Monday, August 29, 2016

Curried Okra With Coconut Milk

Curried okra with coconut milk
Okra curry with coconut milk
And August comes to an end. Well, almost! It's been a month of hospitals, medication and also my physiotherapy for my painful right knee. I'm already feeling a little better and hoping that it doesn't take too long for me to get back to regular activities around the house.
Today's dish reminded me of the use of coconuts in our house. They were usually in the form of sweets as in laddoos, pithas and steamed rice dumplings. It was only much later after I had taken an interest on cooking that coconuts were added to savoury dishes as well. Although I love coconut milk, my husband and sons aren't really fond of it. Which is why it isn't an everyday kind of thing in my kitchen. On occasions when I do add coconut milk to dishes I end up with a second helping of rice!:)
With okra also they are more favoured in dry(ish) preparations rather than curried. One curry/khari is the dish with fermented fish and rice flour. But they are usually fried, stuffed and fried, steamed or added to dal.

Ingredients: (This serves 4)
250 grams okra
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
A dash of ginger paste
A dash of garlic paste
1 tsp coriander powder (toasted and ground)
1 quarter tsp cumin powder (toasted and ground)
1 large tomato, blanched, peeled and chopped up
A dash of turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 star anise
Vegetable oil, as needed
A bit of cumin seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 cup coconut milk
The milk I used was from 1 coconut with the milk squeezed out just once by adding a bit of warm water.
Wash and dry the vegetable with the help of a dish cloth.
Remove ends and cut them into 11/2" lengths. I cut them on the diagonal.
Add a touch of salt and turmeric powder and mix well. Set aside.
Heat some oil in a kadhai. Shallow fry the okra. You could do this in 2-3 batches.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

In the same oil, throw in the star anise. Add the onions and fry till they turn pale. Add the ginger and garlic pastes.
Add the rest of the spices and the tomato.
Season with salt and continue to cook till the mixture looks done. This will take about 8-10 minutes.
Add the shallow fried vegetable and give it a gentle stir.
Add the coconut milk and keep it on medium flame till the okra is done. This will take another 5 minutes.
Transfer to a serving dish.
In a small pan heat about a teaspoon of oil. As soon as it is hot, throw in the cumin seeds and the curry leaves. Pour this mixture on top of the curried okra. You could use mustard seeds in place of cumin seeds.
Now get that plate of rice..... 

Other okra posts:
Bharwan Bhindi/Stuffed Okra
Bendakaya Gojju/South Indian Okra Dish
Dal Cooked With Okra/ Dal Jang Bhendi
Okra With Eggs/Bhendi Yaoyaba Daodi Jang

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Chocolate Tart With A Coconut Crust

Chocolate tart with a coconut crust
Chocolate tart with a coconut crust
Because of our recent harvest of coconuts, I have been including them in a few dishes. But it was only recently that I came across recipes of pie crusts made with coconuts. I loved the idea. A crust that takes minimal time with no chilling/resting sounded too good to be true. So the grated coconut from which I had already extracted the milk for a curry came in very handy indeed. Otherwise it would have gone into the dough for either cookies or for roti.
You can see in the picture below that my loose-bottomed tart tin is ready for the oven. It wasn't fine and it did give away in certain places but I 'repaired' those areas and I was happy that the shell remained intact.:) 

The coconut crust:
11/2 cups grated coconut (I have mentioned above that I used the grated coconut with the milk squeezed out for a curry)
About 5 tsp softened butter
2 tsp fine sugar
Blitz these ingredients for a couple of minutes and then spread the mixture on your pie tin.
Bake in a 180C oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove and cool as you prepare the filling.
The filling:
Dark  chocolate chopped into small bits
180 ml cream, I used Amul Fresh Cream 
2 tsp butter

Heat the cream and as it starts to come to a boil, add the chopped bits of chocolate. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and mix gently.
Let the mixture cool slightly before you pour it in the prepared coconut crust.
I added the pine nuts about 30 minutes later.
Chill for about 4 hours or overnight.
With chocolate tarts I usually chill them overnight and take them out about 20-30 minutes prior to serving.

I did not use exact measurements for the filling because I had some dark chocolate left in two different packets. You can see from the picture that the filling should have been a little more. But it set beautifully.

And the crust could have been more golden. Sigh. Maybe next time. But I was happy that I made it. Coconut crust and chocolate ganache is a marriage made in heaven!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Simplest Chia Pudding Parfait

Although I have read much about chia seeds, this is the first I am using them in my kitchen. One can't help but join the bandwagon when the world is talking and posting about it!:) You can barely see the seeds here because I went a little overboard with the topping. But apart from the afterthought of the semi-sweet chocolate chips, this is only sweetened by four dried figs.
Chia is an edible seed that comes from the plant Salvia hispanica grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. Chia contains antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein and fiber. If you want to know more about the health benefits and nutritional information of chia seeds, you could check out this site.
Chia seeds
I got a small packet of chia seeds on my last trip to Delhi and couldn't wait to try it. At INA market where we also bought different varieties of nuts and dried fruits, the person who was selling it told me that a few years ago nobody knew about it but now everybody wants to buy chia seeds. The first time I tried it was with full fat milk and sweetened with honey. The proportion wasn't right so the mixture was liquid-y. But the next time round I checked up online for the measurement/ratio and got it right. First I made the almond milk by soaking 1 cup of almonds. Later I ground them up, added water and squeezed out the milk with the help of a cheesecloth. The result was lovely almond milk as seen below.
Freshly-made almond milk
Ingredients: (this serves 4)
For chia pudding
1/2 cup chia seeds
2 cups almond milk, unsweetened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 dried figs, soaked for about 30 minutes
For the parfait 
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup broken-into-bits walnuts
1 tsp semi-sweet chocolate chips

Ready to do its own thing in the fridge
Blitz the soaked figs in the grinder. Remove and transfer to a bowl.
Add the almond milk, vanilla extract and the chia seeds. Mix well.
Keep in the fridge overnight.
Chia seeds need to be soaked for at least a couple of hours but I left the mix overnight as I was planning a healthy breakfast the next morning. Like I said the chocolate chips were added on impulse and I thought they would make the topping look better.
Toast the broken bits of walnuts in a tawa for a few minutes till they let out a fragrant nutty aroma.
Place a tablespoon of the chia pudding at the bottom of the glass/mason jar, layer with sliced bananas, top with more chia pudding. Add sliced bananas, walnuts and chocolate chips to the topmost layer. Your chia pudding parfait is ready.

Dishes like this one can be so forgiving as you can use whatever is in season when it comes to layering. Wish I could have added more colour but I made do with what I had in hand. The colour comes from my little pink ixora that's blooming now.:)
This is indeed such a healthy snack. There's more in the fridge as my husband found it too sweet. His wasn't served with chocolate chips and bananas. I'm looking forward to more variations with what is left in the fridge.
Nothing goes to waste. The almond meal goes into this banana/chocolate loaf cake
And after making the almond milk, I was left with almost a cup of almond meal. And that went into the making of this loaf cake with bananas. The crushed chocolate bits were scattered on the top of the batter just before the tin went into the oven.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Chrysanthemum Bread

Chrysanthemum bread
Chrysanthemum bread with a sausage filling
Returning home after my husband's thorough check-up, I couldn't wait to bake bread.:) Apart from minor changes in his diet and exercise and more medication for his diabetes and hypertension, he should be feeling much better from now on. But the persistent pain in my right knee also needed attention and I had my X-ray and MRI done. The findings in medical terms are scary. I have been advised rest for the time being and physiotherapy will start soon.
Slowing down at this stage in my life will affect so many other areas around the house. Particularly when I cannot climb stairs. With the main activity areas on two levels and my immobility...I'd rather not even begin to imagine...But since the kitchen is on the same floor as the bedrooms, my trials in the kitchen will continue with maybe gaps in between.
Coming back to the bread, I had seen this flower-shaped bread on Pinterest and couldn't take my mind off it. It's also referred to as Russian or Georgian chrysanthemum bread. What I liked most about it besides the 'petals', was the filling. That's what makes it so moist and soft as you bite into it. Of course the addition of milk, butter and eggs into the dough also makes it richer and brioche-like. I used the usual measurements that I stick to when I make this kind of bread.

(For the dough)
31/2 cups all-purpose flour + extra for dusting
1 cup milk
1 tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
5 tbs melted butter
1 quarter tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten + 1 yolk mixed with a bit of milk for the eggwash
  • Heat the milk in a pan. It should be warm enough to activate the yeast. 
  • Transfer it to a bowl, add the sugar and the yeast. Give a mix and set aside for about 10 minutes for the froth to come to the surface.
  • In a large bowl, add the flour and the salt. Mix well. Pour the yeast mixture and start kneading. Add the butter and the beaten eggs and knead till the mixture comes together.
  • Tip contents on a lightly floured surface and knead for about ten minutes until the dough is soft and elastic.
  • Clean the bowl you had used earlier by scraping out bits of dough that might have stuck when you started to knead.
  • Oil the bowl and the surface of the dough. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Set aside till the dough doubles in size. This may take about an hour.
Chrysanthemum bread

For the filling:
1 packet chicken sausages 
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped fine
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp coarsely grated black pepper
3 tomatoes blanched, peeled and diced into small pieces
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Chopped herbs, optional
As the dough proves you can start on the filling. Remove the sausage casings and chop up the meat.
Heat the oil in a pan. Fry the onions till they turn translucent. Add the meat along with the seasonings.
Add the blanched and chopped tomatoes and cook till done.
Transfer to another dish and scatter the herbs, if using. 

I did not use salt here as the sausages had enough salt in them.

  • Meanwhile, gently knead the well-risen dough for a minute or so and divide into half. 
  • Place the dough on a lightly-floured surface and roll out into a large circle, about 3mm in thickness.
  • Using a cutter (mine was 3.5"), cut out little circles. Place about a tablespoon of the filling on one half of the circle. Fold it and then fold the half circle in the middle. You can see the stages in the collage above.
  • Line your pie tin (I used a 7" one with a removable bottom) with butter paper and place the filled/folded bits of dough in a circle till the tin is covered. For the gap in the middle, I filled a small sphere with the filling and placed it in the middle of the 'petals'.
  • Set aside again for about 20 minutes.
  • Brush with the egg yolk and milk mixture and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 30 minutes or till the bread is golden brown.
Chrysanthemum bread
Soft and moist and delicious with the sausage filling.

Chrysanthemum bread

I couldn't help taking a picture of the bottom of the bread too. The 'petals' created a lovely floral pattern.
The filling I made was about 2 cups but I didn't use them all up. There was enough dough left for 4 medium buns and the filling was used to stuff the buns. This is a wonderful bread to snack on and it doesn't beg for other accompaniments.:) Baking a bread like this one is a joy indeed!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Quinoa Salad & Other Things

Quinoa salad with cucumber and pomegranate
Quinoa, the wonder food does not often make its appearance in my kitchen. But it came in handy today as I wanted something really light for lunch instead of going through the rice/curry rigmarole. So a refreshing quinoa salad it was. With cubes of tender cucumber, pomegranate arils, coriander leaves and a dressing that somehow I end up making. This has honey, salt, freshly-ground pepper, lemon juice, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
With my younger son's recent visit to Vietnam, my interest in Vietnamese food led me to buy this book. It came yesterday and as of now, I am lost in the culinary delights of this fascinating country I hope to visit some day. The picture below shows my modest collection of cookery/ cookery-related books piled high for the benefit of a photo.
My recent trials in my kitchen was a guava cake made with home-grown guavas. It had a crumb topping and didn't look all that good but the taste was extremely delicious. That's what my siblings and nieces told me. 

Another attempt has been baking nutella/chocolate babka. I'm so glad I live in a city where I have several nieces and a couple of nephews who love to try out my cooking. So there is no dearth of 'tasters'!:)
Nutella babka

Out in my front yard, this peach rose added life to an otherwise drab garden.

And in my sister's garden, the milk and wine lilies are getting ready to put on a grand show!
There will no posts here for the next 6 days or so as I'm leaving with my husband for Delhi tomorrow for his health check-up. Keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Falafel With Tzatziki Dip

Falafel & tzatziki dip

I haven't explored much of Middle Eastern cuisine but there are a few that I love and try to make as often as I can. From one of 'those few', it's falafel that I combine with tzatziki. I'm also in the process of  using up most of my stock as we are making  another trip to Delhi. This time it's for health reasons. My husband hasn't been keeping well lately (high pressure and diabetes) and a proper check-up is due. 

Ingredients: I got 21 falafel balls from this quantity.
250 grams chickpeas/Kabuli chana (soaked overnight)
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
Freshly grated black pepper, as per taste
1 tsp baking powder
Salt to taste
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
1 bunch of coriander leaves and stems, chopped
3 green chillies (optional)
Vegetable oil to fry
Falafel & Tzatziki dip
A plateful of falafels, the coarse paste, and what they look like when halved

Drain the chickpeas and coarsely grind them in the mixer. I added the onions salt, garlic, chillies and pepper as well.
Remove and transfer contents to a bowl.  
Season with salt and add the baking powder, all-purpose flour and the chopped leaves and stems of coriander. Shape the mixture into balls and flatten them a bit.
Heat enough oil in a kadhai. Gently drop one in the oil to test whether it holds its shape or breaks. 
Add a few more falafel balls and fry on a medium flame so that they are evenly cooked, turning once for even browning.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.
Repeat till all the falafel balls are fried.
Snack on these when still warm dipping them into a sauce.

To serve the falafels I made tzatziki dip using....
1 cup of strained yoghurt
1 small cucumber, peeled and grated and the water squeezed out
Salt to taste
2 cloves of garlic peeled, crushed and chopped to bits
Freshly grated black pepper, as per taste
A drizzle of extra virgin olive olive oil
Mint leaves as a garnish

Combine all the ingredients except the last two, till homogeneous. Drizzle the olive oil on top and garnish with a few mint leaves/sprigs.

I have also stuffed falafel into home-made pita bread. But the pitas didn't look that good on that particular day so I'll have another go at it later before I can blog about it.:) The water that is squeezed out from grated cucumber makes a refreshing drink with the addition of rock salt, a bit of water and more mint!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Braided Pesto Bread

Braided pesto bread
Braided pesto bread
I have been repetitive in the use of certain ingredients in my kitchen. And basil is one of them. The reason is that growing and using Italian basil is a recent thing and the novelty or love of trying it out in varied dishes will (always) remain. I have been following the pesto trail on the Internet and stumbled upon this beautiful braided bread that begged to be baked! Going through several sites, I finally settled for the recipe from The Kitchn.
With the link to the recipe given above I won't be adding the recipe here.
The dough rose beautifully.
I followed the recipe without any tweaking. The quantity of the ingredients was for two loaves of bread. I didn't make two braided loaves of bread. One half of the dough sits in the fridge for another kind of bread. Maybe in a couple of days.
Basil happiness in my potted garden.
I did some prepping yesterday with the pesto. My potted basil plants are about to bloom (some are blooming already) and some of the leaves are curling up. Not good. The pesto I made for this bread is thicker than the one I usually make. It was also a good thing to finish off the cheese I had in stock. No, it wasn't Parmesan but a herbed cheese that had been lying around. Came to good use as it thickened the sauce making it easier to spread on the rolled-out dough.
Braided pesto bread
The stages of making this delicious bread
You need to roll out three rectangular pieces of dough and spread the pesto on each keeping the edges free of the sauce. Then these are rolled up into tubes. Each tube is cut vertically so that that lovely shade of green is visible. Then the cut tubes are braided into  a loaf of bread. I did the braiding on my work surface since I wanted to use a loaf tin for baking. The tin was lined with greaseproof paper and the braided bread sat there till it rose before being baked.
Braided pesto bread
Brushed with an egg and water mixture, the bread went into a hot preheated oven at 200C. Ten minutes later, the heat was brought down to 180C and baked for another 30 minutes. In between, I turned the loaf tin around. What faced the back of the oven faced the front.
Braided pesto bread
The fragrance that filled the house while this braided bread was being baked was nothing short of amazing. And the taste? So delicious that I might find myself baking another one soon!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Yardlong Beans & Fish Curry

Yardlong beans & fish curry
Yardlong beans & fish curry with joha rice and salad
If it's hyacinth beans in winter, summer's for yardlong beans. They go by other names too such as snake beans or Chinese longbean. In Dimasa, my mother tongue, they are known as Shbai daobu which translates to 'intestine beans', the obvious reference to the length of the vegetable.:) Although I cook them in a few ways, one favourite way is adding them to fish curry. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with this 'addiction' of mine. And it was with a simple lunch today that these dark green yardlong beans made another appearance on our table.
And I used coconut milk again as we had harvested a few coconuts the other day. And there's nothing like using freshly-squeezed coconut milk from one's own tree! My one and only tree isn't doing really well as we live in a low-lying area and our ground is sodden. And on top of that ours is a region of high rainfall. But I'm glad we can still get some coconuts and they are sweet. 

Ingredients:(to serve 4)
250 grams yardlong beans
8 fish fillets
1 large onion, peeled and cut
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
A small piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, cut into thin slices
1 tsp red chilli powder
2-3 ripe red chillies, scored lengthwise but kept intact at the stalk-end
1 sprig curry leaves
A dash of turmeric powder+ extra to rub on the fish fillets
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp coriander powder (toasted and ground)
1/2 tsp cumin powder (toasted and ground)
Coriander leaves for the garnish
Vegetable oil
1 medium coconut, grated and milk extracted (the one I used for my recipe was smaller than the ones in the picture above)
Yardlong beans &fish curry

  • Rub the fish fillets with a mix of salt and turmeric and set aside as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  • Top and tail the beans and string them as well. Cut them into similar lengths.
  • Blitz the onion, garlic and ginger together.
  • Heat some oil in a kadhai and shallow fry the fish pieces, a few at a time. Fry for a few minutes till they turn golden. They should be half done. Remove and set aside.
  • In the same oil, add the slit ripe chillies. Fry for a minute and remove from the oil. These will be used for the garnish later.
  • Throw in the curry leaves and when they sputter, add the wet spices and cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the rest of the dry spices and the cut beans. Fry till the beans are almost done.
  • Season with salt. Check and make adjustments.
  • Pour about 1/2 a cup of water and let the curry come to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the coconut milk and the fish pieces.
  • Let the curry simmer for another 4-5 minutes. By that time it will thicken a bit and the fish will be well-cooked.
  • Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the fried red chillies and coriander leaves.
This curry goes best with rice. I kept the spices minimal as I wanted the coconut milk to shine. And it did! The fish I used was catla (major Indian carp), known as bhokua in our parts.
The rice I cooked today was joha rice. It's fragrant and my home state, Assam, is the largest grower of this rice in our country. Certain vegetables like ash gourd and sponge gourd that are fragrant are known by the same name as the rice. Like joha kumora for ash gourd and joha bhol for sponge gourd.

The meal had only one side dish in the form of this salad. One onion,one tender cucumber and one tomato were cut into rings and placed on a plate. Strips of serrated coriander were sprinkled on top. The dressing was salt and freshly-grated pepper with a drizzle of mustard oil.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pointed Gourd Curry With Coconut Milk

Pointed gourd curry with coconut milk
Another summer staple from the gourd family is the pointed gourd. Locally known as potol, it is made into several dishes either on its own or in addition with other vegetables. Today I made a simple curry that I finished off with coconut milk.
Looking back on the garden of my childhood, this was one gourd that my parents didn't grow. Maybe our heavy rainfall and hilly terrain was not conducive for potol cultivation.

Pointed gourd/potol/parwal
This common vegetable also has its fair share of beneficial goodness. Rich in carbohydrates, vitamin A and C, pointed gourd contains trace elements of potassium, copper, magnesium, sulphur and chlorine. In Ayurveda, pointed gourd is usually used in medicines that deal with gastro-intestinal and liver disorders. Roots, leaves and fruit used in medicine.

350 grams pointed gourd
2 medium onions, peeled and grated
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and ground 
A small pinch of ginger, peeled, cut and ground
4-5 green chillies, ground with the above spices
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil, as needed
1 tsp coriander powder
2-3 tejpatta
A quarter tsp cumin powder
1 cup coconut milk
Coriander leaves for the garnish

Cut off the ends of the pointed gourds. Lightly scrape off the dark green, striped skin. Repeat till all the gourds are done.
Wash the gourds and drain in a colander. With a sharp knife, cut the gourds in halves.
Sprinkle a dash of turmeric powder and salt and mix well.
Heat the oil in a kadhai. Shallow fry the halved gourds in batches. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.
In the same oil, throw in the tejpatta and the cumin seeds. As soon as they sputter, add the ground spices. (Onions, ginger, garlic, green chilli).
Fry for a few minutes, then add the rest of the spices.
When the spices come together, add the potol. Stir so that the vegetables are coated in the spices.
Season with salt and continue to cook till the gourds are almost done.
Pour the coconut milk and reduce the flame till the curry thickens a bit. This should take about 5-7 minutes.
Remove from the flame and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with coriander leaves.
The coriander powder I used was toasted and powdered.
The coconut milk was extracted from one home-grown coconut. This imparted a hint of sweetness to this curry.
This curry goes very well with steamed rice or with rotis.