Saturday, July 26, 2014

Taking A Break

Some goodies somehow do not make it to my posts!! I have included a few in this collage. Top (from left)...a) zucchini quiche b) potato & eggplant frittata c) pumpkin pie d) upside down kiwi cake.
Bottom (from left) a) focaccia with rosemary b) banana cake with over ripe home-grown bananas c) savoury cake with prunes, pistachios and goat's cheese d) banana, chocolate & pistachio cake.
No recipes today as I'm packing/putting away stuff and getting ready to go on a holiday.

It's time for me to take another break from blogging as I'll be away for the next two weeks. This time we are headed to China. My husband happens to be a harmonica player and he has been attending the Asia-Pacific Harmonica festival held every two years. The first one that he attended was in Singapore in 2010 and the second was in Kuala Lumpur in 2012. This year it's in Hangzhou in eastern China. 
My husband (second from right) with Mr. Fu and others in Singapore
When my husband was in Singapore he asked one gentleman for directions. Mr. Fu, for that was the gentleman's name not only told him but also invited him to lunch at a restaurant where some other members of his family also joined later. The kindness of a stranger...thinking about Singapore always brings this incident to mind. 
I haven't accompanied him before as attending any festival can be so hectic but this time we'll seeing a bit of China as we'll be flying to Beijing and then to Shanghai before getting to Hangzhou. I hope everything goes well and hopefully I'll get plenty of pictures and inspiration for a great number of posts.
Thank you for stopping by today. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mudru/ A Stew Of Vegetables & Fish

I have written about the Dimasa dish called mudru in one of my previous posts. Leafy greens that thrive during this season taste delicious in mudru. The two varieties I used in this particular dish are vegetable fern/Diplazium esculentum and a variety of clerodendrum known as mishimou in my mother tongue. Vegetable fern is said to be the most consumed fern in tropical counties. We often have it stir-fried, added to dal, fish curry, and also added to fried meat dishes. Another post for mudru can be seen here.
A dish of mudru with banana flower, vegetable fern & clerodendrum colebrookianum

1 banana flower (the tender part only)
A small bunch of vegetable fern broken into similar lengths
A bunch of edible clerodendrum, twist and tear into similar sizes
2 pieces of fried fish
2-3 chillies scored lengthwise
A small piece of ginger, pounded
A few black pepper corns, coarsely ground
Salt to taste
Water {or fish stock (optional)}

Heat about half and half of fish stock (if using) and water. Remove the floret bunches along with the covering. Because the tender portions are used, everything can go into the pot. There is no need to remove the pistils individually.
When the banana flowers are nearly done add the leafy greeens. Add the chillies and season with salt.
Cook for another five minutes before adding the fried fish pieces.
As soon as the fish is done and the mixture looks homogenous, sprinkle the pepper powder and add the ginger.Give it a good stir taking care not to break the fish. Remove from the stove.
This dish goes best with steaming hot rice.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Corn Pulao

It's the season of amazing maize! Fragrant, delicious, glutinous and in colours that range from the deepest purple to almost everything in between, they are a joy to behold and to eat!:) We love to roast them on hot coals or boil them with a touch of salt. They do well in hilly areas and the produce from my home district of Dima Hasao is wonderful.
Some time ago I made this pulao. I often keep one or two boiled ones aside to add to savoury muffins, vegetables dishes, fried rice or pulao.  You can see two of my corn posts here and here.
Corn Pulao:
2 cups basmati rice
1/3 cup boiled corn kernels
1 large onion sliced fine
A quarter tsp of freshly made ginger & garlic paste
2 star anise
A pinch of whole cumin 
Some black pepper
1 stick of cinnamon
3-4 cloves
2 cardamom pods, bruised
2-3 Indian bay leaves
A pinch of turmeric powder 
Salt to taste
3 tbsp vegetable oil

Pick and wash the rice. Soak it for an hour and then drain in a colander. Keep aside. It's best when the rice is almost dry.
Heat the oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the whole spices.
Now add the bay leaves and the onions. Fry till the onions are turn golden brown, then add the ginger and garlic paste.
Add the rice and stir gently. Keep stirring but be careful that the grains do not break.
Add nearly double the amount of hot water (4 cups) to the rice. Mix the turmeric powder in a teaspoon of water and add to the pan.
Put in the corn, give it another stir. Cover with a lid.
Cook till the water dries up and the rice is done stirring only once in between. After it's cooked, let it rest for 10 minutes or so.
Before serving, fluff with a fork and transfer to a serving platter.
Our accompaniment on that particular day happened to be leftover chicken curry. The darker the corn the more attractive the pulao looks.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Goat's Head Curry,Brain Chutney& Dal With Bamboo Shoots

A meal of rice, dal with bamboo shoots,  brain chutney, and goat's head curry
A delicacy of the Dimasas that I have not written about so far is goat's head. It's made into curry usually thickened with rice flour. It can be cooked with other vegetables also but this is the most popular version. And if we have the head, the brain is made into chutney. With a meal like this you don't need any other accompaniment. But since I had some bamboo shoots, I also made dal.

Cleaning the goat's head takes some time but the process itself enhances the taste of the curry. First boil some water in a large pan. Once it comes to boiling point take it off the heat and immerse the head in it. Keep for a few minutes. Take it out with a pair of tongs, take a sharp knife and scrape off all the hair. Some of the hair will remain so the head now needs to go to an open flame but before doing that the ears need to be removed. I prefer using a wood fire in my backyard for this purpose. Using a skewer hold the head over the flame turning it round so that all parts are singed. This will turn the head into a blackish hue but not to worry as the smokiness imparts a wonderful flavour to the dish.
The goat's head can now be cut into regular pieces with certain inedible parts discarded. The brain can be taken out and kept aside to be made into a delicious chutney.

1 goat's head cleaned and cut into bite-size pieces
3-4 tejpatta
2 large onions, grated
1 tbsp coarsely pounded red chilli powder
8 cloves of garlic, ground to a coarse paste
1 thumb-size ginger, grated
1 tsp black pepper powder, coarsely ground
Half a thumb size fresh turmeric ground to a paste
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
4 tbsp oil
4 tbsp rice flour ( I used sticky rice with a reddish tinge)
A bunch of serrated coriander for the garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the tejpatta and the onions.
Fry for a few minutes then add the meat. Stir, then add the rest of the spices. Stir again. Keep covered and the heat on high. Check at regular intervals.
Season with salt and if it catches at the bottom sprinkle some water, stir well and put the lid back on. 
The entire process of cooking this dish might take anything between 40-50 minutes. But rather than use a pressure cooker I prefer cooking this way.
Check to see if the meat has softened.
Add about four cups of water keeping in mind that the gravy will be thickened with rice flour later.
When the meat is completely done, check the seasoning.
Make a paste of the rice flour and pour it into the curry stirring with a ladle throughout so that no rice flour lumps form.
Remove from the flame, transfer to a serving dish and garnish with not-too-finely-cut chopped serrated coriander. 

Most people prefer to use the pressure cooker to soften the meat and then cook it in the regular way in a karhai. Sometimes the smell of the goat's head can be very strong. In this case (or even otherwise) a few lemon leaves are torn/shredded and added as a garnish.

The brain chutney:
Place the brain in a small pan and add a little amount of water. Let it cook for a few minutes then add finely chopped onions and a few chopped green chillies. Add some slivers of fresh ginger. Let it cook till the water dries up. Season with salt. Mash the chutney with the back of a spoon and garnish with finely chopped coriander.
Traditionally, the tongue and the ears (after cleaning) are added to brain chutney. Yes, we waste nothing!:)

I added these bamboo shoots in the dal. When I buy the shoots I prepare them for the next few meals, cleaning, slicing, boiling, draining and keeping them in the fridge. So for the dal I didn't have to go through the entire process. Just took a handful out and added to masur dal. The tempering was done with chillies, onions and ginger. Chopped chives were used as a garnish.

Thank you for stopping by today. Do check out my Facebook page as well.:)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stuffed Pumpkin Flowers

The other day I came across these pumpkin flowers in the market nearby. The were tied in little bundles and wrapped with leaves. I couldn't resist the sight and thought of these blooms fried in batter. We usually have them fried with eggs or dipped in chick pea batter with a hint of spices. And when I was much younger, I'd never have imagined that one day I'd be buying these blooms. In my mother's garden the plant took over a great deal of space and the blooms were countless!
Instead of the usual way I stuffed them with a mix of paneer and Amul cheese, a dash of salt and a large pinch of freshly ground pepper. I knew the taste was going to be somewhat like this one. Then I dipped them in a light batter of flour and eggs, fried for a few minutes till they were done. What could have been easier and faster than this?! I only had to be careful with the salt as the cheese contains a lot of it. So with a dish that can be done in a jiffy I'm not going ahead with the recipe. It was more of a dash of this and a touch of that.:)
A "fresh" bouquet!
Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you check out my Facebook page as well!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Prune & Rum Tarts

Recently I bought the book titled Pastry by Richard Bertinet and this the first recipe I tried out from the book. I must have spent the first week simply looking at the stunning images and leafing through the pages over and over again. I finally got down to making these tarts today with most of the prep done yesterday. Despite the cracks on the surface, I did follow the recipe down to the last detail. The only thing I left was was the additional alcohol as the prunes were already soaked in rum.

The collage shows (top pictures) 
1. Lining the loose-bottomed tart tins 2. Squashing a few rum-soaked prunes in each tart.
Bottom pictures: 
1. Filled with pastry cream and a sprinkle of flaked almonds 2. The baked tarts.
Here's the recipe from the book Pastry by Richard Bertinet.

For the sweet pastry:
250 grams flour
100 almond flour
125 grams butter
125 grams sugar
2 eggs + one yolk
pinch of salt
Mix as you would generally do for pastry. Chill in the fridge for an hour or so. There are step-by-step pictures in the book but that would take too long to write down here. And since most of you are such good cooks looking at the ingredients will be enough for you. 

For the almond cream:
250 gram unsalted butter
250 gram caster sugar
250 grams ground almonds
50 grams flour
3 eggs
2 tbsp Poire William liqueur or rum, or equivalent
Beat the butter until very soft, preferably in a mixer. With the motor running, add the sugar and the ground almonds and mix some more. Now mix in the flour, then the eggs, and finally the alcohol. Transfer to a bowl and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.
The tarts:
Sweet pastry(amount given above)
Butter or baking spray, for greasing the tins
about 24 prunes in rum
Almond cream (given above)
2tbsp flaked almonds

Lightly grease 10 cm loose-bottomed tart tins (2 cm ).
Skim a fine film of flour over your work surface. Roll out the pastry 2-3mm thick and line the tins.
Place in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Squash some of the prunes into each pastry case, then cover with almond cream and sprinkle with flaked almonds.
Place on baking trays and bake for 25-30 minutes until the almond cream is golden.

This recipe makes 8 tarts. Since my tins are slightly larger, I got seven tarts. The recipe calls for unsalted butter but that is hard to come by so I used Amul.

These tarts are a joy to bake and when the days turn cooler I can picture myself baking tons of these for family and friends.And I hope by then the cracks will no longer appear on the surface.:)
Thank you for stopping by today.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Za'atar Encrusted Fish With Mango Salsa

I haven't really gone into Middle  Eastern cooking apart from the occasional couscous and labneh but I had always been meaning to.:) My last haul from Delhi included za'atar and sumac packets. The temptation to make this dish came from the latest issue of another favourite magazine of mine. It helped that I had all the ingredients in my pantry/fridge.
The accompaniment was pomegranate salsa but I made a mango one. As it is the season for mangoes is about to be over and this is almost like an end-of-the-season celebration.
Za'atar is extensively used in Middle Eastern cooking. It's a mix of  thyme, sumac, coarse sea salt and roasted sesame seeds. Some recipes have more additions like marjoram and oregano. Stored in a cool dark place, this blend will last for a few months. My packet's shelf-life states a 100 days. 

Recipe adapted from Good Housekeeping/July 2014 (with slight changes in the salsa)
3 tbsp za'atar
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp semolina
4 fish fillets
1 tbsp olive oil

Mix the first four ingredients and rub over the fish fillets generously.
Let it rest for an hour in the refrigerator.
Place the fish fillets on a baking dish, smear the left-over marinade over the fish and grill at 200C in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Baste the fish with olive oil and remove when the crust gets crisp.

For the mango salsa:
2 ripe but firm  mangoes, peel, remove seed and dice
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 tbsp dried mint leaves
1 green chilli, chopped fine
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp lime juice
Salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together and let the salsa rest for ten minutes before serving.

The recipe called for fresh mint but since I still had some dried mint left, I used that. The salsa was refreshing and the fish had a totally different taste and flavour. We love to rub our fish pieces with salt and generous doses of turmeric so this taste was indeed different and I loved it!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Anjeer Ki Kheer

Ever since I saw  the post about kheer made of dried figs on Rafeeda's blog The Big Sweet Tooth I had been literally dying to make it. What stopped me was that other ingredients were lined up to be cooked one after the other and since dried fruits had a better shelf life, my beloved figs and I had to wait...I have used most dried fruits in kheer before but not figs. I'm so glad that my haul from my Kashmir trip is finally about to get over. 
The kheer on Rafeeda's blog was a guest post by Farrukh Shadab who blogs at Cubes N Juliennes Do check out both the blogs as the recipes are wonderful with amazing photography. Although the inspiration/recipe came from that post, I have added my own twist and added some of the ingredients that I had in stock. The measurements were kept almost the same.

1 litre milk+ extra to soak the rice, figs and almonds
10 dried figs
10 almonds
2 tbsp basmati rice
1 tbsp black rice
Sugar to taste
3-4 bay leaves
2 pods cardamoms, bruised
Pinch of saffron soaked in a small bowl of warm milk
Slivered almonds for the garnish

Wash the rice, drain and soak in milk for an hour or so.
Soak the figs and the almonds in the milk for about an hour.
In a separate bowl, soak the saffron.
Grind the figs and almonds to a coarse paste.
Heat milk in a pan. When it comes to boiling point add the rice. 
Cook till the rice is soft stirring in between. Kheer is generally made in a heavy-bottomed pan. The milk will be reduced to half when the rice is cooked.
Add the fig/almond paste. Keep stirring at regular intervals. Also add the saffron, bay leaves and sugar.
Keep it on the stove for a few more minutes. 
Take it off the heat and let it cool down.
The bay leaves and the cardamom pods can be removed from the kheer.
Chill for an hour or so before serving the kheer in individual bowls garnished with slivers of almonds.

I like using black rice because of the colour and the nutty flavour. But with all the other ingredients here, it didn't make much of a difference to the colour.
With the sugar, I used only four teaspoons but the sweetness came from the figs also so it was all right. Sometimes the satisfaction of trying out a new dish/or new additions to a timeless dish gives me immense joy. This was one of those moments.:)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fish Curry With Ridge Gourd & Potatoes

Most backyard gardens and our markets are full of different varieties of gourds at this time of the year. These are either cooked on their own, mixed in dal, or added to fresh/dried fish. Gourds must be consumed when they are still tender. Ridge gourd is fibrous so mature gourds are best left to be used as loofahs later. Ridge gourd is low in saturated fat and calories. It is rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, riboflavin, zinc, thiamine, iron, and magnesium. More on the health benefits of other gourds can be seen here.

This fish curry is something that you rustle up in a jiffy. You only need a few ingredients for this curry.
6 pieces of fish
4 ridge gourds
2 medium boiled potatoes, peeled and cut
2 onions, grated
1 level tsp ginger and garlic paste
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
A quarter tsp cumin powder
2 tomatoes, finely sliced
A quarter tsp of turmeric + a little extra to rub on the fish
Salt to taste
3-4 Indian bay leaves
Chopped herbs for the garnish
Oil for frying the fish and for the curry

Scrape off the dark skin of the gourd and wash.
Cut them lengthwise or into circles. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a pan.
Rub some salt and turmeric on the fish and when the oil reaches smoking point, fry the fish till golden brown on both sides. Keep aside.
In the same oil add the bay leaves and the onions.
Fry till the onions change colour. Add the rest of the spices and the chopped gourd.
When the gourds are half-done, add the tomatoes. Season with salt.
Continue cooking and then add the potatoes. Check to see that it doesn't burn. In that case a bit of water can be sprinkled in the pan to prevent it.
When the curry starts to look done, add about a cup of hot water. The quantity of water will depend on the kind of gravy that you like.
Gently add the fried fish pieces and cook for another five minutes or so.
Take the pan off the heat. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the chopped herbs.

This dish goes best with steaming hot rice. Coriander is the most favourite herb used as a garnish but I also like using serrated coriander. But here I used some chives since I find them visually appealing.:)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Apple & Fig Cake

Yes, it's figs again. I hadn't cooked much with figs before but Google images keep egging me on.:) The last cake I made tasted so good that I have used them in another cake but teamed them up with apples. Two apples and half a dozen figs went into making this simple but delicious cake. As for the description, the ones who tasted said so.^_^
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
6 dried figs, soaked for 5 minutes and chopped into pieces
3/4 cup olive oil + extra for greasing the cake tin
1 cup castor sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 &1/2  cups all-purpose flour + a little extra for dusting the tin

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon rind

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Grease the tin (I used a ring mould) and dust it with flour.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and keep aside.
Beat the eggs in a bowl.
In another bowl, mix the olive oil with the sugar till well-blended.  Slowly pour the beaten eggs and mix well.
Add the vanilla extract, the lemon rind, the chopped apples and the figs.
Fold in the flour and transfer the batter in the tin.
Bake for 25-30 minutes till the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

This is a wonderfully moist cake and the addition of the fruits makes it extra special.