Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Simple Chicken Curry

I have such a soft corner for this chicken dish. Is it because it was the first non-vegetarian / meat dish I learnt? Or because its so easy to make is always tasty even if you vary the contents. Or is it because with slight variations you can have an entirely different curry? Whatever be the reason, it is, comfort food, for me.

You will need:
1 chicken (about 1 kilo)
2 large onions
6 garlic pods
1" ginger
2-3 each of cloves, cardamom
5-6 grains of whole black pepper
1" stick of cinamon
1 bay leaf
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tomatoes
2 Potatoes quartered
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnishing

How to

1. Wash chicken pieces well. (This is for those of you who get it fresh). De-frost for those who pick it up from frozen section of supermarkets. Pat dry / drain and sprinkle with about 2 tsp of salt and the turmeric powder. Use hands to mix well with the chicken pieces.

2. Slices onions finely. Grate the garlic and ginger separately. Slice the tomatoes and keep aside.

3. Heat oil in a pressure cooker. (About 2-3 tbsp)

4. Add the cinamon, cardamom, black pepper, bayleaf.

5. In about half a minute or so, they will release their "aroma". This is about when the pepper corn will start popping!

6. Quickly add the onions and stir to mix well with oil. Fry till the onions are light pink.

7. Add the grated garlic and stir till they are lightly browned. Be careful. Garlic can burn very easily and we dont want them burnt. Just browned.

8. Add the chicken pieces, and mix well with the onions. Add the grated ginger. Fry on high flame. After 2 minutes, stir so that the pieces on top are at the bottom and vice versa. In about 10 minutes or so, all the pieces will be fried.

9. Add the sliced tomatoes, cover with a lid (but dont close the lid). Lower flame and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. The tomatoes will go soft and mushy and release their juices.

10. Mix well. Add about 250 ml of water (about 2 cups). You can add more water if you prefer more gravy. (I do). Adjust the salt.

11. Add the sliced potatoes.

12. Close the lid and let it cook for one whistle of the pressure cooker. If you are not using a pressure cooker, then cook till the potatoes are done.

13. Take off the lid and add the chopped coriander leaves and cook over high flame for 1-2 minutes.

14. Serve hot with rice!

Adding potatoes is optional. You can also add more garlic and onions if you so prefer. If you dont want to add tomatoes, curd works fine. If you are using curd, add it to the chicken in the begining with the salt and turmeric or you can add it at step no. 9 in place of the tomatoes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mutton Rupali

We had just moved into a new set of apartments in Kolkata and R & I were living by ourselves, while our parents were still in the Middle East. R had taken over (forced to), the running of our apartment. And immediately after we had moved in, all of us kids put up a play, another of my great ideas! But I came down rather heavily on R during our rehearsals and she quit! But at the end she did ennoy it from the sidelines and felt proud (she claims shen did), when our over acting was a roaring success. And as a part of the after play get together, she russled up a mutton recipe which like the play was a roaring success! And the unanimous decision was to christen this recipe “Mutton Rupali”. So here goes - Another great and totally original recipe from R.

You will need:
1kilo mutton
1tsp cumin seeds
4-5 green chillies
1 medium onion
6 flakes of garlic
1” ginger
Raw papaya – 2 piece
1tsp corainder seeds and leaves
2tsp khus khus or posto or poppy seeds
1tbsp garam masala
1tbsp ground coriander powder
2tbsp lime juice
1 cup curd
4 tbsp butter or ghee (clarified butter)
1tsp sugar
red chilli powder(optional)
Coriander leaves

How to:
1. Grind the chillies, onion, ginger, garlic, papaya and spices to a smooth paste.
2. Mix the paste with the curd.
3. Wash the mutton pieces and prick them with a fork (allows the spice mixture to seep into the mutton) and dry them.
4. Rub with salt mixed with lime juice and set aside for half an hour or so.
5. Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add the mutton pieces and cook for about 2-3 whistles.
6. Open lid and set aside.
7. In a pan add ghee, then put the mutton and the paste and cook over medium heat till tender and palatable. (This will take sometime depending upon the tenderness of the mutton).
8. Garnish with onion rings, lime wedges, corainder leaves chopped and slit green chillies.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Sweet Tomato Chutney

My cook has been ill these past few days. To complicate matters, work (usually hectic) has been maddening just now. We had to take a brief on phone, develop three scripts, find a celebrity (one with the right profile -- all India appeal, clean as a whistle background, willing to give us couple of hours and do it free of charge...its is after a public service spot). And the A turns up with a kilo of tomatoes. Once in a while, OK. But tomatoes are a no-no for him. Doctor's order.

So, I get up wearily really early and make a sweet tomato chutney, which I then take with me to work to share with colleagues. Felt a bit mean. But its really better this way. So here is a the recipe for sweet bengali tomato chutney. Simple and easy.

You will need:

1 kilo tomatoes (any sort except the small cherry ones)
Heaps of sugar
1/2" ginger either grated or sliced really thin
A bit of salt
One dried red chillie
1 tsp mustard seeds
fresh coriander, chopped

How to

1. Heat a tbsp of oil in a Kadai / wok. If you are using a pan make sure its a deep one

2. Add the dried red chillie.

3. Add the mustard seeds.

4. When they start to pop, add the tomatoes.

5. Cook on high heat for three to four minutes and then lower flame and cover.

6. When the tomatoes have softened, add the sugar. About 3 tbsp. Taste and adjust. This chutney has to be sweet. Be sure to add the salt..about 1/2 tsp. This takes care of the tartness of the tomatoes.

7. After another few minutes, the tomatoes should have all become pulpy, and become a thick mass.

8. Add about 1/2 cup of water. Cover and let stew.

9. Check frequently. The chutney shouldn't be too thin or thick.

10. Add the grated ginger. Let it stew for couple of minutes more.

11. Add the chopped coriander leaves and cook for a further two minutes.

12. Remove from fire and let it cool down.

13. Traditionally, chutney is eaten last after any bengali meal. It is ladled onto the now empty plate on which lunch was eaten and the chutney is eaten by hand.

14. Quite a few people like to eat it mixed with plain steamed rice... but that is really for those who are used to it. Chutney by itself is rather nice. Bon apetit!

Note: You can vary the proportions to suit your taste. You can have it less sweet if you wants. Works just fine. I prefer it sweet though.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

R's Apple Upside Down Cake

This recipe is entirely R's. She must have got it from somewhere and added her variations. I don't know why, but I was under the impression that this was an Apple Strudel. R set me right --- "Its an apple upside down cake". The first time she made it, she was in school (class 5 or 6 ... yes that early). And as she is wont to, had her luxuriant tresses in a wild bird's nest on her head. Dressed in a nightie, she took over the kitchen in a very authoritarian, brisk, no nonsense manner, while I could only watch
with amusement (nothing more I could do, since I could not contribute anything to the process, except tasting the batter). And I have loved it since then!! I still haven't tried it and don't thing am going to in the near future (Can always beg her to make it for me when I visit Kolkata). But for those of you who can't have that pleasure, you can always try it... and enjoy it. It's foolproof since the proportions etc are R's and not my haphazard ones!!

You will need
About 4 medium sized apples(the red smallish apples, the ones you get in winter, here I mean in India), peeled and decored and then cut into thin slivers or slices lengthwise.
1 & 1/2 cups flour
3 or 4 eggs whipped in a blender
1 cup sugar (ground)
1 cup sunflower oil
1& 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1& 1/2 tsp baking powder
Half cup milk
About 4tbsp ground brown sugar
75 gms butter

How to:
1. Sift flour and baking powder through a sieve, keep aside. R does it on a clean piece of newspaper. Less messier this way!

2. In a deep bowl beat together oil and ground sugar.

3. Add about 2 tbsp of the seived flour and a bit of the blended egg. Whip by hand held blender or spoon. Add more flour and egg. In this way mix and add and alternate the two till all the flour and egg have been added.

4. Add milk to help in the blended process.

5. Add the vanilla essence. (Be sure to give into tempatation and taste the batter...its not only wonderful, but helps to check if you have got the sugar and vanilla right)!

6. Melt butter in a pan and when warm, add brown sugar and wait till blended well.

7. Pour the butter in to a greased baking round dish.

8. Arrange sliced apples in a circular fashion starting from the sides and gradually filling in.

9. Pour the cake batter over it.

10. Bake in an oven over medium temperature for an hour or till a knife comes out clean when inserted.

(Don't forget to enjoy the aroma of the cake baking!! At this point, I usually start drooling...)!

11. Cool and turn the cake over onto a plate. Then you will have the browned apple layer at the top! Bon appetite!

Note:- This be make about more than 10 generous slices....for people with normal appetite. Unlike me. I'd leave one slice each for baba, ma & R and K (our cook) and hog the rest myself.

Note2:- I was in Kolkata two weeks ago and went to a small gathering of friends. I hit upon the bright idea of getting R to bake me this cake. Which she promptly did. My friends all oohed and aahed over it and ate one slice each. The rest was kept away for eating later on by my host and his wife. I feel really mean to say this, but I could have eaten the cake all by myself and taken something else for my friends??!!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dal for the family and close friends

H, a friend from work, dropped in yesterday. I was not alarmed. There was afterall mince meat that hubby dear cooked all by himself, one veggie dish, some rice and rotis (chapatis). But when hubby himself said that he didnt want the mince meat, I got suspicious. He is afterall a die-hard meat eater. He sheepishly said that it want very tasty. Oh Oh. My dear cook is not too great either. So I one hungry guest, one hungry hubby and two dishes both badly cooked. Quick fix idea (which I try every time and never fails) is to rush and get some kala dal from the fauji dhaba next door. Sure enough, it worked. This prompted a story from H . His father, after his wedding, had postponed all dinner parties till such time his wife had learnt enough. The date arrived 6 months later. She had cooked 8 dishes. They were stationed in Amritsar at that time. Everyone enjoyed the food and when asked which dish they liked the best, everyone said in unison, "the dal". The dal was the only dish she had not cooked and got it from a local dhaba!!

I have a very easy and fast dal recipe....it is NOT a party dish. But works well for family and really close friends. It is really very simple to make. And once you make it, you realise how easy it is to vary the dal and the various ingredients to make your own combo.

For a great explanation on dals / lentils/ pulses, See Mental Masala's December Dal post.

You will need:

1 small cup (a little more than the tiny coffee cups) arhar dal, washed and drained
1 green bell pepper / capsicum / shimla mirch cut into long strips
1 or 2 tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 carrot, cut into long strips or sliced into roundels
1 medium onion sliced finely (optional)
3 or 4 garlic pods grated
handful of peas
5 or 6 florets of cauliflower (taken from one big one)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Cooking oil

How to:
1.In a pressure cooker, heat one tbsp oil and add 1 tsp cumin seeds.

2. When the seeds crackle, add the garlic and onions and stir.

3. When the onions become translucent, add the veggies and stir.

4. Add 1 small tsp of turmeric powder and the salt, to taste.

5. Add the dal and stir. The dal will in a bit, stick to the pan.

6. Add water. The rule for a pressure cooker is, to add a little less than double the quantity of the main item, which in this case is the dal. But since there are a few veggies along with the dal, add 3 to 3 & 1/2 cups of water. Close the lid and cook for 2 or 3 whistles. This again depends where you are. At high altitude or cold weather, pulses take more time to cook and hence more whistles.

7. Remove from fire and wait for the steam to go out by itself and the cover to drop (open). If the dal has become too thick, put it on the fire and add a little water and check and adjust seasoning.

8. If you donot have a pressure cooker, any pan with a tight cover will do. But it will be preferrable to soak the dal a few hours in advance, drain and then cook.

9. Now, if you don't want to use onions, add the veggies straight after the cumin. You can vary the dal used too. Masur and chana (bengal gram) dal works just as well.

This takes not more than half an hour from start to finish and is always, tasty! Bon apetit! I should know. Back in Paris, we practically survived on it.