Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Annakoot: Easy vegetable mishmash for Poojas or lazy days!

I do hope your Diwali has gone splendidly, as did mine. I hope it was full of sweets and hugs and laughter, new memories and lights. I hope we shared our joy with those not so fortunate. I hope we were all able to laugh, and enjoy ourselves. Here's wishing you a happy Diwali and a happy year ahead, from my family to yours.

Now the day post Diwali, comes something called Govardhan Pooja, a day I have been made aware of only 2 days earlier. One version of this story goes thus: Lord Krishna had given refuge to the residents of Braj from torrential rains for 7 days, by lifting the mountain Govardhan much like an umbrella on his finger. After 7 days, when life resumed, there was not much left in the villagers' kitchens. So a dish is prepared, with whatever is there in the kitchen, and that is offered up to thank Him for His grace. The other version, more practical, suggests that the day after Diwali, either all the vegetable stalls are shut, and/or one is too hungover to go buy veggies. In either case, there aren't fresh vegetables in the larder. So, a mish-mash of vegetables, in sattvik way is prepared which becomes that day's meal. This dish is called "Annakoot". 

Which is what I'll be describing today, and how I pulled the recipe of this put of  my....hat. There is apparently no set recipe to this. All it needs to be is without onion and garlic, and made in ghee. That's what I did, sort of followed the technique of the very famous Bengali Durga Pujo dish "labra" and applied it to what I had on hand. It becomes almost like a bhaji, that you can wipe down with chapati, paratha or even a nice toasted pao.


You need:
  • Vegetables you have in your fridge, chopped. I has cauliflower, sweet potato, beans, beets, pumpkins.
  • Ghee
  • 1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
  • 1 large dry red chilli, broken
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Turmeric powder or haldi, a pinch
  • 2 tsp Jeera or cumin seeds
  • A pinch of heeng
  • Handful of coriander leaves, chopped

The How
  • Wash and chop the vegetables. Cut according to size, for instance, pumpkins and sweet potatoes should not be too big, and cauliflowers should not be too small. Avoid tomatoes.
  • In a large kadhai, add a spoonful of ghee.
  • Add the jeera.
  • When it sputters, add in all the vegetables in one go. Stir well.
  • Keep stirring for a while on medium flame for about 5 minutes.
  • Add about 1/4 cup water, and cover to cook.
  • Let this be, stirring infrequently so that it doesn't burn. Let it be till the vegetables have completely softened.
  • Take this out into a bowl. In the same pan, add another spoonful of ghee. When it heats up, add in the bay leaf, heeng and red chilli. 
  • Before they burn, but it begins to smell smoky, add in the vegetables.
  • Stir well to cook, so that the ghee reaches all the vegetables. 
  • If need be, and if it looks dry, add more ghee. Add salt and sugar to taste.
  • At this point, you can choose to let the pieces be whole, or mash it with a potato masher to make a bhaji. If the latter, then mash it thoroughly with a masher till it reaches the level you want.
  • Cook some more, and take off heat.
  • Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on top.

And it's ready! It feels utterly soothing to the system to have this, after a hard couple of days of partying. And whether or not you do the pooja, like I didn't, it's simply delicious!

Let me know how this was!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hara Masala Khumb (Mushroom in Green Masala)

Have you ever been to a supermarket frozen foods section, and fell in love?

No? Just me? Okay then.

Seriously, my MOST favourite section of the store is the freezer. pre-prepped vegetables and herbs, just waiting to be transformed. Stir fry mixes, coconut chutney mix, sambar veggies, veggie noodles, undhiyu mixes, ingredients for Thai curries, and so many more. It just gives me such an amazing feeling of the magic that's about to happen in the kitchen without me slaving over chopping and peeling. Or, you know, "YAAASS!!".

So yesterday I picked up a mix of green masala, consisting of a bunch each of coriander, curry leaves, a handful of chillies, 2 large knobs of ginger, and a lemon. I saw the box, and even though it was sealed tight, I smelled it. Oh I smelled the delicious green smell wafting off a steaming plate at lunch. All I knew was that I have to make something or the other with it.

So, presenting a vegetarian side that I made up, just because I could imagine how yummy it would smell. Mushrooms in Green Masala. The gravy is smooth and green, smelling fresh and spicy, just waiting to be mopped up with chapatis or appams. The best part of this side is the absolute versatility of it. I used diced mushrooms, you can use it with soya nuggets, jackfruit, cauliflower-broccoli mix, mixed vegetables, prawns, chicken, lamb, anything at all. There isn't even a fixed amount of the ingredients!

Hara Masala Khumb, or Mushrooms in Green Masala

You need:
  • A bunch of fresh coriander leaves, torn and washed
  • A branch of curry leaves, washed
  • 1 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • A sprinkling of amchoor
  • Green chillies, depending on how spicy you want it
  • Garlic, roughly mashed
  • 2 boxes of mushrooms, cleaned and halved (or any vegetables, totalling about 300-400 gm)
  • Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra chopped coriander.

The How:
  • In the mixer, blend the coriander, curry leaves, the ginger, chopped chillies, and a tsp of the lemon juice, till it's a rough paste. You can add a little water, controlling it so that it doesn't becomes a complete watery liquid.
  • In a kadhai, heat the oil till its is smoking, then reduce heat to low. Add the garlic.
  • Saute for a few seconds, take care it doesn't burn, and tip in the mushrooms. Saute for a bit.
  • Add the green masala. Add salt, and amchoor.
  • Cook till it begin to leave out the oil on sides. You can add a bits of war water in case it's too tight. It should not be too soupy, but nor a completely tight sabzi.
  • Adjust salt and seasoning. Turn off the heat. Drizzle the lemon juice, sprinkle the chopped coriander, stir and serve hot with rotis or appams.

That's it! Let me know how this was!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Butterless Eggless Easy Depression Cake

Quick. Chocolatey. Squidgey. Smack you on the face delicious. Using only things that you have in your kitchen already.

If not, you seriously need to go shopping.

Hello, welcome to the easiest chocolate cake in the world. Which is awesome because yay cake anytime. Which is also bad because oh God cake anytime.

No matter what we put on a cake, the end product, that makes or breaks it, is the cake itself. It cannot be crumbly. It cannot be squishy (in that weird way). It cannot be dry. It cannot be soaked in oil. It cannot be too sweet. It cannot taste of flour. I must not break my back baking it. It must use as few vessels as possible. We have a lot of demands for this poor thing.

Which is when, the oven gods bestow upon us the Depression Cake. No butter. No eggs. Just flour, chocolate, water, sugar, oil and vinegar. You heard that right. There is a very interesting back story to this I suppose. During the Great Depression in the US, eggs, butter etc were heavily rationed. Which put a spanner in every homemaker's plan. But could the cake-eating stop? Nay, I say. Human ingenuity has no bounds. So, by the logic of the chemical reaction, and logical role played by each ingredient which makes a cake what it is, items were substituted, and the Depression cake was born.

So presenting. the beautiful, fudgy yet cakey, the Depression Cake.

Depression Cake
I have played around with the recipe provided by a friend on facebook. It's not mine :)
Serves 2 people, or 1 very happy person :)

You need:
  • 1.5 cups of regular flour (I used the American standard measure). 
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • about 1/3 cup odourless oil
  • 1 cup of water (see note)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • Any essence you want (chocolate goes well with vanilla, coffee, butterscotch, caramel, nutty flavours)
  • Optional: chopped nuts

The How:
  • Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the liquid ones in another.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the dry, and mix till combined. Do not overmix.
  • Fold in the nuts if using.
  • Pour into a greased pan, and bake at 180 celsius for about 30 minutes. Check post that, if anymore baking is needed.

That's literally it. Let it cool, demould and chop it squares. 

  • You can even frost it with a basic ganache and then serve, but to me, it's not necessary.
  • The water mentioned, can also be the same quantity of hot strong coffee. I tried it, and the cake was absolutely delicious.
  • You can sub about 1/3rd cup of almond flour for 1/3rd cup flour.

Eat away my friends, and be merry at such a ridiculously easy cake!

Till the next time!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Chilli Chocolate Wholewheat Almond Tart

I'm going to keep this short because I'm excited and I cannot wait to share this recipe with you lot.

I found it. After months of trial and more errors than I can count, I found it. The perfect tart shell recipe. Whole wheat and Almond tart crust with flaxseeds.

What's more, it's healthy, full of awesome fibres, healthy fats and none of that white flour or white sugar thing. It's eggless, uses flaxseeds and adds another dose of Omega-3 and various minerals with it. It's perfectly chewy from the almonds, has a satisfying wholesome bite and is utterly UTTERLY delicious. Pair it with a stone fruit tart, nutty frangipane filling, apple pie fillings or a dark chocolate ganache (as I did), and it will simply blow you away.

The ganache that I filled it with was a Dark Chocolate ganache, that was spiced with red chilli, clove and cinnamon powder, making it a deep rich and smooth filling that had an underlying warmth from the spices. What an absolutely stunning dessert this was!

So here's the recipe for my Wholewheat Almond Tart, with a spicy Dark Chocolate filling.

Wholewheat Almond Tart, with a spicy Dark Chocolate filling

You need:

For the shell-
  • 1/3rd cup powdered almonds, heaped
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • a tiny pinch of salt
  • a sprinkle of cinnamon powder
  • 2 tbsp chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp, any white flavourless oil
  • 1 flax egg, (1 tbsp flax powder with 3 tbsp water, mixed and let rest for 15 min)

For the ganache- 
  • 300 gms dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 200 ml cream
  • 3 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp clove powder (add it if you have it)

The How:
  • In a pan, take the cream, and add the chilli, cinnamon and clove powder in it. Stir, warm it very gently and steep it for some time away from the heat.
  • Sift together the flour, almond powder, sugar and spices, or pulse a couple of times in a food processor.
  • Add the butter and oil and pulse a couple of times more, it will become like sand.
  • Add the flax egg and pulse a couple of more times, till it sort of comes together, but won't be dry and put together.
  • Take a 9 inch tart tin with a removable bottom, and empty the crumbs into it. Press down with your fingers till the crumbs form an even layer on the base and around the edges.
  • Preheat your oven at 180 celsius and bake it for 20 minutes. Once it's done, let it sit on the countertop and let it cool for a bit.
  • Till then, make the ganache. Heat the cream till it bubbles around the edges, swirl the cream and dump it into the chopped chocolate. Let it rest for 3-4 minutes, then stir till the cream gets incorporated in, and the ganache becomes thick, smooth and shiny. If that doesn't happen, microwave it for 10 seconds (not more, the fats will separate and you will be sad) and stir.
  • To assemble, pour the ganache into the tart shell. Smooth it over with a spatula.
  • Pop into the chiller with a foil loosely covering the surface and keep it for 3-4 hours.
  • Slice and serve!

That's it! It's easy, quick and stunning to taste.

Let me know how it goes :)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Wholewheat Oats Nutbutter Brookie Bites

Okay people, time to get real.

I have long unrealistically horrific working hours sometimes, that makes it well nigh impossible to eat right, sleep enough or wake up early enough to exercise a bit. As a result, I've been putting on some unhealthy weight. Flab around the waist, pants don't seem to fit and shirts look like they're fit to pop a button or two. And I can't have that. Especially when I've controlled a large part of my diet. 

Except the sweet nibbles. I simply cannot seem to stop craving for it. I've applied all the hacks possible, have dates, fruits (ugh) instead. Chew a handful of almonds. Have a glass of fresh juice. Nothing seems to work. The problem compounds itself when most desserts don't translate too well into whole wheat. All desserts are APF, or white flour, something that is really not so good for health. So far, all conversions to whole grain have failed miserably. Heavy, sad cakes and cookies that don't fluff up too well and are eaten only as a last resort.

Except what I made last night. Now weekends are my time to shine and bake (or try to bake) stuff that while it's good, is also marginally healthy. So this came about, while tinkering about. Wholegrain Nut Butter Brookie Bites. Brookies are currently hugely popular thanks to Masterchef, and there are multiple recipes floating about. Essentially brookies are a cross between a brownie and a cookie. My brookies are beautiful chocolatey nuggets, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, made of whole wheat flour, rolled oats, Horlicks, a giant scoop of peanut butter and chocolate. Very delicious, surprisingly filling and makes the house smell like a dream!

Wholewheat Oats Nutbutter Brookie Bites

You need:

  • 11 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp chocolate Horlicks (or regular)
  • 3 tbsp chocolate powder
  • a handful of oats
  • 1 egg
  • 8-9 tbsp oil
  • 9 tbsp sugar
  • 1 heaped tbsp peanut butter (I used chunky, you can smooth if you wish)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • Optional: chopped or flaked almonds

The how:

  • Sift and reserve the flour, Horlicks, chocolate powder and baking powder.
  • Whisk the eggs and sugar till foamy. Add the oil and mix in.
  • To this add the peanut butter and gently whisk in.
  • Add the sifted dry ingredients and the oats, mix gently to form a dough.
  • Chill the dough in the fridge for 1 hour at least.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree celsius.
  • Grease a baking pan, or line with a silicon mat or parchment paper and place small balls of the dough, about 1/2 tbsp sized. They do not spread, so you can place them about 1/2 inch away from each other.
  • Press an almond flake on top if you're using it, else skip.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • When you take them out to cool, they will feel a bit soft, but they'll crisp up in no time.

That's it! Enjoy with a glass of cold milk and let health save the day!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Basa in a Mustard, Poppy Seed and Tender Coconut Gravy

We have Bengali Saturdays on each...well Saturday. I am Bengali and R is not, so I take it as an opportunity to teach him about the indescribable amount of culinary heritage we Bengalis come from. And ease my homesickness, in one fell swoop.

Bengali food is all about flavour. And not one flavour. There are as many ways to make a fish main dish, as there are fishes we eat. A warm flavoured onion garlic and ginger gravy best in winters, a soupy broth with pointed and ridged gourds, with ground mustard (even that has 2 types at least), with only the juice of the onions, with cumin, with mangoes, with rice. The list goes on. The spices that add flavour to the dish vary from dish to dish, and most have ayurvedic logic for being added in a particular order. We use multitudes of vegetables and leafy greens, in uncountable ways. Bengalis are expert in the "tip to tail" way of eating, no part to be wasted. We eat the fish heads (the brains and eyes being especially prized for its high nutritional value), all the way to the tail. We eat everything from the fruit, to the vegetable to the flower to even the runners of a plant. There is every cooking technique being used in the cuisine, and it is very important to pay heed to that.

There are stories of how the wives of the house would turn the scraps and bony pieces of fish leftover after the men of the house had their fill into something that is so delicious, we specially make it at home, and not just as a last resort. There are stories of how the widows, under draconian rules, many unfortunately self-imposed, created a cuisine of it's own that sticks to each unreasonable rule, but is unearthly delicious. This is my beautiful Bengali cuisine. A lot of thought goes into every dish, and it shows.

What I decided to make this weekend, in the middle of a working weekend, was a mix of old school Bengali food, and new age techniques. Old school, because of the smoky sweet traditional flavours of mustard and tender coconut, and new age, because it is made in the microwave, quick and in 15 min flat. Behold, my Basa in a Mustard, Poppy seed and Tender Coconut gravy. Delicate flaky basa chunks, simmered in a pulpy gravy of piquant mustard seeds, milky poppy seeds, the soft sweet flesh of the tender coconuts and the water of the coconut, with slit green chillies liberally flavouring the gravy.

Basa in a Mustard, Poppy seed and Tender Coconut Gravy

You need:
  • 500 gms of basa fish, or any other skinless white fish, even prawns
  • 1-1.5 tbsp of black mustard seeds
  • 1-1.5 tbsp of poppy seeds (you can adjust this mustard to poppy seed ratio depending on spicy you want it, more mustard is more spicy).
  • The water from 1 tender coconut
  • The flesh scraped from 1 tender coconut, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 green chillies, 1 chopped fine and 2 slit lengthwise
  • Salt and chilli powder to taste
  • Turmeric powder, a pinch
  • A splash of mustard oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a tbsp of maida

The How:
  • Soak the mustard and poppy seeds in hot water overnight.
  • The next morning, drain the seeds, and blend into a fine paste with the chopped chilli, a pinch of salt, half the coconut flesh and a splash of the coconut water. It should not be watery, but flow slowly.
  • Wash and marinate the fish chunks with the lemon juice, turmeric, chilli powder and salt for about 30 minutes.
  • Drain any liquid from it, and toss in the flour.
  • Lightly panfry it, it does not need to be fully cooked.
  • Take a microwave safe dish. It should preferably not be bowl shaped, preferably with a flat floor.
  • Sprinkle the onions in the dish, and add the mustard paste and the rest of the tender coconut flesh.
  • Pour a bit of the coconut water and salt, turmeric powder and chilli powder into it, mix.
  • Add the fish chunks and make sure the mix completely coats the fish.
  • Add some more coconut water, but make sure the gravy isn't watery.
  • Splash the mustard oil, and stud with the slit chillies and.
  • Cover it with a microwave safe plate, or the bowl's own cover, and cook in the microwave mode for 4-5 minutes.
  • Keep covered till planning to serve. Preferably make it immediately before serving.
  • Serve with steamed white rice.

And that's it!

Let me know how you like it!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Lemon Chicken Spinach Millet Soup

I have been going through purgatory for the last 2 months at work. And I'm loving every single second of it.

The frenzy of work, the presentations shaping up from just an idea, computers failing after not being switched off for a month, returning home every single day, without fail, at any time between 2am and 4 am, then getting back by 9am, client meetings, reworking and the cycle repeats itself. It's fun, exhilarating and couldn't love it more (though it is taking a LOT out of me).

What I'm not liking, is the everyday dinner, mall food at the oddest hours. It's a roll, a wrap or a Subway every day. What I wouldn't give for home food, healthy and hot and at the right time. Which is what I did last night. By the grace of the Spaghetti Monster, I actually got free early, and decided to make use of extra time by cooking up a light soup, that's healing and homely.

And boy what a soup did I end up with! It took a total of 20 minutes, start to stop, it was light, herby brothy yet buttery, and wholesome and filling. Tender cubes of pan-fried chicken, shreds of spinach, flavoured with thyme, coriander and mint, with a nutty burst of millets in every spoonful. It's super customizable, gluten-free and if you swap out the chicken for tofu, and butter for olive oil, it's also vegan. Presenting my 20 Minute, One Pot Lemon Chicken Soup with Spinach and Millets.

20 Minute, One Pot Lemon Chicken Soup with Spinach and Millets

You need:
  • 3 chicken thighs, chopped into 4-5 pieces (if going veg, then swap out for paneer or tofu or boiled soy nuggets)
  • Juice of 2-3 lemons
  • Lemon zest, if you have it
  • 2 cups of spinach, washed and chopped roughly
  • 3/4 cup of barnyard millets, washed. You can easily swap this for pasta, or brown rice.
  • a knob of ginger, peeled and smashed
  • Thyme, fresh or dried
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 750 ml water
  • Butter or olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Garlic, powder or 4-5 cloves, smashed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few drops of chilli oil if you have it (I didn't, I left it out)
  • A splash of white wine (I didn't, I left it out)
  • If you have a green chilli, then chop it up.
  • a bunch of coriander and mint leaves, chopped roughly

The How:
  • Marinate the chicken in about half the lemon juice, half the garlic, half the ginger, salt, pepper, chilli oil and half the chopped herbs in a non-metallic bowl for about 30 min.
  • Take a deep soup pot and add a knob of butter. Let it melt but not burn.
  • Add the chicken pieces and fry till 90% done.
  • Take it out on a plate, and chop into smaller pieces or shred it.
  • In the same pan, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Fry till soft.
  • At this point, deglaze the pan with white wine, or a splash of water.
  • Add the spinach and let it wilt. Add the thyme.
  • Add the chicken and millets and stir to combine.
  • Now add most of  the water, toss in the bayleaf, cover and let it boil up. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • At the end of 5 minutes, the millets would have swelled up. If it needs more water, add more water, and season accordingly.
  • Once the soup is done, add a bit of extra butter (optional), the rest of the herbs, the remaining lemon juice, the zest and the chopped chillis. Cover till you plan to serve.
  • Serve warm with a wedge of lemon and additional herbs sprinkled on top.

And that's it!

It's perfect for summer, and be careful, a little millet goes a long way, they're deceptively filling. DO try at home and let me know how it was!


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