Monday, November 29, 2010

Lamb stew Miss Masala style

I have SAD. No it is not the grammar it is the disorder that I am talking about here. Cloudy, cold, gloomy, dark, rainy days make for lack in energy and lethargy. Those days makes me want to curl up under the blanket and stay there. Sounds good but not a plausible solution.

In winter when days gets shorter SAD hits head on. Is it just me? seems that a lot of other people drag along and are grumpy especially when it is cloudy and drizzly outside. Even when it is freezing cold if the sun is out the possibilities seem endless.

When there are kids, house work, work work, meals, drop offs and picks ups to deal with there is no time to let SAD to bowl you over. Research says the condition affects women more than men.

One way I deal with it to get out and exercise and it most definitely keeps SAD at bay. I have discovered a liking for early morning swimming which has helped immensely. I keep coming back to the topic of exercise and activity, more to stress the fact that it helps to keep energy levels high, a lighter mood and a positive frame of mind. It certainly makes for a whirlwind morning but it is certainly worth it.

Food is another important component in dealing with SAD, no surprise - carbohydrates and sugar aggravate the condition.

Did I mention that Winter is not my favorite time of the year? Several times in fact Sorry!. If you have the Winter Blues or more scientifically 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' read this article - Winter's limited light darkens many moods.

Not to make light of the condition, it is debilitating for some while some find ways to deal with it.

Now on to more pleasant and tasty things. By the way did you all have a good Thanksgiving celebration? I decided to forgo the Turkey and try cooking lamb for the first time. DH likes lamb but I could not muster the courage because most lamb I have met were chewy and smelly and generally not very appetizing. The butcher at Whole Foods suggested 'Lamb Shoulder Arm Chops' as best of the cuts he had for making stew. It is very essential to get good quality meat to get the right texture.

Thanks to Sandeepa I got myself armed with 'Miss Masala'., If you want to do elegance without too much effort, this is the book you should turn to.

I was looking for a lamb stew recipe, and what do I find in the book - a lamb recipe with the fewest ingredients you can imagine for a meat dish. Flavorful and completely satisfying, Miss Masala style.

Recipe Source: Lamb stew from the book 'Miss Masala'
Lamb stew
1. 2 lb lamb (cut into cubes with bones)
2. 2 cups red onion sliced thin
3. 6-8 garlic cloves minced
4. 1 tbsp ginger grated
5. 1 Cup plain yogurt (bring to room temperature)
6. 1/2 tbsp black pepper
7. 1 tbsp coriander powder (I roasted and powdered whole coriander seeds)
8. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
9. whole spices - bay leaves (2-3), cloves (a few), one small piece of cinnamon
10. salt to taste
11. 3-4 tsp of oil

1. Wash the meat with turmeric powder and set it aside
2. In a wide mouthed, heave bottomed pan heat 2 tsp of oil and when hot add the lamb and get it browned for a few minutes and set it aside
3. In the same add the rest of the oil and when hot add the whole spices, let them sizzle for a couple of seconds
4. Add the onions and let them saute for a few minutes, add the garlic and ginger and saute till they get well browned
5. Add the lamb saute for a few more minutes and then add the pepper, chili and coriander powders
6. Bring the heat all the way to low and add in the whisked yogurt, mixing it well (this is important to avoid the yogurt from curdling)
7. Add 3 cups of water, cover the lid and let it cook for 30 minutes
8. Open the lid and let it cook for 15-20 minutes or until the required consistency is reached. Towards the end of the cooking add salt. The meat at this time should be soft and melt in the mouth

Serve with rice or any bread of choice

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Claypot Fish - Tilapia with mangoes

Happy Thanksgiving!
The only form of turkey I like is minced turkey. Turkey Biryani is something that's on my list to try but not this year. If you are like me and turkey is not your thing this delicate fish curry is something to try this Thanksgiving.

I was on my blog stroll one hungry evening when I landed on !Vazhyila! , a fantastic blog with a lot of Kerala delicacies. I landed on this fish curry. It was middle of the week and to wait for the weekend to cook the fish seemed like an eternity.

I had fish in the freezer, raw mango in the fridge and clay pot in the cupboard. Decided to put all three to good use. I usually saute the onions and cook it a bit in a regular pan before transferring them over to the clay pot to finish. Any light fish would work.

Here are a couple of articles for your Thanksgiving reading

1. Divided we eat an article in Newsweek

2. This is the article that affected me the most. CBS had the most recent Harvest of Shame, on TV. The faces of the migrant workers have changed from Whites and Blacks to Latinos but their plight is precarious as ever. Toiling under the sun for minimum wage and living in cramped and dirty conditions. When we enjoy our bounty this Thanksgiving we should spare a thought for the folks who work hard to bring us the cheap food we all enjoy.

Tilapia(fish) with mangoes
1. 4 fillets of Tilapia cut into 2-3 inch pieces
2. 1 cup of finely chopped onions
3. 1 raw mango pit removed and cut into cubes
4. 5 garlic cloves sliced
5. 1 -2 tbsp ginger sliced thin
6. 4 green chilies sliced
7. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
8. 1 tsp roasted and powdered methi seeds
9. 2 tsp turmeric powder
10. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard seeds, methi seeds few and cumin seeds
11. salt to taste
12. 1-2 tsp of oil
1. Wash and pat dry the fish and keep it aside
2. In a pan heat oil and add the seasonings followed by the onions, garlic , green chilies and ginger and let saute till the onions are starting to brown
3. Add in the chopped mangoes, saute for a minute or two
4. Add the chili powder and 2 cups of water and let it come to a boil for about 10-15 minutes, add salt, the mangoes should be soft by now and the curry the required consistency. It will get a bit more watery when the fish pieces are added in
5.Place the clay pot on the stove in a medium heat and transfer a bit of curry into the clay pot, place the fish pieces and pour the rest of the curry on top
6.Cook for 8-10 minutes. Towards the end add the powdered methi seeds powder.

Serve with rice.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kala Chana - Black Chickpeas with onions and spices

The last post seems to have struck a chord and the comments are worth reading.

While reticence is the hallmark of relationships in the culture I grew up in, external displays of affection is a hallmark of the culture that I find myself in now. The first time someone extended their hand in the manner of greeting I reluctantly grasped. The manner of greeting very different from the way we greeted people back home, both hands clasped together in front in the manner one would clasp their hands for prayer. No touching and no transmission of germs during Flu season.

While shaking hands was one thing, the first time someone gave me a hug was something else altogether. I awkwardly tried to hug them back not being completely sure if one was to tap the shoulder of the other person or just let it stay there. Having long hands is not necessarily a good thing when hugging they fall down and touch the butt of the person being hugged. And very soon I realize I am not tapping the shoulders but the butt. Luckily none of them have called me up on it. Slowly but surely I learned to hug without any awkward touches. Who knew it was such a hard thing to do. From far it looks pretty easy.

This simple and the most genuine form of affection here would have caused a scandal back home. Say for example I had given a hug to one of my friends especially one of the opposite gender. It would have not only created a big drama, it would have been sufficient grounds for my dismissal from college.

Different strokes for different folks that is all. While in Rome be a Roman. Adapting to a different culture is not always easy but humor and good spirits gets you over the humps.

With Thanksgiving round the corner there will be a lots of hugs to go around along with great company and good food. Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

During Navaratri and on Lakshmi Pooja day we are showered with plates of poori halwa and black channa as we happen to have two goddesses at home. The black channa with just a minimum amount of spice but very flavorful and tasty, a dish I wanted to recreate.

The recipe I used as guidance was from Saffron Trail - Kaala Chana. Though the recipe was different from the dry sookha style I had in mind, it was something I wanted to try sans the ubiquitous tomato.

Black Chickpeas with onions and spices
1. 2 Cups of black chickpeas soaked overnight and rinsed completely
2. 2 red onions chopped fine (2-3 cups)
3. 5 garlic cloves minced
4. 1 tbsp of garlic grated
5. 4 green chilies slit
6. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
7. 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds + 1 tsp cumin seeds roasted and powdered
8. 2 tsp amchur powder (optional)
9. salt to taste
10. 2 tsp oil
11. seasonings - cumin seeds

1. Pressure cook the chickpeas for 8-10 whistles till soft
2. In a pan add oil and season with cumin seeds
3. Add the chopped onions, green chilies, garlic and ginger and saute till the onions are dark brown about 15-20 minutes. I added a tbsp of water every time the onions stuck to the bottom
4. Add the powdered coriander cumin powder, chili powder and give a good mix
5. Now add in the cooked chick peas with about a cup of the cooking liquid
6. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes, add salt towards the end when the required consistency has been reached

Serve with chapatis or rice

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Murukku the easy way

I love you amma! Appa if you are reading this I love you too. It feels a little weird even typing that sentence. Perhaps the first time I have even said that publicly. As Indians it is very unusual for us to verbalize the fact that we love our near and dear ones. It is more or less is a Western concept I guess.

If you see Indian movies and there is no way you will fail to notice how expressive the hero and heroine are. (like DD says 'Is there nothing besides love as themes in Indian movies?') They vocally express their love for each other the hero and heroine that is. The hero as a loving son(is there any other kind? in movies) hugs and kisses his mom for making gajar halwa. There is always a loving mom for our romantic hero. It slips my mind what Tamil movie moms routinely cook for their sons. This overt public display of affection happens only in movies period.

Well I digress, the expression of affection in the first sentence was because my mom sent me an easy to use murukku press just in time. The one I had before was so hard to press that I came very close to never making murukkus again ever.

Decided on an impromptu murukku making session with a friend which meant there was no time to soak or grind like the recipe here. So decided on making murukku with rice flour instead. It turned out to be quick and easy, with 2 pairs of hands and an easier murukku press it was a much more pleasurable experience. The rice to urad dal flour ratio is 4:1.

Murukku with rice flour
1. 3 Cups of rice flour
2. 3/4 cups of urad dal powder (roast split urad dal powder till slightly brown, cool and powder)
3. 3 tbsp of butter
4. 2-3 tbsp of red chili powder (or to taste)
5. salt to taste
6. 2 tsp of ajwain
7. 1 Cup of water
8. 2 cups of oil to deep fry

1. Bring the water to a temperature slightly above room temperature
2. Pour in the water a little by little to make a stiff but pliable dough (too much water will make the murukku absorb a lot of oil)
3. Keep the dough covered with a moist towel
4. Fill the dough into the murukku press and make desired shapes
5. Drop them one by one into hot oil
6. Fry till they turn a bright golden color (when the bubbles in the oil subside
remove and dry on paper towels)
7. Let cool and store

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ragout (Stew/Soup) with Chicken Sausage, Beans and Broccolini - Jaques Pepin style

OK I've got to admit, Michele Obama sure had some cool moves on their recent Asia trip. As for the POTUS himself we won't go there. Folks back home say reruns of dance moves is all they saw on TV for a few days.

Talking of TV, of all the cook shows, Jacques Pepin's recipes and dishes are the ones that I mostly try out. I adore the minimal ingredients that he uses to dish some delicious looking dishes. The ones I have tried also tasted good which is always a very good thing.

A few days ago I saw this recipe for a Ragout with beans, sausage and broccolini. It looked good, was a one pot meal, had beans and was carb. free. I have used chicken sausage to be specific chipotle chicken sausage. Guess any kind of sausage or any soy based fake meat can be used.

White beans work best for this recipe. I wouldn't add kidney or black beans. I have used small navy beans. The original recipe uses Cannelinni beans.

Stew/Soup with Chicken Sausage, Navy beans and Broccolini
1. 3 chipotle chicken sausage, casing removed and crumbled
2. 1 bunch of broccolini about 2 cups chopped
3. 1 1/2 cup of dried navy beans soaked overnight
4. 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions
5. 3 garlic cloves chopped
6. 2 tsp of cayenne pepper
7. 1/2 tsp of black pepper
8. 3 cups of chicken broth (or water)
9. salt to taste
10. 2-3 tsp of oil
1. Cook the navy beans to soft, I cooked them on the stove top for 20 minutes
2. In a pan heat oil and when hot add the sausage and let it cook till it loses the reddish tinge and is cooked through
3.Add the chopped onions and let it get browned, add in the garlic and saute
4. Add the chopped broccolini and let it cook for 3-4 minutes
5. Add in the drained cooked beans, cayenne and black pepper and give a good mix
6. Pour in the chicken broth, let it come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium heat, cover with the lid and let cook for 8-10 minutes more.
7. Taste and add salt if required.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A quick and simple sweet - Besan ladoo with roasted cashews and almonds

Sorry, Deepavali sweet making is visiting this blog a little late. Hope you all had a great Deepavali celebration and Wishing you a Very Happy Festival Season.

Thinking that Deepavali was over the weekend like it usually happens here in the US, I was reminded at work that it was Friday and not Saturday. During lunch time while we were discussing what sweets were to be made I got a great tip for making the sweet I had on mind.

I was thinking of besan ladoo (had a big pack of besan that needed to be finished). I was glad I was'nt the only one who had postponed Deepavali sweet making to the weekend after Deepvali. Anyways as we were discussing how to make besan ladoo one of my lunch mates mentioned about coarsely powdered nuts to the besan rather than chopped roasted pieces. The powdered nuts were the best part of the sweet.

If you have a pack of besan sitting in the back of the fridge this is a good opportunity to get them out and make a quick and tasty sweet.

RC's had these beautiful looking besan ladoos , the very few ingredients and the besan languishing in my fridge were big motivations for giving this a try.

The addition of nuts made them taste like a sweet my friend's mom made for her and packed a box for the DDs when we went to visit. She had used whole wheat flour, a bit of cream of wheat, nuts and raisins.

My friend came over for an impromptu Deepavali sweet and savory making session. I will post what we made in the next post.

Makes about 40 ladoos
Besan ladoo with roasted cashews and almonds
1. 3 cups of besan
2. 1 cup of roasted and coarsely powdered almonds and cashews
3. 1 1/2 cups of ghee
4. 2 tsp of powdered of cardamom
5. 2 cups of sugar ( I used super fine regular sugar)
6. 2 -3 tbsp of raisins (optional, I forgot to add them)

1. Heat a wide mouthed pan, add about 1/4 of the ghee and the besan and in medium heat roast the besan till it is golden and besan smell has completely disappeared. Mine took about 40 minutes
2. Add the ghee in between in small quantities and continue roasting. Do not leave it unattended they tend to char pretty quickly. Almost towards the end add the cardamom powder.
3. Meanwhile roast the cashews and almonds. I used the toasted the almonds for 8 minutes and cashews for about 5 minutes. Cool and powder coarsely.
Also if using raisins roast them in ghee and set aside.
4. Towards the end of the besan roasting add the powdered nuts and raisins. Let cool.
5. Mix in the sugar and the remaining ghee.
6. Take about a tbsp or 1 1/2 tbsp of the powder and using your hands shape them into smooth rounds.

If you do not want to add the full amount of ghee add half of the amount and use a spoon to eat them as they won't hold their shape.

This post will be an entry for Nupur's, Blog Bites 9 - The Holiday Buffet.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spicy Besan (chickpea flour) pancakes with Chard leaves

Besan or kadalai mavu (in Tamil) is a pantry staple in most Indian kitchens and so it is in my kitchen. Having something does not necessarily mean it is being put to good use. I had exactly 2 uses for my besan. One, on those rare occasions when I made bhajji, the second but the most often use was for washing away smelly dishes.

Last of the Chard leaves

Did you know? Besan is great for removing odors(fishy, oniony, burnt, any smell really) from vessels or even my kitchen sink. Try it for yourself you will see.

The unsought after besan flour is now all the rage ever since I discovered vegetables stir fried with besan like this and this. In all this besan love I got a packet of besan even before it was over.


Just as well since these besan pancakes were waiting to be tried for a long time. Most recipes I saw called for coriander leaves. I did not have any, this recipe on Veggie Belly gave a perfect opportunity for using those last of the Swiss chard leaves left. I am glad I did, the frost all this week would have killed them otherwise. The other recipe I consulted was from Show me the Curry.

Ajwain is my new spice of the year and any savory dished cooked with besan you absolutely cannot leave it out. These pancakes are delicious on a lazy weekend morning.

Spicy Besan Pancakes
1. 1 Cup of besan
2. 2 tbsp of cream of wheat
3. 1 tbsp rice flour (optional)
4. 1 tbsp grated ginger
5. 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
6. 1 tsp turmeric powder
7. 1 tsp ajwain seeds
8. 1/2 tsp of baking powder
9. 2 cups of finely chopped chard leaves
10. salt to taste
11. 1 cup of water + 1 tbsp of yogurt

1. Whisk together dry ingredients, ginger and the chopped chard leaves. Add in the whisked yogurt and water slowly as you are mixing and make the batter as thick as pancake batter (moist but not runny)
2. Heat a griddle or flat bottomed pan and add a laddle of batter, spread it as thick or as thin as you would like
3. Add spray or oil on the sides, let them cook on one side till slightly golden
4. Flip and cook on the other side

Serve with any spicy chutney. We had them with tomato chutney. You could choose from one of these chutney recipes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Turkey Kheema Paratha

I always wished I had a sister. Growing up surrounded by boys close to my age in all shapes and sizes and not many girl cousins that wish was always simmering under the surface and now it has only gotten even stronger. New research shows that my happiness might be at stake because of the fact.

Brother and boy cousins no offense to any of you. I had great fun with all of you running around like a tom boy and doing things that most boys do. Those girly feelings and emotions never had a chance. My brother and cousins, they are still the best in their own way. They are not sisters that's all :)

cooked turkey kheema

Those of you who have sisters talk to them a lot, those sisterly chats you have with them is supposed to make you happier. Read this article in the New York Times - Why Sisters Chats Make People Happier. Those of you with sisters might say duh!

Stuffed parathas always make me happy cooking them and seeing the family, myself included enjoying them. If you happen to have some minced meat, I have used turkey, any minced meat would work these tasty parathas is something you ought to try.

After tasting minced turkey from the Lancaster Dutch market I cannot bring myself to buy anywhere else.

Turkey Kheema Paratha
1. 1 lb minced turkey
2. 1 cup of finely chopped shallots
3. 1 tbsp grated ginger
4. 5 garlic cloves finely chopped
5. 1 tbsp red chili powder
6. 1 tsp cumin powder
7. 1 tsp fennel seeds (or roast and powder) + 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
8. salt to taste
9. 1 tsp of oil

1. Prepare the chapati dough and let it rest. I usually add salt and a few tbsps of yogurt to make the dough.
2. In a wide mouthed pan heat the oil, add the fennel and cumin seeds followed by the onions and saute till they turn translucent
3. Add the grated ginger and garlic and let them brown
4. Add the powders and mix it in
5. Now add the minced turkey and salt and saute for a few minutes. Cover the lid and let it cook
6. Open the lid and let the liquid evaporate and make sure the turkey is completely cooked. Set aside to cool
7. Now take a lemon sized ball of dough and roll it a cirlce of about 4 inches in diameter
8.Place the minced turkey in the center, gather the edges and make a ball
9. Roll the dough but carefully so the stuffing does not spill out. Make the paratha as thick or thin as want
10. On a hot gridle place the rolled out dough, spray oil on the sides and on top. Cook on one side, flip and cook on the other side

Serve with raita or pickles.