Friday, September 30, 2016

Pudina Ghosht: Goat meat in Mint curry!



Chicken just like potatoes can be cooked and flavored in infinite ways. But every Sunday which is our goat meat /mutton feasting day, I am torn between the left creative side of my head and cautious practical right side. I usually pair the goat meat with strong spices which compliment it well. Today I took a detour and decided to try a refreshing herb mint/pudina. I supported the mint with some cilantro/coriander leaves and churned out a delicious Mint flavored Goat curry /Pudina Ghosht. The refreshing herbs balanced the spices and meat flavors perfectly. This recipe is a winner and will have many repeats.

Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs goat meat pieces on bone
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 4-5 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1.5 inch ginger chopped
  • 3-4 thai chilies chopped
  • 1 packed cup of fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup of fresh cilantro (coriander leaves)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (can add more to increased heat and flavor)
  • 1/2 cup thick yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 3-4 green cardamoms
  • 1 inch piece of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • juice of half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons of mustard oil

Directions
  1. Heat a large saucepan or pressure cooker on medium heat.
  2. Add a tablespoon of mustard oil and let it heat up to smoking point. Reduce heat
  3. Temper with cumin seed and let them sizzle.
  4. Now add the chopped garlic, ginger and green chilies and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped mint and cilantro and switch off the heat. Let the leaves wilt a little in the heat.
  6. Take out and grind the mixture to a smooth paste.
  7. In the same pan, heat the other tablespoon of oil to again smoking point.
  8. Add the whole spices- bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamoms and saute till their aroma is released about 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add the sliced onions with a pinch of salt and let it cook till they brown slightly.
  10. Add the washed pieces of goat meat with turmeric and saute on high to brown the meat a little bit.
  11. Add the green paste and continue to saute meat.
  12. Reduce heat and add the yogurt, salt, black pepper and mix well.
  13. Cover and cook on low medium flame till meat is done. Add some water if the curry is drying up.
  14. If using a pressure cooker, cook on high till steam builds then lower heat and cook for 10 minutes.
  15. Open the lid, sprinkle some sugar, garam masala and lime juice.
  16. Taste to balance the flavors
  17. Serve hot with gluten free naan or flavored rice(pilaf)




Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Methi Chicken with Fenugreek Micro-greens!



This summer I exercised my green thumb and tried growing a few easy plants and vegetables at home. I managed to get my hands on Indian favorites like Tulsi (Holy Basil), Hibiscus and Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum). In a tiny corner of my solarium, I am enthusiastically growing fenugreek (methi), chilies and tomatoes from seeds. The fenugreek micro-greens are easiest to grow with 3-4 weeks growth cycle.

My first harvest of fenugreek micro-greens was so beautiful that I didn't have the heart to pull it out. My daughter loves munching on the micro-greens raw. That's the healthiest snack anybody could ever have.  I noticed some stems slowly wilting away so had to think of ways to put them to good use. I had some ideas dancing in my mind like Methi Bajra Debras -Fenugreek Millet Flatbread, or Fenugreek Millet Fritters but wanted to try something new. I had to prepare a chicken curry and decided to add fenugreek micro-green to enhance the taste and nutritional value.






This Methi Chicken curry turned out flavorful and delicious. The recipe is as easy as my usual chicken curry with an added flavor of methi/fenugreek and cashew nuts to lend in some creaminess. I will be definitely making this more often.


Ingredients:
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 tomato, pureed
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • a bunch of homegrown fenugreek micro-greens, washed  and chopped
  • 1.5 lbs boneless chicken
  • 8-10 cashew nuts, made into a paste
  • salt to taste
  • oil


Directions:
  1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil to medium.
  2. Add the sliced onions and saute till golden brown. Should take around 8-10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, cool and grind it with yogurt to a smooth paste and keep aside.
  4. In the same pan add another teaspoon of oil and saute the fenugreek micro-greens for a min or two till till they slightly wilt. Remove and keep aside.
  5. Add another teaspoon of oil and temper with cloves and cinnamon stick and saute for few seconds till fragrant.
  6. Add the ground onion paste and tomato puree with the spice powders- turmeric, red chili, cumin and coriander and mix well.
  7. Let this mixture cook for a good 8-10 minutes till the oil separates.
  8. Add the chicken and saute on high for a few minutes.
  9. Lower heat to medium-low, add salt and cover and cook till chicken is almost 3/4th cooked.
  10. Now add the cashew paste, sauteed fenugreek leaves and garam masala and cook till chicken is done.
  11. Taste to balance the flavors.
  12. Serve hot with gluten free roti or gluten free naan or your favorite flavored rice.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Lau Ghonto: Creamy Bottlegourd Curry!



Bottle gourd/dudhi/lauki/lau is a mild tasting vegetable. Its usually heavily flavored with spices or other ingredients to make it more enjoyable. Lau Ghonto is a gem in the Bengali cuisine repertoire which not only celebrates the mild flavor of bottle gourd but further enhances it by lending a creamy texture with milk and mildly sweetening it with sugar.

Bottle gourd contains high water content and is considered to have cooling properties on the body. This vegetable is ideal to cook during the hot summer months. It really cooks in a jiffy so you can be out of your kitchen and enjoy your summer outdoors.

This recipe is a must try for even bottle gourd haters and easy to appease kids.

Ingredients:
  • 1 bottle gourd, de-skinned and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 tsp kalonji (black onion seeds)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons rice flour
  • salt to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar
  • oil


Directions:
  1. In a large saucepan, heat a tablespoon of oil to medium heat.
  2. Temper with kalonji and let the seeds sizzle.
  3. Add the bottle gourd pieces and mix them up. Cover and cook till half done. The bottle gourd will release its own water.
  4. Now add the peas and salt and cook till almost done.
  5. Mix the rice flour and the milk to form a sauce. Add this to the vegetables. The milk gives a nice creamy texture while the rice flour thickens the sauce.
  6. Add the sugar and mix .
  7. Taste to balance the spices. 
Lau Ghonto is a creamy mildly sweet bottle gourd curry. You can enjoy it best with rice and dal.


Other Bottlegourd recipes:
Bottle gourd with Shrimps/ Lau Chingri

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Savory Lentil Squares/ Dhokar Dalna



Lentils are a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Indian cuisine has a well  evolved understanding of vegetarian food habits and balances the diet with a large variety of lentils and vegetables. Lentils also known as dals is a regular staple in every Indian meal. Each lentil is cooked in numerous ways across India such that you could make a different recipe of dal every day of the week.

Lentils/ Dals are also made into snacks or desserts. These Lentil Squares/ Cakes can be had as a healthy protein packed snack or you could smother them in your favorite sauce as a main course meal.

There are many variations of this recipe all across India. My mom would make daliche vade or pan fried dal fritters by soaking the chana dal for a few hours and then coarsely grinding them with green chilies, ginger, cilantro and salt. She would then drop a couple of tablespoons of this mixture on a greased heated pan and spread them into small 2 inch discs. The fritters would be flipped and cooked on both sides till nicely browned. This was an easy, crunch snack or side to a simple vegetarian meal paired with rice and dal.


Today's recipe is of Bengali origins given by my mother in law. Its called Dhokar Dalna. This recipe is little more elaborate.
 
Ingredients:
  • 1 1 /2 cup Chana Dal
  • 1/4 cup yellow Moong Dal
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger
  • 1-2 green chilies
  • 1/4 tsp hing/asafoetida
  • salt to taste
  • oil

Directions:
  1. Wash the dals and soak them submerged in water overnight.
  2. Next day drain the water, add ginger, chilies, salt and asafoetida to the dals and grind it all to a coarse paste. Do it in batches with minimal water added to only help you grind.
  3. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of  oil to medium in a large saucepan, preferably nonstick.
  4. Add the ground paste and keep stirring till all the excess moisture evaporates and the mixture comes together leaving the sides of the pan. Take care that the mixture doesn't burn at the bottom of the pan.
  5. Grease a plate lightly and keep it ready.
  6. Pour the cooked mixture onto the greased plate and flatten it with a spatula.
  7. Using a knife cut it into squares or diamond shapes.
  8. These savory lentil cakes are ready to eat at this point.
  9. To crisp them further heat oil in a wok /kadhai.
  10. Deep fry these squares a few at a time till they are golden brown.
  11. You can also pan fry them for a healthier alternative.
  12. These savory lentil cakes can be served as a high protein, healthy and delicious snack. It tastes great accompanied with ketchup or cilantro chutney.

They can also be added to your favorite sauce or curry to make it a main course.
Bengali cuisine has a recipe called Dhokar Dalna where in these lentil squares are dunked in a Niramish gravy (spicy broth made without onions and garlic).




Dhokar Dalna Gravy


Ingredients:
  • 1 large boiled potato, chopped into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt/curds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt to taste
  • oil

Directions:
  1. In a bowl, take the yogurt and add all the spice powders and mix well.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat some oil.
  3. Temper with cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds.
  4. Add the grated ginger, peas and potatoes and stir fry. 
  5. Pour in the yogurt mix and a cup or two of water (depending on the gravy needed) and mix well.
  6. Let the mixture boil for 5-7 minutes till the spices are cooked.
  7. Add salt and sugar and taste to balance the flavors.
  8. Add the Dhoka/lentil squares and simmer for a minute or two. 
  9. They will absorb the flavors of the curry and should retain their shape.
  10. Serve hot with steamed rice and dal.




Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gluten Free Buckwheat Crepes!



I just returned from a trip to Quebec and all I could do was to ogle and drool over the amazing crepes been dished out at every corner there. This is one of the times when I feel deprived cause of my gluten free diet. Coming back home I just had to make crepes but these would be better and much more healthier. My daughter is home on her summer break so these buckwheat crepes turned out to be a delicious, healthy breakfast that we put together.

Buckwheat, quite contrary to its name is naturally wheat and gluten free. Its a rich source of protein, dietary fibers, B vitamins and minerals. Buckwheat is 72% carbohydrates, including 10% dietary fiber, 3% fat and 13% protein.

Buckwheat noodles are very popular in Soba noodles of Japan and the rest of Asia.  In India, its usually consumed as a grain during Hindu religious fasting days. Locally called as Kuttu, it is used to prepare kuttu ki puri (fried bread).


In addition to being gluten free, this recipe is also egg free and can be made vegan or dairy free by replacing the milk with either almond or soy milk. The crepes have a neutral taste and can be paired with sweet or savory accompaniments. My daughter has a sweet tooth and preferred hers drizzled with maple syrup, layered some chopped bananas and rolled them into a neat roll . Her squeals of delight and Aahs! and Oohs! were so much that I followed suit and enjoyed the crepes her way.

On a savory note you can stuff these crepes with your favorite veggies or cheese. Try mushrooms and cheese for a truly earthy taste. Also makes great instant chapatis/flat breads.

Makes: 10-12 (6inch crepes)


 
Ingredients:

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour/kuttu ka atta
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon of ground up flax seeds/ alsi stirred into 3 tablespoons of water and keep aside for 5 minutes)
  • salt to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon)
  • oil or butter for frying

Directions:
  1. In a bowl, mix together the buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, cinnamon powder and salt.
  2. Prepare the flax egg. Add to the dry mixture.
  3. Pour in the milk, a little at a time to make a smooth batter without lumps.
  4. Heat a small pan on medium heat.
  5. Grease with a butter or oil.
  6. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter and swirl the pan to spread it around. You can also gently try to spread it with a spatula.
  7. Let its cook for about 20-30 secs till you see bubbles.
  8. Flip over and cook the other side in a similar way.
  9. Repeat the process to make more buckwheat crepes.
  10. Serve them sweet or savory style with your favorite sides.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Apricot Chicken Curry Indian Style!



Summer is finally here and with that came farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Apricots have began to flood the market. After chomping down on some fresh apricots. I have been torn between deciding to make a sweet or savory preparation with it. Finally the curiosity of a fruity chicken overcame me and that became our dinner last night.

Apricot Chicken is a mild Moroccan tagine which I have adapted to an Indian Curry style. The tagine recipe has ingredients like onions, garlic, cumin and coriander which are common elements in an Indian curry too. I also happened to read that Kashmiris, who inhabit the north of India, have also been cooking apricots in a curry style. I didn't have access to their authentic recipes so just worked around my usual chicken curry recipe.

Apricot Chicken Curry turned out fruity, creamy and delicious. It even tasted much better after a few hours of resting time. This is an easy recipe which incorporates apricots in your usual chicken curry. You can also try it with dried apricots when fresh ones are not in season.



Ingredients:
  • 6-7 apricots
  • 1.5 lbs boneless chicken pieces
  • 1 large red onion, sliced (about1.5 cups)
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 inch piece of cinnamon
  • 2-3 green cardamons
  • 4-5 peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder 
  • 1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder  
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt to taste
  • fresh cilantro for garnish
  • oil



Directions:
  1. Remove the seed from within and puree 3 apricots to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil to medium.
  3. Add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt.
  4. Saute the onions till they have turned browned and caramelized nicely. Will take 10-15 minutes.Take half the portion and keep aside.
  5. Add the chopped ginger and garlic to the pan and saute further.
  6. Add the sauteed onion, garlic and ginger to a blender and make a puree of it.
  7. In the same saucepan, add another tablespoon of oil
  8. Add the whole spices-cloves, cinnamon, green cardamom and peppercorns and let them sizzle for 30 secs.
  9. Add the chicken pieces and saute them on high heat till opaque.
  10. Lower heat to medium and add the ground onion paste.
  11. Add the spice powders now- turmeric, red chili, coriander and cumin powder.
  12. Add salt the remaining browned onions (reserve some for garnish if needed) and mix well.
  13. Pour in the apricot puree about 1/2 a cup of water and cover with lid and simmer till chicken is almost done.
  14. Lastly add in the remaining sliced apricots, garam masala, sugar and lime juice and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  15. Taste to balance the flavors.
  16. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot over a bed of steamed basmati rice.




Friday, June 17, 2016

Tomato Dried Cranberry Chutney!



Bengali Chaatni or Chutney is a sweet and tangy condiment/side with a mild kick of spice. Traditionally it is served towards the end of the meal and eaten by itself. But I prefer to eat it as a side with my main course-usually rice, dal and some vegetable curry. This lip smacking chutney can oomph up even the most boring or bland foods.

Bengali food culture is the only one of its kind in India which has multi course dining cuisine. The first course usually served is rice with a vegetable curry with predominant bitter flavors- recipes like shukto or saag. The second course is rice with dal and a vegetable curry like cauliflower, paneer, cabbage etc. Most vegetable curries/stir fries in Bengali cuisine are made without any onion and garlic. The third course is rice with any non vegetarian preparation like fish curry, mutton or chicken curry. Then its time for the sweet and tangy Chaatni. Followed by dahi/yogurt and lastly a dessert/sweets/mishti. After which you will likely go into a food induced coma and need a long afternoon siesta nap to recover.

This Tomato Dried Cranberry chutney can be served at room temperature or chilled. Usually we make enough to last us 3-4 days as it stays good when refrigerated. 


Tomato Chutney/Chaatni can be made with only tomatoes or pair it with dates, raisins or dried cranberries. The same recipe can be used to make Pineapple Chutney or Kaccha Kairi
Chutney (raw green mangoes), Tamarind Chutney.

Servings: 10-12
Serving size: 2 tablespoons


Ingredients:
  • 3-4 tomatoes (vine ripen), chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon Panch phoran/mustard seeds (see notes)
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup sugar (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 whole green chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • water


Directions:

  1. Heat oil to medium in a saucepan.
  2. Temper with panch phoran and let the spices sizzle for about 30 secs till they release a nice aroma. Take care not to burn or blacken them.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, about 1/2-3/4 cup of water and little salt and let it cook till tomatoes have pulped.
  4. Now add the required sugar, green chili and dried cranberries and let it simmer for another 5 minutes till the sugar has melted and cranberries plump up a little.
  5. Cool down and serve at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.





Tips / Notes:

  1. The amount of sugar depends on the tartness of the tomatoes and your sweet tooth.
  2. If using dates, you can substantially reduce the amount of sugar used.
  3. Panch Phoran is a traditional Bengali spice mix made up of equal parts of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and Kalonji (black onion seeds). If you can't find all these spices you can just use mustard seeds.
  4. I have tried this recipe with a dried red chili in place of a fresh green one which is added along with the tempering spices. Its give a nice smoking flavor and a mild spice kick to the chutney.