Thursday, June 30, 2016

Oven Roasted Beef Filet infused with Lime

I discover some filet in the deep recesses of my freezer. The unused remnants of a large tenderloin features in tonight's dinner. Trimmed of visible fat, I portion them into chunks. Then I contemplate their fate. Should I make a simple pan roast with salt and pepper? Or should I aim for a more ambitious roast. A new cookbook has been burning a hole on the shelf. Big Flavors from a Small Kitchen has an innovative take on recipes. There are no titles...just the mains bunched together as a guide. I pour over unusually paired creations. And I joyfully experiment with the chef's leanings. Love blossoms immediately. Chris Honor uses staples from my pantry with more than unusual slants. One such compilation is beef marinated with nigella, coriander and  fenugreek, lime juice, kaffir lime leaves and curry leaves.... Hmmm...Sounds like the beginnings of a pickle. And all items are within arms reach! 

I deviate a little from the original. The filets are rubbed with garlic, salt and pepper. Nigella seeds soak in water while I assemble the marinade. Limes are zested and juiced. Garlic cloves are lightly smashed. Kaffir lime and curry leaves are roughly slivered. Coriander and fenugreek seeds sit in heaps. Nigella seeds are drained and added to the beef along with marinade ingredients for a short steep.  A cast iron pan goes into the oven as it comes to a high temperature, another deviation from the recipe. I find beef roasts best in cast iron. The sizzle sets the tone for the night.

Adapted from Chris Honor's Big Flavors from a Small Kitchen
Serves 4-6

2 pound Beef Filet OR Sirloin
2 tablespoons Nigella seeds
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
2 teaspoons Garlic powder 
1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
1 tablespoon Fenugreek seeds
20 Curry leaves
12 Kaffir Lime leaves
6 Garlic cloves
4 Limes, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons Olive Oil 
Basil leaves

Trim filet of silver skin. Slice filet into 2-3 inch pieces. Place in a bowl. If you use a sirloin steak, leave the steak as is and follow the recipe.

Soak nigella seeds in water for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle salt pepper and garlic powder over filet. Massage seasonings into meat.

Roughly chop curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves.

Smash garlic lightly.

Add lime juice to filet, along with half the zest.

Drain nigella seeds and add to beef, along with coriander, fenugreek, garlic, curry and kaffir lime leaves and garlic. Massage spices into beef.

Drizzle olive oil over beef, cover and marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 425F. 

Put cast iron pan into oven to heat. 

Once the oven has reached 425F, use tongs to place beef pieces in the cast iron pan. Add the remaining marinade to the pan.

Roast for 15 minutes for medium rare, 25 minutes for medium, 35 minutes for well done.

Remove beef from oven.

Place on a platter and tent with foil for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the remaining lime zest on beef.

Garnish with basil leaves.

Slice and serve.

Roasting beef inevitably emits the most pleasing aroma. Cooked in cast iron, the beef emerges crusty but medium rare. Browned spices add layers of flavor and crunch. Lime features predominantly as we slice and dice.  Each bite  is reminiscent of achaar gosht..Indian style meat cooked with similar spices. No need for naan or roti...all this beef needs is a steak knife and good appetite.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Beef Bao Sliders

Bao buns are the quite the rage. Or are they now passe? Not in my house. David Chang popularized them a few years ago. Since it has been a challenge to eat at Momofuko, I create this popular recipe at home. True to the original concept I start with pork belly. It's delicious! But getting there is a lengthy process, from brining the pork, to braising or roasting it, and lastly, pan frying pork slices. The end result, stuffed into a warm steamed bun, paired with pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber and cilantro, drizzled with hoisin, is a mouthful of wow. Caramelized pork, rich hoisin flavors and crisp veggies warm the heart and belly. These bite size baos are the quintessential finger food.

To make my life easier I decide to substitute another meat. A ground beef patty, full of Asian aromatics. Grated garlic becomes a pungent puree, with no pieces to bite into. I use a fancy Japanese ginger grater Rehan brings me from his travels. I have trouble with this new contraption...but then I haven't read the accompanying instructions. I finally figure it out and I'm left with wonderfully minuscule grated ginger. Thanks Rehan!

A short marination on the counter, after which beef is shaped into small oval patties and fried as the baos steam. These patties are a lazy cook's best friend. A short marination, a quick fry and they are ready to be eaten or stuffed. Baos are ready to be assembled. In place of daikon I use a fennel and carrot slaw. New flavors for an old standard.

Makes 8-10 portions

1 pound ground Beef
2 teaspoons Sambal Olek
2 tablespoons Ketchap Manis
1 teaspoon Sriracha 
1 teaspoon grated Garlic
1 teaspoon grated Ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 
1/2 cup shredded Carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced Fennel
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
1 tablespoon White Vinegar
Cilantro Sprigs
Thai Basil or Italian Basil
Sweet Chile Sauce
8-10 Chinese Steamed Buns

Mix ground beef, sambal olek, ketchap manis, Sriracha, ginger, garlic, black pepper and salt. Massage the spices and beef well. Keep beef aside for 15 minutes.

Put carrots and fennel in a glass bowl. 

Sprinkle sugar, salt and white vinegar over veggies. Stir occasionally so veggies can absorb the vinegar.

Heat an inch of water on a wide saucepan. 

Place a steamer rack in the saucepan.

Line steamer rack with wax paper so the buns wont stick to the steamer.

Once the water simmers, place 4-5 buns on wax paper. Cover the pan and steam for 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining buns. Buns can stay warm in the steamer for 15-20 minutes.

Fry patties as buns steam.

Shape them into 2-3 inch ovals. You should have 8-10 oval patties.

Heat canola oil in a nonstick pan.

Add patties to hot oil and cook till brown and crusty on one side. Flip and brown other side.

To assemble the baos, line up the patties, slaw, herbs and sweet chile sauce.

Place one opened steamed bao on plate. 

Top with one beef patty.

Pile some slaw over patty.

Drape cilantro and basil over slaw.

Drizzle sweet chile sauce over patty.

Fold the upper flap over the fixings and dig in!

Repeat  and enjoy!!

Lunch is a true delight. I start with just one bao. Then I assemble a few for G. Temptation prevails and I put another together for myself. G thinks it is for him. That notion is swiftly destroyed as I eat the bao taco style, right out of the palm of my hand!  Eaten horizontally or vertically, beef baos might be a little messy but they have come to stay!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Roasted Fish with Kokum and Onions

I have an out of print Marathi cookbook that some consider to be the Pathare Prabhu recipe bible. Given to me by Mum when I got married, deciphering the script is an exercise in perseverance, as this is a language my brain and tongue has lost its dexterity for. Yet this treasure trove is full of childhood favorites, lovingly recreated by my grandmas, mum and a host of aunts. All of them owned a version of this classic. My copy is dog-eared. A crumbling spine causes pages to scatter and fly. Margins are filled with hints from the past. The magic happens when I open a page. I can hear ancestral voices echoing instructions and observations. I see kitchen of yore. I feel memories of the past washing over me. 

Roasted fish, one of Mum's favorites, is now mine. Hers was a large pomfret, dressed with masala and then oven roasted. The fish was sliced tabletop, us siblings fighting over the triangular tail piece. The art of eating fish with tiny bones fades even as I write. While fish, roasted with bones, has a completely different taste, filets are a way of life in my house. No more digging out flesh. No more swallowing tiny bones. No exhortations for spoonfuls of white rice to dislodge errant bones in your throat. At least not at my table!!! 

You need a meaty filet. Something that will hold up to a twenty minute roast. The filet is coated with a thick layer of thinly sliced onions, fresh coconut, kokum or dried mangosteen and spices. The longer the roasting time, the crunchier the topping. 

Serves 4

6-8 Fish Filets (Halibut, Red Snapper, Tilapia)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 large Onions
1 cup fresh grated Coconut
2 green Chiles, minced finely
1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
10 Kokums, washed well in warm water
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2-1 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Pathare Prabhu Sambar powder or Garam masala
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
Cilantro sprigs

Wash and dry fish. 

Line a sheet pan with nonstick foil. If you use regular aluminum foil, spray foil with nonstick spray.

Alternately grease an ovenproof baking dish.

Season fish with salt. Rub salt well onto both sides of filets.

Heat oven to 375F.

Half onions. Cut halves into thin slices. Place in a bowl.

Add coconut, chiles, cilantro, kokums, turmeric, chile powder, sambar powder, salt and oil to onions. Use your hands to squish everything together.  A spoon doesn't quite do a good job of mixing. Onions need to be squeezed to release their flavor.

Take 1/2 cup of onion mix and scatter it over the foil. If you are using a baking dish add a layer of onions to the dish.

Place fish over onions.

Liberally top the fish with the remaining onion mix.  

Place sheet pan or baking dish in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, till the topping has browned.
Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve.


I don't know of any substitute for kokum. It has a natural sour flavor. You could use lemon slices in place. I haven't tried that so I cannot comment.

Fish comes alive with these flavors. Roasted onions, brittle coconut, tangy kokum and fresh cilantro imbue the mild fish. The glorious memories of whole roasted fish area thing of the past, but the present is replete with flaky fresh fish favorites of a bygone generation.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Chicken Curry with Peas

Two weeks in Japan will make you crave for chicken curry. At least that's what Rehan wants after his sojourn to the land of the Rising Sun. This curry is one he gobbles heartily. And to go with that is another favorite...paneer. 

Let me start with a disclaimer. When you read the recipe, you might think that this will not make sense. But it does..believe me. You start by browning onions. Then you add sugar which caramelizes. Then ginger, green chiles and fresh cilantro are sauteed. A garlic and spice paste is added along with a splash of vinegar. Then the chicken simmers in a tomato sauce infused broth, along with peas. Well... That's a lot of helterskelter. But the end result is a one delicious spicy chicken curry, with hints of herbs and vinegar. 

Serves 4

8 skinless Chicken pieces (thighs and legs)
3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
2 big Onions
1 tablespoon Sugar
5 thin Ginger coins
3 Greens Chiles
1/2 cup Cilantro 
2 tablespoons Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
3 tablespoons Tomato Ketchup 
1 cup Peas

Wash and dry chicken.

Peel and chop onion into fine dice.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven.

Add onions to hot oil and saute till golden brown.

Mince green chiles. 

Chop cilantro.

When onions are brown, move them to the sides and sprinkle sugar in the center. Let sugar caramelize. This should take 30 seconds to a minute.

Add ginger, green chiles and cilantro to onions. Saute.

Add turmeric, chile powder, cumin and garlic paste to onions. Stir so spices are mixed in. 

Add vinegar and saute well. Let sauce sizzle for 30 seconds and add chicken. 

Stir fry chicken so it is coated with spices.

Season with salt.

Add enough water to cover chicken.

Add tomato ketchup and peas to chicken. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. 

Chicken should be well cooked and falling off the bone.

Serve curry hot with chapattis or rice.

My son is going to relish his dinner tonight. And we are going to relive his holiday through his stories. There will be plenty to go around!! 

Friday, June 10, 2016


What do you cook for someone with an upset stomach? If you have grown up in Bombay, it could be kadhi. It is on the menu for dinner. Then again, when I'm in a rush and there is no time to cook lentils, kadhi comes together in a jiffy. It begins with a few easy steps. Besan or chickpea flour blended into yogurt does double duty. It gives the kadhi a thickening base and importantly, stops the yogurt from curdling. My mum would then start with a mix of oil and ghee. I use oil for many reasons, but then mine never tastes like hers. In go a few whole spices...sticks of cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns. A few seconds later, a smattering of cumin and mustard seeds. Followed by slivered garlic and ginger. Curry leaves and turmeric add company. These spices hang out for a minute or so and then are joined by the yogurt. A little salt and sugar and the sauce simmers. Just in time for Nikita's returning appetite.

Serves 2-4

1 cup Yogurt (I prefer low fat regular but you could use Greek as well)
1 heaping tablespoon Besan or Chickpea Flour
2 cups Water
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 
2 small sticks Cinnamon 
4 Cloves
4 Peppercorns 
2 dried Red Chiles
1/4 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon Mustard seeds 
2 Garlic cloves, slivered
3 Ginger thin coins
6-7 Curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
A few sprigs of Cilantro 

Mix yogurt and besan till smooth. 

Add water and whisk well so you have a homogeneous batter.

Heat oil in a deep saucepan.

When shimmering, add cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns. Let them sizzle for a few seconds.

Then drop red chiles, cumin and mustard seeds. Let them splutter and brown for 20 seconds.

Add garlic and ginger. Let garlic color slightly.

Drop curry leaves and turmeric. Curry leaves with crackle and crisp up. 

Carefully pour yogurt mix into oil. Stir as you pour.

Season with salt and sugar.

Bring kadhi to a boil. Watch carefully as kadhi is like milk. It will spill over if you don't keep an eye on it. One way to ensure it doesn't spill over is to plonk a wooden spoon in the pot. Lower flame to medium and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Add fresh chopped cilantro and serve kadhi with rice or khichdi.

Geets and I fondly remember our grandmas and mums versions of this sickroom favorite. Though I should reiterate that this Gujarati staple graces the table at all occasions. We dole out soupy kadhi to Nikita. Papad adds crunch. This is the stuff that conquers a stomach bug and soothes the Indian soul. It seems to be the panacea for many ailments, including homesickness! 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cauliflower and Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Molasses

My Mother's Day gift is a jar of Shauna's homemade pomegranate molasses . It is wonderfully sour and sweet. That flavor goes oh so well with lamb. I decide to go down another path, to drizzle it on cauliflower and peppers. Bland cauliflower and the occasional spicy shishito are the perfect foil for pomegranate. This simple stir fry is healthier side accompanying steak and potatoes.  

Small cauliflower florets are browned in olive oil. Its important to slice florets thinly so they have a flat surface that caramelizes as they brown. A bunch of shishito peppers fry alongside. Sliced garlic browns in the pan. Seasoned well, the vegetables are piled onto a platter. Nestled among the veggies are tomato quarters.  A drizzle of pomegranate molasses gives it the finishing touch. Fresh herbs tie everything into a neat bow.

Serves 4

1 small head of Cauliflower 
2 cups Shishito Peppers 
3 tablespoons Olive oil
4 Garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper
2 vine ripened Tomatoes
1/4 cup Parsley
10-15 Mint leaves
3 tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses 

Divide cauliflower into florets. Cut florets into 1/4 inch or so thick slices. It depends on the size of the florets. The slices need to have a flat surface to caramelize. If you have smaller florets, by all means cook them whole.  

Stem peppers. Cut into halves. 

Slice garlic thinly.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet.

Add cauliflower, stir well and cover pan. Let cauliflower steam cook. Check often. Stir cauliflower so it will not stick or burn. The florets should turn golden brown.

Garlic and peppers go into the cauliflower. Cover pan again and cook on high heat for 3-4 minutes so peppers can wilt and sear.

Season with salt and pepper.

Cut tomatoes into thin quarters.

Chop parsley.

Arrange cauliflower on a platter.

Nestle tomatoes around cauliflower.

Scatter parsley and mint over the veggies.

Drizzle pomegranate molasses and serve.

Steak and potatoes never had a better side. Right now Shauna's homemade present is my prize possession. I must get that recipe from her. The flavors blend perfectly with caramelized and spicy veggies. Her effort and my invention makes for another heavenly marriage!