Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Herbed Clam Chowder

The ensuing cold front begs for a bowl of steaming soup. My palate says clam chowder, in spite of not having briny mollusks. The craving persists, so I cheat. Most often I use fresh clams, opened up in some water, over a medium flame. I like that this way gives me clams and broth. Do use this method if you have the right stuff.  This time a small can of minced clams has to suffice. I love that fresh from the sea taste, so these turn out to be a not so right substitute. And yet I do not demur. Resolutely, I open the can and I am accosted by a hint of the sea. 

Onions saute in olive oil. A fistful of frozen corn hangs out happily with the onions. A small diced potato gives the soup body. Milk and clam juice froth and bubble. Sprigs of thyme, parsley leaves and lot of chives comprise my herb mixture. The just snipped herbs add another layer of freshness to the soup. The kitchen windows fog up and the watched pot boils steadily.

Serves 2 big soup bowls or 4 small cups

1 small Onion
1/2 cup frozen Corn
1 small Potato
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 small can minced Clams
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
4 sprigs Thyme
1/4 cup Parsley
3 tablespoons chopped Chives

Peel and chop onion into small dice.

Wash and cut potato into 1/4 inch cubes.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven.

Add onions and corn and let then saute for 3-4 minutes.

Add potatoes.

Open can of clams and add contents to veggies.

Add milk to soup along with salt and pepper. Stir well and let soup come to a slow simmer.

Simmer soup for 10-15 minutes till potatoes are done.

Strip thyme leaves off stalks and add to soup.

Roughly chop parsley and add to soup.

Chives go into soup too.

Let soup bubble for a few minutes,stir well, then serve steaming hot.

My mouths salivates as I ladle a bowlful of soup, flecked with green. I think shortcut style clam chowder isn't so bad. I can taste the sea, chewy clams, creamy potatoes, crunchy corn and fresh bite of herbs. Satisfaction is bowl of hot soup and a rather large spoon! 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

I want to make chicken wings for Prassy's birthday. I'm not sure if I can buy them in Pune. We discuss and disagree on the wings. In the end we compromise and agree on chicken....ground chicken. I plan to convert them into appetizers or rather teasers. 

This is a biggie birthday for my sis. She turns golden this May. An event worthy of a week long celebration. We start her birthday week in Goa at a boutique hotel hidden away in a sylvan garden. It's all about the secluded pool, the pristine beach and the food. Oh the food! We sample and savor all kinds of seafood. Goan fish thali in Panjim is an epicurean delight. Unexpected gems like Mustard gives us a glimpse into French and Bengali foods. We traipse to Assagaon to eat yeasty appams and fiery pork curry al fresco style. Weaving through the countryside rewards us with an exquisite meal of sushi, sashimi and wasabi vodka shots at Sakana. We assiduously hunt for serradura, a local Goan dessert, with success. We drink wine, beer and lots of water, as the heat scorches and burns. Did I mention the Goa sojourn is solely a girlfriends road trip? 

Back in Pune we are up to the task of cooking for her friends...all thirty of her close ones! Quattro Leche is the first to be baked. Then comes the pork stew. Jerk chicken is an easy fry-up.  I make cabbage okonomiyaki. And soba noodle salad chockful of fresh peppers and raw mango. A pear and Gorgonzola salad is refreshingly cool. I may have cooked my way through my blog!

We make bacon wrapped prunes for appetizers. Along with these chicken balls. On Prassy's suggestion I flavor the meat with ginger garlic paste and green chiles. We finish the balls assembly style. As I roll, Prassy and Nihal fry. The hot sauce bubbles, incendiary notes lurking within!! 

Makes about 80 balls

2 pounds ground Chicken 
3 Green Chiles, sliced fine
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons Garlic Paste
2 teaspoons Ginger Paste
2-3 teaspoons Kosher Salt
4 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper 
6-7 tablespoons Cornstarch 
1/2 cup Canola Oil (use as needed)
4 tablespoons Butter
1 cup Franks Red Hot Sauce

Mix ground chicken with chile slices, eggs, breadcrumbs, ginger and garlic paste, salt and pepper. 

Form chicken into one inch balls.

Start by heating 2 tablespoons oil in a nonstick pan. Add more oil as needed.

Put cornstarch on to a plate.

Coat each meatball with cornstarch and place in hot oil. 

Brown meatballs over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, turning occasionally till cooked through.

Drain on paper towels.

Melt butter in a saucepan.

Add Franks hot sauce to butter and whisk well. 

Toss meatballs in hot sauce and serve them with toothpicks on the side.


Franks Red Hot Sauce is the way to go. Any other hot sauce should be an adequate substitute.

Nihal is my taste tester. His first mouthful takes his breath away as his tongue is assaulted by the taste. He assures me that they are good in spite of his coughing fit! The party rocks and swings! Literally!! Music and drinks abound. The food is appreciated by all. These bite size balls make perfect skewered morsels. A few leftovers remain. They are polished off by the taste tester.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Grilled Lamb Chops with Mustard and Soy Sauce

Three for three... It's lamb again. A house favorite, grilled lamb chops always resound at our table. They marinate in readily available ingredients. The longer they stay marinated, the better they taste. And they grill up in a jiffy!! Though you do have to plan a few days ahead if you want to make these boldly flavored, succulent lamb pops.

The marinade is easy as pie. I use spicy brown mustard and whole grain mustard.  Springs of thyme are divested of their mini leaves and added to the mix. Bottled garlic paste is conveniently handy. Soy sauce gives the meat an umami flavor. The chops have been marinated over a series of times, ranging from four hours to three days. I find the longer marination works the best. Do your thing. Find your road. Lamb is most forgiving. And terrifically tasty too.

Serves 4

12-16 Lamb Chops
3 tablespoons Spicy Brown Mustard
2 tablespoons Whole Grain Mustard
2 tablespoons fresh Thyme
3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Garlic Paste
A pinch of Chile Flakes
1-2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Olive oil

Wash and pat dry lamb chops.

Whisk together both mustards, thyme, soy sauce, garlic paste, chile flakes, salt, pepper and olive oil in a glass dish. 

Add lamb chops to marinade and stir so chops get well coated with marinade.

Cover and refrigerate for anywhere from four hours to three days. 

Bring chops to room temperature before cooking.

OUTDOOR GRILLING:  Heat grill. Grill chops for 2 minutes on each side. 

STOVETOP GRILLING:  Heat a ridged grill pan or griddle till smoking hot.  Grill chops 3-4 minutes on each side.

Eat them hot off the grill or at room temperature. Both options are delicious.

Lamb chops splutter and sizzle in a grill pan. Shishito peppers do the same side by side. A milder side of sweet potatoes rounds out our meal. A bite of spicy Shishitos, a nibble of peppery lamb and a slice of mellow sweet potatoes makes one fiery but happy mouthful! 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Malabari Lamb

I continue in a meaty here is another meaty missive. Lamb shoulder imbibes most curry spices well. Short of a weekly trip to the halal butcher and paying big bucks, this is my local choice. I hack away at a shoulder slab with round bones. The latter will be up for grabs when the curry is table side. 

This adapted recipe comes from a small book on the food of the Malabar Muslims. The beauty of the recipe is the ease with which you can put it together. The holy Indian quartet of onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes is the perfect base for gravy. Meat is gently cooked in a pressure cooker. I do like this time-saving method. You could very easily do a long braise stove top. A sprinkle of garam masala, lime and sugar and dinner is served.

Serves 3-4

1 1/2 pounds Lamb shoulder, cut into small chunks or Lamb stew 
2-3 Green Chiles
1 cup Cilantro 
1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
2 tablespoons Coriander seeds
1 tablespoon Ginger paste
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
3 tablespoons Canola oil
2 big Onions
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1 large Tomato
1/4 cup Cilantro
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1-2 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon Sugar
Juice of 1/2 a Lime

Wash and dry lamb.

Whiz green chiles and 1 cup of cilantro in a blender with a little water to a smooth paste.

Grind fennel and coriander seeds in a coffee grinder into a fine powder.

Peel and thinly slice onions. 

Chop tomato into small chunks.

Heat canola oil in pressure cooker.

Add sliced onions and fry till golden brown.

Add green chile paste, chile powder, turmeric, ginger and garlic paste and sauté well for a few minutes.

Add lamb and fry in masala for 5 minutes till browned.

Put tomato, cilantro and salt into masala and fry for a few minutes.

Add enough water to barely cover lamb, close the lid and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Or cook the lamb stove top covered. Check meat and water from time to time so it doesn't burn.

Let meat cool, remove lid and place cooker back on flame to let gravy thicken.

Sprinkle garam masala, sugar and lime juice over meat and thicken gravy for 10-15 minutes. 

Serve lamb with roti or rice.

Methinks this is a popular curry. We fight over marrow bones. The meat is tender, the gravy is thick. It's goes perfectly well with hot phulkas. I blink and it's gone! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tabak Maas or Kashmiri Lamb Ribs

Hefty lamb ribs beckon when I open the freezer. These huge pieces of meat are a challenge to cook up. And I'm always up for that! I figure I will braise them first as they look kind of chewy. The pressure cooker will work it's wonder and I can move on to easier tasks. And as the cooker hisses and spurts, I go about doing mundane kitchen chores. 

The ribs are cooked in a liquid comprising of milk, water, garlic and fresh cilantro. Everything is added to the pot along with a few spices and off goes the whistle. Once done, I pull the ribs out of the cooking liquid and shallow fry them in some ghee. Yes...ghee. It gives the lamb a crusty flavor unlike any other, so do use some. Not a huge amount but a few teaspoons, enough to coat the bottom of the pan and brown the lamb. The resulting aroma permeates and becomes the olfactory dinner gong!

Serves 2-3

2-3 pounds Lamb Ribs (whole not cut into riblets)
1/2 cup 2% Milk
2 tablespoons Garlic paste
3/4 cup Cilantro
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/4 teaspoon Cardamom powder
1 tablespoon Fennel seed powder
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1 heaped teaspoon Kosher Salt
1-2 cups Water
2 teaspoons Ghee or Clarified Butter

Wash and dry lamb ribs. Place ribs in a pressure cooker or large saucepan. Chop ribs into 3 rib portions if the racks do not fit in the containers.

Puree milk, garlic paste and cilantro till well blended.  Pour over ribs.

Sprinkle turmeric, chile, cardamom, fennel, black pepper powders and salt over ribs. Stir to mix.

Pour enough water so the ribs are barely covered with liquid. 

Set pressure cooker over a high flame and cook till ribs are done, about 20 minutes. If you are cooking them in a saucepan, place pan in a 375F oven and braise for 1 1/2 hours.

When cool, remove from liquid and keep aside.

Heat ghee in a nonstick pan and add ribs meat side down. Fry till crusty a few minutes on each side and serve them hot. 


The ribs could be cooked both ways easily. Just make sure you can pierce them easily with a knife before you fry them.

The liquid could be cooked down till thick and used as an accompanying sauce, or as a base for another curry which is what I am planning to do.

Lamb chops can be cooked the same way with great success.

We eat like Neanderthals, gnawing at on big bones! Fingers make the best utensils and prehistoric manners make for really tasty ribs.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chicken Tikka Masala


Britain's favorite dish isn't mine. But I persevere. I play around with spices. Sometimes it works and other times my capricious mood doesn't quite make it. This time the gravy takes on a shade of orange red. Maybe it's because I puree the tomatoes before they become pulp. The color looks good to me. My last effort resulted in a greenish gravy. And the time before that I made a delicious brown version. So much for color coordination. 

I always start with the basic Indian quartet of onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes. The four meld together to make a thick gravy. It goes like this..brown onions till golden, drop in chopped ginger garlic and lastly saute the three with chopped tomatoes. Every time! Then come the additions. Finely chopped spinach, cilantro or fenugreek leaves. All the above gets whirled in a blender. This thick puree is then diluted with cream and milk. Pan fried or grilled chicken pieces (tikka) are added to this rich gravy and have chicken tikka masala. 

Serves 4

1 pound boneless skinless Chicken Thighs 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala 
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Ginger paste 
1/4 cup Yogurt
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
4 tablespoons Canola oil
2 big Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
2 Tomatoes 
1 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric 
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
1 teaspoon Garam masala 
1/2 cup Cilantro 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 cup Cream
1/2 cup Milk

Wash, dry and trim chicken thighs of all visible fat. 

Marinate thighs in chile powder, cumin powder, garam masala, garlic and ginger paste, yogurt and salt. Massage thighs in this marinade so all pieces are well seasoned. Marinate for 4-5 hours or overnight for best flavor. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

Heat 2 tablespoons of Canola oil in a nonstick pan.

Add chicken thighs and pan fry pieces till they are golden brown. You might have to do this in two batches. Once the chicken has cooled, chop thighs into 1 inch pieces and keep aside.

Chop onions into small dice.

Chop tomatoes into small dice.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven. 

Add onion and saute till golden brown. 

Add garlic and ginger paste and stir for a minute.

The tomatoes, spices, seasonings and cilantro are added at this point. Let them saute and turn to mush.

Spoon the onion tomato mix into a blender. Puree till somewhat smooth. You might have to add a little water to facilitate blending.

Return puree to Dutch oven and saute over a low flame for a few minutes.

Add cream and milk and let gravy simmer over low flame for a few minutes.

Add chicken pieces to gravy and let them simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve chicken tikka masala with roti or rice.

Red orange works well. At least for today. Then again all those other shades taste delicious too!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spiced Rack of Lamb

Spring and lamb go hand in glove. I make a spice coated rack of lamb that is a sure fire hit. Easy to put together, chockful of goodness, it makes for an aha moment when brought to the table. Rack of lamb is easily found at most grocery stores. A bit on the pricey side, this is a special day entree, a splurge to accomodate the occasion.

I unwrap two racks, pat them dry and set about making the marinade. I convert a shawarma recipe by Ottolenghi. Spices are roasted and powdered, perfuming the kitchen. Dry and wet ingredients are finely ground and massaged into the lamb. As I do this, the heady aroma of fresh ground spices and herbs intoxicates, leading to the realization that this is going to one damn good roasted rack.

Serves 4-6

2 Racks of Lamb
2 tablespoons Black Peppercorns 
4 Cloves 
1/4 Fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds 
1 Star anise
1/2 teaspoon  Cardamon powder
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg powder
1/2 teaspoon Cinammon powder 
2 tablespoons Paprika 
1 teaspoon Sumac
2 tablespoons Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
1 teaspoon Garlic paste 
1/2 cup Cilantro, cut finely
1/2 cup Lemon juice

Put peppercorns, cloves, fenugreek, cumin and star anise in a cast-iron pan and dry roast over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove to a spice grinder and process till fine powder.

Mix powdered spices with cardamon, nutmeg, cinammon, paprika, sumac, salt, ginger, garlic, cilantro and lemon juice. Mix well.

Wash and dry racks.

Massage spice paste into lamb and marinate for a minimum of  4 hours or overnight for best results. Bring to room temperature before roasting.

Heat oven to 400F.

Place racks on a foil lined baking sheet.

Roast 25 minutes for medium rare and 35 minutes for well done meat.

Remove from oven and let meat rest for 5 minutes.

Slice rack into individual chops and serve.

Oohs and ahhs seem obligatory when I bring out a heaped plate of chops. We eat with gusto and give much praise to Ottolenghi for yet another stellar recipe!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ricotta Fritters

Should I fry or should I bake? Fritter or cake??  It's more a train of thought that a question. Even I think it I know I will fry. Why? It's the easier of the two choices. One bowl and one frypan vs mixing bowls, cups, beaters and's lazy Sunday. I have to make something to take to brunch. Nothing too complicated, hence this version of one-bowl fritters. I do love the way these puff up, all golden brown and soft. You think you are biting into a munchkin. Once you do, you know this is no heavy donut, but a much lighter, airier cousin. 

I throw together, eggs, sugar, flour, ricotta, and baking powder. A strong whisk yields a thick batter, enough to stand your spoon in! A pot of hot oil simmers as I drop tiny spoonfuls of batter in. Fritters brown evenly over medium heat. I watch amazed, as the balls of dough do jumping jacks by themselves in the hot oil. It's a carnival trick come to life! 

Makes 25-30 small balls 

1 cup Ricotta 
3 Eggs
1/4 cup Sugar
1 cup Flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 cups Canola Oil for frying
Icing Sugar

Put ricotta, eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk till blended.

Add flour, baking powder and salt to the bowl and gently mix till you have a thick batter.

Heat canola oil in a wok over medium heat. 

Test oil by dropping a titbits of batter in. They should spring to the surface immediately. 

Using two teaspoons drop olive-sized balls of batter into hot oil. Fry 8-10 at a time. It is important to fry the balls over medium heat as they brown fast and you need a slow heat to cook the insides. The balls look shaggy as you drop them in. They will puff evenly as they brown.

Use a slotted spoon to turn balls so they cook on both sides. The balls have a tendency to turn by themselves. But if they do not, help them along with the slotted spoon.

Repeat till you finish the batter.

Drain balls on a cookie rack placed over a baking sheet.

When cool, dust liberally with icing sugar.

The first batch is eaten as it emerges!! Brunch is tomorrow. Sticky fingers beware!!! My effort is well camouflaged!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cabbage Okonomiyaki

It's a mouthful. Literally!!! And such a delightful mouthful it is. In essence, it really is a big cabbage fritter that is shallow fried very quickly into a palm sized crispy pancake. You shred the cabbage very fine, add carrot and kale slivers and mix in egg and flour. I find a simplified recipe on Smitten Kitchen and then I tweak it a tad bit. I add furikake sprinkles to the mix. It is a robust Japanese seasoning of bonito flakes, sesame seeds, seaweed and other things umami. Okonomiyaki usually calls for bonito flakes as a garnish. Why not add them to the cabbage?? Inside vs outside? Works for me.

The Smitten Kitchen recipe calls for a mandoline to shred cabbage. Having heard many real life ER stories, I give the mandoline a wide berth! It's my trusty knife and me. I can assure you it can be done. Or use a food processor!! Cabbage is shredded really fine. I shave thin pieces of carrot on to the pile of cruciferous veggies. I sliver some kale to add to the mix. Flour, seasoning and eggs bind the veggies together. And as I assemble the pancakes, G makes an excellent accompanying sauce. 

Makes 8 small pancakes

2 cups Cabbage, shredded very fine
1 Carrot
1/2 cup Kale
2 tablespoons Furikake (see pic below)
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
A few cracks of ground Black Pepper
1/2 cup Flour
3 Eggs
Canola oil for frying
Toasted Sesame Seeds

1/4 Tomato Ketchup
2 teaspoons Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Honey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Rice wine Vinegar
A large pinch of toasted Sesame Seeds 

Mix ketchup, soy, honey, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and sesame seeds in a bowl. Set aside.

Put shredded cabbage in a large bowl.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin slices of carrot over cabbage.

Slice kale into thin slivers and add to veggies.

Sprinkle flour, furikake and seasonings over veggies

Break eggs into the veggies and mix gently till everything looks a little gooey.

Heat oil in a large nonstick pan till it shimmers.

Drop a heaping of veggies one at a time into hot oil. You should have four 3 inch mounds. Flatten mounds gently with a spatula. 

Let pancakes fry for 3-5 minutes till the undersides are golden brown. Flip the pancake using a spatula and spoon. Let pancakes brown for a few minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels for a minute. 

Arrange pancakes on a platter, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve them with  dipping sauce.

These hefty pancakes are drizzled liberally with sauce and eaten quite cheerfully. We do love the much maligned cabbage in infinite forms. Though I know this one has found a permanent place in my kitchen.