Aug 25, 2010

...And I am an year old!! First aniversary on food blogdom :)

It is true. 

And this is how it all started... on a tuesday morning. Right here at this desk. Awaiting a lab supply :) I have to say I never foresaw coming along so far. And I am glad I did. 

This calls for a ton of thanks to a few friends who have been with me through out this incredible journey. And special thanks to R. For he has been through the good and bad. Encouragement and criticisms helping me equally :) And also my sister. She has been the biggest fan of my cooking!

And the only way to honor today is with a post of food-- I love and crave-- but neither can I make it nor do I want to learn how to do it.  Its called 'Luchi'. Fried dough..but way way better. There is this thin crust on top and if you break it the aroma of fried dough wafts in. You have it with potato curry or  caramelized-sweetened-milk-rice-custard (payesh). It is out of the world. And in my home this was a brunch or a dinner delicacy. As  I write it I am craving for these and that always reminds me of my mom-grandmother combination in the kitchen.

This is one food-- in addition to samosa-- I cannot make. And I actively strive not to learn how to make it.You know its like that famous mastercard ad.. 'There are some things you should not attempt to make'. The drill takes the magic away. And what's food-- or for that matter anything-- without some magic :)

So when an old freind--Shreya--visited a couple of months ago, she made me this wonderful big brunch of luchi-and rice custard. I cannot thank her enough. And R has been so good-- he has treated me to this savory brunch--working in the kitchen all by himself a couple of times :)

So here it is..the feast in pictures...for I don't know the recipe. A sort of guest post from R, my fren Shreya, my mom and gradmom from across the oceans :)

That's the fried dough! notice the crust :)

That's what I call the bounty :) You can always mark your anniversaries by these beauties. 

Cheers to an year and hopefully more ahead :)

Aug 20, 2010

Khichuri--Risotto,paella,Biriyani,Fried rice...its the same piglet.

What is it about a concoction of meat (read animal protein)-veggies-rice-spices that has made it so popular across all nations and all races and every single culinary culture you can think of? 

I mean take any ..anyyyy culture and you find a speciality dish with that lethal combination. The ones that springs to my mind are Biriyani, Paella, Rissoto, Ratatouli, fried rice...I am pretty sure these are only a fraction of the varaity that exists out there!

So what makes this concoction so lethal? I really want to know from you all. 

But let me start by telling you what I think makes it so popular. Its a square meal, a comfort meal and a round meal-- at the same time :). Not many can boast of this. Its has carbs, proteins, fats, aromas and crunches going in altogther and it appeals to every single flavor sensation we have up there. There are a million ways to jazz it up. You can make it into a fancy entree or get a TV dinner out of it, break or make a routine with it. You can put your own signature in it or you can take all the recipes out there and go with tradition. Its a crowd pleaser to say the least -- from the experimental foodie to the stoich foodie. I mean the possibilities are endless.

But most importantly, there is someting solid, something hearty, something comforting about the look of such a concotion. I lack the vocab here...but best to say, I think it appeals to something basic in human palate and senses. NOt just of the flavors or the aroma. But about the appeance and texture too. HOw good is it to come home to a big pot of comfort food? And that is one reason why this concotion, I think, has found its way into every culture without any overlap or even influence from each. Hey, we are talking about dishes that go back before the world was connected.

So yes ....while I wait for your answers on this and also names of such concotions which some of us may not be familiar with...

I would like to add another name to that list above. Its called Khichuri. Essentially like Risooto but without cheese. In our family we always had it the vegetarian way. On a rainy day, on a lazy day, on a festive day. We always had it. But there are at least a hundered books each with at least 200 recipes of how to do this. So the math, comes down to a recipe per household...well I am sure...:) So seems that in this concotion  you can put in your signature stamp and contribute to this big body of goodness across the world and yet retain a tiny footprint, which is simply your's and will forever be yours. Not many dishes can boast of such a tolerance level.

With that said...let me show you my take on this concotion.Khichuri. But then what's in a name?


1 cup of veggies. I like to use peas and carrots. 
1 big potato. Cut into big chunks
1 medium onion. Cut it 4 big squares
2 tomatoes. Cubed
1 Jalapeno. Seeded and coarsely sliced
3/4th cup of rice. Basmati is good. But any varaity will do
3/4th cup of lentil. Red is what I use. Easy to cook
1 tsp of garlic
1 tsp of grated ginger
1 tsp of  whole cumin
1 tsp of whole coriander seed
1 tsp of whole mustard.
3 cups of hot water
2 tbsf oil

Spice mixture

1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp pf ground coriander
1/4 tsp of turmeric
A pinch of cayenne pepper

Cilantro and lemon for garnish

In a very deep pot. A pot whose end you can't see :) 

Anyways get your oil heated in that. Once hot add the potatoes and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the whole cumin, coriander, mustard, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, onion and veggies and saute till the fragrance starts to make you go insane! Add the rice and lentisl. Mix everything very well together. Add water and mix up everything. Add the tomatoes and the spice mixture.Stir in everything. And cover and cook for 15 minutes. CHECK frequently to make sure you have enough water and things are not really stuck to the bottom or is getting burnt up. When rice is done, season with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro.

Add lemon and serve with some fried fish, or eggs or even grilled veggies are a good option!

And that's my take on Khichuri--with garlic and mustard seed. But then we can all leave our footprints in the rice of times :) 

Happy eating and healthy livnig!

Aug 16, 2010

A 'tuna' wellington-- for the earthbound misfits

Who hasn't had crescent rolls in their life? 

I am no exception. While I am not a big fan of those, but I can't deny that on some days they do provide the much needed relief from baking and making. And its really one-stop way of makin wellingtons too! Now, here is where I come in. 

Wellingtons are really caramelized beaf steaks wrapped up in pastry dough and baked through. Simple and thereby delish. But what happens to people like us?  Who don't have beef? Or does not even like meat. Do we not get to taste wellingtons at all?  Are we to despair as earthbound misfits? 

Drama..and that's me :)

Well I have to say this for myself. I am pretty crafty...when it comes to food. I usually take a birds eye look at a dish and figure out how to customize it to me needs. So with that approach to precious wellingtons, they turn out to be 'stuff' inside pastry. Now, me is no big pastry chef. So I let the crescent rolls from the grocery take care of the 'pastry' part. The 'stuff' part I go with either chicken or more favorably fish or veggies. But I am not rich either. So when I think fish stuffing-- espeacilly with Tuna and salmon, I think 30$. No that's not me either. But then we have our easy peasy shunned and devalued canned Tuna. Healthy. Non pricey. And there are things that can make it really tasty and filling.

Any thoughts in mind?

Okay..I got it. Yams! or sweet potato. Best in the produce section. So here is what I do. Make a stuffing with canned Tuna and sweet potato, slightly dabble it in breadcrums and make my wellingtons with store bought rolls. You know a perefct solution to pantry cleaning without cleaning out your bank account! 

So to Tuna wellingtons. From the box :)

For the stuffing  (makes 6 big wellingtons)

1 big sweet potato. You can also use two regular potatoes. Peeled and cubed really tiny. Will allow for quick boiling.
1 tin of canned Tuna. You can also use 1/2 lb of fresh Tuna or salmon.
1/2 cup of white wine. You can also use chicken stock for this one.
1 bay leaf.
1 big handful of breadcrumb. Lay on a plate. I like Italian breadcrumbs. Comes with nice seasoning
2 clove of garlic
3 green onions. Thinly cut
1/2 cup pf finely chopped parsley. You can also really use cilantro too!
1 tbsf paprika
1 tbsf Cumin
1 egg
2 tbsf olive oil
salt and pepper for seasoning

Boil the sweet poatoes. Takes about 20 min. And drain well.
Poach the fish. If you are using canned fish, simply drain and heat in a saucepan with wine and bayleaf. Heat for about 5-6 minutes. Till wine is bubbling.If you are using fresh fish gently cover the fish with wine. Add the beayleaf and heat for about 5-6 minutes. Till fish turns white. 
While this happens, add garlic, paprika, cumin in a mixing bowl.
When fish is done, drain the tuna using a strainer as much as you can. And drop it in the mixing bowl. For fresh fish, take it out of the wine bath and using a fork,  scoop out the flesh of fish keep dropping in the mixing bowl. Let it cool. Add the boiled sweet potato cubes. Mash everything together and season with salt and pepper. Add egg and mix again.

Now, divide the mixture into six parts and make mini bagel size flat patti shapes. Give each a coating in the breadcrumb. Heat oil in a skillet and add the patties carefully. Let it brown for 2 min on each side and take it out of the pan and let it rest, while you spread out your pastry

For the pastry

1 store bought extra large crescent roll pack. It makes 6 rolls
1 egg 
2 tbsf water

Whisk the egg and water to form an egg bath.Roll out the pastry in shapes as they come. Unroll and lay flat on a baking ware. Place each of the six patties in each of the cresecnt rolls. Carefully roll and try to cover as much of the patti as you can with the dough. Now brush all over liberally with the eggbath. This is what makes the pattie look professionally crisp :)
Do all of them. Preheat oven according to package directions. And bake for 15-20 minutes.

And look at the beauties. A dinner by themselves. Just with some salsa or salad. A perefct snack, if you store it. And a perfect pantry cleaner- A tuna wellington for the earthbound misfits who don't eat/ like meat :)

Happy eating and healthy living!

Aug 10, 2010

Revani--step by step into the magical old world of Turkey

'Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London, I'll show you something that'll make you change you mind'. That was Ralph McTull.

Bu there were cities before London was born and there were streets and routes-- that traded silk and tea. Today it lies in ruins. But ...
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Turkey. I saw something that made me change my mind.  And it will do your's too...if you see it the way I did :) A country where history and enchantment still reigns. Don't let the newspapers tell you anything that ain't so. And what better way to start than to do it by the book-- so to speak :) 

Named after a sixteenth century Turkish poet who wrote reams extolling the delights of food, Revani (also known as Basbousa) , is an old country favorite :) It is nothing but semolina sponge in orange or rose water syrup. 

If only things were this bland. 

'This is Turkey. Where romance adventures when freed from the curbing reins of  should and woulds. Where spicy aromas tease the senses till you can take it no more...where old roads lead to new adventures and dark eyes becon you from beneath gorgeous scarves. They tell me the castles are in ruins and the coffee is bitter and the country has no money. But this is Turkey. What do I care...the belly dancers still swing and the bazzars still reek of aroma and old country. The muslin is still untainted. So what if its in the books. I am sure it the streets of Turkey'

Okay..enough of crazy romance and peotry! But it is so difficult not to be in this mood, when you make this spicy syrupy decadant semilina cake. Lovingly called 'Revani'. And for more of such midless teasing..surely take up this book. 'Classic turkish cooking' by Ghille Basan and photographs by Jonathan Basan.

For once I am doing it by the book :)


For the cake

4oz/120 g semolina
2oz/60g all purpose flour
4oz/120g sugar
6 eggs, separte into white and yellow
zest of 1 orange, 

For the syrup
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
6oz/175 g of brown sugar. You can also use white sugar
300 ml of water
To garnish
Desicated coconut
Sliced almonds. Optional

Step by step into old world charms :)

Preheat oven to 350F
Grease 10 in cake pan with little oil
Mix together the semolina and flour. 
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with sugar until creamy and light. 2 mins
Beat in the orange zest (1 min) and then showly the semolina-flour mixture (3 mins)
Whisk in the egg whites to stiff peaks (2 mins) in a separate bowl and then gradually fold (add then slowly) it into the batter.
Pour into the cake pan 
bake for 30 min or till brown in top

Mix all ingredients and bring to boil. Stir continuously. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 min

Take the Revani out of the oven and cut into squares right in that pan. Pour warm syrup all over the cake and put it back in the oven for another 2- 3 minutes. 

Turn off oven and let the Revani cool ( 15-20 mins)
Sprinkle with coconut and almonds, raisins.
Transfer to serving dish and serve chilled. I liked it with bitter ..very bitter expresso.
Or store it in a container in the refrigerator.But no more than a week. It starts getting sour. Not that you would have any left :)

Happy journey...and happy eating...and not so healthy eating-- just this once :)

Aug 6, 2010

Tofu Chilli with Shrimp-- and its still healthy!!

Now, I have never had tofu this way

And I am left to wonder if in fact, I have 'discovered' a way of treating tofu? Or is a regular practice anyway! I need your help to tell me which it is :)

There are only reason for me having tofu 

1. Tofu is full of protein calories and lower than most other proteins
2. I don't like meat in general and hence need a really good source of protein
3. I cannot afford fish everyday. I am really poor graduate student! 

Now I like my tofu extra firm and tough. But I don't want to fry it. Then I feel I am essentially fooling myself into thinking that Tofu is low calorie. The oil kills all the goodness of it that I am after. So I thought...
think think think....really really think. I thought about it all the time. How to make tofu really firm and use it in food without frying. I tried grilling tofu after pressing it. It works but not easy enough. And certainly needs cleaning the grill after that. And then one day as I was boiling water for my pasta, I remembered a trick. My grandmother told me this...long long time back

...Mana, why is that you are putting the paneer cubes in water' I asked. I was very curious as to why she would do that to paneer, which incidentally is my favorite thing. Mana was irritated. The heat in the kitchen was almost unbearable and the helping hand was late. I sensed, this was a bad time for quizzing. But since I have alreadty asked that question, no point leaving my curiosity unquenched'.  Mana tells me, her deft hands pulling the cubes apart and slowly lowering it in the boiling pot of water in an irritated voice,' This is to toughen the paneer. The heat will make it tight and then frying it will be nice and golden'....

I remembered this scene as I was boiling the pasta water, my tofu ready to go into microwave. I acted on autopilot. I thought..why the sme idea might work with tofu too. So I put the tofu cubes in the salted boiling water. And sure enough after 2-4 minutes they were firm enough. I strained the tofu and let it hang out dripping the last of the water.

And I made with it..something intended for the king..crabs that is. A very popoular recipe, from my amateur chef freind CB-- Chilli tofu with shrimps. A fitting meal...that tastes good and feels good and is good for ya  :)

Chilli tofu..I hope you try this trick with tofu..and then tofu is ready for any recipe. Who say's tofu aint food!!! :) :) :) :) 


1box of extra firm tofu. Cubed and either fried or blanched in boiling water. The way I have described before. 
1/2 lb of shrimp
2 garlic cloves
2 tea spoon of grated ginger
1-2 red chillies soaked in water for 10 minutes and then pasted in a mortar. Y
ou can also use 3-4 green chillies.
1/3rd cup of 
sweet chilli sauce (from the ethnic section of the grocery store). Or you can simply mix in 1/4th cup hot sauce with 1.5 tbsf of brown sugar and 2 tbsf of vinegar. I used the latter concotion.
1/2 cup of 
tomato ketchup
2 tbsf of soy sauce. I use low sodium one :)
3-4 tbsf of canola oil
1/4 tsp of flour or corn flour mixed in 3 tbsf water. This is a thickening agent.
1/2 cup hot water
 salt and pepper for seasoning
 2-3 sprigs of green onion diced.

What you do is simple!

After you have the tofu ready-- pressed, cubed, fried/boiled and strained.Take a non stick frying pan and heat the oil. Once the oil is hot enough put in the ginger, garlic, green/red chilli and saute for 1 minute. Next add in the sweet chilli sauce (or its substitute), ketchup, soy sauce and the water. Strir for a minute so that everything comes together. Add to this mixture the tofu and the shrimp and mix together everything. Add in the corn flour mixture and cook trough. Seaon with salt and pepper. Let the sauce dry up a little bit before you remove it from the heat. 
Garnish with green onions.

And voila! a Tofu dish--gourmet and still healthy and tasty-- A treat for any day you are not feeling quite as healthy :)

Happy eating and healthy living!!

Aug 1, 2010

Dip(s) into water-- that's a new kid in town. A healthy one at that too :)

I am talking about Dips. Not the skinny one. But ones which will surely help you become confident-- not just about skinny dipping but also on these summery days-- the beach days, these short skirt and shorts days. I mean who dosen't like dips!  and I am sucker for these ones. Hummus is my favorite. But I like all of them. Salsa is another one too. But not the cheesy ones or creamy ones or the oily ones. But then what am I doing here talking of dips! There is a secret ingredient I use

Water. Plain old H2O.

I have perfected the art of dips, without oil and cream and cheese, if I may say so myself. And today I am gonna share the idea with you :)

I always use hotwater. And I was happy--delighted-- astounded-- to find out that NY times agrees with me. That water enhances flavor by diluting it. In our household, my mom, my grandmom, actually anyone I ever knew of always use hot water to cook. Not generally wine or stock. And when I started making my own food, I sort of stuck to using hot water, partly because its super healthy and also partly because I never had stock on my hand. Comes from not being used to seeing cooking with stock. But, don't get me wrong. Now I love making food with stock and wine, especially if there are not many flavors going around a dish. But those which have tons of flavors--- most Indian dishes have that-- I use that hot water. And voila, the dilution works like a charm :)

Same with dips. When I discovered the world of dips, I was super tempted by the sheer varaity. But was daunted by the amount of calories a teaspoon of these packed. And all of those calories-- the ones that aren't that necessray-- comes from the oil or the sour cream or the cheese in them. So I started making dips--with a tbsf oil and the rest  of the fluid I just used water or yoghurt. These turned out to be super good and doubled up as sauces to be used later on :) And what's more people got really excited by the 'new kid in town'.

So today I grant you  dips--into my pool-- a bit hot but not greasy :)

              'Husto' (Hummus without Tahini)

This is hummus-y take on Posto- a dip I have grown up with. Poppy seeds (know as Posto in bengali and I believe comes from postu-- the corner in Afganistan, where they first and still produces poppy seeds) and chilli peppers and garlic. Its an eternal favorite of anyone I know.

1 can of chickepas. Drained
2 tbsf of poppy seeds
3 cloves of garlic. Crushed
1 tbsf cumin
1/2 tsp pf chilli flakes
1 tbsf olive oil
1/4th cup of hot water. Add more (upto 1/3rd water) if you need it to be more 'fluidy'
Juice of half a lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together in a blender. 

Serve with crunchy raw veggies or use as a thickner of lentil soup or any veggied you are making. You are gonna love this one.

     'Spritty sprout' (Avocado but without the sour cream)

This one has a twist to a regular avocado-sour cream dip. Only packs in more protein and less calories, with all the goodness of avocado still intact :)

1/2 cup of sprounts. I used green lentil sprouts.
1 avocado
1/2 cup of cilantro
Juice of 1lemon
2-3 cloves of garlic. Crushed
1 chilli pepper.
1 tsp of ginger
1 tbsf cumin
1 tbsf olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 rd cup of hot water. More for fluidy mixture!

Blend it all in a food processor. Serve with chips. Or you can use it as a gravy for your chicken dishes. I did so. Was gorgeous.

Happy eating and healthy living!