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 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.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Salmon and Brown Rice Salad in Lettuce Cups

I am not a kitchen gadget person. But when an InstaPot arrives on my doorstep, I am thrilled. A little intimidated after reading the instructions, I let the device sit in standby mode.Then I hard can this be. It's the current rage. Articles about it float across a range of magazines and newspapers. In the past I have conquered my fear of pressure cookers. So reassured, the pot sheds its styrofoam and cardboard wrapping to perch on my counter.

The million dollar question is what to make. After a heated discussion Shauna and I decide on brown rice. Brown rice takes forever to cook stovetop. The InstaPot might be the solution, an easier cooking method. I measure while Shauna reads the instructions, a task she is unaccustomed to. Millennials fly by the seat of their pants. But I digress. We measure rice and water. The lid clicks shut and the display comes alive with numbers. Are they right? Should we press cancel? Or should we pull our hair out in sheer panic?? Panic is not a pretty sight at all!!! Then the machine pings and its off to the races. It turns out that the InstaPot is a nifty cooker. No need to jump out of your skin when the pressure goes off. No hisses and spurts of skin burning steam. No rocking whistle that has a life of its own. And voila... in thirty two minutes we have perfectly cooked brown rice.

The salad comprises of salmon, edamame, red onion and water chestnuts mixed with the cooked brown rice. The dressing does double duty as a marinade and a vinaigrette. A couple of tablespoons over the salmon and the rest over the salad. It is made with soy, olive oil, sesame oil, chile flakes, sesame seeds, sugar and lime.  Boston lettuce leaves are soft and buttery. They taste even better when heaped with salad.

Serves 4

1 cup cooked Brown Rice
1 small Red Onion
1/2 cup Water Chestnuts
1/2 cup cooked Edamame beans
1/4 pound Salmon
3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon toasted Sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon Chile Flakes (add more if you like it spicy)
 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1 Lime, juiced
Boston Lettuce leaves
Cilantro for garnishing
Pomegranate Seeds for garnishing
Line Wedges

Whisk soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, sesame seeds, chile flakes, sugar and lime juice till sugar has dissolved.

Cut salmon into thick pieces and put in glass bowl. 

Pour 3 tablespoons of dressing over salmon. Turn salmon so it is well coated. Leave in marinade for 10 minutes.

Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray.

Place salmon in hot pan and cook for 6 minutes on one side. Flip salmon and cook a further 4 minutes on the other side. Remove from pan and cool.

Thinly slice red onion.

Chop water chestnuts into bite size chunks.

Assemble salad by mixing rice, sliced onion, water chestnuts and edamame.

Flake salmon into large chunks and add to rice.

Drizzle 5-6 tablespoons of whisked dressing over rice. Mix gently.

Heap tablespoons of salad onto lettuce cups.

Scatter cilantro and pomegranate seeds over salad Arrange lime wedges on platter.

Serve at room temperature.

The InstaPot is a hit. Thanks Carla!! We eat with our eyes. The tempting platter invites us to pick up a lettuce cup and finish it in a few quick bites. These are innocuous flavors and yet together they stand so tall. Lettuce have some fun with our food!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Padval and Moong Dal Subji

The vast panoply of produce at an Indian grocery gets my pulse going. I revel in bagging tendli or small gherkins. The dark green knobbly exterior of karela or bitter melon excites me. Methi leaves or fresh fenugreek has me drooling. Papdi or broad beans brings ghada to mind. All these emotions along with a host of memories, brings me to padval. I seem to be running a green streak, the dominant color present in all of the above veggies!  

Padval is stranger to those unfamiliar with Indian vegetables. Loofah like, it grows vertically on frame. The English name is reptilian...snake gourd! Buy a foot-long piece or feed a raft of people with a three foot padval. Spongy when squeezed, the pulpy insides need to be scraped and discarded before you cook it. Like you would clean a squash or pumpkin. It tastes delicious sauteed as a side dish, stuffed with potatoes or even fried like calamari rings.  I plan to cook some as a simple accompaniment to dinner.

I soak moong dal for a few hours. Sliced padval is sauteed with cumin seeds, onions and tomatoes. Simple it is!

Serves 4

1  Padval or Snake Gourd, 12 inch long
1/2 cup Moong Dal
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 Onion
2 small Tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Rinse moong dal well. Add 2 cups water to dal. Let dal soak for an hour or two.

Trim ends off the gourd. Cut gourd into 3 inch pieces. Slice the pieces vertically.

Scoop out the pulp and seeds with a spoon. Discard the insides.

Cut the gourd into 1/8 inch thick half moons.

Mince onion finely. 

Chop tomatoes finely.

Heat oil in a saucepan.

When it is hot drop cumin seeds and sizzle till they turn dark brown.

Add onions and saute till translucent.

Throw padval into the pan and saute for a few minutes.

Drain water from moong dal and add dal to the saucepan. 

Turmeric and chile powders are stirred into the vegetables as well.

Season with salt.

Add chopped tomatoes.

Pour 1/2 cup water into the saucepan. Cover pan and cook vegetables for 15 minutes.

Uncover and gently press the dal to see if it is cooked. The dal should be mushy but still keep its shape.

Scatter fresh cilantro leaves over padval and serve as part of Indian meal. 

We spoon some over a mound of rice. We scoop some with a bit of roti. Versatility and simplicity personified.