Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Absolute Rookie Prawn Biryani

Now this one was really made on the go! I had absolutely no idea which way was this recipe heading to. I had a bag of frozen, headless Pacific White prawns, a can of coconut milk from a Thai store and Indian Basmati rice, which was “Made in Texas”!

How could I possibly go wrong if I set off to make Prawn Biryani with such gourmet ingredients. The only problem was – I had no recipe or notes from my Mum to fall back on. Plus I had never had Prawn Biryani ever, so relying on my own taste buds was not an option either.

But I had the courage of my own culinary convictions. So I set out into mixing flavors and recreating some tastes, cautiously taking measured mental notes of the ingredients lest I forgot when I chronicled it for you…

Ingredients for the Prawn Biryani are:

One and half cups Basmati rice, washed, then sieved for 30 minutes
500 grams prawns/ shrimps (they were already deveined, but with shells on which I removed, so my guess is after the cleaning up, they would be about 400 gms)
One tennis ball-size red onion finely sliced
7-8 cloves of garlic
Two inch piece of root ginger
Handful of green chilies
Handful of coriander leaves
Few drops of lemon juice
One heaped teaspoon of red chili powder
One teaspoon of turmeric powder (heaped if you love turmeric)
One teaspoon of black pepper powder
One cup coconut milk (I used the thick, creamy variety)
Two tablespoons vegetable oil
Two cardamoms (green and black)
One inch stick of cinnamon
Two bay leaves
One star anise (its okay if you don’t have it)
Half teaspoon of black cumin seeds
Little piece of nutmeg grated

IMG_6774In a bowl, marinate the prawns with the red chili powder and turmeric and a few drops of lemon juice. IMG_6775In a frying pan, heat one tablespoon oil and fry the sliced onions. Grind the ginger and garlic (together) in a paste and make a smooth chutney with the coriander leaves and green chilies (separately). When the onions start turning brown, add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for a couple of minutes. Now add the coriander-chili chutney. Sauté for 3-4 minutes on low-medium heat. Add the prawns and mix well. Add black pepper powder and salt, stir for a few minutes on the same heat and remove when the prawns start turning pink/orange at the tails. Prawns take very little time to cook and overcooking them is such a blasphemy!
IMG_6777 IMG_6779 IMG_6780 IMG_6781 IMG_6782 In another frying pan, heat the remaining one tablespoon vegetable oil, add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, black cumin seeds, star anise and stir for a minute. Add the rice and fry till the grains get coated with the oil. Add the grated nutmeg (about a pinch), and salt (carefully as our prawns already have some). Fry for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat.
IMG_6783 IMG_6784In a microwave safe bowl, add the rice, cooked prawns, one cup of thick coconut milk and one cup plus two tablespoons of water. Make sure you use the same measuring cup for the rice, coconut milk and water!
IMG_6785Give all the ingredients in the bowl a quick stir and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave the Prawn Biryani for 20 minutes. Check and adjust the seasoning if needed. Let it sit for about an hour before you serve.
IMG_6786IMG_6787 IMG_6795 IMG_6796 I served it with some chopped greens and a glass of cool iced tea. And yes, its okay to reheat this dish in the microwave before you eat.
IMG_6792This Prawn Biryani is a big revelation for me, and I am still savoring it because that’s all there is to it!

Dhaba Style Baigan Ka Bharta

When you are experimenting in the kitchen, you are not very sure if you want to share something as ordinary as a Baigan ka Bharta with your readers!
baigan roastI don’t have a “gas” stove top here and have to do all the cooking on an electric oven range. Which is no fun if you are making the Bengali Begun Poda or the Punjabi version of the Baigan ka Bharta (Roasted Eggplant Mish-mash). Its in times like these that I have to toss my ingredients in the oven, and hope I get the taste which is close to the palate I have grown up to.

I know a lot of people do roast the eggplant in the oven, but this recipe of mine has roasted tomatoes (instead of raw ones) thrown in too!

Here is my recipe of the Punjabi Baigan ka Bharta!


One medium size eggplant – I chose one which was about 350-400 gms
2 ripe tomatoes
Half cup green peas
1 medium size red onion finely chopped
Bunch of coriander chopped fine
4-5 green chilies chopped finely
5-6 cloves of garlic chopped fine
1 inch ginger chopped finely
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Drizzle of mustard oil
2 tablespoon ghee (melted)

Slit the eggplant from the center and cut the tomatoes in halves. Put them in a baking dish and drizzle some mustard oil. “Bake” them in the oven at 350°F for an hour. You want to roast the eggplant and the tomatoes till they are nice and plump and not shriveled. IMG_6686IMG_6689 IMG_6690 Gently remove the purple skin of the eggplant and its stalk. Squish the eggplant and the tomatoes (separately).
IMG_6693 In a frying pan, heat the melted ghee and add the cumin seeds. And all the chopped culprits (except the coriander) one by one starting with the onions.
IMG_6695IMG_6691IMG_6696 Sauté all the ingredients for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Add the already mashed up eggplant and tomato. Add the dry spices and fry for five more minutes till all the raw flavors are cooked.
IMG_6697 IMG_6698 IMG_6699Towards the end of the cooking process, add the already washed and drained (if you are using frozen ones) green peas. Add salt and mix well.
IMG_6700Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with roti or naan and maybe some Tandoori Chicken to get that complete feeling of eating at a North Indian Dhaba!
IMG_6702 IMG_6706 This is as good as Baigan ka Bharta can get in North America! Try it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pub Style Fries @ Home

For years potatoes have been misrepresented. But don’t underestimate the “lowly” potatoes. With the exception of Vitamin A, potatoes pretty much have all the nutrients, especially in its raw form, like the much needed  Vitamin C. But then we don’t eat them raw. We love to bake and boil them. Or deep fry them, the surest way to turn them into salty bites which never fail to touch our taste spuds.

Since my Blog is not about medical advice or the character of vegetables, I will go back to doing what I do well. Well…reasonably well! Sharing with you a recipe I learnt and tried out myself.

These Fries may look like your usual fare from fast food joints, but wait till you see that there is a culinary process and technique involved too! A Chef from a local pub shared this three-step fry-making process, here is how!

Step One:

  • Peel and cut potatoes for fries
  • Wash them thoroughly with cold water to drain off all that starch
  • Blanch the potatoes in water for about 5-7 minutes
  • Drain in a colander and put in an ice bath, to stop the cooking process
    IMG_6751 IMG_6752 IMG_6753 IMG_6756 IMG_6758

Step Two:

  • Let the potatoes cool
  • Put in a closed plastic box and in the fridge for 30 minutes (or until frying)

Step Three:

  • Heat vegetable oil in a wok
  • Start deep frying the cold potato strips till they get a nice golden color
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Drain excess oil on a paper towel
  • Serve hot! IMG_6761
    IMG_6760IMG_6762 There you have them – a socially contagious side for that dinner tonight. 
    IMG_6765 I served the crispy fries with some Jerk Chicken and fresh salad.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Old Fashioned Payesh

I have eaten Payesh, the quintessential Bengali rice pudding or Kheer as they like to call it in Hindi since I was a child. Every birthday, till the age of 21 when I left my parents’ home. Some that I have eaten (not cooked by my Dida or Mum), have been overcooked, a wee thick, almost to the extent of being a lump of milk and rice, and some others which need no mention here.

Payesh is a traditional Bengali dessert made of rice (Basmati or Gobindo Bhog) and milk, slow cooked with aromatic cardamoms and bay leaf and generous amounts of chopped nuts (cashews or almonds) and raisins. This dessert ought to be made with precision and timing…and patience! And if you don’t get it exact, the imbalance in consistency and sweetness will be very obvious.

This recipe makes enough to fill eight-10 dessert bowls, five if all of your guests have a sweet-tooth!

Ingredients for the Payesh:

1 liter milk (use the full cream milk you get in India)
4-5 tablespoon whipping/ heavy cream (because the milk that we usually get here is 1-2% skimmed, works well for a smooth, creamy taste to the payesh)
2 tablespoons rice which has been washed and drained
4 tablespoons sugar
2-3 bay leaves
Handful of almonds, soaked in water overnight, peeled and cut into slivers
3-4 green cardamoms, crushed coarsely
1 tablespoon raisins
Few strands of saffron
mosaicf09d01ef42e77fd868022fa2bfd402d3ef6735f5In a thick-bottom saucepan, heat the milk and the heavy cream till almost boiling. Reduce the heat to low, add the bay leaf and keep boiling. Add the crushed cardamoms and boil for a few minutes more on very low heat. Add the grains of rice and cook on the simmered heat.
IMG_6729I did not remember to soak the almonds overnight, so I quickly soaked them in hot water which was easy for me to peel off their brown skin. You can chop them or make slivers of them and add to the milk along with the raisins. The milk would have been boiling for about 30-40 minutes and hence reduced in consistency. Watch the milk change color from a chalk white to a very nice, silky ivory color.
IMG_6732 IMG_6736IMG_6739After about 40-50 minutes of slow cooking, a liter of milk would reduce to about one-fourth, giving you that semi-thick consistency of the payesh. Make sure you are stirring continuously. Add the sugar at this stage and cook for a few more minutes till the sugar dissolves with the milk.
IMG_6737Garnish with a few strands of saffron. Allow the payesh to cool to room temperature, then keep it in the fridge (covered of course).
IMG_6742Serve in small silver bowls (if you have it) after an Indian meal. Traditional and low on sweetness, that’s how I like my Payesh.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Durga Encore, Random Women & Two Little Girls

I am usually up to date on my activities in the kitchen or outside it! I painted these some weeks ago. They probably got buried under all those Spring posts I was doing. IMG_6158









The last two Frida-faced little girls are copies from an artist called Tascha.