Friday, July 24, 2015

Doi ilish...

The sun hiding behind the clouds, thunderstorms, the aroma of rain drenched earth and the pitter patter of raindrops on the window...Monsoon, the relief from the scorching heat of summer is a much awaited season in India. Monsoon is extremely important to people of this subcontinent, it irrigates and sustains the crops, it nourishes the greens around us, fills up the water bodies.

To be very honest, sometimes I do not enjoy rain much. I complain about the puddles of water on the road during daily commute, I get irritated with water logged streets and overdose of rain, but monsoon has it's own charm. And being a foodie I relate everything to food, and Monsoon is no exception. The cooling rain and a lazy afternoon with some crispy pakoras and a cup of hot tea is nothing but bliss.  

The reason I can overlook all the negative sides of this season is a fish, the Hilsa, the fish no Bengali can resist. Hilsa and monsoon are synonymous to me. As mangoes are to summer, hilsa are to monsoon. The silver shiny fish is the king of all. Taste, texture, flavor nothing compares to it. So for this monsoon special event I made a very simple but traditional hilsa recipe, doi ilish,  i.e. hilsa cooked in a yogurt and mustard gravy.

The ingredients are very simple and easily available. Fresher the fish, tastier will be the dish. The recipe calls for black mustard paste. To make black mustard paste, soak the mustard seeds for at least an hour in water and grind with a pinch of salt and green chilies.

Things needed to make Doi Ilish:

  • Hilsa fish cut into steaks: 4-6
  • Yogurt: 100 gm
  • Black mustard paste: 1/4 cup
  • Green chilies: 4-5
  • Kalojire/ onion seed: 1/4 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil to cook

Steps of making Doi Ilish:

1. Beat the yogurt with a little water and keep aside.

2. Smear the fish pieces with salt and turmeric powder, let it rest for 15-20 min.

3. In a kadhai or Indian wok, heat mustard oil (3 tablespoon), when the oil is hot, fry the fish for 1 min on each side. Take out from pan and keep aside. Do not overcook,

4. In the same oil add kalojire (onion seed/kalonji), green chilies, as it splatters add the yogurt. Cook over low heat for 4-5 min. Add the mustard paste and the fish pieces, add salt. Cover and cook for 10 min.

This post will be part of the the Monsoon special event  of  Kolkata food bloggers.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Thai basil fried rice...

I love one pot meals. A balanced dish with lean meat and carbohydrates with a simple crunchy salad perfectly suits my mid-week dinner plan. Last Wednesday I prepared fried rice, but not the usual one. It was Thai style fried rice. (Here you can check my better than take out fried rice recipe.)

When it comes to Thai food, first thing comes to our mind is the explosion of flavor from lemongrass, kaffir lime, thai basil, holy basil, and the strong sharp smell of fish sauce and of course the heat from fresh red chilies.

For this fried rice I used Thai basil as the key ingredient. Thai basil leaves are much narrow leaves with purple veins and stem, widely used in Thai cooking along with holy basil (tulsi). It has its beautiful aroma, very difficult to describe, but once you use them will absolutely love this herb for sure. While cooking with Thai basil make sure not to cook it for a long time, or else it will lose its beautiful smell.

A bunch of Thai basil was sitting in my pantry. The original plan was to prepare my favorite Thai red curry with chicken, unfortunately for some reason it didn't happen. But how could I waste those fragrant leaves, so came up with this idea of using them in a Thai basil fried rice.

This fried rice takes very little time to cook. I used previously cooked jasmine rice, any good quality long grain rice is good for this dish. If you are using freshly made rice, make sure the rice is completely cooled down before adding it to the wok. I used chicken as the protein to my dish and for the veggie quotient I added a handful of green peas and diced carrots. Prawns, broccoli, beans, are some other options can be used in this fried rice.

This Thai style fried rice is a bit spicy, to bring the heat I used fresh red chilies. The dish gets the distinct flavor from fish sauce and Thai basil. If you don't have fish sauce in your pantry, I insist to have one immediately, you don't know what you are missing. 

Things needed to make Thai Basil Fried Rice:

  • Cooked rice: 4 cups
  • Chicken breast (cut into thin strips): 200 gm
  • Garlic (finely chopped): 1 tbsp
  • Onion (chopped): 1/2 cup
  • Green peas: 1/2 cup
  • Carrots (diced): 1/2 cup
  • Red bell pepper (chopped): 1/4 cup
  • Fish sauce: 2 tsp
  • Dark soy sauce: 2 tbsp + 1 tsp
  • Brown sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Fresh red chili (thinly sliced): 2-3 tsp
  • Sesame oil: 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
  • Fresh Thai basil leaves (chopped): 1/2 cup
  • Fresh coriander leaves (chopped): 1/3 cup
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper powder to season
  • Vegetable oil to cook

Steps of making Thai Basil Fried Rice:

1. Wash and pat dry the chicken breast, cut into thin strips. Marinate the chicken strips with salt, black pepper powder, 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil for 15 min.

2. In a wok heat oil, cook the chicken strips over high heat for 2-3 min, take out and keep aside.

3. Add little oil to wok, I use use the same wok (just wipe it with a kitchen towel to make sure there is no pieces of chicken left). When the oil is hot, add the garlic, cook for 1 min. Add chopped onion and carrot, sprinkle a little salt and cook. when the carrot turns a bit tender add the green peas. I used frozen peas, if you are using fresh green peas then blanch them before using them. Add chopped red bell pepper, cook over high heat for 2-3 min.

4. Add chicken pieces, sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar (white sugar can be used), fresh red chilies, mix well, add cooked rice. Add salt if needed. Fish sauce is very salty so be careful before adding extra salt to the rice. Cook over heat for 1-2 min, keep tossing the rice, taking caring not to break the grains.

5. Reduce heat, add Thai basil and coriander leaves, mix well. Switch off the heat.

6. Serve with a fried egg and thickly sliced cucumber.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sunehera chicken...

Friday evenings are usually time to relax and unwind for me and my family. The fact that you do not need to set the alarm clocks for next morning is such a relief. I guess it is the same for everyone too.

Unwinding to me is  usually either putting my feet up and getting lost in books or fiddling around in the kitchen to try to put together something special for me and my family. This Friday, it was a chicken curry with some homemade naan bread.

I didn't follow any particular recipe while making this dish, just went along with my instinct. The chicken was marinated for 9 hrs in the refrigerator. The marination I used was a basic one, just onion, garlic, ginger, yogurt mix. To bring in a nice color and flavor I added few strands of saffron.

While marinating the chicken I wasn't really sure about the gravy but wanted something creamy that can go along the naan I was planning to serve it with. My little one really liked the end result- soft and succulent chicken in a lightly sweet  creamy golden curry.

I didn't even think of posting this recipe, but the little one in my house as well as the man insisted that I must post this recipe as it tasted so good. And since this wasn't very planned, I ended up with only a single image for the final dish. Because of the beautiful creamy texture and golden color I named the dish 'Sunehera' chicken, sunehera means golden in Hindi. You can try this at home and let me know whether the name justifies the dish.

Things needed to make Sunehera Chicken:

  • Chicken: 500 gm

For marination:
  • Lime juice: 1 tbsp
  • Salt: 2 tsp
  • Black pepper powder: 1 tsp
  • Yogurt: 1/2 cup
  • Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
  • Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
  • Onion paste: 3 tbsp
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Saffron: few strands

For gravy:
  • Thinly sliced onion: 2 cups
  • Cinnamon stick: 1 stick
  • Green cardamom: 3-4
  • Dry red chili: 3-4
  • Coriander powder: 2 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 3 tsp
  • Green cardamom powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Almond paste: 3 tbsp
  • Poppy paste: 2 tbsp
  • Saffron (soaked in warm water): few strands
  • Salt to taste
  • Honey to taste
  • Oil and ghee to cook

Steps of making Sunehera Chicken:

1. Clean and wash the chicken pieces. I used chicken with bone, can be done with boneless chicken pieces too. Pat dry with kitchen towel. In a bowl mix all the ingredients for marination, marinate the chicken pieces for minimum 2 hrs, better if marinated overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Slice onion as thin as possible, heat oil in a kadhai (Indian wok), when the oil is hot fry the onion slices to brown. Drain excess oil and transfer in a bowl.

3. In a kadhai or pan add ghee, when hot add cinnamon stick, whole green cardamom, dry red chili, cook for 1 min. Add the fried onion. Keep a few to garnish.

4. Shake off the excess marination and add the chicken, cook over high heat for 4-5 min. As the chicken changes color, add the remaining marinade and coriander powder, red chili powder, mix well. Cover and cook over medium flame till oil separates. Add  cardamom powder, cinnamon powder, mix well. If needed add salt.

5. Add a little hot water and let it boil. Reduce the flame to low, add almond paste and poppy seed paste, mix well. Cover and cook for 10 min. Add honey, saffron soaked water, mix well. transfer into a serving bowl, garnish with fried onion and slivered almonds. Serve with some naan or roti.

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