Apr 27, 2010

Peaaas--pulll--auu. Words that repeat



Have you ever had this near compulsive habit of saying the name of a dish-- constantly? not for any other reason..but just because it feels so terrific just to say it? :) Well I generally don't belong to this category. However, exceptions prove the rule.  Last week,  I could not help saying the word peas polau. And I did not even realise I kept saying it...to myself...untill I heard myself one afternoon, literally saying it aloud. Sounded as scary as this

Peaaas--pulll--auu ! 

And if I had to trace out why I had started to say this..I would not be able to tell you. However, I certainily can tell you, where that constant repetition of the word led to :) To a dinner table with the very food on it. And you might or might not believe this...but Immedietly after I and R had this, I stopped saying it out. At least compulsively :) 

If I was you, I would be doing the job of devil's advocate. I would have gone,'hmmm it must have been terrible, but she put together this recipe from an internet site'. Aha..got ya :) I actually got the recipe from the internet. Changed it a lot..and trust me it was good. At least for someone who cannot make rice dishes..this was really impressive. And I got a way around to do it without having to measure out the secret ratio of rice: water. What is the magic ratio btw? I never could get it. Never ever. To me it is forever the most illusive ratio. Yet so many people make it. Even if rice is the only they make. And they get it. I led myself to believe I am cursed.

Anyone here is a easy way to get around this problem. And you can use this technique for any rice dishes, which require some sauteeing. Fried rice, pilaf..etc. 

So here is how Peaaas--pulll--auu  ended :)

Ingredients:

A cup of any assorted veggies you can think of. But please do include peas. The name demands it :) 
I used some fresh beens, carrots, corns. Of course, you can use the regular frozen veggies too. Just let them thaw out in water for ~ 10-15 minutes before you use them. 

1 big tomato, corsely chopped.
1 medium onion. Chopped
A handful of cilantro.

3 big cloves of garlic. Grated
half a tsp of grated ginger
1 tbsf of sugar


2 cloves
A small piece of cinnamon
2 cardamon. 

Break these down with a coarse blow. Will help with the aroma.

3/4 cup pf rice.  You can substitute with coucous.
Water as you need to boil rice.

half a tsp of butter. Use oilve oil for healthier option.

Salt and pepper to taste

Peaaas--pulll--auu!

Make rice and let it stand. I am no authority on this matter..but all I do is take the rice in a pot. Fill it up with water. Let it boil. And then strain. So that I don't have to deal with illusive ratios. But I am sure you can find one method that best suits your need :)

In a shallow skillet, heat the butter/oil. Add the cardamom, clove and cinamon. Once it gives off the aroma, add the onions and saute for a couple of minutes. Leave it crunchy. Add the ginger and garlic, tomatoes, bayleaf and the veggies. Saute for a minute or so. Add the rice. Mix it all up. 

Dish it up on serving platter. Garnish with cilantro. That is Peaaas--pulll--auu for ya :)


Happy eating and healthy living!

Apr 20, 2010

Adding spice to life--'Extra' ordinary 'days'


I have to come to a very important decision. One night, every week would be a cuisine night. And the best part is I would not know which day it would be. Totally will be dictated by my mood. Or better to say, my and R's mood :) Adds that extra level of mystery..don't you think?

 You know this, like everything else, stems from my childhood. In our house we had very strict regimes. Not to say they were kind of bad or very restrictive. But strict, nonetheless. But the good thing was there was always a 'day' to break those routines. In very predictable ways...but a something out of ordinary of course. An extraordinary day..so to speak. For example Friday evenings when no school-home work. Sunday mornings for extended TV time. Wednesday school lunch would constitute a sandwich and not fruits and breads. So just very predictable ways on predictable days to break an equally predictable routine. It wasn't very restrictive. But...it was strict. And these little welcome changes, albeit not totally really changes, would amount to immense and totally unpredictable happiness for me and my sister. The joy of friday evenings were never the same...one was always better than the last; the TV time always brought together friends from neighborhood and the happiness that flowed was never the same; the lunch box always held its charm-- the fillings were different you see :)

But since this is a food blog, I will mention one such ' break day' which still lingers in my memory as fresh and fragrant as the aroma of the food I am talking of. So breakfast in our household used to be simple and a boring affair. Bread, eggs and milk. This might not sound boring or unusual to many of you, but to put things into perspective especially that of a ten year old--all other families in the neighborhood and those of my friends in school had varied and spiced up lovely breakfasts. Fries, Indian breads, curries etc. Bread clearly wasn't as great :( 

However, every Sunday morning..breakfast used to be different. It used to be semolina (something like couscous)-- cooked with milk, sugar, cardamom, bay leaves, raisins and cashew-- and served with deep fried Matzo-like things (spicier) and ginger tea. I cannot tell you ...how favorite that special meal was to me. And I cannot emphasize how awesome and fragrant it was. To this day, I have almost never woken up on a sunday morning when I haven't craved this food. Not one single sunday. And I have never made it :)

So that is kind of where I come from. And comes the need never to stick to routine and to break a non existant routine with unknown cuisne on one day..unfixed in time...

From now one..I will feature a cusine night...and let you know how great it all went. So far we have had Israeli, Mediterranean and ...today's featured Malayasian. Malaysian chicken noodle soup. Awesome. And thanks to three hungry tummies for such an excellent and simple recipe. By the way, I figured that if you did not have lemon grass at your disposal, the rind of lemon works great as a substitute :)

So, here is to breaking non existant rules and having extraordinary foodie days!






Happy eating and healthy living :)

Apr 13, 2010

Cabbages from across the world


I have to say this. Again. And no matter how many times I say it..I feel I have to say it one more time. I love food blogdom. And not just getting to know so many foodies. But also so so many exotic combinations to try out. I cannot tell you how many ways I have learnt to improvise since I have started blogging.  An example to illustrate the point 

Take for instance, cabbage. I like it. It is useful. It can also get boring..made the same delicious way(s). And, without a little bit of external forcing so to speak, it is difficult to come by ideas to change it. I mean here i have been eating cabbage made the same ways since I was a baby. How much of variety can the mind bring about! Except when I read posts from people all over the globe who has been enjoying cabbage  their way over long times. But guess what that is new to me..and a couple of such posts...just a couple would be enough to get me ideas for a lifetime. And here in fooddom..there are multiple posts.

See my point? I am sure you do. Cos you are here as well :) 

I wanted to mention a couple of recipes I have tried out and both turned super good.  One from my good friend Trish of Mad chemist. She is such a baker. Her drool worthy stuff is the cakes and cookies. But occasionally she would come up with a twist in a curry that leaves me ...WTF..:) :) in a way which makes me ..how could I have not thought of it. But of course I could not think of it.  So here is one lovely twist to cabbage. Made with apple, onions and spices. It is amazing and can be totally enjoyed as a cold salad. This is my new love with cabbage :)



Thanks Trish...you are awesome :)


The second one is more south east asian. And that converts to saying yummy all the way. Another one of my friends who is a whizz in the kitchen. Sonia of Nasi lemak. Here is one thing I learnt from her cabbage recipe. Turmeric is such a powerful spice if used by itself. I never am really into turmeric as a stand alone spice. R would disagree. And I think, I will now agree that turmeric is a fantastic flavor, if used with the right food and in somewhat larger quantities. And this I learnt after spending my entire life in India where turmeric is such a dominant spice. It is difficulty to believe. But it is true. So this cabbage recipe of her's featuring cabbage and turmeric, is another one which added some more color and spice to my tryst with cabbages.

Thanks a zillion Sonia. 

Happy eating and healthy living!

Apr 7, 2010

Watercress- Turning a new 'leaf' in chicken curry


I have a terrible habit. Every time I visit the grocery, I am always drawn to buying something-- usually a type of fruit or vegetable-- that I have no idea how to use. And I end up using it in a dish I make-- adds that different level of twist which is usually good. I am told so at least :) Or I sometimes take the trouble to look up a dish with that vegetable. But that is never what I end up doing, given my averseness to recipes in general. 

One such thing I picked up on one such day--among many such days-- is watercress. It looked so lovely and so green and with so much texture and it was on sale too-- I had to buy it. A big big bunch. Also I was very drawn to how it still had its roots intact! I started out with just using it to garnish regular entrees. But soon it dawned on me, how fantastic the texture was. How nicely it held up its own. Whereas spinach and most greens just wilt down. Granted, Spinach is still my favorite. But watercress is slowly going up there. I found myself a new green to fall in love with. Watercress :)

I have to tell you this story. About greens and my history with it. I hated greens. Leafy greens even more. Cos back when I was teensy weensy, my grandmom fed me this horrible concoction of sweetened spinach because of apparent health benefits. It never made down my throat. And then later on of course, I found my mom, using these greens in such fantastic ways. Making it with mustard, peppers and coconut, with eggplant and allspice.  And I loved those. Also buying greens and trying a variety of those in grocery stores brings back the smell and feel of fresh veggie stalls that I used to visit with my mom...when there was time idle away a morning. 

Much later, I figured that these green dishes , although stand alone in their own rights..might actually add a different layer to chicken and fish dishes.  Especially chicken with white yogurt sauces-- a dish which brings out the best in my grandmom actually :) The green addition to such chicken dishes just looks so pretty..and tastes heavenly. So I started doing that. Some greens, sautéed with a little spice and just mixing it in with soups and white-sauced up chicken recipes. A totally new way of looking at food combinations. Some of the things I loved as a kid blended in with the tricks of the trade I learnt on my journey to becoming the happy cook I am today :)

So here is one such chicken dish..combining yogurt and water cress-- a traditional Indian ingredient with  a wild card entry  and  made with lots of love from your's truly  :)

Ingredients:

1-2 lb of chicken. Boneless and skinless will be best. Chopped to bite size. Although feel free to use any kind that you are buying. But small pieces will obviously help the marriage between fine flavors and chicken :)

4-5 cloves of garlic. Grated
1 big onion. Chopped
Water cress-- half a big bunch. Use the leaves only. But I tend to use all of it. The stalks have a great flavor you know :). If you don't have water cress, Spinach is always a great substitute

2 tsp of ground coriander
1/2 tsp of sugar
1/2 cup  of yogurt. You can also use sour cream
Juice of half a lime. Freshly squeezed is best
1-1.5 cup of chicken broth. I use hot water as it is more calorie friendly version
4-5 tbsf Cooking oil. Light olive oil is what I use

Salt and pepper for seasoning

It is pretty simple actually

Whisk together the yogurt and the grated garlic and set aside. Marinate the chicken in lime juice and set aside for 10 min. In a big skillet, heat the oil. Once hot, saute the onion till slightly translucent. Add the chicken pieces and fry them slightly. Refrain from moving the chicken around, especially if you are using bigger pieces. Let em cook through on one side before flipping. Of course with boneless pieces, its more of a hand job :) :)

Anyways, once chicken kind of whitens, add the coriander and sugar and keep sautéing till all is well mixed. Once the aroma hits you, add the yoghurt-garlic mix and stir in everything to achieve a consistency..sort of. Add a cup of broth or even hot water. Cover and let cook through. 10 min. Check for drying up. If you do see things getting dry, feel free to lubricate it with some hot water.
Season with salt and pepper. 
Turn off heat and ...stir in the water cress or spinach. Leave things covered till you are ready to serve. The leafy greens absorbs the flavor in the covered pot.

Serve with jasmine or sticky rice. A lovely chicken curry...



Happy eating and healthy living