Saturday, August 30, 2014

Smoked Chicken & Bamboo Shoot Curry

Smoked chicken & bamboo shoot curry
This curry is made with a twist on the traditional daono hain hon/chicken curry thickened with rice flour. Bamboo shoots are popular with pork and chicken but in this case I decided to use the shoots and thicken the gravy with rice flour. I have a weakness for smoked meat products. Even smoked sausages taste so much better!
As for smoking the chicken, I did it in my backyard yesterday. It took about two and a half  hours but it was worth the effort. The smell of freshly-smoked meat is indeed, heavenly....The fresh bamboo shoots were sliced and soaked overnight. Fermenting the shoots is a popular way of using the shoots but soaking them overnight brings about a slight difference in taste and texture. The shoots were then boiled and drained. It's better if the water is squeezed out as certain varieties tend to be slightly bitter. So, not taking any chances.

800 grams smoked chicken cut into regular pieces
About 400 grams bamboo shoots (see above for details)
3 onions, grated
1 thumb-size ginger, grated
7-8 cloves of garlic, crushed and made into a rough paste
1 tsp coarsely pounded hot chilli powder
8-10 green chillies scored lengthwise, seeds intact
2 tbs coriander powder
1 tbs freshly ground black pepper
A quarter tsp turmeric, (adjustments can be made)
5-6 Indian bay leaves
2 star anise
3 tbs mustard oil
Salt to taste
3 heaped tbs rice flour
Ginger leaves or serrated coriander for the garnish

*Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point add the bay leaves and the star anise.
*Add the green chillies, onions, ginger and garlic. Cook till the colour changes. 
*Now add the chilli powder, turmeric, and coriander powder. Stir.
*Add the chicken pieces as well as the bamboo shoots. Keep stirring in between.
*Season with salt and add the coarsely ground pepper.
*It will take about 25-30 minutes before the mixture comes together.
*Add about three cups of hot water and let it come to the boil. Check the seasoning. It does not matter if at this point it feels a little too spicy/a little too salty. The thickening agent will take care of it.
*Now add the rice flour and give it a good stir ensuring that no lumps remain.
*Take it off the heat and transfer to a serving dish.
*Garnish with the chopped herbs.

No marination for the meat is necessary in the preparation of this dish. The most prominent flavour will come from the smoked ingredient. Even if fewer spices are used in this curry, it will still taste good!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lemony Coconutty Cake With Perilla Seeds

The other day I baked a cake with poppy seeds. I followed a recipe from the internet and it all turned out very well. But I used the lighter shade of seeds, so they didn't show up well in the pictures. Since I didn't want to go and get more seeds when I already had what I needed the idea of using perilla seeds came to mind. 
Called shnem in our language it is mostly used for savoury dishes. The seeds are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Other parts of the plant also has medicinal properties but the seeds are commonly used to resolve problems like asthma, prevent cough, and even help with constipation. Source.The seeds are toasted and added to the dish known as mudru. They are also toasted and ground, mixed with roasted chillies, herbs, and finely chopped onions into a chutney. Or they are soaked and mixed with spices and chickpea flour and made into pakodas. I love the taste of the seeds and thought the cake would look good dotted with the dark little seeds.
The cake would have looked even better with some frosting but I get worried about the sugar intake so I left it out.  The piece of cake in the foreground is the poppy seed cake. The crunch in the lemony cake was wonderful.
Perilla/shnem seeds
For the cake I used the basic cake recipe of using the same amount of sugar, eggs, and butter. One cup each with one and a half cups of flour sieved with a teaspoon of baking powder. I had about a third cup of toasted seeds (done some days ago) which I soaked in 100 ml of coconut milk for about 15 minutes. Other ingredients that went in were vanilla extract, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and a teaspoon of lemon rind. It was baked in my new bundt tin at 180C till it looked like this.
As for the taste I have no complaints. I loved the taste and the texture. The crunch from the seeds make a wonderful difference to this cake!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chicken & Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin, one of the most versatile of vegetables, works so well in both sweet and savoury dishes. A tender green one that I bought the other day went into this chicken curry. When it comes to adding vegetables, apart from potatoes, we usually combine chicken with colocasia or bamboo shoots. But bamboo shoots are seasonal and pumpkin is available throughout the year. The tender ones with the skin make a delicious curry.
I started off with the marination of the chicken and chopped the pumpkin into similar sizes. The tender seeds were discarded. In this curry it's chicken with skin that makes all the difference. Here we go...
~800 grams chicken with skin, cut into regular pieces
~3 onions finely grated
~5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed and made into a rough paste
~Half a thumb-size ginger, ground
~A quarter tsp of turmeric powder 
Marinate the chicken with these spices and keep aside as you get on with the pumpkin.

It's all about to come together!
For the rest of the ingredients you will need....
3 tbs mustard oil
3-4 tejpatta
2 tbs roughly ground chilli powder
1 tbs coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbs coarsely grated black pepper powder
A dash of turmeric (if you want a deeper colour)
Salt to taste
Herbs for the garnish 

Heat the mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.
When it comes to smoking point, add the tejpatta and then the marinated chicken.
Cook on high heat and stir between intervals.
Add the rest of the spices and season with salt. 
When the chicken is a little more than half-done, (it will take about 25-30 minutes) add the pumpkin pieces.
Cook till the pumpkin pieces are cooked through. 
Add about a cup of water or a little more depending on the look of the gravy. 
Let it remain on the flame for a few more minutes before you transfer it to a serving bowl.
Garnish with the herbs of your choice. In my case I used ginger leaves.
This curry tastes best with steaming hot rice!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I had always wanted to bake these French delights but had never come across the moulds in our city. Yesterday as I went to pick up a bundt tin from a shop that I frequent I was happy to see madeleine tins and one came home with me. A new baking tin and no baking? That would have been so wrong!! The recipe that I picked from the internet is by Rebecca Franklin, a French food expert. Instead of orange zest I used lemon zest in my cakes. And I did the mixing by hand so there are minor adaptations in the recipe.
Madeleines are small sponge cakes made in shell-shaped moulds. They are said to have originated in Commercy and Liverdun, two communes of the Lorraine region in north-eastern France. Traditional cakes use finely ground nuts like almonds but the other variation uses lemon zest.

1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup fine sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon zest
3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbs icing sugar

Sieve the flour with the baking powder and keep aside.
Cream the butter and fine sugar till the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one by one till well-combined and the mixture looks lighter in colour.
Gently fold in the flour/baking powder into the egg mixture.
Once the batter is smooth, cover it and keep it in the refrigerator for two hours.
Grease the madeleine moulds really well so that you won't need to make any effort in getting them out later.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Spoon the mixture to the "shells" and bake for about 13-15 minutes until they are puffed and golden brown.
Cool the cakes on a wire rack and dust them with icing sugar. 
Madeleines are best eaten warm/on the day they are made.

I had bought only one pan so I made them in two batches. This recipe makes 12 madeleines.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Lemon cake with lemon dressing
If yesterday had stretched to infinity I wouldn't have known. Because I'd have been baking!:-)) I have mentioned in one of my posts that after our old bedroom was converted into a jamming pad, we have bands coming here to jam and I look after this. With musicians who jam for long hours a tea/coffee break particularly with freshly-baked goodies is most welcome. I took the opportunity to sell my cakes, buns and muffins to a bunch of (hungry) musicians who needed to hone their skills for about 6-7 hours at a stretch.^ _^
Mango muffins
And what fun it was to bake knowing these would fly off (the shelves). There were no complicated recipes. It was more about throwing stuff in together and putting them in the oven. You can see from the pictures, cracks and all, the way my muffins usually turn out but not a crumb remained!!!
Chocolate muffins
 The only one where I made a little more effort (in squeezing the juice out of the lemon and grating the rind) was for the Donnna Hay inspired lemon cake with lemon dressing. I had posted this before here.
Sweet little buns
These little sweet buns go so well with tea so I included them as well. I used white sesame seeds for scattering on top. Turned out well. Can't say the same every time I bake bread/buns. It isn't ever day that I provide the eats and the tea or coffee but on days when the pad is booked for several hours at a stretch, my day is made!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bengali Food Festival

When I read about the Bengali Food Festival at one of the hotels here in our city I couldn't wait to taste the goodies there! Kiranshree Portico, the hotel which organized the festival is planning to come up with such events every two months or so. I missed the Marwari Food Festival which was held earlier. Just look at that laden plate. Too much, for sure but so delicious!
Hilsa cooked two ways: paturi & bhapa
The Bengali menu wouldn't be complete without hilsa and here are the two ways the fish was cooked. One was paturi, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. The other (ilish bhapa)was steamed without the wrapping. In both the dishes, the sauce came from a paste of mustard and poppy seeds.
Kochuri (top), pulao and payesh
The rest of the plate had a few vegetable dishes like potoler dolma (pointed gourd stuffed with potatoes), alur dom ( potato curry), a salad, and a sweet chutney. The two kinds of dal served were moong and chana with pieces of coconut in the latter. Rice was done two ways, one plain and the other made into pulao. The kochuri (dough rolled with a stuffing of lightly spiced mashed and fried peas) was excellent. The meal ended with payesh/rice pudding.

The young chef is Ranabir Dey who specializes in North Indian cuisine. But being a Bengali by birth the entire cooking must have been a piece of cake for him. I'm looking forward to going to more such festivals.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hilsa With Coconut Milk

When I'm away from home I usually think about trying out various recipes but it all comes back to familiar food and those that do not need too much of an effort. And fish curry can be so easy to make. And also very delicious!
I have been dying to have hilsa and this variety of fish tastes best during this season.

A mix of mustard and poppy seeds usually go into the sauce. It's a much-loved Bengali dish and very popular in our region. But this time I wanted to try it with coconut milk. I still had a few Dabur packets in my pantry and with the fresh fish waiting to be's the simplest recipe.

4 pieces of hilsa
3 tbs mustard oil
Pinch of turmeric+ extra for rubbing on the fish pieces
6-7 green chillies scored lengthwise, seeds intact
A quarter tsp of cumin powder
A quarter tsp of grated ginger
Salt to taste+ extra to rub on the fish
A pinch of kali jeera/nigella seeds
1 packet of coconut milk (200ml)
Herbs for the garnish

  • Rub a mix of salt and turmeric on the fish pieces.
  • Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, fry the fish for just a minute or so. Remove and keep aside.
  • In the same oil add the kali jeera, the cumin and ginger. Sprinkle a few drops of water into the mix to stop the spices from burning. Add the turmeric too. Stir.
  • Add the chillies and season with salt.
  • Pour the coconut milk (I used a packet of Dabur coconut milk). Let it simmer then add the shallow fried fish.
  • Cook for another 6-7 minutes till the fish is done. Take the pan off the flame.
  • Transfer the contents to a serving dish and garnish with finely chopped herbs of your choice.
Like I said this dish is so simple to make. The best accompaniment is  steaming hot rice!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Peking Duck!

On our last day in Beijing, we treated ourselves to something special, Peking duck. The restaurant that we went to was called Yu Shan and it had an old world charm about it. Here's an introduction from Wiki about this dish.

Peking duck is a famous duck dish from Beijing that has been prepared from the imperial era. The meat is prized for its thin, crispy skin, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. Ducks bred specially for the dish are slaughtered after 65 days and seasoned before being roasted in a closed or hung oven.
The meat is eaten with scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce with pancakes rolled round the fillings.

Although the restaurant's specials are many we only had the famed dish.

The accompaniments with the meat looked so fresh. The first pancake was rolled by the waitress. With chopsticks she picked the pieces of meat, dipped them in the sauce and placed them on the pancake. The fresh greens went in next. With the help of the chopsticks she rolled the pancake beautifully. We tried doing the same with the rest but ours were the sloppiest ever! But every mouthful was so delicious! Before the duck came to our table the chef carved it but somehow I have not been able to upload that video.
The rest of the meat was made into a broth and sent to our table. I'd have gladly carried it for dinner time (with a bowl of rice). But there were so many other places to see, shopping to be done so we left the broth behind.:(
I photographed these kites in the shape of ducks at Tiananmen Square. That was another wonderful experience. Getting up at the crack of dawn to see the hoisting of the flag and see the square come alive. Moments that we will cherish for a long time....

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Beautiful Beijing

Some shots from the Badaling portion of The Great Wall
Our trip to China was wonderful! Apart from Hangzhou in south-eastern China we also went to Beijing and Shanghai. I really can't say which was the best part about being in Beijing because I loved every moment and each part (from whatever I saw) of this beautiful city. The first place that we headed to was the Great Wall. There are several points where one can climb and we opted for the one that's most popular with tourists, the Badaling portion.
The atmosphere was festive with hundreds of domestic tourists carrying water and plenty of food. The stalls were stacked with souvenirs and food.
We climbed The Wall!!

Although the hotel that our agent booked for us was nothing to write home about, it was located on a street that was abuzz with activity. Eateries dotted both sides of the street and the fruits were indeed the sweetest and the juiciest!
The sweetest of them all!!
Peaches and nectarines, pears, plums, apples, grapes, Chinese gooseberries and some that I did not recognize were all there. These were sold outside small convenience stores. To see such variety of the freshest produce was heaven! Needless to say we g-o-r-g-e-d!!
Breakfast menu on "our" street

Before I went to China I didn't know about congee. It's porridge made of rice and served with crullers. (See photo of crullers on the collage, top right). It's eaten with salted duck eggs and various accompaniments like bamboo shoots, pickled cucumber/cabbage and some more that I couldn't quite make out. Said to be a classic Chinese breakfast dish, I loved the combination. It reminded me of our own "maidi" which literally translates to "rice water". A handful or a fistful of rice (mairong mjemshi) goes into a pot with plenty of water and cooked till the rice is soft and the mixture is creamy. It's seasoned with a touch of salt and usually served warm to those who are ailing and unable to eat anything else. When I'm down with fever that's what I have and immediately feel that I'm on the path of recovery. But it is not cooked as a regular breakfast dish. 

I loved having congee in China. While travelling it's safe to stick to a dish that does not have any oil. On the flight to Shanghai, the meal included the same with some whole beans. I noticed that some of the locals seated next to us had the congee and left the buns untouched. Reading up on congee, I found out that most rice-consuming nations have their own variations. In Korea it's juk, in Japan it's okayu, and in Thailand, it's jok. They are not all plain. Some have several additions of protein and vegetables. It's interesting to note that the word congee comes from Tamil  kanji.
Delicious steamed greens

Mouth-watering fried chicken with veggies
Fish with mushrooms and capsicum

An assortment of dried & fresh fruit near the Ming tombs
The icing on the cake was Peking duck which I will include in a different post. Shanghai and Hangzhou were equally delightful but more on that in my future posts. It didn't matter that we didn't speak the language. The sights and the sounds of this beautiful country will be cherished for a long long time.
Thank you for stopping by today. Hope you all have a good week!