Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Stir Fried Macaroni with Roasted Vegetables & Chicken

( Vegetarians can skip the chicken and go on with the rest of the recipe ... or can use Tofu or Paneer instead. )
This is a very flavourful one pot meal that I often make for dinner and is very close to my heart. The best thing about this dish is it can be had steaming hot on winter evenings .... just add some bread and soup to go with .... or can be served cold as a salad ... on a bed of ice lettuce.

It is real fast to make if all the preparations are made earlier ... so after a rushed day ... or on that lazy weekend .... all you have to do is heat some oil and toss everything. :-)

I prefer to chop up the roasted vegetables as I love the different flavours that fuse into each other.

And instead of chewing on a single piece of veggie or chicken, I prefer to have a mix of everything in every bite. Besides it feels and looks good when the sizes are in sync.

Need : Macaroni, preffered vegetables ( I had capsicum, mushrooms, baby corn, frozen green peas, tomatoes ), chicken cut into small cubes, chopped garlic, preffered Italian seasoning

( I used a mix of dried parsley + thyme + rosemary + a little oregano), some freshly ground black pepper, vinegar, cooking oil / butter, salt and sugar to taste.

If you want you can add a few chilli flakes too ... but I found it clashed with the flavour of black pepper.

How to : Cook the macaroni ... a little al dente .... in salted boiling water. Rinse under cold water and mix a spoonful of cooking oil to it evenly. This will prevent from forming a lump or sticking together.

Cut the vegetables into medium sized pieces and marinate them in vinegar, salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep them for around half an hour ... or till you make the other preparations.

Marinate the chicken cubes the same way.

Roast the vegetables in an oven in a tray sprayed with a little oil or brushed with a little butter. I prefer roasting them till they are a little soft ... and then grilling them for a while on high.

Roast the chicken the same way too.

Chop up the vegetables into bite sized pieces.

Heat oil in a wok / heavy kadhai. Add the garlic and fry ... do not brown them.

Add the macaroni , the vegetables and the chicken. Add the seasonings and dried herbs. Adjust salt and add a little sugar for a balance.Toss well.
Serve hot / cold.

Am so very happy that this is the first time I have successfully blurred the background in a snap .... No I do not have Photoshop. :-)

This plateful goes to Soma who is hosting Hay Hay it's Donna Day with Bron as the facilitator.

With that am off to the coast for the long weekend coming up ... this time it will be a new beach on the Konkan coast that we are heading to. :-)

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Bengali Cholar Dal / Chana Dal / Bengal gram cooked with coconut pieces

Spring is here. The city is a riot of colours ... one of the reasons I love this city so much. The roadsides are filled with every colour of the Bougainvillea plant ... the banyans and peepals bursting with fresh baby leaves .... and at the same time the trees are shedding old leaves in the light spring wind.

It is beautiful everywhere. :-) I will click some snaps and post them next time.

On one of our drives last weekend hubby mentioned how wonderful it is that God gave the boon of longevity only to plants ... rather ... trees ... the most harmless living things on mother earth. And how it is that the most intelligent species on earth are the only ones who can destroy them.

I clicked this peepal , our neighbor, early this morning. By tomorrow the leaves will be green ... yes, they change / grow very fast. :-)

My recipe here is again a simple dal ... the Cholar Dal ... or the Chana dal ... cooked with coconut pieces ... a favorite with all Bengalis.
A few of our friends ... and Ranjani had asked for the recipe. So here it is.

This dal is usually cooked to a thick consistency and is slightly sweetish too. A must have during Durga Puja, this is enjoyed as a breakfast too ... and is almost always had with Luchis / Puris.
The health conscious can have it with Parathas too ... but believe me ... if it has to be enjoyed ... it has to be with Luchis.

Having it with rotis is sacrilege though. ;-)
There are different ways of cooking this dal ... but as it is usually made on festive occassions, there is hardly any use of onion or garlic. Of course, you can make it with masalas too.

Need : Chana dal / Bengal gram, chopped fresh coconut pieces, bay leaves, whole dry red chillies, green cardamom, haldi / turmeric powder, salt and sugar to taste, ginger paste ( optional) , cooking oil, water.

How to : Wash the chana dal. Cook it in a pressure cooker with a pinch of haldi / turmeric and a little salt.

Heat a little oil in a kadhai / wok. Add the bay leaves, green cardamom and the red chillies.

If using ginger paste add now.
Add the chopped coconut pieces and fry till they turn brown.
Now add the cooked dal and a little sugar. Simmer till it turns thickish. Adjust salt and sugar to taste.
That's all. Believe me ... no other masala is needed ... not even powdered garam masala.
Alternatively .... if you want to save time ... cook everything directly in the pressure cooker ... tempering first, then add ing the coconuts and then the dal & water.
After releasing the steam, simmer it till the desired consistency.
If you want you can sprinkle a spoonful of ghee on top of it. Serve hot with luchis / parathas.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Chingri Malai Rice / Prawn & Rice cooked in Coconut Milk

( Vegetarians can substitute the prawns with paneer .... tastes equally good. Add some sliced onions for more flavour as paneer has no flavour of its own ... unlike the prawns. )

It is difficult to name a dish that you conjure up on your own. Which is why I have just put in the names of the main ingredients together ... if it still looks like a proper name ... well ... am lucky.

Chingri / Prawn Malakari is a pretty famous Bengali dish. Cooked in rich coconut milk, this dish is flavourful and delicate at the same time.

But this time I was cooking prawns only for myself. Had some coconut milk ( I use packet milk ... and find it pretty thick and good enough) ... so thought of making Prawn Malakari. But that would mean cooking rice seperately. Ah ... too much work for one soul.

So thought of combining the two ... and have a one pot meal .... my fav. No hassles. :-)

Even though I do not like sweets, I do like a little sweetness in almost every dish ... maybe it is that Bengali thing in me ... and sometimes do crave the sweetness of coconut milk in dishes ... which makes me cook Coconut Rice often.

I had previously posted Coconut Rice & Coconut Chicken. This recipe uses lesser ingredients than the chicken version.

And is perfect when you are having guests ... cooks on its own ... and with the minimum of stuff to use.

Need :

Prawns - 200 gms ( shelled, deveined and slightly steamed [optional] ),
Basmati rice - 1 tea cup  ( washed,  soaked for a while),
Coconut milk - half from the packet, around 5 or 6 tbsp, or as much as you like
Whole dry red chillies - 2, broken
Whole garam masala ( cinnamon, green cardamom , cloves ) - 2 each
Salt - a pinch
Sugar - 1 tsp
Cooking oil - 1 tbsp

How to :

Heat a little oil in a heavy bottomed kadhai / wok.
Add the chillies and the whole garam masala.
Now add the prawns and stir a little.
As soon as they change colour add the rice.
( Do not over fry the prawns ... they lose the softness).
Stir well and add the coconut milk ( on low flame ), salt and sugar.

If needed adjust with a little water. Cover and cook till rice is done .... but not overcooked.
Remove from heat , fluff it up with a fork or give a stir to separate the rice grains and keep covered for a while.

Serve hot.

This tastes so good that you need almost nothing to accompany it. But if preparing or guests, do pair it with something spicy and yet has less gravy.

Enjoy! :-)

Friday, 20 March 2009

Eggless Banana Cake

I have always envied expert bakers. And after I started blogging ... and realised baking is not my forte ... I envy them even more. But then there are expert bakers who are great human beings ... who do not hesitate to encourage others. And among them is one who I admire much when it comes to baking ... Sunshinemom of TONGUETICKLERS.

So when I thought of baking something other than my usual cake, I thought of picking up something from her blog. Of course, this time it was easy deciding on .... considering the two wee little bananas sitting on my table ... already forsaken for their dark colour.

So I chose to bake her Banana Nut Loaf ... only I will call mine a cake .... for the simple reason that it does not look like a loaf ... and it definitely does not look like anything that she had baked so perfectly.
And also it is sans the nuts.

She was sweet enough to reply to my numerous queries ... and also added advice and tips too. On her tip that "the darker the bananas, the flavourful the cake" ... I let the bananas sit for one more day. I followed her recipe .... except a mistake from my part .... like the adding of cooking oil mistakenly.

The cake turned out to be greatly flavourful and perfect to taste. It did rise a lot ... but fell flat later ... which I will attribute to the heaviness of the bananas ... which I had hand mashed. Of course Sunshinemom assured me that banana cakes/breads tend to be dense.

The recipe for this cake is here.

Thanks a whole bunch Sunshinemom !! :-)

On an update --- Our little Quasimodo ( well ... it has to have a name ) is growing up fast.

I won't be able click any more snaps as it can see now ... the eyes have opened ... and gets very flustered at our presence.

So many people have left nice words for it ... I wish I could pass them on ... and advise for me ... that has left me a little worried ... to be honest , I'll be glad to see the back of it 'soon as possible.

Till then am leaving it alone. :-)

Monday, 16 March 2009

Aloo Bori / Potatoes & Sun Dried Lentil Dumplings

After storing away the Boris / Bodi / Badis / vadi that I made, I had forgotten all about them in the fast flying days. Until hubby wanted aloo borir tarkari one day. Waited till the weekend ... I usually run out of all vegetables by weekends .... and made it. So here is another simple dish from my kitchen ... the Aloo Borir / Aloo Bodir tarkari.

But before that let me introduce our new guest. After a batch of guests left around a couple of months back, I had the guestroom and its bath cleaned out and left the window in the bath open to air it. And forgot all about it.

It seems a certain Mr. & Mrs. Pigeon were on the lookout for a cozy place to settle down and zeroed in on my bath ... maybe they loved the empty rack that came as amenity.

And after a while, along came little Baby Pigeon. So right now the members of this happy family are my house guests.

I just pray I do not have any long term guests until Baby learns to fly and leaves home. :-)

Coming back to my simple dish, this does not take much time. If you want more gravy, just add enough water and adjust the seasonings.

BTW I have already posted a recipe with boris / bodi / badis and Lauki / Bottle gourd here.

Need : Aloo / potatoes cut into cubes, bori / badi, sliced onion, chopped tomatoes, jeera/ cumin, haldi / turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt and sugar to taste, a little cooking oil, a little water.

How to : Heat a little oil and lightly fry the boris / badis and keep aside.
Heat a little more oil and add the jeera / cumin. Then add the sliced onion and fry for some time.
Now add the potatoes and fry well.

Add haldi / turmeric , red chilli powder, salt and a little water. Cover and cook till the potatoes are done.
Remove cover and add the tomatoes.

Cover and cook till the tomatoes are done.
Now add the boris/badis/bodi and adjust water.
Cover and let it simmer for some more time. It should be slighlty mushy with all the flavours blended well.

Serve hot with rotis / parathas / puris.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Cholar Dal diye Muri Ghonto / Fish head cooked in lentils

The hills on the outskirts of the city are clearly visible from our windows or balcony. The changing seasons show them in different hues throughout the year .... my favorite being the monsoons. Not only do they turn into absolutely beautiful hues of green but also are a great help to me ... I can see the rains approaching my place much before they actually do .... giving me ample time to be prepared for them .... read shut the windows etc.

A couple of evenings back we were enjoying a light breeze on the balcony when we saw this fire on the hills. I couldn't help clicking these snaps .... knowing full well that that the zoom is not enough for the distance.

So you can see a lot of noise in the snaps .... but I just had to share them with you all. :-)

Coming to today's dish ... it is a Bengali favourite. Fish head is a delicacy in Bengali cuisine .... but it is not one of those delicacies that are made rarely or occassionally. On the contrary it is a regular in Bengali homes ... often incorporated with different kinds of dals or vegetables like cabbage and sometimes with rice too.
Even though Moong dal is commonly used when cooking fish head, my Ma used to make an equally tasty version with the Cholar dal or Chana dal. It used to be thickish with a very subtle sweetness. The dal that I get here never turns out that way ... maybe because we get the polished version here.
To save time I cook the dal in the pressure cooker and add the already fried fish head later.

Need : Washed and soaked chana dal, fish head marinated with salt and haldi/turmeric powder, onion paste, ginger paste, chopped tomatoes, whole green cardamom, whole cloves, bay leaves, whole red chillies, haldi / turmeric powder, salt and sugar to taste, water, a little mustard oil.

How to : Heat enough mustard oil and fry the fish head and keep aside.
In a pressure cooker heat a little mustard oil. Add the whole cardamoms, cloves, red chillies and the bay leaves. Then add the onion paste and fry well.
Then add the ginger paste, the chopped tomatoes, haldi powder, salt and sugar. Fry well.

Add water, cover and cook till dal is done ( should be around 3 whistles on low heat).

Wait till steam is released. Open cooker and add the fish head. Cover and let it boil well for some time. Adjust water and keep stirring till everything mixes up well.

Serve hot with steamed plain rice.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Vegetables Stewed in Coconut Milk

Considering whatever little favour winter ( if we can call 30 degrees winter ... in a place that is used to 9 degrees or less once upon a time ) did on us .... read get some absolutely fresh vegetables, I should feel grateful. When in fact I am not.

No matter how hard I try to imagine it is winter, it is no fun having soups or stews when it is so hot & sweltering. :-(
Even the Chinese dishes that I usually make for dinner seem dreary .... the veggies with an almost pleading look to let them be ... and are being preferred cold.

And the most depressing part for me is the disappearence of fresh green peas ... almost as soon as they had entered the market. They did not last even a whole month ... not to mention them almost dryish and having a strange flavour. Whatever happened to the days of sweet baby peas bursting with juices?

Anyway ... I think I just made the last stew of the season ... holding on to some winter veggies for the last time.
I usually make veggie stew this way ... but this time I had some coconut milk packs in the refrigerator .... so decided to empty one into the veggies.

The stew turned out great ... mild yet flavourful.

Need : Veggies cut/cubed and the green peas shelled, sliced onions, sliced garlic (optional), a small stick of cinnamon, butter, coconut milk, whole red chillies and salt to taste.

How to : Heat a little butter in a pressure cooker. Add the cinnamon and the whole red chillies.
Then add the onion and garlic together and stir for a little while .... do not brown either of them.

Now add the veggies and stir. Add the coconut milk and salt and adjust with a little water.
Pressure cook till the veggies are done.

Seve hot.
Updated :

Do not add tomatoes / lime juice. It will curdle the coconut milk.
And this will taste slightly sweetish too ... because of the coconut milk. So adjust the salt accordingly.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Aloo Gobhi / Potatoes & Cauliflower

Ok ... after that experiment, it is back to some great homely food.

This is one dish that I love to make over and over again. And is loved by everybody who gets to taste it .... especially family.

I learnt this from a Punjabi colleague's wife U. She suggested that it tastes great when made with mustard oil. And of course, you can use fresh green coriander.
I don't use any masala in it .... and the only flavour is of ginger. Tastes awesome. :-)

Need : Cauliflower cut into small pieces, potato cut into small cubes, chopped tomatoes, finely chopped ginger, haldi/turmeric powder, salt to taste and a little cooking oil.

How to : Heat a little oil. Add the potatoes and stir well. Then add the cauliflower, haldi/turmeric and salt. Cover and cook till the veggies are done.

Remove cover and add the chopped ginger and tomatoes. Cover and cook till the tomatoes are done.

Serve hot with rotis / parathas / puris. :-)

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Fruity Scones with Strawberry Compote

The whole lot of strawberries I had got last weekend were so sour I was in half a mind to actually throw them away ... after rounds of shakes (laden with sugar) & smoothies (again laden with sugar). I wonder how such sweet smelling and beautiful looking things can be so devilishly sour.

And then I came across Vaishali's post on Strawberry Compote.

And that saved me ... nay ... my strawberries from the trash bin. :-) Thanks Vaishali for such an easy yet awesome recipe.

I followed her recipe without any change ... the cinnamon gave such a subtle yet beautiful flavour.

The tartness was still there ... I was afraid of adding too much sugar for fear of the whole thing turning into candy. So had a feeling that they would go great with sweet milk buns. But I would have to wait till I bought them fresh.

How about trying to bake some?
Should I ... shouldn't I? Went through a lot of sites for easy bun making. There was always something that did not quite suit me. I wanted a mildly sweet one.

So set off on my own ... of course I had the basic idea by then. Not too many ingredients too.
And came up with these .... not buns .... but crispy cookie turned scones. :-)
And eggless too!!

Another successful baking!!! Almost ....

One look at them and my true blue Rajasthani hubby exclaimed "Wow! Kachoris!!". ;-)
They were very crispy on the outside ... and slightly chewy yet soft inside.

I know they are a cross between a cookie and a cupcake .... so any suggestions for what do I call them?

I did make some mistakes ... but all in the hurry and excitement of baking on my own .... other than my tried and tested cakes.

One of them is forgetting to add shortening in time ... I used vegetable oil .... and added it last ... thankfully I remembered.

I did try my hand with yeast this time ... but I think they did not rise too much because of the weight of the tutti frutti.

I would love it if any of you expert bakers can put in your thoughts and advice on this ... Please.

I'll just give the list of ingredients I used ... will give the measurements when I make them again ... this time it was completely throwing stones in the dark.

Need : Refined flour, baking powder, a little dry yeast (soaked in warm milk), sugar, milk, tutti frutti,cooking oil.

How to : Mix everything together and keep covered for an hour.
Dust with a little dry flour and make small balls amout of it. Spray a baking tray with a little oil / brush it with butter and place them on it. Bake till the cookies are done ( keep checking in between).

I must add that they tasted very good .... I was surprised at the flavour in spite of not adding any vanilla essence. :-)

And they went great with the strawberry compote. :-)

I was clicking them with a disaster post forming in my mind ... till I broke one and tasted. The post immediately changed in my mind ... the new one had a lot of exclaimations & smilies. :-)

Updated : On Sunshinemom's suggestion I did look up Google and found out these indeed can be called Scones.

Scones do not contain yeast .... but I have already mentioned that I added yeast because I had set out to make milk buns.

So can go by Bharti's comment ... these are indeed original stuff. :-)

Thanks gals!!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Jaisalmeri Kala Chana / Black Chickpeas in Yogurt based gravy

It was in Jaisalmer that I had tasted this dish first ... served in the dinner thali at our place of stay. And loved this simple yet flavourful dish .

I always associate this dish with an awesome experience I had in Jaisalmer. When reaching our room after dinner, I noticed that it was very dark outside. Standing near the window I could however see that the terrace beneath ours was huge and positively glowing. It was a bleached & very whitish glow. I looked around and found an almost round moon ... so decided that it was the moonlight after all. But moonlight on a terrace/balcony won't make it glow. Went to sleep with a perplexed mind.
The next morning as soon as I was up I went to the window. And what do I see? There was no balcony! Even though we were on the 3rd floor. Instead ... it was the courtyard at the back of the hotel. And the ground was of golden sand. It was this sand that was glowing in the moonlight!!

It was a surreal feel ... remembering that surreal glow of the previous night! :-)

This prompted us to leave the cultural program halfway the next night ... and take a walk in the moonlit and glowing sand dunes. :-)

That walk in the silent desert dunes with the moon shining so very brightly ... and that unbelievable quiet of the desert .... was an experience by itself. :-)

Coming to the recipe .... this does not need too many ingredients .... just what I like about any dish. The only preparation needed is to soak and boil the chana before you can make this.

Need : Kala chana, soaked overnight and pressure cooked with a little salt, jeera/cumin, curd/plain yougurt, a little besan/ gram flour, red chilli powder, a pinch of hing, haldi/turmeric powder, a little cooking oil, water, salt to taste.

How to : Beat the curd, besan, red chilli powder, salt together. Add water to make it of slightly thin consistency.

Slightly mash the chana .... just to break them .... so that they can soak up the flavours.
Heat a little oil in a kadhai. Add jeera and then hing. Now add the chana and toss a little.

Now add the curd mixture and let it cook well ... to a thicker consistency.

Serve hot with rotis / parathas.

I served with parathas made from leftover dal.