Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Asian Sweet Potato Fritters

Yes. I'm frying again. Can't help it though. The culprit is a recipe from a Thai cookbook I found at the library. Yes...that too. I am a frequent visitor to my local library, which I consider the best resource in our town. I am thrilled with this new book. A revisionist take on simple Thai food that is easy to follow and looks scrumptious. I plan on making a few recipes but time runs away from me and I am forced to return my copy. Then I find the book again, or should I say the book finds me. This time I am determined to experiment. 

The first recipe bowls me over. I do not really get past the first page. I have everything the recipe asks for. But it calls for a deep fried sweet potato. The gods of frying do battle in my conscience and win. I guess I am an easy mark. Please remember my last blog was shallow fried chicken. It doesn't count does it???? That all-round crispy texture only comes from a dip in a hot oil bath!!  The hell with cholesterol. Let's fry some sweet taters.

I make this thick gooey batter chockful of grated coconut and sesame seeds. Another component is an aromatic paste made with cilantro  roots and garlic. Luckily my cilantro leaves have some elongated roots. I hurriedly grind paste. The batter looks insipidly pale. Did I mention it is thick as glue?? I refer to the recipe which alludes to this texture quite jokingly. The author Leela Punyaratabandhu definitely has a sense of humor! I just realized she is a food blogger. Her blog page has the identical recipe posted!!! Talk about good taste!!

Now let me start my version. Potatoes are peeled and cut into chip shapes. My trusty frying pan simmer with a lot of canola oil. I do have a dedicated steel perforated spoon used for frying. What can I say, I live dangerously. The exhaust comes on. Potatoes swirl in the batter. Just like the recipe says, the batter adheres to the wedges. I drop a handful into hot oil. As they sizzle, I doctor some sweet chile sauce with cilantro. And watch the pan.

Adapted from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu 
Serves 4

4 Sweet Potatoes or Yams
1/2 cup Rice flour
3 heaping tablespoons Cornstarch
1 tablespoon dried Coconut flakes
1 teaspoon Toasted Sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked Black pepper
1 tablespoon Aromatic Paste (recipe below) ( optional)
1/3 cup Water 
2 cups Canola oil for frying
1/2 cup Sweet Chile sauce
1 teaspoon Cilantro leaves

Aromatic paste
6-7 Cilantro roots
1 entire Garlic pod
1 tablespoon ground Black pepper

Clean cilantro stems well. 

Peel garlic cloves.

Grind cilantro stems, garlic cloves and black pepper to a paste.

It will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Place rice flour, cornstarch, grated coconut, sesame seeds, salt pepper and aromatic paste in a bowl.

Slowly add water to make a thickish paste.

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into small wedges.

Add wedges to batter. 

Let them hang out in the batter while you heat the oil. Test the oil by dropping a tiny bit of batter. It should sizzle and swim to the surface immediately. Or wait for 4-5 minutes to be sure.

Drop the wedges carefully into hot oil.

They will sizzle and brown in 4-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to turn them while they fry.

Scoop the fries out onto some paper so the oil gets absorbed. 

Dip the fries in Sweet Chile sauce and indulge.


If you do not have cilantro stems and are not up to grinding the aromatic paste, leave it out. You could chop cilantro leaves and some garlic and add it to the batter if you wish.

OMG... these fries are addictive! You taste potato, sesame, some coconut, all in one crispy bite. I can't stop eating them. And it's not yet time for dinner.  They are not going last that long!! I love the flavor of crunchy potatoes dipped in spicy sauce. I look through the book for some more inspiration. Authentic Thai food is a misnomer in my part of the world. Then a long trek to Pok Pok in Brooklyn one evening transports me to Siam. That meal is the closest thing to food I have eaten in Thailand. I do hope this book will take me there.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Korean Fried Chicken

I love pronouncing the word gochujang. The sensation of my tongue rolling out rounded syllables is so satisfying. As satisfying as using gochujang. For those of you who are confounded, I'm talking about a sweet spicy Korean condiment, ubiquitous in their cuisine. I use it liberally as a marinade, sauce or part of a stir fry. It gives color, flavor, spice and a thick coat to the meat it adheres to. 

Bon Appetit publishes a marinade for pork. I use it as a stepping stone. Instead of mirin and sake as the recipe indicates, I use fish sauce. And a ton of garlic and ginger. I also let it marinate overnight. If I'm going to eat chicken, it had better sit in it's marinade for a looong time. But you don't really have to employ the overnight option. A few hours and it's ready to be grilled. I let the chicken sit out of the fridge for an hour before I grill it. As I slide open the lid I have a senior moment. Did I make Korean fried chicken or is it a tandoori marinade?? It's looks identical!!! A whiff of chili reminds me of the contents. 

I debate the prospect of grilling outside vs inside. The Weber will result in a solid char and less clean up. The grill pan gives me great grill marks and no mosquito bites. A third option materializes as I spy a saucepan of bacon grease, left over from the BLTs we have for lunch. What wouldn't taste good fried in that stuff!!! I pour off most of the grease, leaving enough to fry the chicken in. A dusting of rice flour gives the chicken a crispy crust. The crust would definitely be different if I use the grill options. A cold soba noodle salad and sauteed bok choy rounds out my fried chicken dinner.

Serves 3-4

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
1/2 cup Gochujang paste
2 tablespoons Garlic paste
1 tablespoon grated Ginger
3 tablespoons Fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup Rice Flour ( frying option)
4 tablespoons Canola oil if frying
Scant tablespoon Oil if using grill or grill pan

Wash and trim all the fat that's visible. Cut thighs into 2 or 3 pieces.

Mix gochujang, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and salt in a non-reactive bowl. 

Add chicken to bowl, stir and coat chicken with marinade. 

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Bring chicken to room temperature when you are ready to grill or fry.

The next step is the frying method.

Spread rice flour on a plate or wooden cutting board.

Heat oil in a nonstick saucepan.

Lightly coat chicken with rice flour and place in hot oil carefully. You can fry up to 5-6 pieces depending on the size of the saucepan.

Let the chicken crust up for 4-5 minutes before you flip to the other side.

Remove chicken and let it drain on a paper towel.

Finish all the chicken pieces this way.

Serve the chicken hot and crusty. 

You could easily fry the chicken earlier and reheat it in a 350F oven for 10 minutes before serving. 


Outdoor grilling---Start up the gas or charcoal grill. The latter will of course take longer. If you use a gas grill, once the grill is hot, lower heat to medium, switch off the middle burner and grill chicken for 8-9 minutes on on side and 5 minutes on the other. Use the same times for a gas grill.

Indoor grilling--- Place the grill pan over high heat. Start the exhaust fan. Spray with cooking oil spray and arrange chicken on pan. Let chicken cook for 8-9 minutes on one side before turning over the cook the other side for a further 5 minutes.

The chicken is crispy, crunchy and fork tender. The pile diminishes rapidly. Once again I am a reticent poultry convert. Glenn and Rehan enjoy the fried nuggets way more than me. Then again it isn't always about what pleases me. I am just thrilled that the funny sounding chile paste makes my husband and son relish their dinner immensely.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lemon Mascarpone Blueberry Trifle

On a hot humid day I open the fridge for a blast of cool air. And also to quell that devilish urge...the sweet-tooth imp that perennially prods me. Why is it that I need to sample, savor, munch on something sweet after a meal?? Why does my mouth crave sugar after salad?? What's the purpose of that salad if I have to give in to my cravings?? I can't answer for anyone who has had these feelings, but I give in sometimes, indulge the Cookie Monster and eat dessert without any remorse.  

Today is one of those days. I need that sugar shot like a hole in my head. Yet I go for it. I come across a modified recipe for cheesecake. Let me start by saying I am not a cheesecake addict. I can eat a slice and then I'm done for a while. This recipe makes light of cheesecake though!!! Really!! No cream cheese, no eggs and very little sugar. It also calls for lemon curd! Another favorite!! I have graham crackers. I have lemons. I have mascarpone cheese. Though the recipe calls for cream, I veto it. An easy decision as I do not have any in the house. 

The recipe tells me to make homemade lemon curd. Hah! Having never made it before I am nervous. Doubly so, as I am instructed to make lemon curd in the microwave!! So into the deep end I jump! But it really is a breeze making this lemon curd. Just stop the microwave, whisk and fluff for a few minutes and you have this amazing vibrant yellow thick custard, lemony and gooey. As I assemble the graham crackers I decide to sandwich blueberries in each layer. Lemon and of my tried and trusted marriages. The trifle comes together in minutes. It takes longer to set. Into the fridge it goes until I cannot wait a minute more.

Makes 4 servings

5 or 6 Graham Crackers
3/4 cup Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup Lemon curd (recipe below) or store bought Lemon curd
A pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup Blueberries
Lemon zest to garnish

Let mascarpone cheese soften at room temperature.

Beat cheese with a whisk to blend.

Add lemon curd and salt and whisk well till mixture is smooth and creamy.

Schmear some cheese curd on a plate.

Place a graham cracker on the schmear. This way the cracker will not slide on the platter. 

Take a heaping tablespoon of cheese curd and drop it on the cracker.

Spread the cheese curd across the graham cracker using a spatula or knife.

Slice blueberries in half if big. Or leave them whole.

Embed them in the cheese curd.

Place another graham cracker on top of this layer and repeat process.

Coat the four sides of the crackers with the remaining cheese curd, as you would ice a cake. 

Garnish with lemon zest.

Let it sit in the fridge to set for 1 hour.

Slice or spoon onto plates.

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup Lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Lemon zest
1/2 cup Sugar
4 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 Egg, at room temperature (important!)

Before you begin, let the egg come to room temperature or else you will get white flecks of cooked egg in your lemon curd. 

Mix all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and stir well to mix.

Place bowl in microwave and zap for 30 seconds.

Remove bowl from microwave and stir to combine. 

Repeat process in 30 second increments till lemon curd is thick and fluffy. It should take about 3 or 4 minutes. 

Whisk well.

The lemon curd keeps in the fridge for a week.

I don't have to wait too long. My concoction looks like an icebox cake. Or an iced lemon loaf. Appearances are deceptive. I love the lightness of lemon and cheese. A tart blueberry is the perfect foil for the crunchy not too sweet cookie. I crumble forkfuls consoling myself that this is not a calorie laden cheesecake. Do I feel better having indulged in a sweet ending??? A lemon blueberry mouthful reveals to me that dessert is really not a trifling matter!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Yellow Bean Salad

I have planted a small vegetable patch most years. This May flashes by without me soiling my hands.  As I stare at the empty patch in June, I am reminded of a Ziploc bag of last year's frozen tomatoes sitting in my freezer. I capitulate and plant tomatoes, chilies and some green beans. Literally, a hotbed of fertility, the patch sprouts and multiplies rapidly. I watch eagerly as eight emerald green tomato plants outgrow their cages. Green beans are another story. While shopping for tomato saplings, I spy a forlorn tray of beans, practically begging me to buy them. A regretable memory flashes. Green beans repeatedly making many appearances at the table, dished out on too many occasions, finally unwanted towards the end of that season. In spite of that thought I throw caution to the wind and buy them. A crunchy bean always makes a delectable side, great tempura and a wonderful addition to pasta.

A month has passed and I am bent over, picking beans. Through the branches I spy some yellow. My first thought is that I must've under watered the beans, hence they've turned yellow. But as I part leaves, lo and behold, I find a profusion of pale yellow runner beans. Not the usual dark green Blue Lake beans, which is what I thought I had bought! Lucky me!! Something different to munch on. I am enamored by their light color, flaxen shades bleeding into green. My basket is full in minutes. Three bush bean shrubs give me enough for a salad tonight.

Beans beg for something simple and light. No need to top and tail as the beans are tender. A sharp flavored vinaigrette drizzled over blanched beans. Some slivered basil from the garden. Easy, flavorful and crisp. 

Serves 2-3

2 cups Yellow Beans or Green Beans
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin Olive oil
2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon Coleman's Mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
A few grinds of Black pepper
3 large Basil leaves

Fill a pot with water, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring water to boil on a high flame.

Wash beans. If they are tender, you do not need to top and tail them.

Blanch beans in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. 

Drain beans and dunk in a bowl of icy water for 5 minutes. 

Use a slotted spoon to remove beans from the water and place on a paper towel to dry.

Arrange them on a platter.

Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard powder, salt and pepper briskly in a bowl. 

Pour dressing over beans. 

Cut basil leaves into slivers and arrange on beans.

Let beans sit for a few minutes before serving.

We enjoy this simple salad with a toothsome crunch. Basil slivers mingle pungently with mild tasting beans and lemon zest. Leftovers make a healthy addition to the next day's salad. There is an odd phrase in India that goes like this.... one by two! In plain English it means one portion divided in two. For me that translates as today and tomorrow taken care off!!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Milestones--Chicken Khichda

These days we all seem to be hitting a milestone or other. A birthday, an anniversary or a continuous stream of published recipes. Ninety-nine episodes ago, I sat apprehensively in front of a computer, waiting for the words to flow. They came in spurts, sporadically, from memories simmering at the surface. The link between the food I love and people I love to feed has now has become a steady outpouring. These words bring to life the world in my kitchen.  And the experience has been truly cathartic. I bare my soul, my agonies, my defeats, my tribulations, my ecstacies, my amusements. The people who eat at my table, touch me in ways beyond my wildest expectations, are forever enshrined in words. Inspirations turn into perspiration, especially in summer kitchens. And then quickly revert back to an explosion of ideas and replications! My reward is the email that says my culinary creation has taken on another life in a faraway kitchen.

Dear Kavi,
OMG, all our favorite foods are leaping off your blog!  Loved the spaghetti and meatballs last week.  I used to fatkao my own recipe because Craig loves it too, but last week my production was perfect.  The meatballs turned out nice and soft. Thanks.
I was thrilled to see Channa batura this week.  It's my favorite. I always ordered it in a restaurant if it was on the menu.  With Lent in progress and us needing to eat veg. on Wednesdays and Fridays, channa batura will feature several times.
I see you just added stew!  Saturday nights in my house were always stew nights, bec. I was the stew lover. It was so funny, my mother hardly ever changed the Saturday night menu. I think it also was easy on her menu planning, because she always said she didn't mind cooking but it was what to cook that irritated her.
Hope you'll are well. Have a great week Kavi.

Hey Kavi - tried your biryani recipe and it was amazing!!!!
Thanks for sharing.

Thank u dear for the biriyani
I only deviated by using water instead of milk when adding saffron and the garnished with boiled egg too
Thx for doing so much so that we can enjoy cooking 
Hi Kavita,
 I just read your blog on the alphonsos and wanted to share the photo of my Montreal Alphonso altar.  ......the box of alphonsos,  just bought from the Indian store which comes in by air only once a week , each mango nestled in its own cosy foam wrap.  Last year at the same time in the month of May, after devouring the whole box, I dried the batas, and planted them indoors.  I was amazed when ten of them took root - shown here - lovely luscious green leaves that I speak to every day and stroke.    And of course the painting is called  MANGO MADNESS.No more after next week, sadly.  Enjoy while you can and keep blogging.  I read you recipes in the midst of my nausea post-chemo and you know what, they make me salivate and start eating.   So thank you from an odd foodie!
Cheers to all you folk out in the blogsphere who read my platitudes with enthusiasm or reservations. 

Then there is Geets, my one woman cheering squad!!! And boy does she rahrah loud and clear.. Geets, my friend, thanks for the encouragement and for all the Facebook 'shares.' She is singlehandedly responsible for the proliferation of this blog!

Let's not forget Prassy, my wonderful sister, always complimentary, always proud.

And then my family. Always there for me, teaching the technically challenged (Rehan), encouraging via blog info (Shauna) and spellchecking (oh yes! Glenn being the blue pencil)...all happily my guinea pigs!!

But most of all I give thanks to my Mum. She inspires me everyday. The culinary bouquets that wafted through her kitchen, breeze through mine. The file with her handwritten recipes is opened every week. The apron she once used so her silk saris would not be splattered, still hangs on its hook. My kitchen is filled with kitchen trappings reminding me of her all the time. At her table, every meal counted. We came together as a family over dinner. Everyday. I bring that to mine. Chicken Khichda was one of her favorites. My family loves it too. From my table to yours!! Enjoy!

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken thighs
1 tablespoon Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 cup Yogurt
1 tablespoon Garlic paste
1 tablespoon Ginger paste
1/4 cup Chana dal
1/4 cup Masoor dal
1/4 cup Moong dal
1/4 cup Toor dal
1/4 cup Urad dal
1/4 cup Oatmeal( not the quick cook type)
3 big Onions
2 Cinnamon sticks
5 Cloves
3 Cardamoms 
5-7 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

To Garnish
3 tablespoons Mint leaves
3 tablespoons Cilantro leaves
2 Limes, quartered

Cube chicken thighs into 1 inch pieces. Trim off all visible fat. Wash well, dry and place in a bowl.

Add garam masala, chile powder, cumin powder, salt, yogurt, garlic and ginger pastes to chicken. Squish chicken and masalas well. 

Put chana, masoor, moong, toor and urad dals in a bowl. Rinse dals a few times under cold water to remove all sediment. 

Place dals in a pressure cooker and add enough water to cover the dals. The water should cover dals by 1 inch. 

Add oatmeal to dals and stir.

Pressure cook dals for 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove lid and mash dals to blend.

Cut onions in half. Peel. Slice onions lengthwise into thin slices. Keep 1/2 cup of sliced onions aside.

Heat 5 tablespoons of canola oil in a large Dutch oven. 

When the oil is hot drop cinnamon, cloves and cardamons in. Let them sizzle for a few seconds.

Add remaining onions to hot oil and sauté till they are dark brown.

At this point add the marinated chicken as well as leftover marinade and stir fry well to sear chicken pieces for 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup of water to chicken and bring to a boil, lower heat and cook for 15 minutes.

Ladle in the mashed dals and whisk well to incorporate.

Add salt and let chicken bubble for 5 minutes.

In the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil, fry the kept aside onions till crisp and golden brown. Add more oil if necessary.

Serve warm khichda in a wide bowl.

Garnish with fried onions, mint and cilantro leaves and quartered limes.


For those of you who are wary of the pressure cooker, soak the dals overnight and cook them with plenty of water on the stovetop for 1/2 hour. Mash and use.

Dinner at Mum's was our moment to sit together, the disseminating of that days events, the delight when eating one of our favorites. I carry these sentiments into my home. The sense of sharing heightened with my family at one table. I am getting maudlin as I speak with heartfelt emotion. You might not sit at my table but you partake of my feast.  Come again. My table always beckons!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tutorial-- Egg Curry

Shauna LOVES egg curry. And on most of her returns to Boston she takes a container full in her freezer bag. Of course this time is no different. The request come and I start pulling out the makings of a curry. As I do, an idea mushrooms. Why not have her make it instead? Two birds in one stone, if I may say so. It really is easy to make a curry and I am here to walk her through the rough patches. After all, curry is a mixture of adeptly infused powders or ground masala to a liquid. The former powders, being the easy way out. Easy but still delicious. 

I broach the idea and am met with lukewarm enthusiasm. 'What if the seeds fly?' 'Will the oil splatter and burn me?' So mant plaintive cries!!!! YES.. to both questions. But that's the point. You need mustard seeds to pop and splutter for optimum taste!  It's time to force her hand. If you like it so much, a few battle scars will be the best way to prove it. She boils and peels eggs. This is a much-loved task, along with peeling fava beans!!Its bang, crack, roll in swift succession. She is in her happy zone! She slices and dices onions and ginger. Sets up her masala dabba and off we go. 

Oil shimmers in the carefully picked pan. A hesitant hand throws in some mustard seeds and curry leaves and retreats hurriedly. She stands back, way back, where mustard cannot go!! The curry leaves give her a run for her money. More like a jump on the trampoline. A few yells later and the curry begins to come together.  Adding spices is a piece of cake. She slips hardboiled eggs in with the skill of a practiced chef. Such a dichotomy from the nervous beginning. And I cannot explain it?? She is a great cook. One who makes Asian, Mexican and Italian cuisine with flair and panache!! It must be the spluttering mustard seeds and oil!!!

Serves 2-3 people

3 Eggs 
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
1/4 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon Fennel seeds
5 Curry leaves
1/2 Onion
2 slices Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1/4 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
A few grinds Black Pepper
1 cup unsweetened Coconut milk
1/4 cup Cilantro
 White Rice/ Chappatis

Place eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove eggs from water and cool. 

Peel eggs and cut into halves. Keep aside.

Slice onion lengthwise thinly. Cut the slices in crosswise in half.

Heat oil in a saucepan.

When oil shimmers, add mustard seeds, fennel seeds and curry leaves. THEY WILL SPLUTTER AND SPLATTER. You might want to use a splatter shield if this step intimidates you.

Wait for 15 seconds before you add the sliced onions.

Sauté onions for 5 minutes until tinged brown and soft. 

Add ginger slices, turmeric, chile powder, coriander powder, salt and pepper. Stir well to mix. Sauté for a few minutes.

Pour coconut milk into masala and let curry come to slow boil.

Gently add the egg halves. 

Roughly chop cilantro and add to curry. 

Let all the flavors bubble together for a few minutes.

Ladle curry onto hot white rice or serve with chapattis.

She is thrilled with her creation. Waits impatiently to sample some. A plate of rice appears magically in her hand. We sit down to lunch. Not everyone in our house is an egg curry fan, so there is plenty to go around. Forkfuls of curry and rice are delicious! She knows she conquers her frying fears with a few yells and jumps! We share a very special kitchen fellowship and I know I can get egg curry whenever I go to Boston!