Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sangri ki Sabji

It's always interesting to find out ingredients that are different from the ones in your own region. The other day I picked a bundle of beans from the vendor known as sangri or sangar. I must have cooked with the fresh variety only once before and certainly did not blog about it. But I'm more familiar with the dried ones that go into the famous and delicious Rajasthani dish kair sangri ki sabzi, a combination of desert berries and beans. These are the beans of the tree Prosopis cineraria known as Khejri tree in Rajasthan. Here are some facts about the plant from Wiki.

Prosopis cineraria is a species of flowering tree in the Pea family, Fabaceae. It is native to arid portions of the Indian subcontinent and several areas of the Middle-East. It is the state tree of Rajasthan. The wood is a good fuel source and provides excellent charcoal. The leaves and pods are consumed by livestock. The tree improves soil fertility and its deep roots avoid competition for water with other crops. With the regular browsing by camel and goats, the tree takes on a (pruned) bush-like appearance. The pods, both fresh and dried are consumed. Both are also used as cattle feed. More facts about the tree here.
200 grams sangri
2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled, and diced
A quarter tsp cumin seeds
2 tejpatta
2 green chillies, scored lengthwise, seeds intact
1 tbs cumin and coriander powder, toasted and ground
1 tomato, blanched, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 tsp chilli powder
Salt to taste
2 tbs vegetable oil
Fresh chopped coriander for the garnish

Remove the ends of the beans and cut into one and a half inch bits. The tapering ends are tough so snip off where the tenderness ends.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds and the tejpatta.
Put in the green chillies and the beans. Stir.
Add the rest of the spices and cook till almost tender. This will take about 15 minutes.
Season with salt.
Then add the potatoes and the chopped tomatoes.
Cook till it all comes together. This will take a few more minutes.
Remove from the flame and transfer to a serving dish.
Garnish with the chopped coriander. 

I squeezed a bit of lemon juice before having it. Another option is to use amchoor powder for a bit of tang.
Optional....the beans can be plunged into boiling water for a minute or two before being cooked. This is to remove the very slight hint of bitterness you might get from the beans.
This dish goes very well with Indian flatbreads.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mutton Curry With Turnips

With the turnips that I bought at the Farmers' Market, I decided to cook the same with mutton. Potatoes are usually added to our mutton curries but once in a while they can be substituted with other vegetables. I would love to cook the fabled Kashmiri dish with turnips called Shab deg but that will have to wait till I get back home. This is the easier version but tastes wonderful anyway.
It also helps that the butcher in the area sells excellent quality of meat and that makes cooking mutton in Delhi a sheer delight.

500 grams mutton
4 medium turnips
4 large onions, sliced thin
10 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
Thumb-size ginger, grated
1 tbs cumin powder
2 tbs coriander powder
1 tbs red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp pepper powder
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
4 green chillies, scored lengthwise, seeds intact
3 tomatoes, blanched and chopped
2 bruised black cardamoms
3-4 tejpatta
Salt to taste 
A bunch of chopped coriander leaves for the garnish
4 tbs vegetable oil

Cut off the ends of the turnips and peel them. Cut them into quarters, rub some salt and keep them aside for about an hour.
Wash off the salt and drain the vegetables in a colander.Heat 2 tbs oil in a pan and lightly fry the turnips till they start to turn a little golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Add the rest of the oil. Throw in the bruised black cardamoms and the tejpatta.
Put in the onions and fry till they turn golden. Now add the meat, ginger, garlic, turmeric, green chillies and the rest of the spices except the garam masala.
Stir at regular intervals and keep cooking till the meat is tender. If it threatens to catch at the bottom, pour a bit of water and continue cooking. This will take about 30-35 minutes. Season with salt.
Now add the tomatoes and stir well. Check the seasoning and make any adjustments.Once the tomatoes blend into the dish pour about 2 cups of hot water.
Add the prepared turnips and cook for another ten minutes.
Remove from the flame, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with fresh coriander.
The cumin and coriander powder that I used were roasted and ground.
The garam masala was made of equal proportions of cardamom, clove, and cinnamon, broiled together and ground.
The whole cardamoms and the tejpatta can be removed from the dish.
I loved this curry. And it went very well with plain rice, arhar dal and a simple cucumber and carrot salad that we had for lunch.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Great Food Show @ The Grand, Delhi

Regular visitors to this page know about all the inspiration that I get from BBC Good Food/India magazine. I'm in Delhi now spending time with my sons. As luck would have it, The Great Food Show (Good Food was a co-partner) happened at The Grand here in Delhi. I spent the entire day there on the first day looking/buying the produce sold, as well as attending the master classes by some of India's best-known celebrity chefs. The line-up was impressive and I stayed on for four of these classes. But more on that in my future post.

The best macarons, cookies and chocolates were at Sugarama. People queued up here the most. The macarons were out of this world and I liked the vanilla ones the best!

Rama, the man behind such delicious treats! The packaging for the goodies were very pretty too!
Wonderful produce from the Farmer's Market. I bought enough (I think) for the duration of my stay here.:)

I loved the pickles at this stall. Bela, the affable lady had a wonderful array of pickles.
Daulat ki chaat

Saved myself the trip of going to Chandni Chowk in the northern part of the city to gorge on this divine concoction called Daulat ki chaat. I was thrilled to see a stall selling the same and that was the first thing I tasted at the show. Sold only during the winters in the lanes of the old city, this milk dessert literally melts in your mouth. More on this dessert here.

I have already started cooking with some of the goodies I bought at the show. Nuts, oils, rice, dairy products, plenty of cookery books and of course good food were all there!

I'll soon be featuring some of the recipes here. I left as the evening turned chilly and a talented musician took over the stage. It was a day well spent.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Broth Of Duck, Ginger & Amaranth

With the onset of winter certain meats are much more appreciated and duck is one of them.The other day we had duck curry that was made with ash gourd. It's a popular combination in our region and with a curry that has both meat and vegetables, a bowl of rice is enough! I kept some less photogenic pieces aside for a broth to be made with ginger later.:)
During our visit to China I relished the simple duck and ginger broth in a restaurant in Hangzhou. Despite the day being hot, the light broth and the dumplings, made the meal so delicious. I thought I would make a similar broth but the amaranth sprouting amid my potted plants begged to be cooked! And they taste so good when tender. So how could I not respond to such a fervent request?
Duck & ginger broth next to a bowl of  dumplings in a restaurant in Hangzhou
For the broth:
I had cooked about a cup of duck meat with sufficient water till tender. The stock finally came down to 600 ml.
1 thumb size ginger sliced lengthwise
A quarter tsp pepper
Salt to taste
2 tsp soya sauce
2 cups of tender amaranth leaves, washed and left whole
Coriander leaves for the garnish

Transfer the meat and the stock to a heavy-bottomed pan and cook on medium flame.
Add the ginger and the soya sauce.
Cook for 12-15 minutes.
Add the amaranth and cook till done. This might take another 4-5 minutes.
Take the pan off the flame, transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the coriander.
This is a dish that goes best with steaming hot rice!
Very few spices went into the dish as the stock already had a finely diced onion, 3 diced cloves of garlic, a bit of pepper and salt.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lai, Carrot& Bean Soup

It's lai /Brassica juncea again in this post. And spring onions. Both showing up in abundance at this time of the year. Calls for a celebration! Although lai is grown during the summer, its appearance is nowhere near its winter avatar. It makes sense to grow them during the season that Mother Nature has ordained for them. I remember my mother often mentioning about how delicious vegetables are during the season of the dew....
Usually lunch is a me-only affair so I often team up most of the vegetables I have in stock and make a soup or a simple curry. With soup, I pour it on a bowl of boiled and drained noodles, and voila, lunch is ready! And what I like about this kind of soup is that the recipe can very well start with "a handful of this and a handful of that".:) 

2 carrots, cut diagonally
8-10 tender French beans, string them and cut like the carrots
About 150 grams tender lai (washed and kept whole)
1 onion, diced
600 ml hot chicken stock
1/3 cup of shredded chicken
2 tsp soya sauce
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
A quarter tsp finely chopped ginger
A quarter tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp vegetable oil
For the garnish:
1 spring onion, cut diagonally (use from the lower portion)
1 green chilli, cut in the same way, seeds intact
A few pieces of thinly sliced ginger

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions and fry till translucent.
Add the ginger and the garlic. Throw in the carrots and the beans. Cook for a few minutes.
Now add the leaves and the hot stock. Put in the shredded chicken.
Add the soya sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook till the vegetables are tender but not mushy. This will take about 12-15 minutes.
Remove from the flame and serve in individual bowls.
Garnish with the chopped spring onions, ginger juliennes, and chilli.
This recipe serves 4.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Steamed Pork Belly With Lai

Those who stop by my blog know that most of my inspiration for trying out new dishes is by watching the food shows. This one came from Luke Nguyen's One Thousand Layer Pork. Ever since I saw it I had been wanting to make it but was waiting for the weather to turn cooler. There's a saying that pork tastes better in those months that has the letter r in them.:)
The process that I used for this dish is the same as the Chef's but certain adaptations were made mainly due to lack of ingredients and expertise. The latter refers to the layers. The cut of pork wasn't wide enough to be made into several layers so I sliced it into thicker pieces. I also didn't use pickled mustard greens because I didn't have them. But I used lai/brassica juncea as they go so well with pork. Moreover it's from the same family.

The recipe has been adapted from here.
500 grams pork belly
2 tsp vegetable oil, half will go into braising the greens
250 grams lai, washed thoroughly
A bunch of coriander leaves for the garnish
The marination:
2 tbs light soya sauce
1 tbs dark soya sauce
2 tbs rice wine (I used Judima, the Dimasa rice wine...the recipe uses Chinese rice wine with Shaoxing rice)
3 garlic cloves, diced + 1 clove of garlic, diced, for the greens
A knob of ginger, finely sliced
2 tbs brown sugar

Combine the ingredients for the marinade till the sugar dissolves. Coat the pork with the marinade on all sides. Keep in the fridge for an hour.
Braise the washed greens with a clove of garlic. The water that remains from washing the leaves will suffice and no liquid needs to be added. Keep aside.
Remove the meat from the marinade and remove any ginger/garlic from it. Reserve the marinade.
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Seal the meat on all sides, cooking each side for four to five minutes.
Pour hot water in the same pan just enough to cover the meat. Cook for about ten minutes.
Submerge the pork belly into an ice bath so that it will be easy to slice the meat.
Slice the meat and place the pieces in a bowl with the skin side down.
Top with the braised greens. Pour the reserved marinade over the top and steam for an hour. Replenish the water in between.
After an hour, remove the bowl from the steamer. Place a plate upside down on the bowl and flip it much like you would do with an upside down cake.
Remove the bowl and garnish the dish with coriander leaves.

* For an additional zing, I added two green chillies (chopped). Judima works out pretty well in this dish and I think I'll be using it again. This turned out to be one of the most satisfying dishes I have cooked in recent times.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cooking With French Bean Seeds

French beans are widely grown in our region. When the weather turns cooler the markets get flooded with the seeds. They come in such gorgeous shades of purple and magenta that the red kidney beans pale in comparison. French beans are available throughout the year but when it comes to the seeds, now is the time.
The most popular way of cooking them is like cooking rajma/red kidney beans. But soaked and boiled beans can be added to vegetable preparations. We also team them up with smoked fish for a tasty curried dal with the addition of the usual spices like onions, ginger, garlic, chillies, coriander, cumin, and garnished with fresh coriander. Pieces of chunky smoked meat is another wonderful ingredient that goes so well in this kind of cooking.
Drying the seeds in the sun
This recipe (in the first photo) is cooked like dal. The dish goes very well with rice as well as many of our flatbreads.
200 grams French beans (seeds)
2 onions, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
1" piece of ginger, ground
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Half tsp cumin powder
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste 
2 tsp vegetable oil
2-3 tejpatta
A bunch of coriander leaves and stems for the garnish

Wash and soak the French bean seeds for a few hours. Boil in the pressure cooker in the same water till soft but not mushy.
Heat the oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, throw in the tejpatta
Add the onions and fry till they turn translucent.
Add the rest of the spices and continue to cook for a few minutes.
Put in the tomatoes, stir well. Season with salt.
When the mixture comes together and looks good, add the cooked beans.
Let it cook for another five minutes before taking it off the heat.
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the coriander leaves and stems.

The coriander and cumin powder that I used were roasted and ground. I keep small batches of roasted spices. The flavour is much better that way but they need to be used soon as the smell and the freshness goes off fast.
When using smoked meat to cook the beans, the preferred garnish is serrated coriander.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cake With Dried Apricots

It's November and there's so much to look forward to. I'm spending more time with my potted plants and getting the soil ready for planting. Although I don't have much space to plant, a visit to the nurseries at this time of the year is a must! Tomatoes are mandatory and this year's annuals are likely to be a mix of phlox and salvias.
I'm using up my haul of dried fruits before they outlive their shelf life. Fruit whether in fresh or dried forms turn out so wonderfully well that I decided to add the apricots to this cake. It's the simplest of cakes which came out well and the chopped fruits created their own pretty patterns all across the cake.
1 cup all-purpose flour sieved with 1 tsp baking powder
A quarter cup almond meal
15 dried apricots, soaked for an hour in tepid water
1 cup butter, softened + extra for greasing the cake tin
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs 
Some icing sugar to be dusted on the finished cake

Grease the cake tin and dust it with flour. Set aside. I used a loaf tin.
Remove the stones from the drained apricots and chop them roughly.
Cream the butter and the sugar till pale in colour.
Add the eggs one by one whisking all the time.
Add the vanillla extract.
Fold in the flour and the almond meal and add the chopped fruit.
Mix gently and pour the batter in the prepared tin.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 C for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar before cutting it into slices.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hand Pies With Ambrosial Fillings!

Freshly-baked pies resemble the colour of jamun leaves at this time of the year.
Call them hand pies or turnovers, this is another wonderful way of using up leftover pastry dough and almond cream that might remain from previous baking. With hand pies, coconut is the most common option (with me) although I have baked them with vegetable dishes, much like the way I make my (breakfast) pies. The inspiration for this post again came from the book that I referred to in my earlier posts.
Ambrosia in a bowl!:) After mixing the two components together.
I did have some almond cream left over and since fillings can be mixed together for turnovers, I made a compote with what I had in the fridge. Three pears and a medium-sized apple were made into compote which I added to the almond cream. To give the mix a different taste and colour, I also added a handful of ground walnuts. This turned out to be the taste that was fit for the gods!
All set for the oven
To make the hand pies roll out the pastry dough into discs. I used a plate to cut out the circles.
Whisk one egg yolk and set aside.
Brush the edges of the disc with egg. Place the filling in the centre.
Fold the pastry and seal the edges with your fingers. Use a fork to create a pattern as well as to make the edges more secure. (Despite that some of the filling refused to remain imprisoned).:)
Cut an apple into discs. Remove the pips leaving the apple slice with a star design in the centre.
Place one apple slice on the pastry with the egg yolk as 'glue'.
Brush the pastry with the egg wash.
Bake in a preheated 180C oven till they turn golden brown. This may take about 18-20 minutes.

This is again another wonderful accompaniment to tea or coffee. If I hadn't tried out this recipe, I'd never have known that almond/walnut cream with apple & pear compote could taste this good!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Amandine/Almond Tart

I am still hooked on to Richard Bertinet's book titled Pastry. And with all the nuts that came in the Diwali hampers I am on a baking spree. With glee! After all nuts are pretty expensive. And this part of the year is just right for the recipes that start with almond cream....
The almond cream is the base for many of the tarts in the book and is a staple in French desserts. Even the name Amandine sounds so lovely! I have made quite a few of recipes with this ingredient as you might remember from my posts. So I won't be including the entire recipe in this post. I simply cut down the quantity of the almond cream for this recipe as I used an 8" tart tin. The recipe in detail, from the book, is given in this post about Prune & Rum Tarts.

I like to bake these tarts well-browned. The dough was rolled much bigger than the tin and the overhanging dough was folded inwards and pressed. So that resulted in a thicker pastry border and less dough was left over. The flaked almonds on the top makes it look even more attractive.

The tart is a wonderful accompaniment to tea or coffee. And whoever has tasted it has raved about it.:) With that kind of ingredient(s) can the taste be anything else?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Apple Cake With Honey/Walnut Topping

It's as if October went in a hurry. With November here and the weather turning pleasant, it's a joy to get in the kitchen and bake away. The markets are awash with the sweetest apples from our northern states and when it comes to baking with fruits, apples figure first on the list mainly because there are no choices.:)
So that's what it was yesterday when I baked this cake with apples and made a crunchy topping with toasted walnuts and honey. Although I have made many apple cakes before, the inspiration for this one came from watching Cake Diaries but I added my own twist. 

One & a half cups  all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 cup butter + extra for greasing the tin

1 cup fine sugar
3 eggs
3 medium apples
A handful of walnuts
A quarter cup honey

Sieve the flour with the baking powder and the cinnamon. Set aside.
Grease the cake tin and preheat the oven to 180C.
Peel and core two apples. Dice them and set aside.
Cream the butter and the sugar till pale in colour.
Add one egg at a time. Whisk.
Fold in the sieved flour. Check the consistency. A bit of milk might be added at this point.
Add the diced apples, mix gently and transfer the batter to the greased tin.
Cut and core the third apple. Slice evenly and place the slices on the batter creating a pattern.
Bake for 35-40 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven.
Toast a handful of walnuts in a pan. When the raw smell goes off add the honey to the pan.
Pour this over the warm cake.