Sunday, April 30, 2017

Paneer-stuffed Potol (Pointed Gourd)

A very popular summer vegetable in our parts is the pointed gourd. Locally known as potol, it is widely used in our dishes mainly fried, in curries or stuffed with potatoes. The other day I stuffed the same with paneer and cooked it in a thick gravy of onions and tomatoes. As long as summer lasts, this will be a pretty regular feature on our tables.
15 pointed gourds (choose the rounded ones where more stuffing can go)

Cut off the ends of the pointed gourds and scrape off the dark green skin. If you don't like the skin, you can peel it off but I prefer to keep it on.
With a small knife or with the handle of a teaspoon, remove the seeds and flesh from the gourds. Set aside for another dish. For a potato stuffing, the innards can be added.
Rinse the gourds and set aside.
The filling:
200 grams paneer, crumbled
10-12 almonds, chopped
15-20 raisins, washed, patted dry and roughly chopped
A dash of salt
Freshly-grated black pepper to taste
Some chopped coriander
Oil to fry the stuffed gourds.

#Place the crumbled paneer in a bowl and add the rest of the stuffing ingredients. Mix well.
#Take each prepared gourd and stuff with this filling.
# Heat enough oil in a non-stick pan. Add the stuffed vegetables and fry on a medium flame in a couple of batches. 
#Turn twice or thrice during the process until the gourds are golden on all sides. I threw in a pinch of turmeric in the oil while the gourds went in.

For the gravy:
1 large onion, peeled and grated
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and ground
1 small piece of ginger, peeled and ground
2 tomatoes, blanched and ground in the blender
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin and coriander powder
A dash of turmeric powder
1 star anise
2 tejpatta
A pinch of freshly-made garam masala powder

Heat the same oil in which the stuffed vegetables were fried.
Throw in the star anise and tejpatta.
Add the onions, ginger and garlic. Cook till the raw smell goes off.
Add the rest of the powdered spices except the garam masala. Stir and add the tomato paste.
Cook till the oil separates. Add some water. This will depend on the kind of gravy you want. Mine was very thick.
Gently add the stuffed gourds to the gravy.
Let them cook on a low flame for a few minutes.
Add the garam masala and give it a stir.
Transfer the contents to a serving bowl and scatter some chopped coriander on top.
If you like you could add some crumbled paneer too.
This goes best with rice or rotis. 

The seeds/flesh of the gourds went into a curry with cauliflower stems on another day. Went very well with rice. A little bit of the paneer stuffing was left over. And that went into a paratha for breakfast.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tomato Shorba With Saffron Focaccia

East meets west in this simple meal. One is a hearty Indian soup referred to as shorba in the northern part of our country. And the other has its origins in Italy. This year my tomato plants took a beating as our garage floor had to be raised. I usually grow my plants next to the garage as there's any other space left. Work went on while I was away and many tomato plants were destroyed. I did get some green ones and a few ripe ones but that was about it. 
So when my husband's cousin turned up bearing a bagful of ripe home-grown tomatoes, I was over the moon! The first thing that I made was a tomato tart with left-over pastry dough. Several more went into butter chicken with store-bought tandoori chicken.:)
Tamatar ka shorba:
2 cups ripe tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
1 red chilli, scored lengthwise, seeds intact
Salt to taste
Sugar for the balance
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
3-4 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp toasted and ground cinnamon powder
1 tejpatta
1 star anise
A few peppercorns
2 tbs vegetable oil
A quarter tsp cumin seeds

In a pressure cooker, add all the ingredients except the sugar, oil, and cumin seeds. Add a little more than a cup of water.
Let it cook for 4 whistles. I used a small pressure cooker.
After the steam goes off, open the lid. Discard the whole spices.
Blitz in a mixer. Check the seasoning and make adjustments.
Add the sugar, as per taste, and blitz again.
Transfer to a serving bowl.
Heat the vegetable oil in a pan.
Throw in the cumin seeds. Switch off the gas as soon as they sputter.
Pour this oil on the bowl of shorba.
Garnish with herbs. I used a bit of serrated coriander in this shorba.
There are quite a few variations in shorba recipes but I think this is also really good!

I came across this saffron focaccia recipe from a book by Martha Day. The dough is made in a food processor. But I knead with my hands for all the bread that I bake.
Pinch of saffron strands
150 ml boiling water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp easy-blend yeast
1 tbsp olive oil

For the topping:
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 small onion cut into thin slices
rosemary sprigs
Some olives
1 tbsp olive oil
Infuse the saffron in the boiling water. Leave to cool till tepid.
Place the salt, yeast, flour and olive oil in a large bowl.
Make a well in the centre and add the saffron water.
Mix till the dough comes together then tilt the contents to a work surface and knead for 10-15 minutes.
Then place the dough in a bowl, cover and let it rise till double in size.
Punch down the risen dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a thick disc.
You could roll it in other shapes too. But I used a circular ceramic pie dish. This was lightly greased. The recipe had an oval bread.
Preheat the oven to 200 C.  Press indentations in the dough.
Set aside for 25-30 minutes. 
Cover with the topping ingredients, brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes or till the loaf sounds hollow.
Leave to cool.

This was a lovely combination. And a first for me. In kitchen gardens it's the end of the season for tomatoes. They usually last till May but the rains came early this year . I can imagine a lot of households busy making use of the last tomatoes from their gardens. As for me I still have to make some sauce and some chutney.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Chicken Leg Quarters In Fried Onion Sauce

I made this about two weeks ago. It was simply cooked but full of flavour. I'm so stuck into curried versions that I don't really try to make other variations as often as I should. (Food blogger's point of view:)). 

2 chicken leg quarters
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and ground
1 small piece of ginger, peeled and ground
Salt to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chilli powder
A dash of cumin (roasted and ground)
1/2 tsp roasted and ground coriander
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Enough vegetable oil to deep-fry the onions
A bunch of cooked spinach to serve along with this dish

Marinate the chicken with the first four ingredients for an hour.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions till they are crisp and golden brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper.
Let them cool then grind the lot into a paste.
In another pan, take about two tablespoons of the oil that the onions were fried in.
Add the marinated chicken and cook by turning at regular intervals for about 15-20 minutes.
Then add the pepper, chilli powder, coriander, cumin and the onion paste.
Pour a bit of water so that there's some sauce-like gravy. Cook for some more minutes till the chicken is done and the gravy is thick.
Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and pour the sauce on top.
Arrange the spinach on the sides. Decorate with herbs or edible flowers.

With the spinach, I removed the stems and used only the leaves. These were washed and cooked in a pan for a few minutes till they wilted. I added a pinch of salt and a dash of ground pepper.
The stems went into a dish of curried potatoes on another day. I also love to add the stems to dal.

I had intended to use the onions for another dish. But I changed my mind and ground them up. It worked like magic.This dish goes well with both rice or rotis.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pie With Mulberry Jam Filling

The haul of goodies that came back with me from Kashmir included a bottle of mulberry jam. And pie was the first thing that came to my mind. What's all must be thinking...A pie with the fresh fruit would have been ideal but we are talking about a fruit that spoils easily. And since I don't have them growing in my garden (although the seeds I sowed have sprouted and grown) jam isn't a bad choice.

I was happy to get this bottle of jam in a supermarket as I was looking for a particular brand of masala. It is mentioned on the label that this was introduced for the first time by JKAIDCL (Jammu & Kashmir State Agro Industries Development Corporation). Mulberry or shahtoot has medicinal properties the details, in case you are interested, can be found here.
Walnuts, sour cream and the mixture.

A saffron field in Pampore
I didn't want to fill up my pie with with the sweetness of jam so I scoured the internet and came across a recipe that I liked. Of course I didn't follow it down to the last detail. It included sour cream and pecans. But I used walnuts that I brought back with me. We got some lovely local produce from a shop near Pampore. The town is referred to as the Saffron Town of Kashmir because of the high-grade saffron grown here.

For the pastry
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
100 grams butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg
Iced water to sprinkle if the egg isn't enough to bind the dough
( I did not add sugar to the dough as I didn't want the pie to be overly sweet). 
Beat the egg in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the flour in a large bowl and add the butter. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour till the mixture is crumbly.
Add the egg and bring the dough together.
Shape it into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.
If you plan this ahead, let the dough rest overnight.
Take out the dough and cut enough out to roll into a circle that's a little bigger than your pie dish.
Prick gently with a fork on the surface. Let this rest in the fridge as you get the filling ready.

The filling:
Mulberry jam (I used half from the 500 g bottle)
2 yolks + 1 yolk for the egg wash
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbs almond extract
A pinch of cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Beat the egg yolks and add the sour cream to it. Add the next four ingredients and give it a good whisk. Lastly, add the walnuts.
Take the rested pastry bottom and spread the jam on it.
Quickly roll out the other half of the dough and set it aside.
Pour the egg/sour cream mixture on top of the jam.
Cover the pastry with the other half. Cut off excess dough and tuck the sides inwards..
Create a pattern with a fork on the edges to make it more secure.
Cut out patterns with any left-over dough and paste on the surface by using the egg wash.
Prick with a fork on the surface for steam to escape while baking. I left this out as the dough tore in three places. Which is why these flower patterns are not symmetrically placed. Tearing is always asymmetrical.:)

Brush with egg and bake in a preheated 200 C oven for 20 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 180 C and bake till the pie is golden brown. This may require another 15-20 minutes. Before the pie went into the oven, it did feel that the filling was not enough. But as it baked it swelled up and did its bit of filling the kitchen with magical aromas. The addition of eggs/sour cream mixture and also not adding sugar to the pastry dough cut down the sweetness of the jam. I had a slice with a dollop of sour cream and fennel leaves. Better than a regular jam pie.:)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Back From Kashmir

I got back from a wonderful holiday in Kashmir. Though it was a short trip, it was so enjoyable that even now, going about my regular chores, I think I'm smiling most of the time because my head is filled with images of blossoms of every hue! Walking out of the airport in Srinagar, the sight of cherry and almond blossoms lifted our spirits. There was a slight drizzle and rain-bearing clouds in the distance.

The next morning was spent exploring the area surrounding our guest house. We stayed in the outskirts, near the railway station. But this was nowhere like any other station in India. Plum and peach orchards dotted the area and we had such a lovely time walking around with our cameras.

In the afternoon we headed to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden. Spread over 12 hectares this is the largest tulip garden in Asia. Two million tulip bulbs have been planted here in 48 colours. Apart from tulips many cooler climate flowers like hyacinths, primroses, cyclamens and others were blooming. The air was fragrant with all these blossoms and the colours were a sight to behold.
The Zabarwan range of hills in the background had clumps of blossoming fruit trees.

Other flowers that were blooming in the garden.

Although dinner was usually at the guest house, lunch was Kashmiri wazwan. Here's a sample from Shamiana restaurant near Dal lake. It consisted of rista/meat balls in red gravy, rogan josh/aromatic lamb curry, seekh kabab in gravy, nan and rice.
On the way to Pahalgam we stopped at a bakery and bought some local bread called baqerkhani. The baker was happy to have us drop by that he gave us a large coconut biscuit to taste. There are many bakeries all along the route and Kashmiris are known to be experts at baking bread.

The Lidder river in Pahalgam.

More Kashmiri wazwan. Chicken curry, gushtaba, Kashmiri pulao and seekh kabab. All very delicious! A description of wazwan from Wiki. Wazwan is a multi-course meal in Kashmiri cuisine, the preparation of which is an art and a point of pride in Kashmiri culture culture and identity. Almost all the dishes are meat-based.
My post isn't done but Blogger is imperative that I do not post any more photos. I wonder if others are facing the same issue. There's more to follow as we also went to Gulmarg and did some of the sights in Srinagar. My haul consisted of all kinds of nuts, dried berries, saffron, local honey and local mulberry jam. In fact I had baked a pie using the jam. Too bad I can't post the pictures. I'll try again later.