Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cauliflower and Peas in Goat Cheese Sauce

Birthday dinners call for going above and beyond when dining at home. So Shauna steps it up with her father's favorite roasted Cornish hens. I add the sides, the usual suspects, potatoes and cauliflower.  

Cauliflower draped in a creamy sauce, comes together easily. Butter turns light brown before I add flour. I let the roux bubble a bit and then pour in milk. Stirring constantly, I watch the sauce thicken a little. It is a little runny, but thickens as I drop clumps of chevre into the hot sauce. It has a divine aroma. A small variation on a traditional sauce, goes a long and delicious way.

Serves 4

3 cups large Cauliflower florets
3/4 cup frozen Peas
1 tablespoon Butter
1 tablespoon Flour
3/4 cup Milk
1/2 cup Chevre or Goat Cheese 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Fresh ground Black Pepper 
2 tablespoons Panko Breadcrumbs 

Fill a saucepan with 4-5 cups of water. Bring the water to boil. Season water with 1-2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Add cauliflower florets to boiling water. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Drain cauliflower and keep aside.

Scatter frozen peas over warm cauliflower to defrost.

Make sauce by melting butter in a saucepan. Let butter turn light brown. Watch carefully as it does.

Add flour to butter. Whisk well so there are no lumps. Let butter and flour bubble for a minute.

Pour milk into saucepan and whisk well. Stir often and let sauce thicken slightly.

Season with salt and pepper.

Take the sauce off the heat before you add chevre.

Break chevre into chunks and add to hot sauce. Chevre will melt as it sits. You can help it along by stirring the sauce.

Heat oven to 400F.

Arrange cauliflower and peas in an oven safe dish.

Pour sauce over veggies.

Sprinkle panko over sauce.

Bake for 10 minutes. Or broil on high for a few minutes till tops are tinged brown.

Serve as a side with roasted chicken or fish.

And a lovely birthday dinner it is. We end with a family favorite, panna cotta. It happens to be my Mum's birthday as well, this dessert beloved to her. Panna cotta with strawberries hit the perfect note.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Methi Mutton

The only painstaking past of methi mutton is pinching methi leaves off their woody muddy stems. Fresh fenugreek grows like a small bush in sandy soil, sprouting heart shaped leaves in bunches. Each leaf has to be patiently pulled off sans stem. Slightly bitter to the tongue, nevertheless power packed with antioxidants, these leaves can be added to meat, veggies, made into dal or cooked with rice. Versatility personified!! 

I pick and clean a bunch of fenugreek. Rinse these leaves under running water to remove sand and grit. Chop leaves before adding to meat. Meanwhile my choice, goat meat or as I call it mutton, gets a good sear with onions, ginger and garlic. A few spices and seasonings and the pressure cooker is off to a rocky start. For those of you who are wary of these instruments, cook the meat stove top. Be prepared for a long braise. The cooker cuts the time in half. So dinner is on the table in as much time as it takes to clean methi leaves.

Serves 4

2 pounds Goat Meat, Lamb or Beef
1 bunch Methi or Fenugreek leaves 
3 tablespoon Canola Oil 
2 large Onions
1 tablespoon Ginger paste
1 tablespoon Garlic paste 
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder 
1/2-1 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Wash and pat dry meat.

Pick methi leaves off stems. You should have about 1 1/2 to 2 cups leaves. Wash them well to remove and sandy grit. Squeeze out as much water as you can. Place leaves on a board and chop leaves roughly.

Peel and chop onions into small pieces.

Heat oil in a pressure cooker.

When it shimmers add chopped onion and saute till golden brown.

Stir ginger and garlic paste into onions. Saute for a few seconds.

Add meat to onions and saute for 5 minutes till meat is seared well on all sides.

Scatter spices and seasonings over meat. Mix and stir for a few minutes.

Methi leaves go in now. Stir to mix.

Add enough water to cover meat.

Put cooker lid on. (Modern pressure cookers have a range of instructions. Follow yours and cook goat meat for 20-25 minutes, lamb for 13-15 minutes and beef for 15 minutes)

Once meat is cooked and pressure has subsided, open cooker and check if meat is cooked. Poke it with a knife. It should come apart easily. If not cook again for another 5-8 minutes.

ALTERNATELY, cook your meat stove top. Use a tight lid so moisture doesn't escape. Check from time to time to add more water as needed.

Serve methi mutton with rice or roti..both are great accompaniments.

Heavenly aromas pervade the kitchen. These come-hither emanations have a magical pied piper effect!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Leek and Asparagus Tartlets

Nikita comes for a short visit. She and her college friends come to lunch. I am torn between making traditional Indian and a light Western lunch. After some deliberation I choose the latter. Prep goes into making chicken chops, which I know she likes. Meatballs in a pomegranate glaze, salad with a tangy yogurt dressing, ricotta gnudi, a simple pasta with zucchini, peas and pesto and the tartlets. I have a bunch of small fluted tart pans. The resulting tarts look quite pretty. Of course, the tartlets take the longest time to put together. So I start those first.

Making shortcrust pastry with a food processor is quick and easy. You pulse flour, baking powder, butter and Crisco. Dribble in cold water and in five minutes you have a supple dough. You could very well make the pastry by hand or use two knives. Figure on 10-15 minutes of rubbing the butter in with your finger tips or using a pastry blender or knives to work on the texture. Before the age of the processor, hand made pastry was the only option. Once the pastry comes together in a cohesive ball, it rests in the fridge for an hour. 

The best part of this tart is that you don't have to roll out the dough. Just pinch off a large clump and mold it into the tart shell. The shells are baked blind. You line the shells with squares of foil. Dump a couple of tablespoons of dried beans into the shells and bake them. I have a bunch of foil squares and a bag of white beans I keep and reuse, essentially for this purpose. Shells need be filled and baked. Baking them insures that they do not get soggy after the filling is ladled in. Fillings need to be a base mix of cream and eggs. Enhance them with fresh or roasted veggies,cheese, cooked meat or fruit. Leek and asparagus reign supreme today!

Makes 18-20 small tartlets or 2 big tarts

2 1/2 cups all purpose Flour
1 teaspoons Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Crisco (Use butter if you cannot find Crisco)
5-6 tablespoons cold Water
2 cups sliced Leeks, white and light green parts 
8 Asparagus stalks
1 tablespoon Butter
1 cup Cream
2 Eggs
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1 cup grated Gruyere 

Place flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a processor. Pulse a few times to mix.

Cut butter and Crisco into 1/2 inch pieces.

Scatter butter over flour. Pulse 8-10 times till flour resembles small peas.

Drop Crisco into flour mix and pulse a few times till incorporated.

Spoon 4-5 teaspoons of water over flour. Pulse 4-5 times. Keep adding tablespoons till the dough comes together. 

If you are making the hour by hand, place flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut butter and Crisco into small squares. Add butter first to flour. Rub butter with fingertips or use a pastry blender. Flour should resemble small peas. Add Crisco to mix and mix I t he above fashion. Spoon wate over flour and knead till dough comes together in a smooth cohesive ball.

Dust a surface with a little flour.

Invert dough onto floured counter. Knead dough slightly till it looks smooth and comes together.

Flatten into a 6 inch disc. 

Place dough in a plastic bag. Seal and refrigerate for an hour.

If you are making two large tarts, divide dough into two equal portions, flatten and place in plastic bags and refrigerate for an hour.

FILLING : Start the filling by blanching asparagus stalks in boiling water for 2 minutes. Take them out and run under cold water.  Dry and cut them into 1/4 inch pieces. Keep the tips intact. Halve tips lengthwise and save for garnishing.

Saute leeks in butter till soft and translucent.

Whisk eggs and cream till well blended.

Add sauteed leeks, asparagus pieces and grated cheese to cream.

Season with salt and pepper. Keep in the fridge till needed.

Heat oven to 350F.

Take dough out of the fridge.

TARTLETS: Pinch off a walnut sized ball of dough. Place it in the tart shell. Use your thumb to flatten the dough around the shell. Make sure it it spread evenly. Repeat process using as much dough as you need. Any unused dough can be refrigerated for up to a week. 

TARTS: Roll dough out into a 10 inch circle. Gently place it in a 9 inch tart pan. Pat into place with your fingers. Line dough with foil. Fill the pan with dried beans. Bake for 25 minutes. Use the filling as directed below. Repeat with second disc of dough.

Place them on a baking sheet.

Cut aluminum foil into 3x3 squares. Line each tart with a square. 

Pour 2 tablespoons of beans into each foil square. Use baking beads or any dried beans (white, red or navy). Once cooked these beans cannot be used for human consumption.  I keep them in a plastic bag and reuse them when I blind bake pie crusts. 

Refrigerate tarts for 10 minutes. This is optional, but it makes for a flakier pie crust.

Bake for 20 minutes. 

Take tarts out of the oven. Remove beans and foil. 

Ladle filling into each tart till just below the rim. 

Top each tart with the halved asparagus tip.

Bake tarts for 20 minutes till puffed and golden.

Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. 

Pop the tarts out of the pans and enjoy them warm.

The girls relish lunch. Nikita tells me her trip to our house is too short. I concur. This is the house she came to from the hospital as baby. It feels right I nurture her a little longer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lamb Chops with Mint and Garlic

Valentine's Day goes by in the blink of an eye. The panorama of the night sky unfolds as we toast the evening. Every day is special, but today even more so as we are together on Love Day. It's been a while! Nothing especial for dinner but a meal put together with emotion and affection. I marinate lamb chops. Shauna roasts asparagus. I make a fregola salad. Shauna whips up dessert. Glenn decants the wine and Rehan appears in time to dine.

Serves 4

2 racks of Lamb or 16 Lamb Chops
1/2 cup Mint leaves 
1/2 cup Cilantro 
5 Garlic cloves
1 teaspoon Coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds 
3 tablespoons Lemon Juice 
3 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 

Cut the racks of lamb into individual chops.

Arrange chops in a single layer in a glass dish.

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper over chops.

Place mint leaves, cilantro, garlic cloves, coriander and cumin seeds, lemon juice, olive oil and remaining salt and pepper in a food processor or blender.

Pulse till you have a chunky paste.

Spoon paste over chops. Flip chops so they are coated on both sides. 

Marinate lamb for 1-2 hours.

Heat a grill pan or griddle over high heat.

Grill chops 3 minutes on each side.

Pile onto a platter and serve.

This is an enchanted evening where the wine sings, the food roars and the conversation endears. My cup of happiness overflows as I savor the moments.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Risotto with Brussels Sprouts

Risotto is one of those dishes you can cook while thinking of other things. Once you saute the Arborio rice, it's a matter of adding ladlefuls of hot stock as the rice cooks, enough time to ruminate. As the risotto cooks, it absorbs the flavors of anything you add to it. This time it's Brussel sprouts. And I try a two-pronged approach. Thinly slivered sprouts are sauteed with the rice. The rest of the sprouts are cut into wedges, roasted and lighlty pan fried till crisp brown. You may wonder why roasting and frying? Truth is, you could roast sprouts and use them right away. But I have a child who has to eat the sprouts extremely well cooked, or her stomach will go for a toss. These go in at the last minute so they can retain some of their crispness. In the end you a spoonful of creamy rice and crispy sprouts.

Serves 4

2 Shallots
4 Garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Thyme leaves 
2-3 Lemon peel strips
1 cup thinly sliced Brussels  Sprouts 
1 cup Brussels Sprouts wedges 
3 + 1 tablespoons Olive Oil 
3/4 cup Arborio Rice 
1/2 cup White Wine 
4-5 cups Chicken Stock
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Cambazola Or Blue Cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons minced Parsely
2 tablespoons Lemon Zest

Heat oven to 400F.

Place Brussels sprouts wedges on a baking sheet. Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over sprouts. Mix with your hands so sprouts are well coated. Bake for 20 minutes till crisp brown. Remove from oven. 

Peel shallots and garlic and mince finely.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan.

Add shallots and garlic. Saute for 3-5 minutes till shallot are soft.

Scatter thyme leaves and lemon strips over shallots.

Add slivered Brussels sprouts and saute for 2-3 minutes.

Add rice and stir for 3-4 minutes till rice is well coated with olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper.

Heat chicken stock to a low simmer.

Pour wine into rice. Let wine simmer till almost absorbed by the rice.

Add 1/2 cup hot chicken stock to rice. Stir rice well. When the stock dries up add more stock in 1/2 cup quantities. Keep doing this till the rice is cooked. Bite into a small grain to check. This should take about 20 minutes. Risotto should be soft and creamy.

Add Parmesan and Cambazola cheese to rice, along with parsley.

Lightly fry baked sprouts in a little olive oil. (Optional step. I like it as it lets sprouts crisp up and stay warm. And also the medicinal reason given above!) 

Garnish with fried Brussels sprouts and lemon zest.

Risotto is such a satisfying course. We pair it with white wine, chicken and a salad. Assertive lemon zest and crisp Brussels sprouts lend oomph to creamy rice. We do not have many leftovers. Such is the power of Italian rice and veggies.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Clementine Muffins

As I measure and sift, I am stricken with guilt and grief. The former because my family is intact and the latter because Ann's isn't. I cannot even begin to comprehend the loss this devastation brings. I visit with the assumption that food and conversation will assuage some of the pain. What do make for a friend who has recently lost her better half? Nothing I say or do can compensate for that loss.  But I try with humor and refreshments. 

This is a chai paani visit. In Indian terms, it means an afternoon of eating snacks like samosas, bhel and drinking copious amounts of tea, all the above interspersed with peals of laughter. I add a sweetish element with the muffins. I say sweetish as they are not full of the sugar rush experience. No white sugar, but a little brown sugar and honey add just enough sweetness. Orange blossom honey is my first choice, but clover or regular honey should work as well. The hardest part about making these muffins is taking the skins of the darn orange segments. I use easy-to-peel clementines, as this is orange season, but navel oranges would work just as well. I zest the skin and then peel each segment while my fingertips wither slightly, and I'm left with a pile of oranges pieces. No....most of the segments do not remain intact. But that's okay, as I need them in pieces for the batter. Sifted flour, baking powder and soda are gently mixed into melted butter, milk, cream, eggs, honey and sugar. It is an easy batter and bakes up moist and delicious.

Makes 12 regular muffins and 12 mini muffins OR 16 regular muffins

2 cups all purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 stick Butter
3 Eggs
2 big Clementines or Navel Oranges
1/4 cup Cream
1/4 cup Milk
1/2 cup Orange Blossom or regular Honey
1/4 cup light Brown Sugar
Confectioners Sugar

Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake wrappers. Or butter the muffin pan generously. Use two pans if you are using all the batter to make regular muffins.

Spray 12 small fluted tart molds with nonstick spray.

Melt butter over low heat. Cool slightly.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Zest both oranges.

Peel the segments.

Heat oven to 375F.

Place zest, segments, brown sugar, honey, cream, milk and eggs in a bowl. Whisk well till combined.

Slowly pour cooled melted butter into batter. If the butter is hot, it will scramble the eggs.

Dump sifted flour into batter. Fold gently with a spatula or spoon till you do not see and specks of flour.

Divide batter into lined muffin pans.

Regular muffins need to be filled to 1/2 inch below the rim of the wrapper.

Fluted tart molds will need 2 tablespoons of batter in each mold.

Bake for 20 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the muffin.

Wait for a few minutes till muffins are cool enough to handle. 

Gently squeeze the fluted molds to release muffins.

Dust muffins with confectioners sugar using a mesh strainer.


Chai paani segues into the dinner hour. Our chatty afternoon goes by in a flash as we walk down memory lane, rage against the current political monstrosities and we laugh over golden oldies music from way back when. We miss your dear friend Sanjeev. I feel relief as I see the Choudry family smiling again.