Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Fruit Chaat

Fruit chaat in India means using ripe guavas, soft chickoos and sweet limes. For those of you unfamiliar with these fruits, the above named are common as apples and bananas. So when in India, do as they do. Use local fruit and you have a zesty salad or side.

Cut the guavas carefully. You dont want to use the knobbly hard seeds. Keep the skin on and use as much seedless pulp as you can. Chickoos can be peeled, divested of the large seed and chopped into chunks. Sweet limes are like naval oranges. Cut them into skinless segments. Other fruit could be added. Apples, oranges, bananas are part of the mix. and of course you need chaat masala. And a squeeze of lime.

Serves 4-5 as a side

1 large ripe Guava
2 Sweet Limes or Mosumbis
1 Chickoo or Sapodilla
1 Orange
1 Banana
1 teaspoon Chaat masala
A pinch of Kosher Salt
1/2 Lime

Wash guava well. Pat dry. Do not peel the guava. Cut carefully around  the hard inner seeds. Cut guava into 1/2 inch pieces. Place pieces in a bowl.

Peel sweet limes. Cut the flesh into skinless segments. Add pieces to bowl.

Do the same for the orange.

Peel chickoo. Remove black seed. Cut chickoo into small pieces. Add to the bowl.

Slice the banana and add to the other fruit.

Sprinkle chaat masala over fruit.

Add salt and a squeeze of lime. 

Cover bowl and refrigerate for 1/2 hour.

Mix fruit before serving.

Serve cold. 

Fruit chaat is a light addition to any meal. Make an effort to find these exotic fruits and your palate will be amply rewarded.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Cauliflower Steaks with Cheese

Cauliflower seems to be the new favorite. Riced, chopped, roasted... all these methods give us a new taste, an alternative flavor. So how do these steaks differ? Firstly, they are small. I use large florets instead of the whole cauliflower. Secondly, the herbaceous, cheesy topping blends and browns effortlessly with the meaty cauliflower. And thirdly, it is just so damn delicious.

Find a cauliflower with large outer florets. Slice off a few. Hold the florets stem side up. Cut of a little bit on the right side. This should give you a flat surface. Then cut the florets into half inch thick slices. Slice off a little bit of the last steak to give you a flat surface. Or else you will have a rocky beginning. You should get two or three slices from one large floret. Save the small bits of cauliflower for the topping. These steaks are oiled and seasoned and baked in a very very hot oven. They brown on both sides.

The topping is a mix of chopped onion, lots of parsley and thyme, lemon zest, chopped olives and capers and some panko breadcrumbs. Stir it together with seasoning and some olive oil. Add grated Gruyere and Swiss. Crispy cauliflower tidbits from the baking tray don't get wasted. They go into the topping as well. The topping is carefully mounded on browned cauliflower steaks, which are then baked till the topping browns. Cauliflower edges caramelize, the topping is cheesy, yet crisp. Et voila...a very delectable addition to any meal...or just the meal itself. You cannot got wrong!

Serves 4

4-5 large Cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
Kosher salt
Ground Black Pepper
1 white Onion
1 Lemon, zested
1/2 cup green Olives
1 tablespoon Capers, rinsed
1/2 cup Parsley leaves
2 tablespoons Thyme leaves
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 generous tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/4 cup grated Gruyere
1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

Heat the oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet with foil.

Place the floret stem side up on a cutting board. Slice off a little bit of the cauliflower on the right so you have a flat surface. Cut 1/2 inch thick slices and place on the foil lined tray. You should get 2-3 steaks from one large floret. Cut the remaining florets in the same fashion. 

Gather cauliflower crumbs and place on the tray as well. 

Cover florets with olive oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake florets for 15-20 minutes, flipping the steaks halfway so they brown on both sides.

Make the topping by chopping onion finely. 

Chop olives and capers roughly.

Cut parsley into small slivers.

Place onion, olives, capers, parsley, thyme leaves, lemon zest and panko in a bowl.

Add olive oil to moisten.

Add grated cheese to bowl and stir well.

Take cauliflower out of the oven.

Add small browned cauliflower bits to the topping.

Spoon heaping mounds of topping onto the steaks. Push the topping down with your fingers.

Bake for 10 minutes till cheese has melted and the tops of the steaks are light brown.

Serve as a light meal or as a side with a protein of your choice.

A testimonial to how good these are is the empty platter. A little effort makes a very happy belly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Tomato Chutney

Cold breezes herald the end of the tomato season. Green and red ones still swing from semi dry branches. I don't want to freeze the last batch. Instead the need to make chutney arises. 

Washed and chopped, tomatoes go into a deep stainless steel saucepan. Garlic paste, sugar,  chile powder, red wine vinegar and sliced ginger are randomly scattered over the tomatoes. The saucepan is placed over high heat allowing the sugar to melt, the spices to blend and bubble. The chutney cooks over a medium flame for an hour. The flame is further lowered, letting the chutney thicken slowly. A fast boil will scorch the bottom of the pot, a lesson I've learnt repeatedly. So its slow and low! Remember, chutneys cannot be hastened along. A couple of hours will result in a dark red sauce, the tomatoes changing from vibrant red to a deep maroon, thickening to a jammy consistency. Slather some on a roast beef sandwich, spoon it over goat cheese on crostini or take dollops with our favorite chicken chops.

Makes about 3 cups

2 1/2 pounds Tomatoes
3/4 cup Sugar
3 heaped tablespoons Chile powder
3 tablespoons Garlic paste
2 inch piece Ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/2  teaspoon Kosher Salt

Chop tomatoes into medium chunks. Put them into a large stainless steel pan with deep sides.

Add sugar, chile powder, garlic paste, ginger slices, vinegar and salt. Stir to mix.

Place saucepan over high heat till sugar has melted and tomatoes are bubbling vigorously.

Lower heat to medium and cook for 1 hour stirring every 10-15 minutes. This is essential or else the tomatoes will catch or scorch at the bottom of the pan. Stirring often prevents this from happening. 

Once the sauce starts changing color lower the flame further and cook the chutney till it turns dark red. The chutney should have a thick pouring consistency, quite like a preserve or jam.

Cool for 15 minutes. 

Spoon chutney into a glass container or jar. Cool completely, close the lid and refrigerate. 

The chutney lasts for up to year refrigerated.

Making this chutney is a yearly venture. One bottle gives us enough pleasure with many meals, an old recipe, living in today's world.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Kofta Pullao

Sorry has been long time since I have touched a keyboard, or a knife for that matter. Travel will do that to you, which has been a rewarding break from the normal. So the time has come to once again record my culinary ventures. The simple kofta pullao I make is just amalgamation of two beloved recipes into one satisfying meal. 

Koftas could be made with your choice of ground meat. I use lamb for a strong flavor. Chicken, turkey and pork are just as suitable. Ginger and garlic paste, finely minced green chiles, chopped cilantro, turmeric, cumin and coriander powder make up the spices. I also add a fistful of crisp fried onions.They lend a deep caramelized back drop to the spices. And of course, an egg to bind the koftas. Gently smushed by hand, I let the meat sit for ten minutes allowing the spices to develop their flavors. Koftas are hand rolled into small lime sized balls. I shallow fry them in minimal oil till they are dark brown all over. It doesn't matter if they have not cooked all the way  as you can finish cooking them in the gravy.

Make the gravy by sauteing thinly sliced onions till golden brown. A dollop of ginger and garlic paste and sliced tomatoes should be sauteed over a high flame till you have a homogenous paste like texture. Spices like turmeric, chile powder, and garam masala add the requisite zestiness. A little whisked yogurt  thins the sauce out. Seasoned, the gravy bubbles for a few minutes before adding the koftas. They simmer, covered, for ten to fifteen minutes. Cook white rice while the koftas simmer.

Fluff the cooked rice onto a platter.  Squeeze lime juice over the koftas just before you ladle them over the rice. Ladle generous spoonfuls of kofta curry over the rice. Scatter fresh cilantro on the pullao. Make a quick salad with sliced onions, fresh tomatoes and cucumber.  Dig in!

Serves 4

1 pound ground Lamb, Beef, Pork, Chicken or Turkey
1 tablespoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon Coriander powder
2 green Chiles
1/2 cup Cilantro leaves
1/2 cup fried Onions (see Notes)
1 Egg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

2 tablespoons Canola Oil or more if needed
2 medium sized Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
1 large Tomato
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
3 heaping tablespoons Yogurt, whisked
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 Lime

3/4 cup Basmati Rice
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Cilantro, chopped for a garnish

Make koftas by placing the ground meat in a bowl.

Mince green chiles and cilantro very finely. Add them to the meat.

Crush fried onions till you have small pieces and add them to the meat.

Add turmeric, cumin. coriander powders, garlic and ginger pastes, egg and salt to meat. 

Use your hands to massage the spices into the meat. Use gloves if you don't want your hands to get sticky.

Let the meat sit for 10 minutes.

Form koftas into small lime lized balls. 

Start by heating 1 tablespoon oil in a  large nonstick saucepan. You could use the same pan to make the gravy. 

Drop koftas into the pan. Make sure you have room to turn the turn the koftas. You might have to brown the koftas in two batches, adding more oil if needed. Fry them over a medium high flame till dark brown. Drain onto paper towels.

Slice onions into thin half moons.

Slice tomato as well thinly.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the saucepan. You will have oil leftover from frying the koftas. This adds a lot of flavor to the gravy.

Saute onions till golden brown.

Add tomatoes, ginger and garlic pastes and saute over medium high heat. Stir often till the tomatoes break down and form a cohesive paste.  

Lower the heat and sprinkle turmeric, chile powder and garam masala onto onion paste.

Add yogurt to gravy, whisking as you do. 

Once the yogurt has blended in, add koftas.

Season with salt.

Cover and let koftas cook over a low flame for 10-15 minutes. Stir often. Add a little water if the koftas stick to the pan.

After its done squeeze the juice of half a lime over koftas. Mix well. Cover and keep warm.

Rinse the rice well. Place in deep saucepan that has a tight fitting lid.

Add 1 1/2 cups cold water to the rice. 

Season with salt. 

Bring the water to boil. Cover the pan.  Turn the flame to the lowest it will go. Cook rice for 14 minutes. Uncover rice and fluff with a fork.

Spoon the rice onto a platter.

Top rice with koftas and gravy. Use as much or as little as you want. Save the rest of the kofta curry for another meal. 

Garnish with cilantro and serve with a simple salad of onions, tomatoes and cucumber.


Make fried onions by sauteing thinly sliced onions in oil till they are crisp and dark brown. Or you could buy crisp fried onions at an Indian grocery store. Keep them in the fridge for best flavor.

The neighbor drops in. He is drooling at the door. I invite him in for dinner but he takes a rain check. More for us to enjoy!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Methi Mathri

As I fry the mathri, I know I will put them in an airtight box, nestle the box among clothes in my bag and ferry the bag across several states. For a birthday celebration.  My dear friends turn sixty. It is to be a gathering of families. A weekend spent recalling funny stories, regaling funnier ones and eating great food.

Mathris are small flat puris, deep fried till crisp brown. Flavored with ajwain and black pepper, my version has a twist-- fresh methi or fenugreek leaves. Plain ones dipped in a little achaar are a childhood favorite. A many flavored one is best eaten by itself. Hence these beauties. Read on. Make them. Or just enjoy the auditory aspect, if you can imagine it so!

Makes about 50

1 cup fresh Methi or Fenugreek leaves
1 1/2 cup AP Flour
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
4 tablespoons Canola Oil
1 tablespoon ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Ajwain or Carom seeds
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Wash methi and chop roughly.

Place AP flour and whole wheat flour in the bowl of a food processor.

Add methi, black pepper, ajwain and salt to flours. 

Pulse to mix.

Add about 2/3 cup water to the flour. Add water gradually pulsing often, till the dough comes together in a ball. 

Knead till smooth.

Cover dough.

Let dough rest for 1 hour.

Divide dough into 4. 

Flatten and roll out one quarter dough till 1/5 inch thick. I used a pasta attachment. 

Cut out circles using a 2 inch cookie cutter.

Prick circles with a fork so they do not puff up when fried.

Heat 2 cups oil in a wok or kadhai. A deep circular pan works best.

Test oil with a small bit of dough. It should spring to the surface immediately. 

Fry mathri for 3-4 minutes on one side till light brown, then flip and brown on the other side.

Drain on a rack.

Cool mathri and place in an airtight tin.

John and Geets plan a joint celebration. We wait in anticipation for the festivities to begin. Let the good times roll.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Grilled Clams with Lemongrass Butter

Clams on the grill? Yes, yes and another resounding yes. It is a really fast and easy way to cook them. Use big clams as the small ones may fall through the grates. Better still,  use a mesh grill grate so the clams could be lifted off easily. All you need to do is wash those babies well. Then lay them on a hot grill. Close the cover and let the clams cook. Voila, in five to seven minutes the clams open up. You can see them bubble in their native juices. Take them off the grill. You want them almost cooked, not rubbery. Anoint them with butter. In my case, I make a lemongrass and chile flavored butter. Any melted butter would work, but a flavored one will add a punch. A garnish of Thai basil  and we are ready to slurp clams!

Serves 4

18-24 Clams ( bigger clams are better)
1 Lemongrass stalk
2 Green Chiles
4-5 tablespoons Butter
Thai Basil

Remove outer layer of lemongrass, trim the ends and cut the white part into thin slices.

Cut chiles into thin rings.

Melt butter in a small pan.

Add lemongrass and chile to butter and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Strain butter into a small bowl. Discard lemongrass and chile.

Keep butter warm.

Start your gas or charcoal grill.

Wash clams well.

Lay them on the hot grill. Cover and steam for 5-7 minutes or till clams are open. 

Use tongs to take clams off the grill. Discard any clams that do not open.

Let clams cool for a few minutes before taking the shells off. Or use oven gloves to do the task.

Twist off the top shell. Watch out for steaming hot liquid in the clam shells.

Spoon melted butter over clams.

Top with Thai basil.

Take a clam and slurp it into your mouth.. Bliss!!!!

Mark Bittman writes of the simplicity of grilled clams. I'm a believer! The grill is a mess but our taste buds are delighted.