Friday, December 30, 2011

Greek festive cake



While growing up, Christmas was the most muted of festivals. I remember it as the time when we got this sudden windfall of a week's holiday in winter before the grind for the final school exams began. We put it to good use. A Lego manger or a building with a spire denoting a church was set-up, paper wings were stuck on the Lego women (and men) and we ostentatiously helped with the cake. Even 25 years back, the cake had been institutionalised as the sign of Christmas. Local shops had a dozen plastic wrapped "plum" cakes set out and those of us who had bake-savvy Mothers, had one baked at home. We had the enviable job of chopping the dry fruits. More of the fruits went into our mouths than into the cake, but it was a very fruity version nonetheless. My mother used to bake hers in a pressure cooker. A triumph of her skills, which I have never been able to replicate without her supervision. This year, my husband (clever man!) made a trip to Berlin during Advent. The German Christmas markets being in full swing, he obliged me by getting a real Dresdner Stollen. A kilo of it. I am so thrilled. Christmas fell on a Sunday this year. And with a 6 day working week for me, it passed me by very silently. Making a cake though still remained as the most celebratory moment of Christmas. I baked a Choreki, the Greek festive sweet bread made as a braid. The recipe was from the estimable New Complete Book of Breads, with a surfeit of dried fruits thrown in. When it comes out of the oven, the smell of fennel seeds declare all the good things Christmas is expected to bring. It is glossy brown, when it comes out of the oven.

Ingredients
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon roasted, ground fennel
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 Tablespoons each chopped almonds and white sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon raisins
White icing sugar to sprinkle
Oil fo greasing

Methods
Soak the raisins in water. In one-forth cup of milk, mix the salt and teaspoon of sugar. Add the yeast and let it rise in a covered place. Beat the 2 eggs in another bowl. Heat the rest of the milk, the sugar, butter and add the fennel. Heat for a few minutes and set aside to cool. Mix all the mix ingredients together, except for half of the beaten eggs. Add this to the flour, and start kneading. It will take about 10 minutes. Add a sprinkle of flour only if it remains sticky after thorough kneading. Cover and let it rise for an hour.
Add the raisins into the dough and knead. Divide the dough into three balls and roll it into ropes. Make a braid out of the three ropes and drop it into a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for another hour or until doubled. After this, brush the top with the rest of the egg and sprinkle the nuts and seeds on it. Bake for 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180 Celsius. Check for done-ness. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.
For a cake it fails the requisite sweetness that my husband insists on :). So for those with a sweet tooth, add another 1/2 cup sugar.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Plantain yoghurt dessert



On our trip to Kerala a few years back, we had ripe plantains in desserts, practically everyday. Plantains in their ripe form can be served very simply with just a drizzle of palm or date syrup. I wanted to make a frozen dessert with ripe plantain and came up with this. Yoghurt gives it substance. Cardamom gives it allure. The ghee adds an element of richness.

Ingredients
2 ripe plantains
300 gms rich yoghurt, strained
1/3 teaspoon cardamom, ground
2 Tablespoon ghee
3 Tablespoon molasses

Method
Strain the curd to remove as much possible. Chop the plantain. Heat the ghee in a pan. Add the plantain and molasses and cook it for 3 minutes, so as to soften the plantain and mix the molasses. Add the cardamom and mix it in again. With a blender puree the plantain and yoghurt. Pour into shot glasses and freeze. Slip the frozen cones out by dipping the glasses in hot water.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

With white wine roux



Though the white roux is the basis of many French dishes, I have avoided making it at home, because it reminds me of so many bad "Continental" fare smothered in white sauce, served here in India. Recently however I have revisited the many versions of white roux based sauces after reading Elizabeth David's "French Country Cooking. It had been on my cookery book list for a very long time. While most dishes in the book expect one to have bacon around, the Fish section is full of great ideas that can be incorporated on produce here. We had been provided by beautifully cut bhetki fillet by my parents. Normally, I use them to make the Fish Fry so beloved of Bengalee celebrations. I have been using them however this to try out a few ideas from the book because so many of the recipes ask for white fish fillet.

Ingredients
6 pieces bhetki fillets
1/3 cup white wine (I used Madera)
1/2 cup double cream
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
2 teaspoon butter



Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Lay the fillets in a flat shallow dish greased with 1 teaspoon of the butter. Salt them. Sprinkle half teaspoon of tarragon. Pour 3/4 cup white wine and put into the oven. Bake over just about 10 minutes. Keep it in the oven. While the fish is being cooked, add 1 teaspoon of butter to another pan. Melt it and add the flour and mix it thoroughly in. Continue to stir and cook for 3 minutes. Strain the wine from the fish. Arrange the fillet on a plate and keep warm. Add the strained wine little by little and mix it into the butter-flour roux at very low heat. It must be without lumps. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and stir it in. A smooth sauce should be the result. Switch off the stove. Pour the sauce over the fish fillet.

The book has also inspired Sitabhra who actually fished that book out of a pile of discounted ones to new heights :). Below is another Elizabeth David inspired recipe of beef in brown sauce made by him, again using white roux !

Ingredients
250 gms beef, cubed
2 small onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 bayleaf
3 teaspoon salt
5-8 fresh basil leaf, torn
1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon flour
3 Tablespoon butter
1-2 teaspoon honey


Method
Bring the wine, bayleaf, pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 onion to a boil. Let it cool down completely. Add the beef cubes to the marinade and let sit at room temperature for an hour or in the refrigerator overnight. Fry in a teaspoon of butter the onions until they start browning, about 4 minutes. Drain the beef cubes and strain the liquid into a cup. Add the beef cubes and brown them in the butter. This should be done at meadium heat to seal the meat but not burn the onions. Add half of the drained marinade and top it with another 1/2 cup water. Add a teaspoon of salt and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Cool pressure cooker. Once the beef is cooked retrieve it and set aside. In another pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the wine marinade slowly while stirring continuously. Add the gravy from the cooked meat. Add the honey and mix it in. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the sauce thickens. and becomes glossy. Pour sauce over beef cubes. We had it with potato mash flecked with scallions. It should go well with rice or bread too.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eggplant sauted in mint and vinegar


When I first started pottering with recipes and read about brinjals or aubergines referred to as eggplants, I was puzzled. In northern India where I grew up, brinjals though slightly rounded at one end, are hardly egg-sized. Or maybe they can be compared to roc eggs! They are large, shiny, and darkly purple or in winter glossy white. In southern India however, the local varieties, be they pale green or variations in purple are much smaller, even pea-sized. Brinjals, particularly, fried or sauted is everyday food. We used to get through stacks of bread slices or rotis with a few slices of deep fried, salted brinjals, as children. All they needed was a dusting with salt and turmeric before deep frying. Needless to say, sauted brinjals figure largely in my kitchen even now. I have featured pickled brinjal before. This recipe has distinct Mediterranean overtones. Its worth the extra effort since it can be stored rather well for a week or two. Great mixed with pasta, sandwiched between bread or rolled into rotis.


Ingredients
12 small brinjals, diced into 1/2 inch cubes and salted
1 and half Tablespoon red wine vineagr
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
10 mint leaves, minced
A few drops of honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Salt to taste


Method
Salt diced brinjals. Heat the oil in a kadai. Drain the diced brinjals of any liquid and fry them. Cover for a couple of minutes and cook for 3 more minutes uncovered. In the meantime, make the dressing with the vinegar, anchovy paste, honey and mint. Taste and add honey and salt if necessary. Anchovy paste itself is very salty, so go light on the salt. Drain the fried brinjals. Mix them with the dressing. Cool and store in glass jar.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mushroom tomato sauce




Shortly after I moved to Germany for my Ph.D, I was visited by two close friends , Faaizah and Nadeem working in England. My artless comments about Heidelberg must have convinced them that whatever modcons of civilisation the charming town contained, it must lack the wherewithal to supply me with Indian spices. So my Christmas hamper (and it was a wonderful one, I can remember most items it contained even now) had half a dozen bottles of Indian spices, "packaged and marketed" by Sainsbury's. Among them was nutmeg. Nutmeg is not commonly added to daily fare in India, and it was certainly my first rendezvous with the spice. While many Indian spices can be put in spoonfuls, nutmeg MUST be used only in pinches . With the result that not only did my bottle of nutmeg last me my sojourn in Germany (four and a half years), but I carried that bottle with a couple of intact nutmegs back when I moved back to India! That bottle still serves me well, though stocked with nutmeg from Coorg or Kerala nowadays. Nutmeg comes wrapped in layers. Indeed it took me a minute to realise the first time I purchased nutmeg in India, that several layers would need to be removed before I saw something familiar to the original contents of the Sainsbury bottle. The following sauce uses nutmeg and can be used equally well with pasta, rice or bread. The bread that I ate with it was made by my neighbours, Amritansu and Anita. They have bought a bread machine. And using it to its fullest potential. The bread was handed over to me the moment I unlocked my door. They had timed it beautifully. May they continue their good work :). I have presently a wonderful cheese table at hand. My husband Sitabhra did a splendid job of stocking from Germany on his recent trip. I couldn't resist sprinkling some of the Schnittkase he lugged back to India. But really, the sauce is great even without such ornamentation.

Ingredients
2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
10 button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups Bak choy, coarsely chopped (spinach can be used as substitute)
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 basil leaves
1 Tablespoon grated cheese

Method
Wash and chop the vegetables. In a dry pan cook the sliced mushrooms for about 5 minutes, until they shrink and brown a little. Keep moving them so that they don't stick. Remove from the pan and add oil. Lightly brown the garlic and add the tomatoes. Add salt and sugar and cook uncovered for 7-10 minutes. Add the Bak choy (or its substitute). Stir to coat it with the tomato sauce and let it reduce. This should not take more than 3-5 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste. Add ground pepper, nutmeg and basil leaves cut into chiffonade. Stir everything well, cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve warm.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sweet potato soup




I have been on a rampage to try out new soup recipes. This one was concocted while reading through the The Africa Cookbook. by Jessica Harris. I picked it because unlike so many other cookbooks on Africa, this really does cover the whole continent, not just the northern coast and South Africa. Also it does not consider Egyptian food as a limb of Arabic food. The book was picked up on my trip to Berkeley last year. I got a whole lot of cookbooks along with this from a splendid called Moe's. I wish I could have bought more books; but bearing in mind the narrow ledge of top-heavy luggages versus what a fellow must bring back after a five month sojourn, I desisted. This recipe is evocative of extensive use of sweet potatoes in African cuisine and is simplicity itself. It also uses a widely used Egyptian spice mix, the dukkah. I made a jar of it, and much like the sakura denbu-like fluffed fish from Taiwan, I have been sprinkling it on everything!

Ingredients
For Dukkah (Adapted from The Africa Cookbook)
1 cup almonds, toasted (any other nut would do)
1/2 cup coriander seeds
6 Tablespoons sesame seeds
4 Tablespoons cumin seeds
2 Tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh mint leaves, roasted

For soup
300 gms sweet potato, peeled and sliced
50-70 gms mooli/white radish, peeled and sliced
6 spring onions, white part only, sliced
1 clove garlic
3 cups vegetable broth
Salt to taste
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon dukkah

Method
For the dukkah, roast all ingredients except the mint. Let cool and then grind to a coarse powder. It must remain as granules. Transfer to a glass jar. Roast the mint leaves in a oven overnight, beforehand (dried will do too). Sprinkle a little on top and seal it. Just transfer a few tablespoons out when you want to use it.
Heat olive oil in a vessel. Saute the spring onions and whole garlic for two minutes. Slice half radish and saute it. Put the chopped sweet potato and stir for another 5 minutes. Add the broth and salt and cook covered for 10 minutes. Uncover, cool and puree to a smooth, runny soup. Taste and season. Transfer to individual bowls and sprinkle dukkah over it just before serving.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Roasted Tomato soup



This is a lazy person's tomato soup. A handful of ingredients. An oven for roasting the vegetables. A blender to puree it into a smooth concoction. The ingredient which added a new dimension is a few spoonfuls of what I believe is sakura denbu. In Taiwan from where it was bought, they called it "Yo som". We bought it from a sea food market. The market was divided into three sections. Fresh seafood to be made on the spot according to customer's instructions. You practically ate off the lurid, red plastic covered table covers. The other section had fresh sea creatures to be taken home. The third part had all sorts of processed items from the harvest of the sea. Fish sticks, fish pastes, dried prawns, fish and all sorts of seaweeds. The fluffed fish or sakura denbu as I will refer to it as, came in two flavours. We took the one which was the milder. I have been adding it to roasted or boiled vegetables and making a complete meal of my lunches. It can be stirred into any soup. Adds a mild fishy note, a lot of umami and animal protein to boot!

Ingredients
6 large tomatoes, halved
1/2 mooli/white radish, peeled
4 large cloves garlic
2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon sakura denbu
2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups vegetable broth

Method
Switch on oven to 180 degrees celsius. Oil a roasting tin or baking sheet. Arrange the halved tomatoes. Slice the mooli and arrange it in between. Strew them with salt and pop them into the oven. Wrap the garlic in a foil and put into the oven along with the rest of the vegetables. Bake for 20 minutes. Tip the vegetables into a large vessel. Squeeze the garlic into the vessel. Add the stock and cook for about 5-7 minutes at low heat. Add salt to taste and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Switch off the burner and let cool. Puree it until smooth. Note that addition of the sakura denbu will add a saltier note. Season according to taste. Just before serving add the sakura denbu. Stir it in Have it warm.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Red bean soup


Last month, I dined on soups for a fortnight. Only soup. These were not clear, unctuous and classic consomme naturally. I wanted to make a meal of them. They were all full-bodied, hearty and yes, very healthy. The soup featured in this recipe is a common enough item on our daily menu along with other dishes. I used fresh beans for this recipe, but soaked dried beans will do as well. I buy the fresh beans from a vegetable and fruit soup which peels them ready for the customer. I can never resist buying the little half-moons; green fava, creamy butter beans, red beans and pink and white speckled lima beans. They cook in 5 minutes in the pressure cooker. I used red beans for this recipe. And added half a cup of black coffee which would have otherwise been put down the drain. I was tempted to put it in since cardamom flavoured coffee (or tea) are a favourite of mine. Apart from giving the soup a more intense colour it didn't make any difference.

Ingredients
100 gm red beans
1 small tomato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 inch galangal, grated
1 clove, crushed
1 cardamom, crushed
1/2 cup black coffee
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 spicy sausage, chopped (optional)

Method
Soak the beans in clean water. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker. Saute the onion and galangal until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the clove and cardamom and saute for another minute. Add the tomato and salt. Cook until the tomato is incorporated as a mush, about 5-7 minutes. Add the drained beans, water and coffee. Pressure cook for 5-7 minutes. When cool, season according to taste with salt and pepper. Heat it through to incorporate the extra salt. Take a ladleful of the soup and crush the beans in it. Put it back into the main bowl and stir it in. This makes the soup a little thicker, which is how I like it. It can be skipped if you want yours thin. Chop and add the sausage. Serve warm. Needless to say it can be had with rice, flatbreads and pastas equally well.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Venetian Carrot Cake- a la halwa



Ever since I saw the Venetian Carrot Cake on one of Nigella Lawson's programme I had it in my mind to make it. It naturally reminded me of the justifiably famed gazar ka halwa (carrot halwa) that is made with the surfeit of carrots in winter. Carrot halwa used to be a very seasonal fare back when I was a child when carrots were really around at affordable prices only in the cooler months. Perhaps it was just as well; halwas are not for the calorie freak :). Neither is this cake! It might lack the clarified butter and high fat milk added to halwa but it makes it up with the three eggs. It was the use of olive oil in a sweet cake paired with nutmeg and lemon which intrigued me. I made a few changes to the ingredients listed in Nigella's recipe, so maybe I should call it Indian carrot cake. I upped the amount of grated carrot. Used ground cashew instead of almond and pine nuts and increased the amount of lemon zest. Mine didn't rise at all. But inspite of that it is a soft, moist cake. The so much larger allowance of nuts of course makes it taste quite different from carrot halwa, but it is very likely, the canny Venetians took the idea of the cake from their trading partners in the Orient!

Ingredients
2 tablespoons toasted coarsely chopped cashew
1 and half cup cashew ground to flour
3/4 cup cashew ground finely but with visible bits
Carrots, grated 200-250g
75g golden raisin
60ml rum
150g caster sugar
125ml regular olive oil, plus some for greasing
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice half a lemon

Method
Ground the toasted cashew into various degrees of coarseness in batches. Tip the cashew flour and next most finely ground nuts into a large bowl. Zest the lemon into it. Boil the rum with the raisins until they have plumped up. Cool. Grate the carrots. I made a big batch of grated carrot and left them overnight in the refrigerator, so that they dried out a bit. Mix the carrot into the nut flour. Add the raisins along with the rum and stir thoroughly. Cream together olive oil, sugar, vanilla extract, grated nutmeg until it is creamy. Add the eggs one by one to the creamed mixture, beating thourougly. Add the lemon juice last. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and fold in, so as to wet it. Grease a 9 inch cake pan with olive oil. Pour the batter. Smooth it over. Strew the top with the coarsely chopped cashew bits. Bake for 40 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. Test by a fork to make sure it is completely cooked.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lemon cashew tart with banana bread crust




Sometimes a dish is born out of adversity. So it was with this pie with a cashewnut filling and a banana bread crust. A low-fat banana-bread recipe failed and got blitzed into crumbs that then went onto encase a cashew frangipane. This is one way of using up a cake which has not risen to your expectations. Similarly, any leftover crumbs will do the trick. I have written down the ingredients of both the crust/bread and the filling. The bread/crust was baked before, then blitzed in a processor with more butter to be made into a pie crust. The nut filling can of course be made of other nuts; almond frangipane being the commonest in pastry shops. The addition of the lemon juice and zest is what makes it special. In this case I used a 7 inch tart pan. The sliced pear was added to add a bit more fruit, but is open to reconstruction.

Ingredients
For the crust
1 cup white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 and half ripe banana

5 Tablespoon jaggery

1/2 inch ginger, minced
4 Tablespoon skimmed milk
8 Tablespoon butter


For the filling
3/4 cup cashew, unsalted, ground
1 egg

2 lemons, used for juice and zest
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup white sugar
4 Tablespoon butter
1 pear, peeled and sliced thinly

Method
In a processor, put together the banana and all ingredients of the crust except half the butter, until it forms a dough. This can also be done by hand. Starting from scratch, the ingredients come together into a fairly sticky dough. Bake in a greased loaf pan for 40 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. Blitz to disintegrate it into crumbs. I added 4 tablespoon of softened butter at this step. Press the crumbs evenly into a thick crust in a tart pan. Bake for minutes. Let cool.
Grind the cashew into powder with salt and half of the sugar set aside for the filling. Grate the lemon zest and juice the lemons. Melt the butter in a pan. Remove it from heat and whisk in the egg until a yellow mass forms. Add the lemon juice and zest. Stir thoroughly. Add the ground cashew and then whisk again until a thick paste is formed. Taste at this stage to adjust the tartness of the lemon. It should be sour but not mouth puckeringly. Add a few tablespoons of sugar if necessary.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Garlic Chicken

My husband has two firm rules when he cooks. More butter is better. And there's no harm in adding a few more cloves of garlic. One of his signature dishes, this garlic chicken certainly upholds those aphorisms. The dish never fails to win him accolades; my mother still reminisces about the first time she had it! This recipe calls for a marinade of few hours; but I have known it to be a resounding success even without that step.

Ingredients
300 gm chicken, in pieces, bone in

For marinade
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoon alcoholic liquid; we had gin at hand
1 teaspoon vinegar
Pinch of Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt

Green capsicum, half, diced
2 large onions, diced
10 cloves garlic, sliced
2 inch ginger, minced
2 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon honey
Salt to taste

Method
Prepare the marinade. Marinate the chicken pieces for 30 minutes to an hour at room temperature or inside the refrigerator. In the meantime chop all the other condiments. Heat the wok and melt the butter. Add the onions and cook them for 10 minutes until translucent and they have started to pick up brown flecks. Add the ginger and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, chicken and salt. Pour half of the marinade, stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the capsicum and coat them with the onion mixture. Open and stir it once in a while. If it is too dry add a few teaspoons of water. Cover and cook until the chicken is just done. This dish is best done in a wok/kadai/pan. Avoid the pressure cooker. The taste is more intense when stirred and cooked with juices released by the chicken. Serve warm with rice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pasta with greens and corn


I sometimes wonder whether I would have recognised many dishes from India 500 years back. More and more we are incorporating ingredients which we didn’t know exist a century back! Of course the traditional basis of meals in most countries do remain same. We still thrive on rice and lentils for example. All this high faluting thought occurred to me while making the following pasta. Which itself is of course, pretty new kid on the block (though how the Chinese did not manage to export it across the Himalayas puzzles me, given we are just at their doorstep and noodle-making was an old industry there!). And then the corns which arrived much later than the Portuguese (here also the Chinese had apparently nothing new to learn). Practically nothing in this dish is per se Indian, not even the nutmeg which admittedly we are very familiar with but came from a Pacific island far east. Any green can be used; I had a bunch of Chinese (again!) Bak Choy begging to be used up. The cheese (Morbier) was decidedly French being brought over dutifully by a collaborator of my husband’s, who brings over a basket of French soft cheese everytime he visits us from France! But other cheese can also be used as long as they melt a little. The dish takes very little time to make.


Ingredients

2 teaspoon butter

250 gm pasta; I used the ear shaped ones

6 Tablespoon Morbier, grated

6 baby corn, sliced

3 teaspoon salt

300 gm bak choy leaves, roughly torn

Spring onion, 4 white part only, sliced

Nutmeg, grated





Method

Slice the baby corns thinly and cook it in salted water for 5 minutes, so they retain a little crunch. Drain. Melt the butter. Add the greens after tearing them with your hands. Sprinkle salt. Cover and cook for a minute. Add the baby corn, more salt and the nutmeg. In the meantime, boil the pasta in salted water and cook until al dente. Drain and add to the vegetables. Mix thoroughly. Season it with more salt if necessary. Turn off the heat. Add the cheese and mix it in. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pretend Fish

This image was taken after we had made substantial inroads into the meal. Indeed this is the rest (note the missing tail) of the small fry, so to speak! The "mother fish" had already been consumed!

Here Comes The Pretend Fish

Once in a while one discovers a dish which is completely unpretensious, easy to make, and is a major hit at a party. The Pretend fish recipe was in one of my cookbooks, on Italian seafood. It mentioned that it was easy to put together and with time short on hand, that was a laudable point in its favour. It also helped that it was a fish dish which epitomised boneless-ness! Eating fish is an acquired art. I find that many people cannot manage to separate the fish bones and justice to fresh fish prepared in the usual Bengali style. This dish being made of tuna flakes took the pain out eating something fishy :). If you have the mashed vegetables ready, it takes about 10 minutes to put together. My cookbook had mentioned only potatoes. I used a mixture of root vegetables and plantain along with two cans of tuna.

Ingredients
400 gm potato
100 gm carrot
100 gm sweet potato
100 gm plantain
2 Tablespoon Bengali prepared mustard, kasundi
1-4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon coriander stalks, finely minced
1 teaspoon capers
1 cup mayonnaise, good quality
300 gm tuna, flakes

Method
Peel and boil the root vegetables with salt. Boil the plaintain separately and peel. Mash all vegetables. Add mustard, more salt, chopped coriander and tuna. Taste for salt and add more if necesaary. Shape the mashed mass into the shape of a fish. I got 2 fishes of varying size. Pat and smooth the shapes. Put spoonfuls of mayonnaise and coat the sides completely. Once its uniformly coated, use more to make the scales and ridges on the tail. Add a few capers to make the eyes. Keep at room temperature before serving.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hotpot



I am in the mood for using Chinese ingredients. The refrigerator is very well stocked with them now. And it helps if they cook with the minimum fuss. So I settled on making this hotpot recipe. I had it very frequently when I shared a kitchen with some Chinese friends in USA. They would put in a super-rich sauce out of a satchet. A set of ordinary ingredients would be transformed into something steaming and magical. The weather was awfully cold in Omaha. Most of the time we had it standing in the kitchen right next to the rice cooker where it was made. Practically anything can be added, as long as the stock remains clear. My friends would even add corn-on-the-cobs, though it does take a long time to cook. Back at home, I set my rice cooker on the dining table, arranged the prepped vegetables/ meat/seafood that were available around and started on making the hotpot only after we were all ready to eat. This is the ideal winter one-pot meal. I stress the one-pot part! The hotpot spice is basically lots of garlic, ginger, red chilli, salt, soya and bean sauces made into a paste and stored with oil. My Chinese friends could never tell me the exact recipe. But I intend to work around with these ingredients by and by to have something similar on hand.

Ingredients

3 cups water
2 cups home-made broth; I used chicken
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
½ cup sweet corn, frozen or 8 sliced baby corn
1 inch ginger, crushed lightly
2 cloves garlic, crushed lightly
300 gm boneless skinless chicken; I had a few pieces pre-cooked

200 gm paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes

A handful of prawns; I had frozen ones on hand

Crab legs; 3 frozen ones
200 gm mangetout, trimmed and sliced
2 medium scallions, chopped

1 to 2 teaspoon hotpot sauce

1 pack dried egg noodle

Salt to taste

Dipping sauce

2 dry chilli, crumbled

1/4 lemon, juice

A pinch salt

A pinch sugar

3 Tablespoon oil; I used garlic flavoured groundnut oil


Method

Cut all vegetables into thin slices. It will take less time to cook that way. The ingredients I used are all quick-cooking. So I only brought the broth to a boil and in quick succession added the rest of the components according to how long they would require to cook. I added the egg noodle at the last in a strainer to retrieve it more easily. One can just boil it once the broth is ready, right in it. Anything which requires longer period to cook can be added into the broth at the beginning. Don’t overload the cooker; the ingredients need to shimmer. So in a group, encourage guests to add as they need.

The amounts suggested would actually feed easily 4. But making it in small volumes doesn’t make sense. The broth can be drunk in any quantities. The strained cooked vegetables/meat can be used as topping for rice or noodles.

The dipping sauce just requires the most cursory mixing. Traditionally sesame oil is used instead of groundnut.

Serve steaming in bowls and provide chopsticks for everyone.