Monday, May 22, 2017

Alu Methi Subji-- Potatoes with Fenugreek Leaves


How does an Indian meal come together? The carnivores consume a meat, a vegetable side, some lentils and Indian bread or rice. The herbivores do much of the same with the exception of meat. The common factor?? The veggies of course. The rest of the meal as well, but the crux of the matter is the veggie. I can't imagine a meal without some form of veggies. 

I make ground sausage with spices. To round out the popular meat and potatoes theme, I settle on baby Yukon gold potatoes, with fresh fenugreek leaves or methi. The former tastes buttery and the latter slightly bitter. Methi leaves are good for your body, blood and well being. No lecture here on nutrient values, just a nudge to use them frequently. They are sold in bunches at Indian grocers. Pick healthy looking leaves, discarding inedible stems. Rinse leaves under running water to remove all grit and sand, their growing medium.  Chop leaves roughly and add to dal, ground meat, fritters or veggies. I'm doing just that. I drop a bunch of finely chopped leaves to cooked potatoes. And wait for them to wilt slightly before we eat.

Serves 4

1 pound small Potatoes 
4 Garlic cloves 
2 cups Methi or Fenugreek leaves, stems discarded
1-2 green Chiles
1 tablespoon Ghee
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
6-8 Curry leaves 
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Cilantro for garnishing 

Wash and dry potatoes. Cut then into thin slices.

Slice garlic, chile and curry leaves thinly.

Wash methi well as it is sometimes sandy and gritty. Squeeze out water and chop roughly.

Heat ghee in a nonstick skillet.

When ghee shimmers, add cumin seeds. Let them turn deep brown.

Drop garlic and curry leaves into ghee. Let garlic turn brown.

Add chopped green chile in. Saute for a few seconds.

Add potatoes and kosher salt. Stir well so potatoes are coated with ghee.

Cover skillet and cook over low heat till potatoes are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add chopped methi leaves to potatoes. Stir to mix. Cover and steam for 5 more minutes till methi leaves have wilted. The methi leaves retain their bright green color if you serve the veggies as soon as they are done. They turn a dark green if kept covered for another half hour. Their flavor remain the same.

Garnish with cilantro and serve.

The vegetable subji or side holds a distinctive taste. Buttery potatoes mixed with bitter methi  leaves accented by crisp garlic slices. The sausage kheema has an ideal companion!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Roast Chicken in Poblano Cream

Dear friends come to visit from Pune, India. Dinner has to be special as Reena, Bona and Damini warrant those bells and whistles. I'm told they like soup. Done. Something non-Indian is preferred. Done. The chicken I've made last week should be appreciated. Pan- roasted thighs are finished in the oven, with sprigs of thyme. Charred poblano chiles are blended with cream, which is poured over the roasted chicken. Something so simple just tastes heavenly.  

These friends are stalwarts, the kind you want in your corner when the going gets tough. They deserve my best effort. We make celery soup with Gorgonzola. Grilled asparagus, Brussels sprouts and scallions are wok fried with garlic and snap peas. Steamed potatoes with garlic oil ooze flavor. Sides are done!

Chicken thighs are preferable, as they roast quickly. Boneless and skinless, they turn golden brown in a cast iron skillet. The skillet then goes into a very hot oven to roast uncovered for a short spell. Browning continues in the oven, along with some aromatic lemon thyme sprigs. Poblano peppers give the sauce a sharpness. Charring them over an open flame or on a grill adds a smoky quality to the sauce. Puree the charred poblano with cream. The resulting color and texture is delightful to the eye and palate. 

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
4-5 Thyme sprigs
2 Poblano Peppers 
3/4 cup Cream
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
Cilantro for garnishing

Trim visible fat off thighs. Cut each thigh in half. Wash and pat dry. 

Season thighs with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan. If your saucepan is not oven proof, use a saucepan and follow the instructions below.

Saute chicken a few pieces at a time.  Let pieces saute till golden brown on one side. It takes 5-8 minutes. Turn chicken over and brown the other side as well. 

Do not crowd the pan. Saute chicken in two batches.

Return chicken to pan and add thyme sprigs to pan as well. Or if your saucepan is not oven proof, place chicken and thyme in a foil lined oven proof dish. 

Roast chicken uncovered for 15 minutes.

Char poblano peppers over a high flame or on a grill, blistering all sides.  Peel off as much outer skin as possible. Remove seeds and discard. Chop peppers roughly.

Puree peppers and cream in a food processor or use an immersion blender. I prefer these two devices versus a blender. They allows you to control the texture and color of the sauce, leaving bits of pepper visible and  adding to the visual appeal.

Take chicken out of the oven. 

Pour poblano sauce over chicken. If you pour the sauce into the oven proof dish, return dish to oven for another 10 minutes.

Place cast iron pan over a medium flame and cook the chicken for 5 minutes till sauce is bubbling.

Garnish with cilantro leaves.

 A simple strawberry cream cheese tart appeases our sweet tooth. Wine flows. Old Monk rum is a welcome drink. An evening of laughs and lengthy stories makes us long for Prassy's company. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cauliflower in Pepper Garlic Sauce

A recent news report comments on the popularity of cauliflower. It is an aha moment for those who have not enjoyed the delights of this mild tasting veggie. And that must be why the prices of these heads have soared in the last few months. Nevertheless, I still buy them. Because it is one of the most requested vegetable by family. Because we love how cauliflower adapts and adopts the flavors it is cooked with, be it florets in masala, pureed into soup or plain pan fried. 

I'm making Asian tonight. Cauliflower goes well with the stir fried beef I am about to wok-fry. How many ways can you make this veggie in an Asian fashion? One way is Cauliflower Manchurian, a staple in the Indo-Chinese fusion repertoire. It starts with florets deep-fried in batter, then coated in a 3 alarm spicy soy based sauce. Having made the recipe a couple of times, I know the labor intensive steps it involves. I remember watching Suvir Saran cook a similar recipe, oven roasting mildly spiced cauliflower florets instead of deep-frying them. I am intrigued. It looks easier, less messy and more calorie conscious. 

Florets are coated with olive oil, dusted with cumin, coriander, roasted in a hot oven till they are crunchy and brown. The sauce starts with olive oil. Lots of garlic and pepper provide the zing. Don't let the large amount of pepper stop you. It dissipates into the sauce. Ketchup gives the sauce a silky quality. As it simmers, the sauce darkens to an intense red color. A quick toss in the sauce and the florets are ready to eat.

Serves 4

4 cups Cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2 teaspoon Coriander powder 
1/4  teaspoon Kosher Salt 
10 Garlic cloves
2 teaspoons Black Pepper powder
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
1 cup Ketchup
1/4 teaspoon Chile powder
Scallions, cut on a bias

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil for easy clean up.

Put florets on a baking sheet.

Drizzle olive oil over florets.

Sprinkle cumin and coriander powders over florets. Season with salt.

Mix gently so florets are coated with oil and spices.

Roast on middle rack for 20-25 minutes till floret tips are dark brown. 

While cauliflower roasts, start the sauce.

Mince garlic finely.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a deep sided saucepan.

When oil shimmers, add garlic and pepper powder. Stir.

When garlic is golden, add ketchup and chile powder.

Simmer over low fire for 15-20 minutes for sauce to thicken. It will darken as it simmers.

Take cauliflower out of the oven and add to sauce.

Toss florets so they are well coated.

Spoon onto a platter and garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro.

I am in love with oven roasted cauliflower. Each bite has some crunchy texture, some tang. Fork tender florets draped in silken tomato make for one zesty accompanying side.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Potato Soang

A simple meal is all I crave. After a day of strenuous yard work, I am starving. The prospect of too much chopping and cooking after hoeing and digging is a dismaying thought. What could be faster than boiled potatoes in gravy? It should go with rice as well as roti...everyone's pleased.

I plan to make a Manglorean style potato in thick gravy. My nearly bare cupboard has one Russet and one Yukon gold. Not sure how that will turn out. Peeled and chopped into large chunks, I let the potatoes boil till almost done. I soak some tamarind in hot water and pour off the thick sauce that ensues. Onions saute with chiles in oil. Thick tamarind pulp is added and the sauce bubbles for minutes. Boiled potatoes go into spice flecked oil. Water is added to make a soupy gravy. As they bubble, I can't wait to see how the two varieties will cook up. 

Serves 4

2 large Potatoes 
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
1 Onion
1 dried Red Chile
1/4 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon Urad Dal or split black gram
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/4 cup Tamarind pulp (see notes)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
A few Mint leaves

Peel potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Place them in a saucepan, cover with water and add a large pinch of kosher salt.

Place saucepan over heat and boil potatoes till almost cooked, 10-12 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

Peel and chop onion finely.

Heat canola oil in another deep saucepan.

Add dried red chile, mustard seeds and urad dal to hot oil. Let the spices sizzle for a few seconds.

Add onions and saute for 5 minutes till they are tinged brown.

Add chile powder to oil. Stir so chile powder doesn't burn.

Add tamarind pulp to onions.

Scatter potatoes over onions. Stir so potatoes are coated with masala.

Season with salt.

Add 1/2 cup water to potatoes. 

Bring potatoes to a simmer. Cook for 5-7 minutes on a low fire, stirring occasionally.

Garnish with mint leaves and eat with rice or roti.


Make tamarind pulp by soaking a golf ball sized portion of dried tamarind in 1 cup warm water for 10 minutes. You could also zap the tamarind and water for 10 seconds in the microwave to help it along. Squeeze the soft pulp with your fingers and extract as much pulp as you can. Add more water if needed. Discard the tamarind seeds and fibrous portion, keeping only the thick pulp.

You could buy a bottle of tamarind pulp. Dilute the pulp and use as needed.

I love the way the potatoes cook. Yukons hold up so well in the gravy, while the Russet melts ever so slightly giving the gravy a thick consistency. I may use this trick more often. The spicy sour taste complements bland white rice. The boys enjoy their potato and roti pairing as well. And thus ends another risky day in the kitchen.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lemon Blackberry Tarts

Easter lunch beckons along with unseasonal summer weather. We plan to eat al fresco, my favorite way to lunch. Warm sunshine induces me to grill part of the meal. As things go, we grill almost every component of lunch. We start with chilled white wine and a simple grilled zucchini and burrata salad. Roast lamb is the traditional meal, so we try a variation. This year we braise and grill lamb shanks, plated with a mint and pea pesto. Small grilled potatoes drizzled in truffle oil and grilled asparagus and snap peas in garlic add color and flavor. I did say we wanted to to grill!!! 

Chocolate presides in some form or the other. Today it make an appearance in a ganache laden brownie mocha cake. The chocoholics are happy. What about the fruit lovers? A lemon tart topped with a blackberry rolled in sugar sounds yum. Pate sucre or sweet shortcrust pastry is pressed into tart tins and baked blind. I make a fluffy lemon custard with eggs, lemon zest and juice, sugar and cream. The filling is spooned into tart shells and topped with blackberries. A visual delight and gastronomic pleasure.. Or vice versa!

Makes 12-15 small tarts

Pate Sucre or Shortcrust Pastry
2 1/2 cups all purpose Flour
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Crisco or vegetable Shortening 
5-7 tablespoons very cold Water

2 Eggs
3/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
1/3 cup Lemon Juice 
1 tablespoon Butter
1/4 cup Cream or Creme Fraiche
12-15 Blackberries 
1 teaspoon Sugar

Make the pate sucre by placing flour, sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse a couple of times.

Cut butter and shortening into small chunks and add to flour. Pulse 10-12 times till flour  looks like small peas. 

Sprinkle cold water over flour and pulse again till starts to flour come together. 

Divide dough into two portions. Place each portion in a plastic bag. Gather the dough together in the plastic bag so that you form a cohesive disc. Pat to smooth the surfaces.  Close bags with ties. Place both discs in the fridge for 20 minutes. You will only need one disc for the tarts. The other disc can be frozen for up to a month. 

Heat oven to 350F.

Arrange 12-15 small tart pans on a baking sheet.

Break off a walnut sized piece of dough. Use your thumb to flatten the dough in the tart pan, going all the way to the upper edge.

Cut  12-15 4x4 squares of aluminum foil. Position one square over each tart. Press foil down slightly. Spoon 2 tablespoons of beans or pie weights in each tart. 

Bake tarts for 20 minutes.

Take tarts out of the oven and cool on a wire rack. Remove foil squares and discard. I keep the squares and beans in a plastic bag for repeat performances. 

Take baked tart shells out of the pans. Place on a tray or plate.

Make the filling by whisking the eggs in a saucepan.

Add lemon zest, juice and sugar to eggs. Place pan over low heat and stir till you have a thick sauce. Take pan off the heat and cool. Refrigerate sauce for an hour.

Whip cream till thick. It's really hard to whip such a small amount of cream. I used an immersion blender.  Or use creme fraiche. 

Fold cream to lemon sauce.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of lemon filling into each tart.

Roll blackberries in sugar. 

Place one blackberry in each tart. 

Put tarts in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving.

Lunch is a many splendored thing. We are treated to a summer prelude with blue skies and abundant sunshine. There is no better meal than one eaten outdoors on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Both desserts take us over the edge and into the arms of Morpheus, another dreamy Sunday routine.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


It's intriguing, beguilingly tasty and decidedly Korean. Bowl food is the rage these days and this Asian meal lives up to all its hype. You start with cooked sushi rice. Artfully arrange various sauteed vegetables and pickled cucumber over the rice. Feel free to add cooked meat to the bowl. I prefer the vegetarian option. Add a fried egg. Spoon ribbons of a mouth-blistering chile sauce over the whole thing. Sounds uncomplicated? Not quite. It's takes time to prep this layered composition.

Start by cooking sushi or any short grain rice. I love its toothsome mouthfeel. Saute carrots, greens, mushrooms in a soy emulsion. Give cucumber and radish slices a quick brine in vinegar. Fry some  quail eggs. They look adorable perched on the veggies. Most importantly, whisk gochujang with sugar and water to a thick sauce. I said it was delicious.....didn't say easy!

Serve 4-6

2 cups Sushi or any Short Grain Rice
1 cup grated Carrots 
2 cups Shiitake or Cremini Mushrooms 
4-5 cups Spinach or Swiss Chard
1/2 cup Water
3 tablespoons Soy Sauce 
2 chopped green Chiles
5 minced Garlic cloves
3 sliced Scallions 
5 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1/2 seedless Cucumber
4 Radishes
1/2 cup White Vinegar
1/3 cup Gochujang 
3 tablespoons Water
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
2 teaspoons Sugar 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
4-6 Quail Eggs or regular Eggs

Put sushi rice in saucepan. Do not rinse. 

Add 3 cups water to rice. Stir. 

Place saucepan on medium heat and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low and cook for 14 minutes. Take off the flame and keep aside.

Put white vinegar and sugar in small bowl.

Cut cucumber and radishes into thin slices and add to vinegar. Make sure the vinegar covers the slices. Let the veggies sit in vinegar till you are ready to plate the dish.

Wash and slice mushrooms. If you are using shiitakes, cut off the woody stem and slice.

Wash greens well. Chop roughly into large chunks.

Put water in a bowl. Add soy sauce, green chiles, minced garlic and scallions to water. Whisk well.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in saucepan.

Add grated carrots to hot oil. Saute till coated with oil.

Pour 3 tablespoons of soy sauce blend into carrots. Saute for a few minutes till slightly limp. Take carrots out and place them in bowl.

Add another tablespoon of oil to pan. Wait a few seconds and add mushrooms to pan. Stir to coat with oil, them add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce blend. Saute for 3-5 minutes till mushrooms are done.  Shiitakes take a little longer. Take mushrooms out into a bowl.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the saucepan. Wait a few seconds and add chopped greens to oil. Drizzle remaining soy sauce over greens. Saute till greens are wilted and cooked. Place the greens in a bowl as well.

Heat remaining oil in the saucepan. Add cooked sushi rice to pan, spreading it so you have a thick layer of rice. Cook rice covered over a medium flame for 8-10 minutes till you have a light brown crusty bottom. Keep aside.

Whisk gochujang, water, garlic paste, sugar and salt till smooth.

Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet.

Break quail eggs carefully into oil and cook till yolks are almost set.

Drain vinegar from veggies.

Assemble by ladling a cup of sushi rice into a bowl.

Top with carrots, mushrooms and greens.

Lay the egg over veggies.

Drizzle ribbons of chile sauce over egg.

Tuck cucumber and radish slices around the egg.

Reach for a pair of chopsticks and dig in!

A meal in a bowl is novel and exciting!! It's portable!! That it is bathed in a tongue-tingling sauce is an added bonus. Fork or chopsticks is the only dilemma....