Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cheese n herb bread...

Whenever I want to unwind or relax, I bake. Measuring all the ingredients, mixing them and finally when the aroma of the freshly baked bread or cake or cookies fills the room it feels magical. Research says baking satisfies our creative needs as well as all the processes involved in baking soothes our senses and releases some of our tension. For me baking a loaf of bread is the best cure for my blues.

Many are intimidated by baking bread at home. But in fact baking bread at home is much cheaper and very easy. Like anything you haven't tried before baking bread may sound daunting. But once you overcome the first barrier there is no looking back. I started 5 years ago and I bake at least one bread a week.

This time I made a cheese and herb bread. I used mild cheddar, mixed herbs and also chili flakes to flavor the bread. 

Things needed to make cheese and herb bread:

  • All purpose flour: 3 cups
  • Active dry yeast: 2 and 1/4 tsp
  • Sugar: 1 tsp
  • Water: 1 cup + 1/4 cup
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Cheddar cheese (grated): 1 cup
  • Mixed dried herbs: 2 tbsp
  • Chili flakes: 1 tbsp
  • Garlic powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Olive oil: 3-4 tbsp

Steps of making cheese and herb bread:

1. Proof yeast. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of the stand mixer, mix yeast, 1/4 cup warm water and sugar, cover and wait for 10 min, till the yeast bubbles up. Do not use hot water, the water should be just warm to touch (110 F/43 C). 

2. Add two cups of flour to the proofed yeast, rest of the water, salt, herb, chili flakes, oil and mix with a spatula. If you are using a stand mixer, use the dough hook and mix the dough on low speed (3-4). Gradually add rest of the flour and the grated cheese, keep mixing.

3. If using stand mixer, knead the dough over high speed (6) for 5-6 min. If kneading with hand, dust the working surface with flour and knead the dough for 10 min, stretch the dough away from you, fold, turn and repeat the steps. For reference you can check my other bread recipes, focaccia, braided bread 

4. Grease a large bowl with oil, put the dough in it, cover and keep in a warm place. Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours.

5. Lightly dust the working surface with flour, plop the dough on it. With a gentle hand make a rough rectangle of 9 by 12 inches. Now fold the bottom third up, just like we fold a letter, then fold the top third down so it overlaps the other part, now pinch to seal the top and bottom layers and also the sides, now it should be a rectangle of 9 by 4 inches. Don't worry if the shape is not perfect, make sure you pinch all the sides to seal them properly. Before folding the dough I also added little more grated cheese, this is optional.

6. Put the dough in a greased 9 by 5 inch loaf pan. Cover, and let the dough rise for 30 min. When you put the dough in the pan it may look uneven but after the rise it will fill the pan.

7. While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated and bake for 25-30 min. You can sprinkle more cheese on top just before putting the dough into the oven.

8. Take out the dough from the pan carefully and let it cool down on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy your bread.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016


Now a days avocado is very popular among health conscious people. I was first introduced to this nutritious fruit during my stay in Texas. I still remember how unimpressive the green mash looked, when the restaurant guy placed a bowl of guacamole, but the taste was exactly the opposite. After coming back home I read a lot about avocado and came to know how good it is for our health.

Avocado can be consumed in many different ways, the easiest one is to make a bowl of guacamole. Those who are frequent to Mexican restaurants must be familiar with guacamole. It is nothing but mashed ripe avocado with seasonings. The best part of guacamole is one does not need to cook anything. This no cook super food can be ready in a jiffy. I use tabasco sauce to bring the heat to the guacamole, but green chilies or jalapenos can be also added instead. Guacamole can be served with tortilla chips as dip, or as sandwich spread. It is advisable to make guacamole fresh, as avocado when comes in contact to air turns dull brown in color. If you need to store excess guacamole, cover the surface with a cling film and store in the refrigerator.

The most difficult thing about avocado is to buy a good one.  I guess you know what I'm saying, standing in front of the avocado filled basket in a market and judging which one is perfectly ripe is not easy. The other problem one may face is during cutting this fruit, but that will be only for the first time. And in this age of google and youtube you can search and do almost anything by yourself without asking for help. After all cooking is not rocket science, all you need is a little love.

Unfortunately I do not get good quality avocado in Kolkata. Even if they are available,  the price is exorbitantly high. I really miss avocados. The images here are from a long pending draft that I prepared years back. 

Things needed to make guacamole:

  • Avocado (preferably hass avocado): 2
  • Onion (finely chopped): 2 tbsp
  • Garlic powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Honey: 1-2 tbsp
  • Tabasco: 1-2 tsp
  • Lime juice: 1 tsp
  • Fresh coriander: 2-3 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper powder: a pinch

Steps of making guacamole:

1. Cut the avocado lengthwise, twist to open the fruit. Discard the brown seed. With the help of a spoon take out the flesh. Mash the green flesh with a forck.

2. Add all the other ingredients, mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, sweetness accordingly. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

No recipe chicken curry...

Chicken curry is the most frequently cooked dish in my kitchen. Mostly I follow the recipe I have learnt from my mom. Sometimes I try my hand on restaurant style dishes. But last Sunday I was not in a mood to follow any recipes, that's the reason I call it a 'no recipe' chicken curry. I just kept on cooking from my mind. I slow cooked the chicken and did not add any extra water. I let the chicken cook in it's own water and at the end added a handful of fresh coriander to give the dish a special touch. The end result was a scrumptious bowl of chicken curry, loved by all in my family. So before I forget what I put in that curry let me share it with you all.

Things needed to make the chicken curry:

  • Chicken on bones ( a whole chicken cut into 12-14 pieces)
  • Onion (very thinly sliced): 2 cups
  • Garlic: 7-8 cloves
  • Tomato: 1 (large)
  • Ginger (grated): 2 tbsp
  • Green chili: 2-3
  • Green cardamom: 2-3
  • Cinnamon: 1 stick
  • Cloves: 4-5
  • Shah jeera or Black Cumin: 1 tsp
  • Black peppercorns: 10-12
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1tsp
  • Cumin powder: 2tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1tsp
  • Coriander leaves: 1/2 cup
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar: 1 tsp
  • Potato: cubed and fried (optional)
  • Mustard oil or olive oil to cook

Steps of making the chicken curry:

1. Clean and wash the chicken pieces.

2. Make a paste of garlic, ginger, tomato and green chili, keep aside.

3. In a large heavy bottom pan or kadhai heat 3 table spoons of oil. I used mustard oil, that gives a different taste to the dish. Olive oil can also be used. When the oil is hot add the sugar and let it caramelize. This will give the curry a nice color.

4. Add the whole spices, as the cloves splutter add thinly sliced onion. Fry the onion till brown.

5. Add the chicken pieces, cook the chicken with the onion over high heat for 7-8 min. Keep turning the chicken pieces.

6. Reduce heat add the ginger-garlic-tomato paste. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 min.

7. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, kashmiri red chili powder, salt, mix well. Cover and cook over low medium heat for 40-45 min. Keep stirring in between. The chicken will cook in it's own water. I did not add any extra water. Check the salt, adjust accordingly. If you like your curry to be spicy add stilted green chilies. Add garam masala powder and chopped fresh coriander. Serve hot with rice or roti.

Note: If you want to add potato to this curry, peel and cube the potato and fry them. Add the fried potato pieces 10 min before the curry is done.

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Gajar halwa...

Hope you all have started the new year with a bang. Though I know its  a week late, but it's never late to wish you all a very happy new year.

It's the first post of this year and I think it's apt to begin with a sweet note. Hope this year I will be more regular on  putting up blog updates and sharing delicious recipes with you all.

Today I'm sharing a very popular dessert recipe, gajar halwa or carrot halwa, a famous sweet dish from North India. I make this very often at home, specially during winter when juicy red carrots are in season. The recipe is simple and requires only few ingredients. I use milk powder or grated mawa (unsweetened solidified milk) whichever available with me at the end to give the halwa a rich texture, this step though is optional.

Things needed to make Gajar Halwa:

(serves 2-3)
  • Carrots (grated): 2 cups
  • Whole milk: 1 and 1/2 cup
  • Ghee: 1 tbsp
  • Green cardamom: 2-3
  • Sugar: 6-8 tbsp
  • Milk powder: 3 tbsp
  • Raisins: 15-20 (soaked in water)
  • Almonds blanched and thinly sliced: 2 tbsp
  • Pistachio blanched and thinly sliced: 1 tbsp

Steps of making Gajar Halwa:

1. Clean and wash the carrots. Peel the carrots and grate.

2. In a heavy bottom pan heat ghee, when hot add crushed green cardamoms. Cook for 1 min. Add the grated carrot. Mix well, cook over medium heat for 3-4 min, keep stirring.

3. Add warm milk and cook till the milk is almost dry. Keep stirring in between. Add sugar, start with 6 tablespoons of sugar, add more depending on your taste.

4. Add the milk powder. You can add unsweetened mawa (solidified milk) instead of milk powder. Mix well. Cook till the mixture dries, keep stirring. Add the sliced nuts and raisins.

5. Transfer to serving bowl, garnish with almonds and pistachio. This can be serve either hot or cold. I prefer mine hot.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Basil pesto...

Today I'm posting a very basic recipe, recipe for a pesto. The word pesto means something made by crushing or pounding. To many pesto is synonymous to basil pesto, but it can be any herb or ingredient.The most common known recipe for basil pesto involves Italian basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and salt. But thousands variations are there. Like I have used walnuts instead of pine nuts, the simple reason being pine nuts are very expensive and also difficult to find where I live. One can replace basil with spinach or coriander or some other green fresh herb. So basically it is a combination of green herb, nuts, olive oil, salt and cheese. Pesto is generally used as sauce for pasta. It can also be used as spread for sandwich, or as pizza sauce or as dip. I do love to have a spoonful of freshly made pesto, just like that.

Traditionally morter and pastle is used to make pesto. I have used a food processor to do the same. The basil I have used is homegrown. It is very easy to grow basil in Indian climate.

Things needed to make Basil Walnut Pesto:

  • Basil: 4 cups
  • Walnut: 1/2 cup
  • Garlic: 2-3 cloves
  • Parmesan cheese: 1/2 cup
  • Extra virgin olive oil: 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup
  • Salt to taste

Steps of making Basil Walnut Pesto:

1. In a food processor add walnut, garlic, cheese and salt, using the pulse mode finely chop all the ingredients. Gradually add the basil and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend until a smooth paste is formed.

2. With the blender running add the olive oil. Blend well so the olive oil emulsifies well with the paste. Add less olive oil if you are going to use the pesto for sandwich spread. Add more olive oil if you are going to use it as paste sauce.

3. Taste the pesto, add salt or cheese accordingly.

4. Pesto turns dark and takes a brown color if exposed to air. So immediately transfer to a sterilized glass jar, pour olive oil to cover the top. Close the jar and store in refrigerator for 7-8 days. Pesto can be frozen and store for months. I prefer to make fresh pesto as needed.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Asian style meatballs...

The list of favorite food in my family is quite long. It extends from simple humble alu sedho (mashed potato) bhat (rice) to mutton biryani. Every now and then I get requests to prepare something special for lunch or dinner. The requests mostly come from the little one in my house. I respect my daughter's food preferences and try to introduce her with variety of food. Thankfully she loves to try new food. And whenever I cook up something new or different from the usual she gladly accepts to play the part of the food critic. I find it amusing the way she tastes the first bite from her plate or licks the gravy or chew few little grains of rice. I think she is profoundly influenced by all the judges of cookery shows on TV, specially Masterchef. Fortunately she is a very lenient judge, most of the time I pass with flying colors with a request to make that particular dish again for her. She is the most important reason that motivates me to create something new in my kitchen.

So on a note to impress her while preparing some meatballs to go with the pasta, I thought to give it an Asian twist. Instead of basil, cheese etc I used soy sauce, ginger, garlic to flavor the meatballs and it came out so good and replaced pasta with fried rice. I shallow fried the meatballs. The meatballs can be baked in oven or deep fried, as per choice. I glazed the meatballs with sweet and spicy combination of sriracha, honey and soy sauce. The result was finger licking good.

The ingredients for this recipe are easily available. I used minced chicken to make the meatballs, you can use any other meat of your choice. Depending on one's taste the amount of red chili sauce and honey can be altered. If you like the meatballs to be very spicy add chopped green chilies or red chili flakes to it. These delicious meatballs can be served either as a starter or a side dish.

Things needed to make Asian Style Meatballs:

(Serves 3-4)

For the meatballs:

  • Minced chicken: 300 gm
  • Onion (very finely chopped): 4 tbsp
  • Ginger (grated): 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic (minced): 1 tbsp
  • Sesame oil: 1 tbsp
  • Soy sauce: 1 tbsp
  • Egg: 1
  • Corn starch: 2-3 tbsp
  • Black pepper powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste

For the glaze:

  • Soy sauce: 3 tbsp
  • Sriracha or red chili sauce: 2 tbsp
  • Honey: 2 tbsp
  • Rice wine vinegar: 1 tbsp
  • Ginger (juice): 1/2 tsp [grate the ginger and squeeze the juice out] 
  • Garlic (grated): 2 tsp
  • Black pepper powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Water: 1/2 cup
  • Corn starch: 3-4 tsp
  • Salt to taste

Other ingrdients:

  • Vegetable oil: 3-4 tbsp
  • Sesame seeds and spring onion to garnish

Steps of making Asian Style Meatballs:

1. In a bowl take all the ingredients for meatballs, mix well and make 14 equal size balls. 

2. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a pan, when the oil is hot shallow fry the meatballs till nicely brown from all sides. Take out the meatballs and keep aside.

3. Mix all the ingredients for the glaze in a cup. Taste and adjust salt, honey and chili sauce accordingly.

4. Wipe off excess oil from the pan. Add 1 teaspoon of oil in the pan, when the oil is hot pour the glaze mix and let it boil. As it starts to boil add the meatballs, cook over medium heat and keep coating the meatballs with the glaze.

5. Transfer into a serving plate or bowl, garnish with sesame seeds and chopped green part of the spring onion. Serve hot. Pour the excess glaze in a small bowl and serve it as dipping sauce.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Pan grilled paneer...

Being a non-vegetarian, I always find it difficult to think of a vegetarian starter. But while planning a party one needs to consider the food preference of all the guests and I am sure, we all have friends who are strictly vegetarian. So I thought I would give it a try and prepare a simple quick vegetarian dish that can win everyone's heart.

It's pan grilled paneer. I marinated the paneer cubes with a spicy, tangy and sweet combination. I commonly use the same marination to grill prawns too. For a change I tried it with paneer and it came out really good. I used a cast iron griddle pan to grill the paneer, but you can use any heavy bottom flat pan (tawa). The griddle gives a nice grill marks on the paneer, if you are using a flat pan you won't get the grill marks but it won't affect the taste for sure.

I used sriracha, honey, garlic, lime juice and freshly chopped coriander leaves to marinate the paneer cubes. Sriracha is a red chili sauce available easily in any supermarket. If you don't have sriracha at home, use red chili powder mixed with a little vinegar.

Ingredients for Pan Grilled Paneer:

  • Paneer (cut into rectangles or cubes): 250 gms
  • Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

For marination:

  • Sriracha sauce: 3 tbsp
  • Honey: 2 tbsp
  • Lime juice: 1 tbsp
  • Garlic (minced): 2 tbsp
  • Fresh coriander (finely chopped): 2 tbsp
  • Extra virgin olive oil: 2 tbsp
  • Salt to taste

Steps of making Pan Grilled Paneer:

1. In a bowl mix all the ingredients for marination, mix well.

2. Cut paneer into rectangles or cubes or any other shape of your choice.

3. Marinate the paneer cubes in the marinade for 15 min to 1 hr.

4. Put the paneer pieces into wooden skewers. The paneer can be cooked without the skewers also.

5. Heat a pan, brush oil on the pan, when the pan is hot place the marinated paneer and cook till the surface takes nice color.

6. Serve immediately with onion rings and lime wedges. Toasted sesame seeds can be used as garnish.

One can try this same recipe with broccoli or tofu.

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