shape these on a skewer, slide off on to a foil plate and bake on 200 degrees C for about 8-10 minutes, turn only once, you don’t have to cook these too long because the mince used is very fine. Serve with saffron rice and a dip of hung yoghurt, grated cucumber, onions and a sprinkle of sumac powder.

Jan 7, 2011

Baking Brownies/Fighting Winter!

I have been feeling sick since 5 am, lolling in bed and hating the idea of missing a perfectly constructive day, at work and at home. It pays to love your job and I know the feeling all too well, here I am moping about not being able to work and cook while coughing like a banshee and sneezing like I’m trapped in a peppermill! The whole day passes uneventfully, I am happy to have delivered a fair amount pending work but still lolling in bed. It was nice to be pampered with buttered toasts that I couldn’t taste and endless cups of ginger tea and instant cappuccino’s (do not buy the local ones, please, for the love of coffee don’t!). By 6 pm I am losing my mind, I can’t focus on the screen any longer and I need to get out of this now overheated bed! What I really want to do is make something I can actually taste?! Hmmmm... two answers, Goan fish curry and Fudge cupcakes! So that’s exactly what I did!

This is a recipe for my can’t-go-wrong cup-cakes, it is easy and very very yummy! Have them straight out of the oven for a truly heavenly experience and now that Delhi is colder than Shimla you need this feeling. These are specially posted for Poorna for her true and dedicated love for all things cupcake-y, try this sweetie ... you will LOVE them! And hey Poorna, this is one of the EASIEST frostings and I love making it, try it, you can’t go wrong! Since I am better with a spatula than a piping cone, my cupcakes turned out yum, homey looking and totally fudged up!

100 gms cooking chocolate, chopped, I use a local brand called Morde which is sweetened so I have adapted this recipe accordingly, you can use unsweetened chocolate but remember to use dark and not milk or the cupcakes turn out very milk chocolate-y and not fudge-y!

100 gms butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup (175 gms) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

1 cup (125 grams) all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

100 gms cooking chocolate, coarsely chopped

120 gms butter, room temperature

100 gms confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C, you are likely to need a dozen cupcake cups.

Melt the chopped chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Then stir (can also use a hand mixer) in the sugar. Add the vanilla and then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the flour and salt until well blended.

Evenly divide the batter between the muffin cups. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake has moist crumbs. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or if piping, using a large Wilton plain, or open or closed star tip.

Chocolate Frosting: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2 -3 minutes).

Shirazi Sabzi Kormeh

The first time I had ‘Sabzi Kormeh’ was back in the year 2000 at an Iranian restaurant in Kuwait. I remember falling completely in LOVE with the dish. I have always been fond of greens, in salads, as ‘saag’, even in savouries and pies but to have this version of what I knew as ‘saag meat’ was sensational. The meat was tender, the bone was laden with marrow, the greens were all so well blended yet you could taste each one separately. Gentle waves of ‘methi’ and ‘palak’ infused with garlic chives (if you know anyone living around Haryana’s villages, you can get fresh garlic chives right about now!) and spring onion greens, everything fell into sync like most old school dishes do. Despite the presence of some awesome kababs, this was all I ate that night and from thereon, ‘Sabzi Kormeh’ became one of my favourite Persian dishes, followed closely by ‘Chelo Kabab’, kebab (seekh like) with rice.

Over the years my masala tainted palate has learnt to appreciate the often deemed ‘bland’ foods of Persia, they are by no means ‘bland’, you have to have the finesse to locate the flavours dancing in your mouth. The burst of tanginess from pomegranate seeds, the zing of ‘sumac’ powder in the yoghurt, the real taste of lamb in the kabab’s and the potent combination of fragrance and flavour that only saffron has. I make this dish often but not often enough, after our year end trip to the Middle East, all these flavours have rushed back into our lives, we didn’t waste a single meal this time, each one was dedicated to the many facets of the much confused Mediterranean-Middle Eastern cuisine ....from Iran to Turkey and back!


1 bunch of Fresh spinach, around 1/5 kg, remove stems and wash very very well.
Fresh dill, 1/2 bunch
Fresh parsley, 1 bunch
Fresh cilantro, 1 bunch
Fresh coriander, few sprigs
Fresh Leeks, only the greens of 4
Fresh chives, 1 bunch, if you can’t find fresh chives, use 1 tbsp of dried
6 spring onions
Fresh fenugreek, yup good old methi, use ½ bunch for the bitter kick, you can use 1 tbsp of ‘kasure methi’
1/5 kg mutton on the bone, use a shoulder cut, try and get 2 marrow bones, use large pieces
4 dried lemons or 1 tbsp dried lemon powder, I use ‘sumac’ powder, I think it’s available in Bombay
1 medium onion, finely diced.
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup of soaked kidney beans
Seasoning of salt, pepper and red chilli powder, if you like it spicy.

Wash the meat and veggies well. cut up all the veggie bunches fine and mix together, smell that combination of greens to experience the freshest herb garden ever! The smaller the pieces the better. Put the chopped vegetables in a pot, with heat setting on high and frequently stir the vegetables until all their excess water has evaporated. Add two tbsp of cooking oil and stir fry the vegetables until they turn a brownish colour. This process should take about 15 minutes. Take the pot off and put aside. During the stir fry process, you may add a bit more oil if needed. When finished, the vegetables resemble dried ones with no water remaining in the pot. In a separate pan put about one tbsp of cooking oil and fry the chopped onions till they turn a golden brown. Add the meat, stir fry for a few minutes, add salt, pepper and turmeric and let the meat fry with the onions. If you are using dried beans, at this point drain them and add them to the mixture. Turn the heat to medium. If you are using dried lemons, poke holes in them and add to the dish, add 2 cups of water, cover with lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Add the fried greens to the mixture, turn the heat setting to medium-low and let it cook. The cooking time required from this point on is about 40 minutes. Once the meat is separated when poked by a fork, the stew is ready. This stew is served over white rice. Add the lemon juice last for an extra tang if you like.

When stir frying, its imperative to constantly stir the vegetables. Otherwise, they quickly form a crust and burn. You can easily undercook the vegetables but you can hardly ever over cook them. If they look watery stir fry them a bit longer. Almost all of the vegetables listed above are easily found at produce section of grocery stores. The only exception to this is cilantro and chives. In place of chives, use the stems of scallions (also called spring onions). This stew can be made with two kinds of dried/canned beans. Either use kidney beans or black-eyed beans, which don’t need to be soaked overnight. If your stew ends up having a bitter taste, you more than likely burned the vegetables. If it smells like henna, you added too much spinach. You can't recover from these two mishaps. If the vegetables swim to one side and the meat goes the opposite way, you've undercooked it. Put in back on medium heat and let some of the excess water evaporate.

Jan 4, 2011

One Night in Chinatown!

I found this ridiculously easy Garlic Chicken recipe and turns out perfectly Chinese-y ...all you need is a bowl of fried rice or stir fried noodles and you have a complete meal ahead of you. What I loved about this recipe was the fact that i had made fresh stock that very day and I get a pretty good bottle of white wine quietly getting rancid in the fridge door. I personally love recipes that let me use the not so typically used ingredients in an Indian kitchen and this is one of those hearty dishes that never get made because there isn’t any chicken stock and who the hell will open a bottle of wine just for a bowl of Chinese garlic chicken?! To be honest, sometimes it’s totally worth it, the idea is to have a meal plan for the week that incorporates most of the wine before it turns to vinegar, try a week of seafood, fish and chicken, open a bottle of good white wine and feel free to sip while you cook. I have a feeling that my affinity to ordinary wines comes from all the cooking wine I tanked up on in college!

I served this gravy with a simple fried rice, I had a couple of breasts of slightly over salted Cajun chicken, which got chopped up and straight in to the rice, you can do this with leftover roast beef, pork, turkey or chicken, you can pan fry a few rashers and chop them up or simply scramble an egg to enhance your version of fried rice. As a rule, I always use rice from the fridge, it make for nice, slightly clumpy fried rice that hasn’t become risotto mush or paella wet!


4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 500 gms.
1 egg
2 tbsp. Cornflour
1 tbsp white wine
Salt and pepper
Few sprinkles of Maggi Seasoning

2 tbsp. dry white wine
4 green onions, sliced thin
1 green bell pepper cut into thick strips
1 tsp. ginger root, minced
6-8 pods of garlic, smashed
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tbsp. green chili paste or more to taste
2 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed in 60 ml of cold water
1 cup chicken stock
2-3 tbsp soy sauce

Put chicken breasts in the freezer for ½ hr or until firm but not frozen solid. Slice crosswise into thin shreds. ½ inch thick will do just make sure that the pieces are approximately all the same size. Mix the egg with the cornflour, white wine and the seasoning. Season further with salt and pepper. Let it stand for an hour or so. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the marinated chicken pieces on high flame for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Lower the flame and add the spring onions, garlic, ginger and green bell pepper. Stir and cover to cook for another 4-5 minutes. Check to see if the chicken is cooked, once it is 3/4th done, add the chicken stock, the white wine, the soy and chilli sauce. Season with sea salt and cover to cook for another few minutes. Thicken with a solution of cornflour and cold water. Check seasoning, garnish with finely chopped spring onion greens and serve with fried rice or noodles.

You can make this chilli garlic by throwing in two slit green chillies (the regular Indian ones are great for this) when you add the veggies, deseed them if you like only the flavour and not the pungency. Enjoy!

Jan 1, 2011

A Touch of Korea

Wow it’s good to be back! No matter how great a holiday is, the feeling of returning to one’s own bed, kitchen and oh yes... loo, is an unmatchable feeling! I had a wonderful 8 day break, the longest in almost 2 years so it feels completely well deserved. I got the opportunity to try yet another set of absolutely fabulous Middle Eastern dishes and this time was particularly enlightening because we steered clear of Italian, Chinese and other usual suspects found in fine dining options. Instead we chose Iranian, traditional Arab, Lebanese and bits of Greek and Turkish flavours here and there, mainly in the savoury pastries and sweets. Everything was perfect, it almost felt like Kuwait was a country where you couldn’t possibly get bad food, and food was good or great, never mediocre. We had close to 20 meals there and each was bang on, I am including breakfast because holidays need 3 meals a day and sometimes even more! More on the details of everything we ate, it’s sad to have left all that behind but since I am about to enter my kitchen after over a week, I am excited to use all the ingredients I bought from there. Our dinner tonight is pretty meaty, in the sense that we don’t have any real veggies included in the spread. That’s what Indian food does to the palate, you need the veggies, a steak and potato meal just won’t do and no salad isn’t the same thing. Our menu for the night is Cajun spiced grilled chicken breast, mashed potatoes and garlic crostini, I need to fit in greens somewhere and Andy is no mood for salad...it’s about 7 degrees out there so i know what he means. That’s when I thought of this lovely Korean starter we had the other day, a part of their ‘Banchan’ spread. Thin slices of zucchini, lightly coated with a batter of mainly eggs and shallow fried in a pan, served immediately... it is yum and they make it without salt, so you can dip it in any of the ‘many’ Korean condiments but it is best had with a dark, strong soy sauce. I decided to make the same dish with a dash of celery salt to help it blend in with the Cajun-Italian meal ahead of us. Try it, the sample was super!


1 medium-large zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch coin sized medallions
3 tbsp Flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil

Sprinkle a little salt on the zucchini slices. Add the remaining salt to the flour, swiftly beat in one egg. You can also try this with the flour and egg in separate shallow dishes, pat in the flour, then coast with egg but I prefer it beaten together like one solid coating. Heat the olive oil in a pan, coat the zucchini coins with the batter or separately if you chose to and saute for about 3-4 minutes per side, turning once, or until they are a light golden brown. Serve hot off the pan!