Saturday, June 27, 2015

Coconut Chutney...

Idli, dosa, uttapam are few items I often make for breakfast and my daughter's lunch box. To accompany the idli, dosa or uttapam my little one makes sure that I make some coconut chutney. Everyone in my family loves this coconut chutney. Easy to make, no cook, a complete hassle free delicacy.

The recipe I follow to make this coconut chutney is passed on from a good friend of my husband. My husband's friend Annu is from Kerala. I have heard so many stories of their college days, how the boys used to devour dosa and chutney from her lunch box and how skillful is A's mom at cooking finger licking food, specially dosa and idlis at home. Once I was making dosa and my husband told me about this recipe to make coconut chutney of her friend's. A e-mailed us the special heirloom recipe, and from then on I'm a big fan of this recipe. It's been more than ten years and I'm still following exactly the same recipe while making coconut chutney. So here it's for you all, a simple coconut chutney to go with dosa or idli. It also works great in between two slices of breads.

It takes hardly 10 minutes to make the chutney, the time consuming part is to scrape the coconut. To reduce the work load frozen grated coconut can be used, but I will recommend of using fresh coconut. To scrape the coconut I used my traditional Bengali coconut scraper (Narkel kuruni). I have grown seeing my mother, aunts using this and me too use this on regularly.

Ingredients for this chutney are very simple and easily available. The curry leaves are home-grown :) In many recipes, specially the restaurant style, chana dal (bengal gram) is added to this chutney, but I prefer without it. The process is also as easy as it could be, put all the ingredients in a grinder and make a smooth paste, and you are done.

Things needed to make Coconut Chutney:

  • Fresh coconut (scraped): 1 cup
  • Onion (diced): 1 tbsp
  • Ginger (chopped): 1 tsp
  • Yogurt: 2 tbsp
  • Curry leaves: 12-14
  • Green chilies: 2-3
  • Salt to taste
  • Water to grind
  • Vegetable oil: 1 tbsp
  • Brown mustard and curry leaves for tempering

Steps of making Coconut Chutney:

1. Take all the ingredients except the brown mustard and curry leaves for tempering, put them in a grinder and make a smooth paste. Pour the chutney in a bowl.

2. In a pan heat oil, when hot add brown mustard and curry leaves, as it splatters switch off heat. Pour the oil and the seeds and the leaves over the chutney. Store chutney in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Homemade Flour Tortilla...

I have developed a taste for Mexican food during my four year stay in Texas. I still remember the very first fajita I had and it was love at first bite. Gradually I learnt different Mexican recipes and tried them in my kitchen. Tortilla is an essential part of Mexican food. It is a flat thin and round bread, very similar to our Indian roti or chapati. Tortillas can be made from both corn flour and wheat flour.

The history of tortilla dates back to 10,000 BC. Tortillas were an important part of the Aztec diet. When Spanish people came to Mexico during 1519, they found this round bread made from maize, they named it tortilla(little round bread). Traditionally a special kind of corn flour (masa) is used to make tortillas. With the influence of the Europeans wheat flour is also used to make tortillas and are very popular. Tortillas can be of different sizes, ranging from a diameter of 6 inches to 30 inches depending on the dish for which it is intended. Tortilla is a basic building block of several delicious dishes, taco, burrito, tortilla chips, quesadilla are few to name.

Making tortilla at home is very easy. It needs only few ingredients, flour, salt, baking powder, oil and water. Traditionally vegetable lard is used to make tortillas, but at home I use olive oil. You can use vegetable oil also. The steps are very simple, I have tried explain it with pics. Start with mixing the flour, salt and baking powder, then add the olive oil and mix well with the flour mixture.

Then gradually add water and pile up into a dough. Make sure the water is warm, not hot. I usually warm the water in microwave oven for 12 sec. Make a round smooth dough.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 min. After 15 min, knead the dough lightly and make 12 equal sized dough balls.

Dust the working surface with little flour and roll the dough into a 6 inch round thin flat disc. I mostly fail to make a perfect round, never mind.

Preheat a flat pan or skillet, place the rolled tortilla into the hot skillet and cook till bubbles start to appear.

Flip the tortilla and cook till golden brown spots appear. Remove from the skillet and store in a closed container.

Your tortillas are ready, use them to make a simple wrap or as a thin crust pizza base or for something Mexican like taco, burrito etc, options are endless.

Things needed to make Flour Tortilla:

(Yields 12 tortillas)
  • All purpose flour: 2 cups
  • Baking powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Olive oil: 3 tbsp
  • Warm water: 2/3 cup
  • Flour to dust

Steps of Making Flour Torlilla:

1. In a bowl take flour, salt and baking powder, mix well. Add oil and mix thoroughly to well incorporate with the flour.

2. Gradually add warm water and make a soft dough. Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 min.

3. After 15 min, knead the dough lightly and make 12 dough balls.

4. Dust the working surface with little flour and with the help of a rolling pin, roll each dough ball into flat rounds (about 6 inch in diameter).

5. Preheat a heavy bottom flat pan or skillet over medium high heat, place the rolled tortilla into the pan, wait till bubbles starts to form. Flip and cook till small golden brown spots appear. Remove from the skillet and store in a container with lid. Continue with other dough balls.

6. To store the tortilla, let them cool down completely, put them in a zip-lock bag and store in refrigerator.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mango Relish...

I know it seems like ages since I  last posted something on my blog. Our move from US to India  and the whole bit about getting things  back on the groove was one of the reason why I went into this hibernating mode. Thanks to my well wishers and friends who mailed or messaged me to inquire my well being and kept my morale up.
Yes, I am back and thanks to my in-laws for  being the trigger to get things moving again by sending those bagful of home grown mangoes. It forced me to think and find some way to preserve them before they are wasted.

Mangoes are the most awaited fruit during summer. There is hardly anybody, who doesn't like this juicy fruit. Moreover the mangoes I get here in India from my in law's orchard are best possible one can get, no pesticides, no artificial ripening agents.  For me nothing compares to how a juicy, sweet mango tastes.

Being seasonal,  summer time  means  waiting for mangoes to hit the market. Luckily this year the crop has been better. Even after having them at breakfast, as dessert after lunch, or making a glass full of chilled mango lassi were not enough to finish them all. So I thought of making a relish from them. This relish can be used in thousands different ways, as a spread for your sandwiches or to dip some crunchy nuggets or as a glaze while grilling meat and seafood.

The ingredients are simple and easily available. Before you start, taste the mangoes first, if they are super sweet like the ones I used, then you do not need to add any sweetening agent. As the souring agent you can use either vinegar or lime juice, as per your choice. I added fresh red chilies to spice up the relish, dry red chilies or red chili flakes are also good. At the end I added a little Indian touch to the relish, adding some roasted and coarsely ground cumin seed.

For a change I used a traditional Bengali mortar pestle (shil-nora) to coarsely ground the rosated cumin seeds. Those who haven't seen a shil-nora, here is an image for you. It's a flat stone(shil) where the things need to grind are kept and small cylindrical stone piece(nora) is used to grind.

Things needed to make the Mango Relish:

  • Sweet mango (cut into small cubes): 2 cups
  • Onion (chopped): 2 tbsp
  • Ginger (julienned): 1 tsp
  • Red chilies: 1
  • Cumin Seeds (roasted and coarsely ground): 1 tsp
  • Vinegar or Lime juice
  • Salt: 1/2 tsp
  • Vegetable oil : 1 tbsp

Steps of making the Mango Relish:

1. Wash the mangoes well. Peel and cut them into small cubes. Discard the seed.

2. Roughly chop the onion. Peel the ginger and cut into julienne. Slit the red chili and fine chop. If you need the relish to  be less spicy, discard the seeds of the chili. The one I used were super hot. If you can't get your hands on fresh red chilies, use dry red chilies or chili flakes.

3. In a pan, dry roast the cumin seeds till it releases a nice aroma. Let it cool down and grind the roasted cumin seeds coarsely.

4. In a pan, heat oil. I used vegetable oil as it's neutral in flavor. You can use olive oil or mustard oil if you like to.

5. When the oil is hot, add the ginger and cook for 1 min. Add the chopped onion and cook till a little soft.

6. Add the cubed mangoes, salt and vinegar or lime juice(whichever you are using). The amount of vinegar or lime juice depends on the sweetness of the mango. Adjust by tasting. And of course if you are using lime juice it will also bring a nice fresh flavor to the relish.

7. Cover and cook for 15-20 min. Smash the mangoes with the back of your ladle, add the red chilies. Mix well. Cover and cook for 5-6 min. I did not add any sugar or honey, as the mangoes were very sweet. If you find the mangoes are not that sweet then add sugar or honey to balance the taste.

8. Add the freshly ground cumin seeds, mix well. Switch off the heat. Let the relish cool down. Pour it in a clean dry glass jar with a tight lid, store in the refrigerator.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chocolate cake with ganache..

Everyday is a happy day. The white clouds on a bright blue sky shaped like a big fat bear, the first rain after a hot summer day, the smell of new books, smile on your baby's face, or listening to your favorite singer and sipping a cup of tea after a hard day from work.... these are tiny little jewels around us, brightening up every single moment of our life. But unfortunately most of the time we are too busy complaining about lack of happiness than look around us and feel it. We fail to notice the happiness within us, the simple joy celebrating the spirit of life. Look at yourself in the mirror, smile at yourself and say 'I'm happy'. You don't need anything special to be happy, as you yourself is so special.

Yes I'm happy, rather very happy. Why? Looking outside to the bright sunny day and spending great spring break time with my little one and there are many more reasons, with a cherry on top, a home baked moist yummy chocolate cake...what else do you need to be happy?

Good food and happiness are such a great pair, they always come together, at least to me. Today it's a simple chocolate cake, with some finger licking ganache.

There is nothing new about a chocolate cake recipe. Here I'm sharing a recipe I follow, after all these years of cake baking, I found this method very easy and suitable for a beginner. So if it's your first chocolate cake don't worry this is going to be a perfect one.

I used an electric hand mixer to make the batter. You can use a stand mixer too. Use measuring cups, and spoons to get a perfect result. Most of the beginners get confused with salted and unsalted butter. You can use either of them, if you are using salted butter then do not add extra salt to the batter, where as if you are using unsalted variety then you need to add salt to the cake batter. Start with preparing the cake pan, to ensure the cake comes out smoothly after baking. To prepare a pan, use a clean dry cake pan. Grease the pan with oil or butter and dust the pan with flour. You can also line the pan with parchment paper. Always pre-heat the oven to the temperature mentioned in the recipe. Creaming the butter and sugar is very important. In this recipe I have used brown sugar to bring dark rich color to my cake, if you don't find brown sugar then replace it with white sugar. I used both cocoa and coffee to my chocolate cake and used hot water (not boiling) to enhance the flavor of cocoa and coffee. If you don't like the flavor of coffee then you can skip it. Use electric hand mixer or stand mixer for adding the liquid ingredients, while it comes to flour and other dry ingredient, use a spatula and gently fold in to the rest of the batter. Do not over bake, check with a skewer or knife. A fully done cake will start to release from the sides, and if you press the cake on the top it will spring back and of course your kitchen will be filled with the aroma of freshly baked cake.

I added ganache to glaze the cake. Ganache is a glaze or icing or filling for cake, made using only two ingredients, cream and chocolate. Heat the cream, add chopped chocolate, mix and you are ready with ganache.

Depending on how thick or thin you need the ganache to be the ratio of cream and chocolate changes. If you need to use the ganache as filling of the cake, then you need a thicker ganache, in that case the amount of chocolate increases. To glaze or to ice a cake you need thinner ganache, so add more cream. I used semi sweet chocolate chips to make the ganache. The ganache I made this time, I used equal amount of chocolate and cream. You can use any kind of chocolate of your choice, make sure you have chopped the chocolate into small pieces before adding it to the cream. And do not boil the cream, just heat the cream over low heat and add the chocolate pieces and stir, the chocolate will melt in it. You can flavor the ganache with coffee, or wine or other liquor of your choice. To glaze the cake with ganache, place the cake on wire rack and place a cookie sheet under it, and pour the ganache and give time to set.

Things needed to make chocolate cake:

  • Flour: 1 and 1/3 cup
  • Cocoa powder: 1/3 cup
  • Baking powder: 1 tsp
  • Baking soda: 1 tsp
  • Salt: 1 tsp*
  • Brown Sugar: 1 and 1/3 cup
  • Unsalted butter: 1/2 cup (113 gm)
  • Eggs: 3
  • Vanilla extract: 1 tsp
  • Hot water: 1/2 cup
  • Coffee: 2 tsp
(*If you are using salted butter do not need to add extra salt)

Things needed to make the ganache:

  • Fresh cream: 1 cup
  • Semi sweet chocolate or chopped chocolate: 1 cup

Steps of making The chocolate cake:

1. Prepare a 9 inch bundt pan or a 9 inch circular or square pan, whichever you like. To prepare the pan grease the pan with butter or oil, sprinkle flour, shake the pan to evenly distribute the flour on the pan. You can grease the pan and line the pan with parchment paper.

2. Pre heat oven to 375 F. Place the rack in the middle of the oven. 

3. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, gently mix with a wire whisk and keep aside.

4. Cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs one at time, beat well. Scrape the sides as needed.

5. Add vanilla extract, mix well.

6. Mix coffee with hot water. 

7. Add 1/3 of the flour mix and gently fold in with a spatula. Add half of the coffee, mix gently. Keep adding flour and coffee alternating with each other, and mix gently.

8. Pour the batter on the prepared pan and bake for 30 min in the pre-heated oven. To know whether the cake is done, insert a bamboo skewer at the center, it will come clean. If you press the top of the cake it will spring back and the cake will start to leave the sides of the pan. Take out the cake from the pan and let it cool down on a wire rack.

Steps of making the ganache:

1. Heat the cream on a heavy bottom pan, over medium heat. Do not boil the cream. Switch off heat. Add chocolate, mix with a wire whisk. You can add liquor of our choice or coffee to the ganache.

2. Let the cake cool down on a wire rack. Place a cookie sheet under the wire rack, pour ganache on the cake. Give time to set the ganache. Garnish the cake as you like. I kept it simple, added grated white chocolate.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Achari aloo...

Do you like potatoes? For me it's one of the must vegetable. I love it in all different ways, from fried to boiled, mashed to curried. When it comes to Indian cooking one can find generous use of potatoes, though potatoes are not indigenous to India. Potato came to India during the colonial period, through the Portuguese in the early 17th century.

I can't think of my mutton or chicken curries without potatoes, or who can refuse some steaming hot Samosas stuffed with potato. So it is, the love for potato, whatever may be the consequences (read calories).

Today I made a dry potato curry with a spicy and tangy twist, Achari Aloo, pickle flavored potato curry. The dish gets the pickle flavor from the dry spices, fennel, fenugreek, black cumin, mustard etc. And loads of garlic and dry red chili are essential part of this dish. I used dry mango powder to bring tangy taste to the dish. If you do not find dry mango powder then use vinegar or lime juice, instead.

Things needed to make Achari Aloo:

  • Baby potatoes: 12-14
  • Onion (very finely chopped): 1 cup
  • Garlic (thinly sliced): 3 tbsp
  • Ginger paste: 2 tsp
  • Yogurt: 1/3 cup
  • Fennel seed: 1 tsp+1/2 tsp
  • Black cumin (kalonji) seed: 1 tsp+1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek seed: 1/2 tsp+1/4 tsp
  • Mustard seed: 1/2 tsp+1/4 tsp
  • Cumin seed: 1 tsp+1/2 tsp
  • Dry red chilies: 5-6
  • Green chilies: 2-3
  • Red chili powder: 2 tsp
  • Coriander powder: 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Dry mango (Amchur) powder: 2 tsp
  • Mustard oil to cook
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Fresh coriander leaves to garnish

Steps of making Achari Aloo:

1. Take large deep pan with cover, put the potatoes in the pan with enough water and one teaspoon salt. Let the water boil, reduce heat and cook for 5-6 min, switch off and drain. Wash with cold water. Peel the potato and prick with a fork or tooth pick. Keep aside.

2. In a flat pan, take 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, 1/2 teaspoon black cumin 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed, 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seed, and roast all the seed, but take care not to burn. Let cool down and coarsely ground the seeds. Keep aside.

3. Heat oil (preferably mustard oil) in a pan, fry the potatoes till they turn golden brown. Take out and keep aside.

4. In the same oil, add dry red chilies, rest of the seeds. As the seeds crackles, add garlic. As the garlic changes color add onion, cook till golden brown. Add ginger paste, cook for 1-2 min.

5. Add red chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, cook over low heat for 1-2 min, if needed add few teaspoons of water.

6. Beat the yogurt with little sugar and water, add the the yogurt. Cook till oil separates. Add the fried potatoes, the ground spices, and chopped green chilies. Cook for 4-5 min. Add dry mango powder, mix well. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly. Switch off heat, sprinkle chopped coriander leaves, serve hot with rotis or parathas.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Black eyed bean salad and my submission for BWW#118

Few days back while cleaning the pantry shelves I found these black eyed beans. I'm not a big fan of these beans. Once in a while I use them to make mixed dal. But for some reason looking at the half filled jar of these black and white beans, I found them very interesting and clicked some pics of these not so loved beans. And to be honest whatever the bean may taste like, I found them to be very camera friendly and photogenic. The first shot  below was clicked in daylight, using a Nikon D600 and 105mm lens. I used a homemade reflector (aluminium foil wrapped over a hard board) to lit up the front.

After I clicked the first one I thought of changing the mood of the pic and placed a black cloth as a background, the second image appeared very dramatic. I changed the saturation of the second pic to make it black and white, the following image is my submission for Black and White Wednesday event. This event was initially started by Susan of Well Seasoned Cook and now being managed by Cinzia of Cindystar. This week it's being hosted by Sreevalli of Ammaji Kitchen. Thank you Sreevalli.

Black eyed beans are called lobia in India. I remember my mother used to cook a simple dish with these beans. But I was never fond of that curry. I made a quick and healthy salad. You can have this as a healthy lunch or serve with crackers as a snack.

It is a very easy and quick salad. Either you can use dried beans or canned beans. If you are using dried beans, them soak them overnight in enough water. Rinse well and cook before making the salad or any other dishes. I used simple ingredients, onion, tomato, cucumber etc for the salad. And made an easy vinaigrette flavored with parsley and garlic.

Things needed to make Black eyed beans salad:

  • Cooked or canned black eyed beans: 1 cup
  • Red onion (diced): 1/4 cup
  • Tomato/ cherry tomato: 1/3 cup
  • Cucumber (diced): 1/3 cup
  • EVOO: 3 tbsp
  • Apple cider vinegar: 1 tbsp
  • Garlic (minced): 1 tsp
  • Parsley: 1 tsp
  • Honey: 1/2 tbsp
  • Chili flakes: 1-2 tsp
  • Black pepper powder to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Feta cheese (optional)
  • Crackers to serve (optional)

Steps of making Black eyed beans salad:

1. If you are using canned black eyed beans, then drain and keep the beans aside. If you are using dried beans, then the beans are need to be soaked in enough water for atleast 8 hrs or over night. After proper soaking drain and wash the beans and cook. This cooked beans can be used in various ways.

2. In a bowl add EVOO, vinegar, honey, chili flakes, salt, black pepper, parsley, garlic, mix well. Add cooked beans and other ingredients, mix well. Serve immediately.

I used dried parsley, you can use fresh, in that case increase the amount to 1 tablespoon. I used cheery tomato, you can use any of your choice.

Serving suggestion: Sprinkle feta cheese on the salad and serve with some multi-grain cracker.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Prawn curry with potato and cauliflower..

It's been two weeks since we welcomed the new year, surprisingly this is my first post of the year. It was not that I was out of town or not cooking or sick, I did make some finger-licking Indian curries as well as some simple salads and baked a few things during this "no show" phase. The truth is I was just lazy to pick up my camera to click the food I cooked. Hope to make that up in the coming days.

Today it's all about my favorite seafood, prawns, and that too paired with another favorite of mine, cauliflower. Earlier I posted a recipe on this combo, though that was with shrimps (Shrimp and cauliflower curry). Usually I cook prawn curry without garlic, for a change, this time I added a little onion and garlic to enhance the taste a bit more.

While working with prawn or shrimp, keep in mind not to overcook them. Or else they will turn hard and chewy.

I used fresh large prawns for the curry and kept the heads for more flavor. You can use frozen prawns too. Being a Bengali it's very difficult to ignore potatoes in a curry, so added that too. But seriously potatoes give a nice thickness and texture to the gravy.

And about cauliflower all I have to say is, I love this vegetable. For this particular curry fry the cauliflower florets till brown spots appear on them, cook over high heat and make sure the cauliflower retains its crunchiness.

Things needed to make Prawn Curry: 

  • Prawns: 6-8
  • Potato: 1 (medium)
  • Cauliflower: 1 (small)
  • Onion (grated): 3 tbsp
  • Garlic (paste): 1/2 tsp
  • Ginger (paste): 2 tsp
  • Tomato: 1 (large)
  • Cumin powder: 2 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 2-3 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
  • Ghee/clarified butter: 2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Oil to cook (preferably mustard oil)

Steps of making Prawn Curry:

1. Clean and wash the prawn, smear with little turmeric and salt. Keep aside.

2. In a pan heat oil (3 tablespoon), when the oil is hot fry the prawn for 1 min, turning the sides, take out and keep aside.

3. Peel, wash and cube the potatoes. Fry the cubed potatoes till nicely brown, keep aside. Use the same pan used for frying the prawns.

4. Cut the cauliflower into medium size florets to match the cubed potatoes. Fry the cauliflower florets till brown spots appear on them, keep aside.

5. If needed add more oil to the pan, when the oil is hot add the grated onion and cook till turns brown. Add garlic paste, cook for a minute. Add ginger paste and cook for 2 min. Add chopped tomato, sprinkle little salt, cover and cook till the tomato is done.

6. Add cumin powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder, few teaspoons of water, cook till oil separates from the spices. Add a cup of warm water, salt and sugar. As the water boils add fried potatoes, cover and cook till potatoes are done. Add fried cauliflower florets and fried prawns, cook for 2-3 min. Add ghee (clarified butter) and garam masala powder. Switch off heat, keep the pan covered for 5-6 min, serve hot with steamed rice.

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