April 16, 2014

Sprucing up midweek dal with dill and tomato

Dill and tomato dal
Shubho Nababarsha! Happy Bengali new year to my friends and readers. Hope you had a great start to the new year.

Coffee grinder for spicesI think I may be the last person to discover coffee grinder for Indian spices. I finally succumbed and bought one. The first thing I made with it? Shorshe macher jhol with a fine grind of mustard and little bit of posto. The ease of cooking. I am so glad to have discovered it and am now converting my parents into using it as well.

Dill and tomato dal Lil A's new favorite food is tacos. With shredded cheese, shredded cucumber, grilled fish, we've made various combinations and he loves it. We've even sent it to school with him. One evening last week, it was taco night for us. I made some shredded chicken for adult tacos and topped it up with manchego cheese. How have you adapted some of your kids favorite with yours?

I am still boiling some dal and freezing for midweek use and was in a mood to spruce up the regular mooger dal. I had some dill leftover from the chicken rice and used it with tomatoes. The combination was just right. Dill was not overpowering, although be careful to use only leaves. The stem has a much stronger taste.

With a fresh salad, rotis and sweet potato roast, this was our weeknight dinner.

1 cup boiled moong dal
1 medium tomato - chopped
1/4 cup dill leaves - chopped
1" ginger - grated
2 green chillies
1 tbspoon oil
pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder

Boil the moong dal with 1:3 water. I use a pressure cooker and it makes it so easy to make a big batch and freeze some.

Heat oil in a saucepan and temper it with asafoetida. Then add the green chillies and the cumin seeds. Let it sizzle for a minute.

Then add the tomatoes and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder and salt and let it cook for 2-3 minutes with closed lid. Now add the dal, salt and 1 1/4 cup water and let it cook for another couple of minutes.

Dill and tomato dal
Now add the dill leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Take it off the heat and serve warm.

April 04, 2014

Playdate #5, tweaking Yottam's chicken with cardamom rice

Yottam's cardamom rice with chicken

I can't believe that it's been a year since we had the last playdate! After several cancelled plans (we both have little ones who keep us busy), we settled on a date in March. We looked through several recipes and decided on Yottam's chicken with cardamom rice.

I had forgotten how much fun it is cooking with a friend. We settled easily into our routine - chopping, chatting, and sipping a glass of wine.

The kids were absent for the first hour and it helped us prep most of the food for the evening. To go along with the rice, we had a chickpea salad, dill and cucumber raita, alphabet pasta for kids and lemon cookies for dessert.

Once the kids arrived, it turned out to be a playdate for them too! They had fun making lemon cookies and then played together after dinner. It was a fun evening overall.

We tweaked the recipe a bit adding some cumin powder, little bit of cayenne powder and adding juice of one lemon and then cooking the lemon with the rice. I added some whole cranberries and it worked well.

The rice, ah! It was so delicious. Flavorful and fragrant, it is one of the best one-pot meal I've made and tasted in a while.

Here is how we did it.

(serves 4-6 people)

 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
8 pieces chicken thigh
salt and freshly ground black pepper- according to taste
10 cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
2 long cinnamon sticks, broken in two
2/3 tspoon cumin seed powder
1/2 tspoon cayenne powder
juice of 1 lemon, reserve the rest of the lemon
2 cups basmati rice
3 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves - chopped
1/4 cup dill leaves - chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves - chopped
1/4 cup cranberries

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onion slices and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has turned a deep golden brown. Transfer the onion to a small bowl and wipe the pan.

Next add salt and pepper generously to the thighs on each side. Heat the rest of the oil and temper it with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Then add the chicken pieces on the pan.
Yottam's cardamom rice with chicken

Sear the chicken 5 minutes on each side on medium heat (they get nice and brown) and remove it from the pan. It is OK if the spices stick to the chicken.

Yottam's cardamom rice with chicken
Now add rice, caramelized onion, 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper.  Stir well and then add the seared chicken to the pan, pushing it into the rice. Then add the cumin seed powder, cranberries, lemon juice and the half lemons in the pan and stir one more time.
Pour the boiling water over the rice and chicken, cover the pan, and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes. Check the rice if it is done.

Yottam's cardamom rice with chicken
Take the pan off the heat, remove the lid and place a clean tea towel and leave the dish undisturbed for another 10 minutes. Finally, add the chopped herbs and stir it in nicely with the rice. Check salt before serving.

Yottam's cardamom rice with chicken

Serve hot or warm with a salad and/or a raita.

March 21, 2014

Paneer butter masala

The kids are beginning to play together. It is a lot of fun watching them chase each other or Tiny M laugh at Lil A's shenanigans. But there are also times when they want to play with the same toys and there is a lot of negotiation and 'taking turns' involved.

Last week, we were at a friend's house who has a daughter about the same age as Tiny M. Most of the time she and Tiny M ignore each other. This time, however, they both were hanging out in the kitchen by the fridge playing with magnets and invariably wanted the same magnet. Suddenly Lil A appeared next to them, picked out a bunch of magnets gave it to Tiny M and said, "Here, these are your magnets."

I was surprised by his possessiveness and protectiveness for his little brother. I had no idea. Reminded me of me with my little brother.

Lil A has recently started eating paneer and so I am trying new recipes with it. I made paneer butter masala for a get together a few weeks back and it came out quite good, if I can say so myself. No cream in this, almonds give it a rich taste.

The raisins provide a hint of sweetness that goes well with paneer. I even took step by step pictures. But once it was made, I forgot to take the last picture and the paneer butter masala was gone soon.

I pack paneer - cut in cubes
kasuri methi 1 tspoon
1 medium onion - chopped
1 1/2 tomatoes - chopped
1" ginger - chopped
3-4 cloves garlic - chopped
2 tspoon raisins
2 tbspoon - almonds
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon red chilli powder (you can increase according to taste)
1/2 tspoon coriander powder
1/2 tspoon kasuri methi 1 stick cinnamon
3-4 cardamoms
2-3 cloves
1/4 tspoon nutmeg powder
2 bay leaves
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
4 tbspoon oil
salt to taste

Heat 2 tbspoon oil and saute the paneer till they start to turn color. Take them out and soak them in warm water with salt. Set aside.

Paneer butter masala
Heat the rest of the oil and temper it with cumin seeds and bay leaves. They add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. Once the aroma comes, add onions, ginger and garlic.

Paneer butter masala
Saute for 5 minutes and then add tomatoes and the spices - tumeric powder and coriander powder. In the meantime, soak the almonds and raisins in warm water for 5 minutes. Then grind the onion mixture with the almonds till it become a fine paste. Heat 1 tspoon of oil and add the mixture back in the pan and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes till the mixture gets dry and starts to leave the sides.

Paneer butter masala
Add the paneer, about 1 1/2 cup of water, salt and let it cook for another 3 minutes on low heat with closed lid. Then add the kasuri methi and let it cook uncovered for a minute and then take it off the heat.
Paneer butter masala
Serve with naan, roti, pulao or white rice.

March 12, 2014

Pyanj tomato diye salmoner patla jhol (light salmon curry with onion and tomato)

Pyanj tomato diye salmon-er jhol

There are some things I get from Whole Foods (no one is paying me for this claim, it's just what I do), fish and meat being a few. They are one of the few places that carries smelt during spring, fresh from the lakes.

I am also on a lookout for good salmon on sale whenever I go. If I find one, it is a prized possession because it makes for a creamy cooked fish. My go to recipe with it is baked and broiled with some spices and it makes a great dinner or lunch.

I got one such salmon fillet when my parents were visiting last year. Usually, they make a kalia kind of curry with salmon because they find the smell strong. But this fish was so fresh that they decided to make a light jhol/curry which is usually reserved for freshest of fish.

You can easily substitute salmon with any other fresh fish - tilapia or even small fish like smelt.

With a little tomato and onion forming the base of the curry, this was a great lunch with some steamed brown rice.

(serves 4-6)
1 fillet Fish - cut into 4-5 pieces
1 large tomato - chopped
1/2 onion - chopped
2 green chilli
1 tspoon kalo jeere (nigella seeds)
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
Salt to taste
5-6 tbspoon oil
bunch of cilantro - chopped

Shallow fry the fish in 3-4 tbspoon oil. Set it aside.

Temper the rest of the oil with nigella seeds and green chilli.

Then add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, turmeric powder and cumin seed powder and let it cook with closed lid for a couple of minutes.

Then add salt and 1 cup water and let it cook for till it comes to boil. Add the fish pieces and cook on low for 3-4 minutes.
Pyanj tomato diye salmon-er jhol

Add the cilantro and take it off the heat. Let it rest for 2-3 minutes. Then serve with rice.

Serve with hot rice. 

March 05, 2014

Kale and caramelized pear salad

Kale and caramelized pear salad

It's been a rough month with the family sharing cold, coughs and ear infections.  While most of us have been managing it ok, it has been hard on Tiny M who has had multiple ear infections at the end of every cold. He goes to daycare full day and with it being so bitterly cold, the options for going out to play are few and far between. So sharing germs is easier on the baby floor where they all are probably chewing the same toy.

I went through this with Lil A a couple of years ago, but feels like I don't remember now the waking up multiple times at night to soothe a cranky baby part. Somehow it feels new again going through it with Tiny M.

Do you feel that you have forgotten some of those baby days too?

Another thing I have forgotten to do is get this recipe on my blog. We first made this salad for a friend's birthday party last October. It was a big hit and everyone asked us for the recipe. We promised to get it on the blog and then realized I didn't have any pictures. So I waited till the next time. And somehow, forgot again, and again. This time, I made a mental note and took pictures immediately.

We've had the salad with pizza, scottish fish stew, kerala chicken stew and it goes well with everything. It also makes a great weekday lunch.

Kale and caramelized pear salad
The trick is to get the kale leaves soft and marinating it in lemon juice and olive oil does the trick. The caramelized pears and the whole cranberries add the sweet kick to the salad.

Here is the recipe.

1 pack cut and clean fresh kale leaves
1 lemons
3 tbspoon olive oil
1 pear - sliced
1 1/2 tspoon brown sugar
4-5 tbspoon water
10-12 cherry tomatoes - halved
12-15 raw almonds-   roasted and sliced
12-15 whole cranberries
1/4 cup manchego cheese sliced

1 lemon
2 tbspoon olive oil
1 tspoon honey
1/4 tspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tspoon salt

Marinate the kale leaves in the juice of 1/2 lemon + pinch more and the 3 tabspoon olive oil. Mix so the leaves are coated with the juice and oil. Set it aside for good 30 - 45 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the water and sugar in a pan. Once it's boiling, cut the heat to simmer and add the pear slices. Cook on low heat till the pear slices are caramelized in the sugar.  Take it off the heat and cool.

In the same pan, roast the almonds on low heat for 5-6 minutes and then slice it. Set it aside.

Slice the manchego cheese and halve the cherry tomatoes.

The rest is getting it all together.

After 30-45 minutes, layer the kale leaves with pears, cranberries, tomatoes, and almonds. Top it with manchego cheese.

Kale and caramelized pear salad
Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients and then adding it right before serving.

February 20, 2014

Shakshuka eggs with an Indian twist

Yottam's shakshuka eggs

I didn't even know what shakshuka meant till I opened Yottam Ottolenghi's book Plenty and found the recipe. Immediately, the picture arrested me. Of course we had to make it and once we did, shakshuka become a favorite in our  house and among our friends.

We've made it again and again tweaking it just a little every time, adding one vegetable, or a spice till it was perfect for sharing. 

Although there are several versions of this North African dish, the most common recipe involves eggs that are softly cooked in a hot skillet of spiced tomato and vegetable sauce. And the interesting combination of seasoning in which the eggs are cooked has stayed in our memory ever since we made it first. I mean, I had no idea that just adding saffron to the eggs would make such and interesting flavor!

We've tweaked the original recipe from Yottam a little bit adding an Indian flavor to the North African dish and hope that it will become a favorite in your kitchen too.

(adapted from Yottam's Plenty, serves 4-6)

1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
3-4 tbspoon olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
1 red and 1yellow peppers, cut into thin strips
bunch of greens
1/2  tspoon brown sugar
¼ tspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ tspoon cumin seed powder
¼ tspoon turmeric powder
2  bay leaves
4-5 curry leaves
bunch of chopped coriander and  parsley
2  ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ tin chopped tomatoes
good couple of pinches of saffron threads
1  cayenne pepper
1/4 cup water
6 eggs
salt to taste
In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on a high heat for 2 minutes then grind them to a powder. Set aside

Add the oil and then temper it with bay leaves and curry leaves. Then add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the peppers, turmeric powder sugar and half of the cilantro and parsley mix and cook for another 5 minutes.

Then, add the tomatoes, saffron, cumin seed powder, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 8-11 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a gravy consistency.

Yottam's shakshuka eggs
This mix can also be prepared in advance and the eggs can be added the day of the brunch/breakfast.

Now make gaps in the pepper mix and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a gentle heat for another 8-10 minutes, or till the eggs have set. 
Yottam's shakshuka eggs
Sprinkle with leftover cilantro and parsley mix and serve with chunky bread.

February 11, 2014

Sriracha, onion and maple syrup chicken

Sometimes, I get stuck in one way of cooking and sometimes it takes a meal outside to break out of that rut. I make tandoori chicken and Lil A likes it, so I keep making it the same way again and again. Just when I was getting a little bored of it, I had chicken at a friend's place recently with some harissa and lemon juice. That's what I needed to jolt me out of the routine! I started rethinking my chicken recipe too.

For the last couple of weeks I have been experimenting with chicken and spices and now I think it is ready to share. With spice, color and a hint of sweet, this chicken recipe covers it all. The best thing is, this recipe is quite flexible. You can change it as you want. No yogurt, add some lemon juice instead. I've done it and it has worked.

In kids news, Tiny M is walking around nowadays. He stumbles and falls, but always manages to pick up and start again. He loves balls and hats and will go after them with a determination that's funny and endearing.

Lil A is starting to read. He can read start books with three or four words. But, sometimes he just makes up a word. What are some of the books your child liked when they were starting to read?

Coming back to the recipe, here is how I did it.

8-10 pieces of chicken
1/4 cup yogurt
2 tbspoon maple syrup
1 1/2 tspoon sriracha sauce
1/2 small onion chopped
1 tbspoon cilantro stems chopped
1/2 tspoon paprika powder
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
1 tbspoon oil
salt to taste

Sriracha, onion, maple syrup chicken
Mix all the spices, onion and cilantro stems in the yogurt.

Sriracha, onion, maple syrup chicken
Add the chicken pieces and let it marinate for 4-5 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 deg F. Bake the chicken for 13 minutes and then switch the oven to broil.

Broil the chicken for another 12 minutes, turning them over at mid point.

Sriracha, onion, maple syrup chicken
Spoon all the sauce in the tray over the chicken pieces and serve warm. Goes very well with some naan and even makes a great sandwich.

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 02, 2014

Orange and lemon birthday cake for 4th birthday

Orange and lemon cake

This year the cold has been relentless and so when it was time to bake a birthday cake for Lil A's 4th birthday, I had citrus on my mind. Not just little but a blast of citrus that will remind us of sunny days and warm summer.

There has been a lot of baking. First, Lil A took cupcakes to school for his friends. I baked about 40 cupcakes after the little ones had gone to bed, but I don't have any pictures. Their school does not allow any toppings, so it was plain vanilla cupcakes and I sent sprinkles on the side for anyone who wanted it. Lil A tells me that everyone used it.

After the cupcakes, I made a cake for family dinner. I adapted the recipe by using whole wheat flour, reducing an egg and some butter. The end result was delicious.

Lil A wanted red frosting. I put some food color in the whipped cream, but it came out pink. Thankfully, Lil A was distracted enough with his cousins and gifts that he didn't mind the pink cake!

(adapted from technicolor kitchen recipe)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tspoon baking powder
1/2 tspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
grated zest from 1 lemon
grated zest from 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup milk (preferably whole)
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
11/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Whipped cream:
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
6-8 red food color

Chocolate jungle:
3 tbspoon chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F, butter and flour 2 medium cake pans and set it aside.

Sift together whole-wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then add the orange and lemon zests and mix it well. Set aside.
Orange and lemon cake

Now combine the butter and sugar and mix for 2 to 3 minutes till the color changes and it starts to appear fluffy.
Orange and lemon cake
Add the eggs to the mixture, one at a time. Make sure that you scrape the sides after each egg.

Now add the orange juice and the lemon juice together. Add it gently to the milk.

Now start adding the dry ingredients alternating it with the milk/juice mixture. Do it in three additions.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 40-45 minutes till the toothpick comes out clean.

Once done, remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely.

Now make the whipping cream by whipping all the ingredients together till the soft peaks form.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (over hot water). Once melted, add it in a sandwich bag and lace it on a parchment paper. Take it out, once dry.

Orange and lemon cake
Add one of the cake, add whipping cream and then add the other cake on top. Cover the cake completely with whipping cream and smooth out the edges.

Orange and lemon cake
Take the chocolate jungle and add it around the cake gently. Add the number with sprinkles. Keep it in the fridge till it's ready to be served.

Here are the previous birthday cakes:
1. Year 1: Chocolate and banana birthday cake
2. Year 2: Strawberry birthday cake
3. Year 3: Vanilla cupcakes


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