Thursday, October 29, 2015

Smoked Venison & Ash Gourd Curry With Green Peppercorns

Smoked venison & ash gourd curry
The other day my mother sent some smoked venison and various goodies that we (my sisters and I) divided between us. It's so convenient that my sisters also stay in the same city and fruits, either pickled or fresh, still come from the garden of our childhood. Coming back to the meat I decided to make a simple curry with ash gourd. Usually ash gourds weigh more than a couple of kilograms. They are usually halved or quartered and the rest, either shared or stored. The prospect of having the same vegetable for more than 2-3 meals isn't the most appealing thought.:)

This is also the season when green peppercorns are available. There might be several ways to use them but apart from adding them to bhajis and curries, I haven't really used them much. But I do love the zing that the green ones have as they are slightly different from the heat of chillies. 
With smoked meat I usually use the minimum of spices as I want to retain the smoked taste and flavour.
400 grams smoked venison 
About 500 grams ash gourd
3 medium onions, grated
8 cloves of garlic, ground
Thumb-size ginger, ground
1 tbs ground green peppercorns
2-3 green chillies, chopped fine
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
1 tbs toasted and ground coriander powder
Salt to taste
3 tbs mustard oil
A bunch of serrated coriander, chopped

Smoked venison and ash gourd curry
Cut the meat into bite-size pieces and soak it in hot water for 3-4 minutes.
Remove and drain in a colander. 
Cut the ash gourd and remove the innards. Peel and cut into similar square sizes.
Heat the oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the onions.
Fry till they turn paler in colour then add the meat.
Add the ginger, garlic, chillies, ground pepper and turmeric powder.
Cook for abour ten minutes before adding the gourd.
Continue to cook till both the ingredients soften. Season with salt and add the coriander powder.
Sprinkle some water in the pan if it threatens to catch at the bottom.
Cook till the curry is almost homogeneous. Add about 250ml of hot water and let the curry thicken and cook further.
Remove from the stove and transfer to a serving dish.
Scatter the chopped serrated coriander on top. 
This curry goes best with steaming hot rice.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Our Holiday In The Andamans

Delectable seafood that we gorged on. And my pina colada.
Our recent holiday to the Andamans was lovely! Beautiful beaches, wide open spaces and seeing the places that we had heard about from our childhood was a dream come true.

Caught the first view of the island before landing in Port Blair. It was a pleasant flight from Kolkata that lasted for a little more than two hours.
The hotel we stayed in was comfortable but the food in the restaurant wasn't anything to write home about. I only liked the seafood biryani that was generous in its use of prawns and pieces of fish. But breakfast was good with the usual fare of toasted bread with accompaniments, vada, idli, and sambar. We had no complaints.
The Cellular Jail
The Cellular jail was also known as Kala Pani was a colonial prison. Many notable dissidents were imprisoned here during the freedom movement. The complex is now a national memorial monument.
Corbyn's Cove near Port Blair

Jhaal muri
One of the much-loved beach snacks at Corbyn's Cove is jhaal muri. Puffed rice mixed with peanuts, dried peas, bhujjia with chopped chillies, onions and other spices with a dash of mustard oil. Watching the waves and the setting sun, we munched on jhaal muri and fesh tender coconut (after drinking the sweet water).
Havelock Island Resort
After a two-day stay in Port Blair we headed to the island of Havelock which was a two-hour ferry ride away. The resort here was beautiful with cottages all across the property. There were several coconut groves and the garden had a wonderful collection of plants. The place is only a year old and the flowering shrubs are still small. In a few years I'm sure the place will look even more beautiful.

The sea was in the backyard and it was interesting to see small clumps of mangrove on the beach.

I spent a lot of time walking on the beach. There were plenty of mudskippers.

These blooms must be related to the morning glory I think but the leaves look so different.

I was delighted to see this in Havelock. Apparently the store which is also an internet cafe does very well during the tourist season. That's from December to March. Loved the coffee/chocolate gelato that I had here.

Soon it was time to return by ferry to Port Blair. I thought I would get better shots of the island from above on our return flight to Kolkata. But it had rained in the morning and it was cloudy so no luck. I'll soon get back to my know how it is to get back home after a holiday.:)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Curried Eggplants

Curried eggplant

I haven't been very regular with my posts but picking up certain vegetables from the market the other day has inspired me to cook and blog about them. Soon we'll be going on a short holiday to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. So there'll be another gap between my posts again. But this is one holiday I'm looking forward to. I'm going with my husband and older son. Our younger son has work commitments and cannot join us. Since we live far away from the sea, any seaside trip is more than welcome.
Curried eggplant
It's not often that we get eggplants shaped like eggs so when I saw them the other day I quickly bought them. The first batch went into making our traditional dish khari and the second was made into curry. The first was wonderful with rice and this one? Good with either roti or rice.Despite the blemishes these eggplants delivered. The sweetness of freshly picked vegetable was evident in the first sampling of the curry.

These were washed and scored along the middle but remained intact at the top. The stalks were left on.
Curried eggplant
Fried till almost half done.
250 grams eggplants
4 tbs mustard oil
2 medium onions, grated
4 cloves of garlic, ground
1 small piece of ginger, ground
2 ripe tomatoes, blanched and chopped
A quarter tsp turmeric powder + extra to rub on the vegetable
Salt to taste
Pinch of sugar
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
Chopped serrated coriander for the garnish
(Both the cumin and coriander were toasted and ground)
Wash the eggplants and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Cut them in the middle from the end to the top. At the stalk-end the eggplants should remain intact.
Rub a mix of salt and turmeric inside the slits and set aside as you heat the oil.
Heat the oil in a pan. As soon as it comes to smoking point fry the eggplants in batches till almost done.
Remove with a slotted spoon on to a kitchen towel.
If there is very little oil left in the pan, you can add a tablespoon more.
Add the grated onions and cook till the colour turns pale.
Add the ground ginger and garlic. After a few minutes, add the rest of the spices.
Season with salt. Add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of sugar as the tomatoes are acidic.
When the mixture starts to look good, add a cup of hot water. 
Add the fried eggplants. Cook till the vegetable is done and the gravy thickens. Check the seasoning and make adjustments. If you want more gravy, add some more water.
Remove from the stove and transfer to a serving dish.

Curried eggplant
Sprinkle the chopped herbs on the curried eggplants. Coriander works fine too but I had a bunch of serrated coriander and that's what I used. And I did not use any garam masala as I didn't want the dish to be over-powered by more spices.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Roselle Chutney

Roselle chutney
Roselle/Hibiscus sabdariffa
Buying fruits and vegetables in our neighbourhood market the other day, I couldn't resist picking up a packet of roselle fruits. It's such a joy to see the produce of the season. Indian olives are making their first appearance so pickling days will soon follow. The purple of the water chestnuts, the pale green of amla/Indian gooseberry and winter vegetables like cauliflowers and kohl rabi are all being sold now.
Coming back with my bags, I thought of a few roselle recipes. The usual ones are adding them to dal or to fish curry but then I decided to make chutney. I had bought only 250 grams but the fruit is acidic anything sour does not have any takers in my house. So chutney was the best bet.
Roselle chutney
Roselle fruits
I must confess that I held the fruit in the sunlight and admired that gorgeous colour before clicking the pictures! Then the hard seed pods were removed. In our cuisine the mature seeds are dried and pounded and used as a substitute for fermented fish. According to Wiki, roselle jam differs from other jams in that the pectin is obtained from boiling the interior buds of the roselle flowers. It is thus possible to make roselle jam with just the fruit and sugar.
In our region, the leaves are widely used in cooking. They are also acidic but the sour taste is welcome on our unbearably hot summer days.
250 grams roselle fruit
5 tbs sugar
1" piece ginger, grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
11/2 cups water
A dash of salt
Roselle chutney
Seedpods removed
Remove the red portions/calyces and discard the seedpods.
Wash and put them in a pan along with some water, chopped onions, grated ginger, sugar and salt.
Add the red chilli powder and cook till the liquid is greatly reduced.
When the chutney is almost done, add the vinegar and give it a good stir.
The entire cooking time will be 30-35 minutes. After the seedpods were removed the quantity of the fruit was reduced.
Take it off the heat and let it cool.
Store in a clean glass container.
This chutney goes very well with our flatbreads. You can also have it with alu tikkis.
Roselle chutney

I thought a contrast in colours would be nice. The season of roselle is also when the leaves of my jamun tree turn a golden shade of yellow. Not all at once but a few at a time. I placed a spoonful of chutney on a leaf that I plucked from a lower branch. Cheery red on a plate of sunshine!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Going Bananas With (Banana) Jam

Whole-wheat banana loaf with banana jam and chocolate
I have a small clump of banana plants in my backyard and last month's harvest was wonderful. There was plenty of sharing with friends and family and with the remaining bananas, I made several bottles of jam. And I have been using the jam in quick breads, muffins, or simply having them out of the jar with a spoonful of the same in mini tart shells. And the flavour in the jam has been enhanced with passing weeks. The cloves, cinnamon and ginger have/and are still slowly working their magic. I've been telling myself that it makes sense to make banana jam.:)
The harvest

This variety is locally known as jahaji kol. Did you know that bananas are the fifth most traded agricultural commodity in the world? That is after cereals, sugar, coffee and cocoa. In India it is the second most important fruit crop in India after mango. Its year-round availability, affordibility, taste, nutritive and medicinal value make it the favourite fruit among all classes of people. Source.
Muffins made with banana jam
These muffins were made for my son's friends at the coaching class he attends.
Mini tart shells to taste the jam
The recipe for the jam is here. Recently when some friends came over they tried the jam by filling these freshly-baked tart shells and they loved the taste!! Apart from these, I have also made banana jam cake with poppy seeds which I carried with me when I went visiting. But yesterday I made a simple loaf with jam and whole-wheat flour.

Whole-wheat banana loaf with chocolate

11/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2/3 cup banana jam
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbs water
2 tbs plain yogurt
100 grams butter, at room temperature+ extra for greasing the tin
2 large eggs
About 80 grams dark chocolate, chopped into small bits
Butter and line the tin with grease-proof paper. I used a 91/2 inch loaf tin.
Sieve the flour and the baking powder. 
Cream the sugar and the butter in a large bowl until the mixture turns pale in colour.
Beat in one egg till fully incorporated. Then do the same with the other.
Add the yogurt, the jam, the vanilla extract and the coffee. Whisk to incorporate.
Lastly fold in the flour/baking powder mix.
Add half of the batter to the prepared tin. 
Then scatter the chopped chocolate over the batter.
Top off with the rest of the cake batter. Tap the tin on the counter top to release air bubbles.
Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 35-40 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
If the top tends to brown easily, place a piece of foil on top.
Remove and cool.

This cake goes wonderfully well with a cup of tea. I only use half a cup of sugar as the jam is sweet and that was good enough. The flavour of the fruit is subtle and I think I like this better than using (over) ripe fruit. So as long as the jam lasts I think I'm going to incorporate the same in some more recipes.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Ricotta cake

Ricotta cake

I was in Delhi recently but instead of haunting familiar places (for ingredients, need I say) I was down with a severe cold. Luckily my husband got some of the stuff that I needed and the outcome is this cake. 
We are heading towards cooler weather now and I'm so much looking forward to growing more tomatoes and  a few other vegetables this year. Right now the ground is still very soggy with the heavy rain that made so many lives miserable in our flood-prone city. The few months of kinder weather will surely bring out the best in us...out of cheers to that.
We were meeting up to celebrate my sister's birthday and sharing a cake like this was just right. I had wanted to bake it right after seeing it SBS Food Safari. Better late than never. 
I made quite a few changes and the main was the quantity of ricotta. The recipe asked for 1.2 kg ricotta and I did worry about the proportion but went ahead anyway.

For the pastry:
21/2 cups flour
1 cup butter, chilled and diced
3 tbs icing sugar
1 large egg
Transfer the flour and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Add the butter. With the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the mix until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add the egg and bring the dough together. If you feel at this point that it needs a bit more moisture, sprinkle some iced water. Make it into a ball, flatten it and then wrap it in clingfilm. Chill it for at least 40 minutes.
(Mine rested overnight and this is the usual quantity that I make preferring to have some left-over dough for maybe a quick hand pie for later).
A springform tin was used in the original recipe but I used a deep (deeper than my usual ones) tart tin.
After the dough has chilled roll out a round disc a little bigger than the size of the tin. Place it on the tin, press the edges and trim off the overhanging dough. Chill in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the ingredients...
1/3 cup sultanas
250 grams ricotta
250 gram mascarpone
2/3 cup fine sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs lemon zest
2 tbs plain flour
Soak the sultanas in water till they swell up. The original recipe had sultanas soaked in marsala overnight.
Ricotta cake

Mix the mascarpone and ricotta in the food processor. Mix in sugar and combine well. Add eggs one at a time ensuring that each egg is well-beaten. Add vanilla, flour and the lemon zest and mix. Fold in the sultanas. Pour the batter in the pastry-lined tin and bake at a preheated 160C oven for an hour or until it turns golden brown. Turn off oven and let the cake cool in it. Leave the door slightly ajar. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight. To serve, dust with some icing sugar.
While serving I did leave out the sugar bit and the flawed surface on the cake came from using grease-proof paper to stop it from browning further. Despite the look, the cake tasted really delicious. And as I type this, only a tiny bit remains. Not even a proper wedge. Everyone went for seconds and that made me feel that it was well worth the effort.