Saturday, October 29, 2016

Prawn Kalvan

Rangoli heralds the pathway to my home. Light blaze through the house. Prayers are intoned. We are dressed in Divali finery. And company comes to dine with us. The Festival of Lights holds cherished memories, a link to firecrackers and feasting, an indulgence of new clothes and ancient rituals and washing away the old by the welcoming of a new year.

I make host of dishes. Roasted mutton, ghada, eggplant and my childhood favorite... prawn kalvan or curry. The base consists of grated coconut, chiles, cilantro, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, black pepper  and rice. Unusual but effective! All you need is coconut milk and some spices and the curry comes together in no time at all.

Serves 4

1 pound Prawns or Shrimp
1 tablespoon Rice
10 Black Peppercorns 
1/2 cup grated fresh Coconut 
3-4 green Chiles
12 Curry leaves 
4 Garlic cloves
2 Ginger slices
1 cup Cilantro
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
5 Garlic cloves
10 Curry leaves 
3 Cloves
1/2 to 3/4 cup Coconut Milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Lime juice

Wash, peel and devein prawns.

Soak rice and peppercorns in water for 15 minutes.

Grind soaked rice and peppercorns with fresh coconut, chiles, 12 curry leaves, 4 garlic cloves, ginger and cilantro till you have a thick paste.

Heat canola oil in a deep saucepan.

Drop 5 garlic cloves into hot oil and let them turn light brown.

Add cloves and curry leaves and let them splutter for a few seconds.

Carefully pour ground paste into pan. 

Lower flame and saute for 3-5 minutes.

Add coconut milk and bring to a low simmer. Cook sauce for 5 minutes.

Drop prawns into the simmering sauce. Cook for a few minutes till prawns turn pink.

Mix in salt and lime juice and stir well. 

Serve hot with rice and papad.

As the curry cooks, a sense of well being fills my soul. Col and Keith come to the door and it is time to wish Happy Divali to all! 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Beef Fajitas

Oh to be in north Florida when a hurricane hits!!!! The windswept golf course takes on a luminous shades of green. Sheets of rain blow across the panoramic view. Swaying Georgia pines are shrouded in mist. Hurricane Matthews makes us change focus, drop what we do and gaze out the windows. Storm coverage dominates television for the best part of two days, screaming dire predictions. Even as the storm rages, we bake, we boil, we fry and drink copious amounts of vino.

Today's special is beef fajitas. I marinate thin strips of beef in oregano, garlic, sugar and chile powder. Sauteed along with onions, the beef cooks in little water, braising till it shreds easily. I give the beef a rough chop, making bite size pieces. Pico de gallo and some avocado adds piquancy. We are ready to lunch!!

Serves 4

1 pound Beef strips
1 tablespoon Mexican Oregano 
1 tablespoon Chile powder 
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 tablespoon Garlic powder 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 Onion
1/2 to 1 cup Water
1 Avocado 
10-12 flour or corn Tortillas 

Pico De Gallo
1/4 cup diced Onion
1/2 cup diced Tomato
1 minced green Chile
2 tablespoons minced Cilantro
2 tablespoon Lime or Lemon juice

Mix all pico de gallo ingredients in a bowl.

Place strips in a bowl.

Sprinkle oregano, chile and garlic powders, sugar and salt. Mix well and let beef sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Peel and slice onions into 1/4 inch thick half moons.

Heat oil in saucepan.

Add onions and saute till wilted.

Add beef to onions and saute on a high flame till brown. 

Pour water onto beef, cover, lower flame and braise till cooked. This might take 20 to 40 minutes depending on the thickness of the beef.

When cooked, chop beef into bite size chunks.

Cut avocado into small chunks.

Heat tortillas.

Heap  beef on tortilla. Top with pico de gallo and avocado. Roll and enjoy!

The moment of truth is upon us. Outside, winds pick up. Driving rain sweeps onto the patio. Tornado warnings are set off. Inside, beer, fajitas and family drown out the constant noise of wind and rain. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vietnamese Pancake

I'm thrilled to walk through the new H-Mart in Hicksville, NY. This cavernous store is an Asian foodie wonderland. As I walk the aisles, I'm treated to samples of mung bean pancakes, bulgogi, fish cakes and more weird but delicious Korean food. The seafood and meat counters are brimming with fresh food. But the star of the show is the vegetable section. I am stunned with the mushroom display. My hand reaches in almost unconsciously to pick small round top Shimejis.  I love their flavor and texture. Normally I buy shitakes, but plentiful and cute Shimejis magically appear in my cart. I reach for bean sprouts. And as I put them in my basket I know what I will be making for dinner....pancakes Asian style.

I make one large pancake, the most effortless way. You could make individual portions but that means using a small pan, making one pancake at a time. The large pan is most convenient. You cut the finished pancake as you would a pie or pizza. Start by mixing rice flour, eggs and water, letting the batter rest for a short while. I saute mushrooms and scallions. Shredded carrots make a perfect addition. But I have roasted carrots in the fridge. You could add any vegetable of choice. Red peppers have eye appeal and taste. Bean sprouts are sauteed along with the veggies  Shrimp and ham add an optional meat component. The batter is then poured over the veggies. Covered, the pan is left on a low flame for 15-20 minutes. A blizzard of cilantro and basil finish the pancake. 

A salty spicy sauce comes together with soy, chiles, sugar and lime. 

Serves 2-4

2 Eggs
1/3 cup Rice Flour
1 teaspoon Sugar 
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
3/4 cup Water
2 Garlic cloves
5-6 Scallions
1 packet Shimeji Mushrooms or Shitake Mushrooms
1 cup shredded Carrots 
3/4 cup Bean Sprouts
1/2 cup cooked Shrimp (optional)
1/4 cup shredded Ham (optional)
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1/4 cup Thai or Italian Basil
2 tablespoons Cilantro 

Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce 
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
2-3 Green Chiles 
1 tablespoon Lime juice

Make the batter by whisking the eggs in a bowl.

Add rice flour, sugar, salt and water and whisk well. Let batter sit for 1/2 hour.

Mince garlic cloves finely.

Trim and thinly slice scallions, using both white and green parts.

If you are using Shimeji mushrooms, break them apart gently. If you are using shiitakes, remove the stems and cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Heat canola oil in a 8-9 inch nonstick saucepan.

Add garlic and saute for 20 seconds.

Add mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes till cooked.

Drop carrot into the pan and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

Saute bean sprouts for 30 seconds.

Pour batter over veggies, making sure it coats the veggies.

Arrange shrimp and/or ham over batter if using them.

Cover and let the pancake cook over low heat for 15 minutes. 

Make dipping sauce. Mix soy and sugar.

Cut green chiles into thin slices and add to soy sauce.

Add lime juice and mix well.

Lift the edge of the pancake. The underside should have crisped up and be light brown in color.

Sprinkle basil  and cilantro over pancake.

Slide pancake onto a plate. Cut into wedges and serve with dipping sauce.

This pancake could well be an appetizer or a side. A few drizzles of the dipping sauce over a slice and you are in for a heavenly bite of soft pancake, crunchy veggies and that umami flavor.