Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tilapia with Lemon and Capers

Once again fish Fridays come around. Lenten fridays call for a pescatarian diet. Fish fillets are easiest to cook. They can be curried, grilled or pan fried, all very delectable especially if they are the fat used is butter!

I borrow from the classic sole meuniere, fillets lightly fried in lots of butter, lemon and capers. I'm not so keen on copious quantities of butter so my recipe will include butter in pats not sticks. Forgive me if I sacrifice a degree of flavor! My cholesterol thanks me.

Serves 4

4-6 Tilapia filets

2 tablespoons Flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
3 tablespoons Butter
2 Lemons, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons Capers
2-3 tablespoons minced Parsley

Pat fish dry.

Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Dust filets lightly in flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick saucepan. Let butter foam and turn light brown.

Place fish in butter and fry till browned on both sides. You might have to do this in two batches.

Once the fish is all fried, return fish to the saucepan.

Add remaining butter to the pan, along with lemon zest, juice, capers and parsley. Stir gently. Gently because you might break the fish as I did. 

Serve piping hot.

Each mouthful is a delight. Abstaining from meat opens up a path to wellness in more ways than I can imagine.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Leek Onion and Fennel Soup

A thick hearty potage is just what the weather recommends. Ferreting in the fridge reveals fennel leftover from the last recipe. The freezer gives up sliced leeks. An onion gives the soup body. The trio together comprises of fresh flavors, hearty texture and delectable taste.

Sliced leeks, onions and fennel saute in butter. I add a smidgen of curry powder and seasonings. Curry powders go from mild to hot. Use one that your taste buds can tolerate. Veggies simmer in stock for a while. Pureed,  they go back into the saucepan and simmer again. Soon you have a thick, creamy soup with a hint of curry. 

Serves 4

1 cup sliced Leeks, white and green parts (fresh or frozen)
1 large white Onion
1 large Fennel bulb
3 tablespoons Butter
1/4 teaspoon medium strength Curry Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
3 cups Chicken stock
Parsley to garnish

Slice onion and fennel thinly. Discard inner core of fennel.

Heat butter in a deep saucepan.

When it melts add onion and fennel slices. Sweat veggies for 4-5 minutes.

Add leeks to pan and saute for a few minutes.

Season with curry powder, salt and pepper.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Cover saucepan. Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

Cool soup for 15 minutes.

Blend or puree soup till smooth.

Return soup to saucepan.

Adjust the creaminess of the soup by adding water or 2% milk if you prefer.

Heat and serve hot, garnished with parsley.

This is a winter winner for sure. These light veggies bulbs have just gone off!!!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sausage and Fennel Panfry

When you need a fast and simple accompaniment to pasta or a salad, and you have sausage and fennel at hand, try this easy stir fry. I grab a fennel and garlic swirl of sausage. Fresh fennel adds a distinct anise punch. Raw or cooked fennel has such a great mouthfeel, a refreshing in its own way.

I pan fry the entire sausage swirl, turning often till it gets a dark brown sear. The fennel is cored and thickly sliced. Saute the fennel in olive oil till golden. Add chopped sausage to fennel. Season with a coriander fennel powder combo and saute on high heat. Mound onto a platter and garnish with fennel fronds.

Serves 4

1 pound Fennel and Garlic Sausage or any Sausage of choice
1+1 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large Fennel and fronds
1/2 teaspoon Fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon Coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Black Pepper coarsely ground

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in nonstick saucepan.

When the oil is hot add the entire sausage swirl into the pan. Fry on both sides till golden brown and well seared. If you are using any other sausage, fry the links or slices till golden brown on all sides. Take sausage out of the pan, cool and cut into bite size chunks.

Keep the saucepan with the oil for frying the fennel. 

Cut fennel in half. Remove the inner hard core. Slice thickly. 

Save fennel fronds for garnishing.

Place fennel and coriander seeds in a spice grinder. Grind then till you have a coarse powder. 

Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in the same saucepan.

Fry fennel slices over high heat till seared brown on both sides.

Add chopped sausage to fennel.

Sprinkle fennel and coriander powder, salt and pepper over sausage. 

Saute on high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.

Mound sausage onto a platter.

Garnish with reserved fennel fronds and serve.

Crusty sausage and thick wilted fennel certainly make an inadvertent but good marriage!!! 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Dak Bangla Chicken Curry

Dak bangla literally translates as post office. In actuality, it is a government rest house, originally built by the British. Today, they are found scattered across rural India. Spartan in decor, the cooks or bawarchis make up for the lack of furnishings. On our travels my family sometimes stumbled upon one such establishment, fortuitously at meal times. An order was issued for lunch and in a short span we sat down to a simple delicious hot meal. An main dish of chicken was accompanied by a couple of vegetables, a kachumbar or onion salad, piping hot dal, rice and roti. My inspiration comes from a recipe attributed to these cooks of yore.

Chicken is marinated overnight in malt vinegar, ginger garlic paste and spices. The next day I saute onions with whole spices like cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns. The chicken sautes as well, the aroma of spices cloaking the kitchen. Use the exhaust. This is a strong smelling aroma. It cooks with a little water, tightly  covered. In half hour you are rewarded with a stalwart relic of the British Raj.

Serve 4

8 Chicken legs and thighs, 
1 teaspoon Chile powder
2 teaspoons Cumin powder
2 tablespoons Black Pepper powder
1 tablespoon Mustard seeds, ground into powder
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon Cardamom powder
1/4 teaspoon Clove powder
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg powder
2 tablespoons Garlic paste
2 tablespoons Ginger paste
4 tablespoons Malt Vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
3 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 Cinnamon Sticks 
4 Cloves
10 Peppercorns
2 Bay leaves
2 Black Cardamoms
2 Onions, sliced thinly
Cilantro to garnish

Keep chicken skin on. Trim all visible fat.

Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry. Place in a nonreactive bowl.

Add chile, cumin, mustard, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and nutmeg powder to chicken.

Add garlic and ginger pastes as well as malt vinegar and salt to chicken. 

Massage spices paste into chicken, making sure that some goes below the skin.

Cover and marinate 6-8 hours. For best results marinate the chicken overnight.

When you are ready to cook the chicken take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Heat oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the chicken.

When oil shimmers drop cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and black cardomom into oil.

Let spices bloom for 20 seconds and then add the sliced onions. Saute till onions are light brown.

Add chicken to saucepan and saute over medium high heat. Turn chicken often so it browns on both sides.

Add 1/2 cup of water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let the chicken cook for 25-30 minutes. 

Check the saucepan as you might need to add more water. It depends on how much water is released from cooking the chicken.

Uncover and raise the flame. Saute chicken on high for 5 minutes.

Serve chicken hot garnished with fresh cilantro.

This old relic pleases the palate. Skin-on chicken cooks up soft and tender. I dont often use this method but once in a way is good enough.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Chile Verde Soup with Chicken and Hominy

Bone chilling cold weather and hot soup have a symbiotic relationship. Therefore I make more soup in winter. A bowl of steaming broth is sheer comfort, a palate pleaser and mostly a creator of body warmth. Today's experiment subscribes to the above norms.

I cook chicken in seasoned water, creating the shortcut requisite broth. I broil tomatillos, poblanos, red onions and garlic till slightly charred. The veggies are then blended with cilantro, creating a dense paste. Store bought hominy is rinsed well. This symphony of green is the song of the Southwest, a spoonful at a time.

Serves 4-6

1 cup boneless skinless Chicken breast ot thighs
5 cups Water
1/2 teaspoon Black Peppercorns
1 Celery rib, cut into large chunks
1+1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Red Onion
5-6 Tomatillos
1 large Poblano Chile
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 cup Cilantro plus more to garnish
1 small Onion
1 can Hominy
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Avocado

Chop chicken into bite size pieces. 

Place chicken, water, peppercorns and celery in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover pan, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain stock and keep aside. You should have 4-5 cups of stock.

Discard peppercorns and celery. Keep chicken aside.

Preheat broiler on high. 

Cut tomatillos in half.

Chop poblano in half. Remove seeds and cut into large pieces.

Roughly chop red onion. 

Peel garlic. 

Place tomatillos, poblanos, red onion and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix well and place under broiler. 

Broil for 15-20 minutes, checking often till veggies are slightly charred. Take them out and leave to cool.

Process or blend the cooled veggies with 1/2 cup cilantro till you have a rough paste.

Chop onion into fine dice.

Heat remaining olive oil in a saucepan. 

Add onion and saute till wilted and soft.

Add stock and boiled chicken to pan. Bring to a low boil.

Scoop the chile sauce into the stock. Cook for 5-7 simmering the soup.

Rinse hominy under running water. 

Add hominy to the soup and cook for another 5 minutes

Cut avocado into small chunks.

Serve the soup hot garnished with avocado and fresh cilantro.

Chile verde is so versatile. I've used it with meat, over enchiladas, in dips. This soup is a revelation. Spicy, brothy and full of fresh flavours fron the cilantro and avocado. A surefire keeper in my kitchen! Please don't be green with envy........

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kale and Dill Griddle Cakes

Everything I blog starts in the kitchen and ends with a fashioned flourish. Food styling is about artistic presentation, a mastery of light and shadow, of easy arrangement and movement. All these techniques are distinct art forms, ones that I haven't quite fully mastered. It takes a singular plate or bowl, with color and design, that gives the finished picture a composite whole. My small collection of serveware comprise of ceramic, bamboo, steel, copper and a special slate plate.

Carolyn Kuttan sends me an exquisite platter from Slateplate.com. They make  exquisitely crafted cheese boards. Their products are easy to embellish with cheeses, appetizers and are even a snap to clean. Directions with the package are very clear. I deviate from the standard cheese display, instead mixing it in with kale, dill, flour and eggs to make lumpy pancakes. This Ottolenghi recipe is delicious. Blanched kale, a fistful of dill and heaps of cheese give these pan fried cakes much needed color and bite.

The batter comes together with self-rising flour, lemon zest, seasoning and an egg yolk stirred vigorously together. Blanch kale in hot water, shock it in cold water, squeeze all the water out and chop it roughly. Pick out soft dill fronds, add to the batter along with kale and melted butter. Fold in lightly whisked egg white. Now you have a loose but thick batter.

Butter makes the world go round. It is the tastiest choice for a light fry. Drop tablespoons of batter into the butter laden pan. Flatten them slightly with the back of the spoon and soon you will have aromatic green cakes, redolent of dill, waiting to be stylistically draped on grey slate.

Makes 10-12

3/4 cup self-rising Flour
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
1 Egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2-3 Kale ribs
1/2 cup Dill fronds
1 tablespoon melted Butter plus more for pan frying
1/2 cup grated Cheese( Feta, Cheddar, Asiago, Parmesan)
1/2 cup Yogurt
1 tablespoon Dill fronds
a pinch of Kosher Salt 
Fresh ground Black Pepper

Place flour, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk to mix.

Heat water in a saucepan.

Separate ribs from kale leaves. Blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. drain and run under cold water. Squeeze water out of kale and chop roughly.

Give dill fronds a rough chop as well.

Add egg yolk to flour. 

Kale, dill and melted butter go into the batter as well.

Stir in a clockwise direction till you have a stiff batter.

Whisk egg white lightly till frothy. Add to batter. As you stir the batter will loosen up to a dropping consistency.

Dilute yogurt with a couple of spoons of water. Add dill, salt and pepper. Keep aside.

Heat butter in a nonstick pan.

Drop scant tablespoons of batter into the butter. Flatten them slightly with the back of the spoon. You can fry 4-5 cakes at a time in a large pan. 

Cook cakes for 2-3 minutes on one side till are golden brown, then flip and cook for a further few minutes on the other side. 

Plate them alongside the yogurt sauce.

Serve them hot.

The arrangement looks cookbook worthy. Food styling is all eyes and no taste. Griddle cakes perch enticingly on the slate server. It's all about temptation, urging you to fork a piece on to your plate, making you drizzle yogurt sauce on the cakes. Style evolves into a savory satisfaction. Thank you Carolyn. Thank you Slateplate, for letting me showcase my griddle cakes!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lamb and Green Chile Salan

The last of the chiles from the garden stare at me everytime I open the vegetable bin in the fridge. I hatch plans to pickle them in mustard seeds. Like some well laid plans, the wayside beckons. How about adding them to a Hyderabadi meat salan? The more I think about it, the more appealing it sounds. I scour my books for an authentic version. I find it in a book given to me by Prassy in 1999!

The lack of mutton makes me choose lamb shoulder. Trimmed and cubed it suffices. I tweak the format, adding the meat along with the ground masala and chiles. The recipe calls for meat to be boiled and added to the gravy. I think my way will imbue the meat with much more flavor. Ground masala, spices, yogurt and lime juice round out the subtleness of this curry. Mild heat comes from large chiles. These Hatch-like chiles are not high on the Scoville scale, but generate enough zing to keep my palate interested.

Serves 3-4

1 pound Lamb shoulder, cubed
1 cup Yogurt, whisked
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
6-8 large green Chiles
1/4 cup dessicated Coconut
1 teaspoon Khus Khus or Poppy seeds
1 teaspoon Sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
2 large Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
3 tablespoons Canola Oil
1 Lime
Fresh Cilantro

Rinse lamb and put in bowl.

Add whisked yogurt and turmeric to meat. Stir to mix and keep aside.

Rinse chiles and pat dry. Slice them in half lengthwise.

Peel onions and cut in half.

Grind 1 onion, dessicated coconut, khus khus, sesame seeds and cumin seeds to a smooth paste.

Chop remaining onion into small dice.

Heat oil in a pressure cooker.

Add green chiles and saute on high heat for 2-3 minutes. Take chiles out and keep aside.

Drop chopped onion into hot oil and fry till light brown.

Add ground masala to onions. Saute for 3-4 minutes.

The marinated lamb, garlic and ginger pastes, coriander powder, garam masala and salt go into the onions. Saute on high heat for 4-5 minutes. 

Add sliced chiles to meat.

Add enough water to cover the meat.

Pressure cook the lamb for 16 minutes till done. 

If you are cooking the lamb stovetop, add enough water, cover tightly and cook till meat is soft.

Once the meat is cooked, add juice of the lime. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with rice or roti. 

The salan has a fresh, slight;y sharp flavor. Lamb chunks have a pronounced taste. My garden bounty had softened, turning limp. This last green hurrah makes me yearn for my summer garden. Only six months more! 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Toor Dal with Lime

It has been a long few weeks away from home. I crave my bed, my pillow and my food. Some rice, a vegetable and a bowl of freshly made dal. We are creatures of innate food habits, mine being rice and dal, synonymous with comfort and familiarity. It is that warm blanket that cocoons and fills you with a sense of belonging. My childhood food memories ebb and flow with these simple foods, a mound of piping hot white rice sitting next to a bowl of steaming dal.  

Dal is a generic term. Pulses or legumes come in a plethora of shapes, colors and sizes. Moong dal is dainty and small. Chana dal comes in fat half moons. Pink nuggets of masoor cook up in a jiffy. I could write an elegy but then I wouldn't have the time to talk about my favorite...toor dal. Some thirty odd years ago, newly married, I cooked dal for the first time. I hadn't the faintest idea which one to cook. I bought the pretty pink colored package of lentils. It didn't taste like home. I went out and bought another, grabbing small yellow legumes. Once again, it displeased. Alone in a foreign land, in a time when communication meant a letter or telephone call, I couldn't do a show and tell with Mum. Half a dozen dals later with a shelf laden with multicolored lentils, I stumbled upon my holy grail. Life was good and it still is!

This dal is a runny concoction. It starts with cooked toor dal, a generous amount of ghee, cumin, curry leaves, chilies, cilantro, sugar, water and lime juice all added in quick succession.The dal simmers for a few minutes  All it needs is some hot cooked rice.

Serves 4

1 cup cooked Toor Dal (see notes)
1 tablespoon Ghee
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
5-6 Curry leaves
2-3 green Chiles, finely minced 
1/2 cup chopped Cilantro
1 Lime, juiced
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Heat ghee in a saucepan.

When it is hot, add cumin seeds. Let them turn dark brown.

Drop curry leaves and minced chiles into ghee. Let them sizzle for a few seconds.

Pour the cooked dal into the pan.

Add 1 cup of water to the pan. Stir to mix well.

Add cilantro, lime juice, sugar and salt to dal. 

Let dal come to boil, lower the flame and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Serve dal piping hot with rice. 


Cook 1/2 cup toor dal with 1/4 teaspoon turmeric and a large pinch of asafoetida and enough water to cover the dal either in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes or on the stovetop till dal is soft and mushy.

I reach for dal and rice with my fingers, an old habit that surfaces in reflective moments. An well remembered feeling of comfort comes over me as I scoop and gather morsels. It states decisively I am where I want to be. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cranberry Pistachio Wreath

I should be making cookies. Frying kulkuls. Baking christmas cake. Instead, I laze on the sofa, read books, watch TV...indulging in all those guilty pleasures. Momentary flares of inspiration erupt. This is one of those inspired flashes. The neighbors always bring us an assortment of cookies and usually my gift to them is a festively wrapped bottle of wine. I take a different tack this year. The Kitchn has an intriguing holiday loaf which looks stunning. The neighbors are to be my guinea pigs.

A yeasty dough made with flour, milk, sugar and eggs swirls in the mixer bowl. a generous helping of yeast lets it proof to a puff. You have to roll it out to a large long rectangle. Brandy soaked cranberries, pistachios and butter are spread unevenly over the dough. Start rolling the dough from the bottom. Roll tightly as you push the dough upwards. The roll is then cut in half lengthwise exposing the inner spirals. Lay the spirals flat, then twist them into a loose braid. This lets the wreath form a unique shape as it proofs and rises. Shape the braid into a wreath on a baking sheet. Proofed for a while it bakes to a golden brown. Icing takes it over the top. 

Adapted from The Kitchn's Holiday Breakfast Bread
Makes 2 small wreaths 

1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup warm Water
1/2 cup warm Milk
3 tablespoons Sugar
4 tablespoons softened Butter
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Nutmeg powder
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon grated Lemon peel
3 1/2 cups all purpose Flour

Cranberry Pistachio Filling
2/3 cup dried Cranberries
1/4 cup Brandy
1/2 cup Pistachios
4 tablespoons soft Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
3 tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated Lemon peel

Sugar Glaze
1/2 cup powdered Sugar
1 tablespoon Water
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice

Make the dough by placing yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add a pinch of sugar, stir to mix and cover with a kitchen towel and keep aside for 3-5 minutes. 

After you see a few bubbles in the yeast mix, add warm milk, sugar, butter, salt, nutmeg powder, eggs and lemon peel. 

Use the paddle to whisk the mix. Beat for a minute.

Add 2 cups of flour to dough and beat for 2 minutes. 

Gradually add the rest of the flour in 1/2 cup increments.

The dough should come away from the edges of the bowl.

Scatter some flour on the counter.

Dump the dough onto the floured surface and knead for 5 minutes till the dough is smooth. Add small amounts of flour if the dough sticks to the counter.

Lightly oil a glass bowl large enough to fit double the amount of dough.

Put the dough in the bowl and turn it so it is coated with oil.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or till dough has doubled in size.  I placed the bowl in the oven with a container of boiling water under it, as the weather was cold.

While dough is proofing, start on the filling by soaking the cranberries in brandy for 1/2 hour.

Lightly pound the pistachios so they break into small pieces.

Stir the butter, flour, sugar and lemon peel in a bowl. 

Drain cranberries and add to butter. Keep filling aside till you are ready to use.

When dough has proofed, scrape it out onto a floured surface.

Divide dough in half. Start by rolling one half of the dough to a 40x8 inch rectangle.

Divide filling in half. Smear the filling in bits over the rectangle. Leave an inch between the crumbled filling and the outer edges.

Scatter pistachios over the dough, pressing them lightly into the filling.

Roll the dough tightly starting from the bottom edge. Since the bottom edge is long, roll upwards, gradually moving right to left or vice versa. 

Pinch the ends close.

Use a sharp knife to cut the roll in half lengthwise.

Turn the dough so the spirals face upwards.

Gently braid the dough.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone sheet or parchment paper.

Carefully place the braid on the baking sheet forming the braid into a wreath. Crimp the ends together.

Repeat process for the second portion of dough.

Place both baking sheets on a warm place to proof for 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 350F.

Bake wreaths for 20-25 minutes till golden brown.

Make the glaze by whisking powdered sugar, water and lemon juice.

Remove from oven and cool on rack for 5 minutes,

Drizzle sugar glaze over both wreaths.

Slice and eat the wreath whilst warm for best flavor. It tastes good the next day as well!

The wreaths are visually stunning, eliciting oohs and aahs.The neighbors are to be the lucky recipients. There is so much joy in baking. And much more in giving.