Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Solstice

I don’t know about anybody else, but Summers are a BIG deal for me here.

I behave like a squirrel during these three months of Summer, hurrying to do my bit, appearing very busy and stopping for nothing and nobody.

IMG_9093 IMG_9271 But I take my time to  capture in my camera Nature’s dance of happiness. I keep gazing at the blue sky through my sunglasses, get more tan than needed on my Indian skin, sit by the window and soak enough sun so that I don’t have to pop Vitamin D pills for the rest of the year.

IMG_9313 But that’s not all, I make jugfuls of nimbu paani (which P guzzles down after his eight kilometer daily runs) or aam panna and shakes and fruit smoothies. Oh and pickles too, to sit in the sun while I dress up my window sills and put all my plants in the balcony.

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There is lots to love about the summer landscape. Apart from obviously family visiting and bringing me gifts and goodies from India.
I am cherishing my golden days of Summer in Toronto and looking forward to getting my next crop of tangerines
IMG_5350Okay, I have a feeling I should make myself busy again.

Happy Canada Day, everyone!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chingri Maacher Kalia

So I bought these Black Tiger Shrimps from St. Lawrence Market today. IMG_9270
Six headless and deveined super colossal shrimps for my Kalia.
Now you don’t eat Kalia every day anymore. We don’t live in the 1960s. Apart from the culinary implications of not living in the 60s, there are some very visible differences between then and now.

Power Point was only an electrical socket then. Mail meant a handwritten memo, and if you were feeling a little more amorous, you sealed some dried flowers too. Our parents most probably knew each from high school. Matches were “Made in Heaven”, and not determined by seven-minute fun dates. 

Of course there is no particular correlation between dates and Chingri Maacher Kalia, except that if you want to win someone over with traditional Bengali cooking, try making this dish for them.

Ingredients for Chingri Maacher Kalia are:

6 jumbo shrimps/ prawns
1 medium potato peeled and quartered
1 large red onion very finely chopped
1 large juicy tomato coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon green chili paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon fresh coriander chopped
2 teaspoons red chili powder
2 + 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
1 whole black cardamom
2-3 green cardamoms
1 small cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2-3 cloves
3-4 tablespoons ghee
Pinch of garam masala powder

Remove the shell. Devein and clean the shrimps. Rub two teaspoons turmeric powder to the shrimps and keep for 10 minutes. 
Heat ghee in a thick-bottom pan. Add the cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves and bay leaf, in no particular order. IMG_9285 Let them sauté for a minute, add a pinch of sugar and let it caramelize. Now add the chopped onions.

The caramelized sugar adds a whole lot of color to the onions and the whole spices give it a fragrant and sweet flavor. IMG_9286 
Once the onions are nice and golden brown, add the ginger, garlic and green chili paste. (I grind my chilies and garlic together.)
IMG_9287 Mix everything well and cook on low heat.

Now add the red chili and turmeric powders. Continuing to slow cook is a good idea.
IMG_9289 Add the chopped tomatoes and salt and sugar. Let the salt do its action, getting all the moisture from the tomatoes oozing out. Keep stirring.

In another pan, fry the diced potatoes in some ghee. IMG_9284I let the potatoes turn golden brown for the Kalia. It should take about 1-2 minutes for the potatoes to be ready.
IMG_9288 Once you remove the potatoes, add the turmeric-rubbed shrimps to the remaining ghee.
IMG_9290IMG_9292 Another couple of minutes on each side of the shrimps and they will be ready to add to our Kalia gravy.

Meanwhile, I deglazed the pan I had sautéed the potatoes and shrimps in by adding half a cup of water and let it boil for a couple of minutes, scraping off all the flavors from the pan.
Now coming back to the gravy we were making for the Kalia, the tomatoes by now would have become mushy and released all their juices. Add to the tomato mixture, the hot water from we got from deglazing the pan.

Drop the cubes of potato in and cook till they are done. IMG_9295
Add the chopped coriander and a pinch of garam masala. Give it a good mix.
Gently release the shrimps to the Kalia gravy.
Cook the shrimps in the gravy for about 5-7 minutes. Smear some ghee as a last garnish.

Remove from heat and serve hot with plain Basmati rice.
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Berry, Berry Good Monday

I picked these mulberries from my morning walk. P is working from home today, so we decided to drift a little further on Sheppard West, and were soon “into the wild” of Earl Bales Park.

IMG_9117I saw red, pink, purple, and black berries fallen from the lone Mulberry tree there. They seemed too difficult to resist for someone who has endearing mulberry memories from her childhood. For those I could not reach, I armed myself with a branch lying there and started aiming at the berries, impressing my own self in the process.

IMG_9119 I gathered all I could in this biiiiiig leaf and brought them back, stopping to pick up the little mulberries which were falling off…

IMG_9123Did you know botanically the mulberry fruit is not a berry but a collective fruit, in appearance like a swollen loganberry.

IMG_9125Back home, I gave them a good wash before both P and I picked each succulent berry up and experienced their sweet nectar burst in our mouths!

IMG_9126Our hearts singing Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bushwell almost.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Aam Panna

"Aam" is Hindi for Mango, and "Panna" translated literally is "Emerald".

So the next time you spot young green mangoes, think of all the wonderful possibilities you can bring in your kitchen with young raw mangoes. Including a very desi reason of a glass of chilled Aam Panna, something that many Indian homes rely on to beat the searing heat of the mid 40°C of the Summer months.

My Mum would make a big jug of this Aam Panna or Aam Poda Shorbet (Roasted Mango Sherbet) during the months of late April and May when raw mangoes were showing up in the bazaars in abundance.

green mangoes Green Mangoes are a source of pectin and some good acids, plus the essential nutrient of Vitamin C.

During the summer months, when dehydration is almost inevitable, the Aam Panna helps to quench thirst while working on your body to prepare it to fight against excessive loss of sodium chloride and iron. So you see, apart from being high on the taste quotient, the humble Aam Panna is well-respected health-wise too.

85643648 I am not a big fan of sour mangoes, but the roasting of the green mangoes on an open gas flame adds a smoky flavor I simply cannot resist. Plus the balance of salt (I use black salt) and sugar tempered with some dry roasted cumin seeds makes the Aam Panna an all time summer favorite.

Ingredients for Aam Panna are:

3-4 green mangoes
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
Black salt to taste
2-3 cubes of ice 

IMG_9106 Smoke or roast the raw mangoes. Hold the mangoes over a low open gas flame. Rotate frequently. I used my stove-top rack (remember that roti mesh?). It should take about 20-30 minutes for raw mangoes to cook till the core.
IMG_9107 The skin will pop to let out juices and will char on all sides. Poke a fork to know if the mango is cooked till the insides.

Let the mangoes cool down completely before handling them.

Meanwhile, dry roast the cumin seeds in a pan and crush them coarsely.

Peel the mangoes and squeeze the pulp out of them. No need to show any TLC when you are squeezing, do it with all the energy that you can muster. As if you are very, very angry at the mangoes…or the summer!

Discard the pits.

In a blender, mix the mango pulp, five-six cups of water, ice cubes, black salt, sugar (I used quarter cup of fine sugar) and give it a good swirl. Add the crushed cumin seeds and give it one last whoosh.

Pour the Aam Panna in glasses and serve. You can even sprinkle a few flakes of cayenne chili. Enjoy the sweet-salty and smoky-citrusy taste of this raw mango delight.

IMG_9109IMG_9112 IMG_9110 Aam Panna is probably a very important reason why I looked forward to Summers in India. Cheers!

I am sending my Aam Panna to The Summertime Sipper Recipe Contest.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Return of the Risotto

I like Jamie Oliver for two reasons. He is a Taurean like me, and he is the most non-hassle chef I have seen. Maybe that’s two good reasons to have two of his bestselling cookbooks in my collection. Though I bought neither. IMG_9021

Its on page 143 of this book, The Naked Chef Takes Off, that I saw this very easy Shrimp and Pea Risotto, with Basil and Mint, two of my favorite herbs. I knew this was my passport to Italy.
However, I did not copy Jamie’s recipe to the core. I admit I made minor adjustments to it to suit my very Indian palate. Instead of cooking the shrimp with the rice, I used a homemade Creole seasoning to marinade the shrimps just to add a little versatility to my Risotto.

IMG_9066 Ingredients for the Shrimp and Pea Risotto with Basil and Mint are:

1 and a half cups medium grain rice, I used Arborio
1 liter chicken broth
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-4 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped cup of shelled green peas
500 grams shrimp, shelled and deveined
Few basil leaves, finely chopped
Few mint leaves, finely chopped
Juice of half lemon
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Olive oil

For the Creole seasoning:
Half tablespoon onion powder
Half tablespoon garlic powder
Half teaspoon paprika powder
Half teaspoon cayenne pepper
Half teaspoon black pepper powder
Half teaspoon dried thyme
Half teaspoon dried oregano
Quarter cup of cooking wine for cooking

IMG_9038 Marinade the shrimps in the Creole seasoning and keep for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken broth.

In a pan, heat olive oil and fry the garlic and onion till they are pink. Add the rice and fry it for a few minutes on simmerish heat. The rice will start turning translucent. Add half the peas and mix well with the rice.

IMG_9054 Add your first ladle of hot chicken broth and a generous pinch of salt at this time, stirring continuously.

IMG_9055 Turn the heat down to low and cook the rice. Keep adding ladlefuls of the broth and stir continuously. Let each ladle of broth get absorbed by the rice before you add more.

At this point, you can also add a little dollop of butter.

It takes about 15 minutes for the rice to cook in the chicken broth. It will be soft but retain its al dente texture. Add the remaining peas and stir again. In the last stages of the risotto, you will notice a creamy texture to the rice because of all the starch it has released. Check the seasoning. IMG_9057
Turn the heat off and add the freshly chopped herbs and lemon juice. Mix again. You can add the grated parmesan if you want after you have stopped cooking the risotto.IMG_9064
The Shrimp with the Creole seasoning which essentially is the topping for this risotto has to be cooked simultaneously.  

Heat butter in a pan and add the marinated shrimps. Add a little cooking wine or dry white wine to add a whole lot of flavor to the shrimps.
IMG_9059 IMG_9060 Let the wine evaporate. Add salt to taste.

IMG_9061 IMG_9068 Top the Risotto with the spicy shrimps and serve immediately. Its best to eat the Risotto as soon as possible to enjoy its perfect texture and creaminess.
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