Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tengtuk and Co.

When I started making bread on a regular basis, a statement from Isabel Allende’s book Aphrodite’ would hover in my mind, “ There’s a limit to being domestic, and making fresh bread on a regular basis is one of them”. I confess though that making bread is a therapeutic exercise to me and out of the many, many things one can do with flour, I find it the easiest to do (amazing isn’t it ?). Much simpler than making roti, paratha, cakes and muffins :), and definitely hand-made udon noodles. I got tempted to make udon after having a very satisfying meal at a Korean restaurant and seeing the udon recipe at Viet World Kitchen. But I draw the line at making udon. I think I will stick to buying noodles and pasta in the future. The udon was accompanied along with a Tuna Soboro from Just Bento and a Ladakhi Thuk. All thuks are stews where vegetables, dumplings, meat are simmered in a broth. I had made Tengthuk quite a few times before, its awe-inspiring simplicity taking me by surprise. The first time it was prepared by a Ladakhi friend, Tashi. I was enthralled at his speed in making ribbon noodles and cooking it in the simmering broth. I just knew that a Thuk was the thing to have with the home-made, hand-made udon! The Thuk recipe was from The Ladakhi Kitchen, acquired on our jaunt there some years back. Ladakh because of its high altitude grow fewer varieties of almost all food items we take for granted here. But they make everything go a bit further. The vegetables are what I had at hand; almost anything can be added.


1 onion, chopped

2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 carrots, peeled and sliced thickly

2 small kohlrabi, peeled and halved

Red cabbage, sliced thinly, a handful

2 tomatoes, quartered

Water, 3 cups

2 teaspoon salt

Garam masala, pinch

1 Tablespoon oil


Heat the oil and sauté the chopped onions. Add the potatoes and kohlrabi and cook them for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook them with the salt for another 5 minutes. Add the carrots and water and cook until the vegetables are tender but retain a bite. I cooked in a pressure cooker and it took 5 minutes under high pressure. When the cooker has cooled enough to open, add the thinly sliced red cabbage and simmer for 3 minutes. Taste the salt and add more if necessary. Add the garam masala and serve warm.

Pear nut soda bread

This bread was an impromptu creation to use up some long-standing poached pear and do without the yeast that I usually use to raise my bread. The result is a slightly sweet bread which is great with a salty dip or a vinegary dressing. Its also a multigrain bread having three types of flour.

2 cups white flour
1/2 cup rye
2 tablespoon white cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup liquid from poached pear
1/4 cup water
1 egg, beaten
1 cup pecan, chopped
1 and half Tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 and half teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoon butter, molten

In a bowl mix together the flours, salt, baking powder and the chopped nuts. In a mixer blend together the egg until frothy and add the sugar and 2 tablespoon of the butter until the mixture thickens. Add the water and poached pear liquid and whiz once more. Add the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix together with hand. It will be a sticky dough. Butter a loaf pan. Scrape in the batter and push into the corners. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds. Bake at 180 degrees centrigrade for one hour. Cool it before unmolding.
Serve with a cheese dip or any savoury spread. We had it with guacamole.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fish Vindaloo

I am told vindaloo has got a bad name in the West. A friend who had lived in Britain once told me that he had found no similarities between my preparation of the item and what he had tasted in the restaurants in England! I hastened to add that my recipe had been taken from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking ! Maligned or not, the vindaloo paste is amenable to improving many dishes. Try for example the small southern Indian eggplants with it; completely transforms the dish! This is my version of Fish Vindaloo cooked with fresh whole sardines. The paste can be made ahead. Sauteing and less sweating that way; you can just make the gravy and fold in the fried fish.


2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2-3 red chillies

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

7 ½ cm cinnamon sticks

1 ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

5 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon jaggery

10 tbsp vegetable oil

175-200 g onions, peeled and sliced into fine half-rings

6 Tablespoon water

2 ½ cm cube ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 small heads garlic, about 6 cloves

Fish, 6 moderately sized whole fish, gutted and cleaned

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 ½ -2 teaspoon salt


Marinate the fish in salt, turmeric and coriander for half an hour. In the meantime, the dry ingredients are ground in a dry grinder and mixed with the vinegar and jaggery to produce the first step of a vindaloo. Heat two tablespoon of oil and fry the sliced onion until they are flecked with brown. Drain and in a blender mix it with the vinegar paste. This makes the vindaloo paste.

Fry the fish pieces in 4 tablespoon of oil, separately (not the same oil as the onions). Set them aside to drain.

Make a paste of the ginger and garlic with a little water and fry them in the same oil that the onion was fried in. Once they are cooked, add the vindaloo paste. If it is too dry add a few tablespoons of water. Put back the fish in the paste and coat it, carefully. Cook covered for 5 minutes and serve warm.

Beef Pumpkin Stew

The goulash that I have had in India are not really goulash-like. Is it any wonder that I have got corrupted too? However, this was inspired by a goulash recipe. It can safely be called a stew. I adore stews. They are mostly one pot meals and I can add whatever is at hand to make something tasty as well as healthy. The pumpkin and jaggery added a sweet note, supplementing the paprika. The vinegar balanced that out. The starch from the plantain gave the stew thickness. Needless to say, it can be done with other red meat too. We ate it with a potato-starter based rye bread, ripped and tweaked from the New Complete Book of Breads.


250 gm beef, cubed
1 onion, minced
1 bayleaf
1 teaspoon paprika or lal Kashmiri mirch
1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon jaggery
1 green plantain, peeled and cut into thick pieces
400 gm pumpkin, cubed
2 Tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 cups water

Heat oil in a pressure cooker. While the oil is heating, mince the onions. Saute onions until they pick up brown specks. Add the bayleaf along with it. Once the onions are browned add the paprika or its substitute as well as the salt. Cook for a minute. Add the beef cubes and brown them at low heat. Stir frequently. Once the colour of the meat changes, add the jiggery and coat everything. Simmer for 4-5 minutes to melt and caramelise the sweetener a little. Add the water, close lid and pressure cook the meat. In my Futura, it takes 12 minutes on high pressure to cook beef or goat.
Cool cooker before opening lid. Add plantain pieces and cover the lid. Add some water if the liquid is reduced. Cook 2 minutes at low heat. Cool completely again. Open cooker to add the pumpkin pieces. With the lid open this time, cook the pumpkin. Pressure pumpkin, makes it melt so this is best done while you watch it like a hawk! Should take about 5-7 minutes for the pumpkin to be done. Add the vinegar and more salt if necessary to finish the product. At this point it needs to be tasted to suit your family’s set of taste-buds!
The vinegar can be totally left out, but as I mentioned, this had been inspired by goulash, and I wanted a sour tang which wine usually adds.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cheese puff pastry

Cheese puffs

The marriage of cheese and flour is a comforting one. I love my cheese breads, pasta alfredo and most roué are improved tremendously on addition of a bit of cheese. It is no surprise that gougeres, the French cheese puff pastry is another embodiment of a happy relationship. The recipe for the choux pastry was taken from David Lebovitz whose site has a fairly simple recipe. The great thing with this creation is that it requires no equipment which may be considered mandatory for baking. Consequently, I made it a number of times in my recent sojourn in US. The kitchen was furnished with only the basic equipments and I had the opportunity to try out many cheeses; Monterey Jack, Colby and some Caerphilly for variation.

I doubled the amounts given on DL's site, used thyme in one batch (the other being plain cheese) instead of chives and on some of the plain ones, sprinkled “ Prawn Chamanthipodi” on the top in the second phase of baking. The addition of Chamanthipodi was duly appreciated by our Indian tastebuds. I had got packet of Prawn Chamanthipodi from Kottayam, so haven’t had occasion to make it at home. However, it can be easily attempted and Yummyoyummy has a recipe for it. This batch of gougeres were frozen (after cooling) in several layers of butter-paper and finally sealed in plastic. Bring them to room temperature before serving and heat in an preheated oven for about 10 minutes.

Extra Ingredients

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon Chamanthipodi

1 cup Montereye Jack, Colby, Caerphilly or Grana Padano, grated

Exploring Miso saute

Eggplant with Miso

When I was small, I could consume quantities of roti with fried eggplant. The eggplants would be prepared as large circles, from large, shiny, bulbous ones, rubbed with a bit of salt, cumin and turmeric and then fried. A very satisfying meal which I would love to indulge in daily, if not for the stray thoughts of the large amount oil used in cooking it! This recipe uses the same sautéing principle but the amount of oil is relatively negligible and the addition of miso gives it a Japanese tang. The recipe was adapted from the Book of Miso, over which I am nowadays frequently salivating. It’s a thorough book, has hundreds of vegetarian recipes and has opened my eyes on miso usage, apart from the ubiquitous miso soup. I have used the smaller (these really look like purple eggs) eggplants/aubergines found in Southern India. Since the aubergines are cut into bite sized pieces, the initial size of it is immaterial.

3 Tablespoon oil
4 small eggpants
1 clove garlic, minced
1 and half spoon gingerroot, minced
3 tablespoon spring onion, greens, chopped
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoon white miso
1/ teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seed


Cut the eggplants into bite sized pieces. Salt them. After half an hour drain any water which the salt has drawn out. Pat them dry. Heat the oil in the kadai/wok to smoking temperature and add the eggplants. Shake to coat them with oil at high heat for a minute before lowering the temperature. Cover with the lid and cook it with intermittent shaking for 7-10 minutes to cook the vegetable through. Cook it uncovered for a two minutes when it is done. Mix the rest of the ingredients with a fork to make a miso mix. Pour the mixture over the eggplant and sauté for 3-5 minutes to completely coat the eggplants with the miso mix. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve warm.
It goes well with Indian staples such as rice and roti too!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lentil Soup

Staying in a guesthouse for a limited period ought to dampen my culinary adventures somewhat. I have hardly any access to the pantry elements I usually have access to.I don’t want to stock up on ingredients which I will have to leave behind when I get back home. And the kitchen itself though large has hardly any of the equipments which I take for granted. Mixer? No! Tin-opener?? No :<. So I surprised even myself when I found myself making something which could actually be put on a blog. I had more or less made up my mind that it would be relegated for the next 6 months. This is a lentil soup. Simple, hearty and requiring no introduction as to its nutritive value.


1/3rd cup split yellow peas

1/3rd cup split green peas

1/3rd cup onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon oil

Salt to taste

3 cups water

½ teaspoon lemon rind


Wash the peas/lentils in cold water a few times until the water does not change colour. Soak the peas/lentils in plenty of water overnight. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a kettle. In a large heavy vessel with a tight lid heat the oil. Saute onions until lightly coloured and transparent. Add hot water to the vessel. Wash the lentils once more before draining the water and tipping it along with the onions and boiling water. Close lid and cook at the lowest flame for 1 hour (or until done). In the meantime, grate ( I used a peeler here) the rind off an organic lemon, about half teaspoon. When the lentils are softened, add salt to taste. Start with half teaspoon. Let the salt be incorporated before adding more. Take off the flame, add the lemon rind, cover and cook for 5 more minutes. I ate it hot with a bowlful of plain rice.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spinach Kohlrabi Tarts

I love tarts. Particularly the smaller ones, which look delicately crafted. And when you add spinach and kohlrabi, you feel slightly less guilty on sprinkling the top of them with lots of grated cheese. The ingredients make 4 small tarts.

4 cups spinach leaves
2 small kohlrabi
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
3 Tablespoon oil
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup milk
1 cup grated cheese, I used Gruyere
210 gm shortcrust pastry dough

Take 4 tartlet pans. Oil them and line them with the rolled out shortcrust pastry. The rolled out dough should not be more than half centimetre thick. Bake in preheated 180 degree oven for 15 minutes. I filled the lined pastry cases with red kidney beans. Remove beans and cool. Wash spinach thoroughly in several washes of water. Drain in colander. Steam spinach with whatever water is clinging to it for 2 minutes. Cool and chop roughly. Wash kohlrabi and peel it. Cube it into 1 centimetre pieces and boil in salted water for 5 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, saute the chopped onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon of oil. When the onion is golden, add the chopped spinach. Cook it for 7-10 minutes to remove any excess water. Add the drained boiled kohlrabi. Add a teaspoon of salt and cook it for another 5 minutes. Cool it. In a bowl whisk the egg, milk and pepper. Fill the tart cases with the vegetable mix. Sprinkle with cheese and pour the egg-milk mixture. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. Cool and unmould from the tart pans.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Multi-grain bread

Eating multi-grain bread always fills me with a virtuous glow. I feel that it entitles me to another helping of payesh or a spoonful of ice cream. It also allows one to use up fractions of flours of different types left at the bottom of the jar. I added both yeast and baking powder because most of the flour types I used were low in gluten. The semolina and pearl millet bits give it a wonderful texture. The recipe makes one large loaf.


1/2 cup semolina
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup broken pearl millet
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon fresh yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups hot water
3 Tablespoon cubed butter
2 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablesppon white oil


Bring a cup of water to a boil. Measure out the oats and broken millet in a bowl. Pour over only enough hot water to cover the grains. In half cup water dissolve the molasses and the yeast. Cover and let it rise, about 15 minutes. Measure the semolina, amaranth, bread and wheat flour into a bowl. Add baking powder and salt. Mix it to uniformly distribute it. Rub the butter into it to resemble bread crumbs. Make well in the centre and add the oats and millet mixture. Make sure they have cooled down sufficiently to handle with hands. Add the fermented yeast. Make it into a dough. All the grains must mix sufficiently, so this process takes about 10 minutes. If sticky, sprinkle the working surface with bread flour and slap down the dough until it is elastic. Lightly oil a bowl with a little oil and place the dough to rise for an hour. Once the dough has risen, it can be placed into an oiled loaf tin for the second rising. I wanted something interesting to look at and therefore divided the dough into 1 inch balls and arranged them in the loaf tin. Cover and let the dough rise for 4-5 hours. It might take longer at colder climes, but in Madras it is always good temperature for the yeasts to bloom! By the time the second rtising was complete it had a lovely cobbled appearance! Prepare the oven and heat it upto 200 degree centigrade. Bake for 30-45 minutes. It should be nicely browned on the surface. And test hollow when turned out and tapped on the bottom.
Great with cheese and any number of dips.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Khichri and Springroll: spring in the air

Back when I was a child, Khichri was a staple of wet, rainy days. During the monsoon season it would be flavoured with cauliflower; in winter it would be carrots and peas. Those were really "seasonal" times! Its a great one-pot meal and if necessary, can be made like a stew. The traditional Bengali khichri can be quite elaborate. There are several recipes for that on the net. My kichri is certainly not traditional but a variant which comes together beautifully. And it is rather simple. It is however full of healthy" stuff!I wanted to use up some of the lentils left over in small quantities. Also some fish stock which was at the back of the freezer. Mine was slightly soupy. We had it with some spring rolls. Again I had wrappers and frozen corn kernels to use up.


1 cup unsplit, unhusked Moong bean
1/2 cup broken wheat (dahlia)
1/2 cup brown rice
1 onion, chopped
5 spring onions, white part only, chopped
3 cloves, minced
1 litre fish stock
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes or a dash of Tabasco
3 Tablesppon white oil

5 black olives, chopped
A handful of pomegranate seeds

Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Fry the onions and spring onions until translucent. Add the clove and chilli flakes. Stir for about 5 minutes more until they soften. In the meantime, wash the rice, broken wheat, lentil mix thoroughly. Use several changes of water. Add the fish stock to the fried onions and bring it to boil. Add the grains and one teaspoon of salt. Pressure cook it according to how you would cook lentils in your pressure cooker. When finished check how much more salt you need to add. You could also make it drier if that is your preference. It does need to be stirred continuously if you are boling off some of the extra broth. I garnished it with black olives and pomegranate seeds for contrast.

Corn kernel SPRING ROLLS

1 cup corn kernels
1/4 cup semi-hard cheese (I used a young Parmesan)
2 slitted, deseeded green chilli, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Sechuan pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Eggwash for sealing
1 teaspoon of oil
16 spring roll wrappers, square or round


Blitz all ingredients except egg in a blender. Pulse it. It should not be a puree. Oil a baking tray or parchment. In the middle of the wrapper put a teaspoon of filling. Lightly brush the sides of the wrapper with the eggwash. Fold the wrapper over to form a triangle, or if you are using round wrappers, fold to form a half-moon. Press the edges with fingers and seal it into a spring roll shape. Arrange them on the tray/parchment. Brush with eggwash. Bake it for 15 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. They can also be deep-fried.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Stuffed Okra and Paneer: Radiating health

At certain times of the week, it is borne upon me that we must have something healthy and use up the vegetables in the refrigerator. So when I espied half a tin of opened tuna, quarter kilo of okra (or lady’s fingers as we call it here) and a pack of paneer, I knew what I would make. The okra must be young; the larger ones though easier to stuff are rather fibrous. The paneer cubes were kept large (1 inch cube). The sauce which went was pure inspiration and was so good that I will have to repeat the dish just for that!


For the filling:

180gm tuna flakes

4 Tablespoon onion, finely chopped

Handful of white pepper, ground

2 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon sesame paste

Salt to taste

3 Tablespoon oil

For the sauce:

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 Tablespoon white miso

½ cup water

100 gm paneer, cubed

200 gm okra


Wash and clean the okra. Pat them dry. Make a slit in the side with a paring knife. Be careful that the slit does not stretch all the way to the end and doesn’t show up on the other side. Widen it with your little finger slightly.

Pat the paneer cubes dry. With the little finger make a hole in it. This has to be carefully done so that the paneer does not crack. Fry the paneer pieces to a golden colour. Drain and cool.

Whiz all the filling ingredients together in a mixer. Take a little ball of the filling and push it inside the slits in the okras and the holes in the paneer cubes. Smoothen the top and do not over-stuff.

In the leftover oil (very little of it is needed, so you can pour of excess oil) fry the garlic until golden brown. Mix the miso in 2 tablespoon of water. Add the rest of the water into the pan with garlic. Heat. Arrange the okra in the pan, cover and cook for 5 minutes. They should be just al dente. With a slotted spoon take the okra out carefully and arrange them on a plate along with the stuffed paneer. Return the pan to the heat and add the miso. Stir thoroughly to make a thick paste like sauce. Pour the sauce over the paneer and vegetables before serving.