Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Spicy Prawn Curry

Venturing into the world of seafood has been a reluctant journey for me. I live in a place where fresh seafood is “almost” impossible to find. Hence, my reluctant nature! I have always been skeptical about cooking fish and other “fishy” things; however, the sheer love that I carry in my heart for prawns/calamari/squid/octopus etc is making me undertake an unwilling voyage.

This is not my first prawn curry, I have cooked prawns before but this is the first curry where I have allowed myself to put a unique "me" twist. This is also a very fuss free quick prawn curry.

For the Marinade:

15-20 deveined tiger prawns
1 tsp garlic paste
½ tsp ginger paste
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp black pepper powder
3-4 tbsp lemon juice

Mix all the ingredients and set it in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours. I marinated these prawns overnight. I used frozen tiger prawns for this recipe and that is why I find it absolutely necessary to marinade these prawns as it needs to take on the flavor of the spices. If fresh prawns are used, you can cut down the marinade time.

For the Curry:

2 cups of fresh curry leaves
1 tsp garlic paste
½ tsp ginger paste
3 medium onions
3-4 green chilies
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 tsp whole cumin
2 tsp whole coriander
2-3 tbsp any flavorless oil
½ tsp whole cumin
200 ml coconut milk
Salt to taste

I used fresh whole spices, made it into a powder before using it in the curry. I find it very alluring that the flavor is much more when freshly ground spices are used. You can, of course, use powdered spices.

Grind the curry leaves with about 1/4th cup water added. Extract the water from the curry leaves using a sieve. If you want to add a rustic charm to your dish, please feel free to use the ground curry leaves without sieving it.

Blitz the ginger, garlic, chilies and onion until you obtain a fine paste. Heat the oil in a pan and pop the whole cumin. Once it releases the fragrance, add the fresh paste and stir on a low heat. You will need to be patient here as it takes a little time for the paste to let the oil separate. As soon as the oil is separated, go ahead and add the ground spices. Fry the ground spices for few seconds before adding in the marinated prawns. Give that a good toss in the pan and add the water from the ground curry leaves. Add some seasoning and allow it to bubble. Let it simmer for about 10minutes before checking the seasoning and the balance of spices. Add the coconut milk and let it bubble away for some more time. At this stage the curry should have a dark green-ish tinge. Once it comes to a thick gravy consistency, check for seasoning again and serve hot.

Steamed rice is the best accompaniment for this dish.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Chick peas in Spinach sauce

Legumes have always been very important part of my diet. I have adored everything in the legume family including chick peas or garbanzo beans. I eat them however possible – boiled, curried, sautéed, and even just soaked overnight. It tastes absolutely gorgeous with a little bit of lime, salt, pepper and cilantro (fresh coriander) sprinkled over the soaked peas. Same for the boiled, you can make it into a simple salad, add it to your sautéed vegetables, include it in your pilaf, make hummus with it etc. The list is endless thereby making it a very versatile food.

However, at home, I was always given a single version of chick peas which was made with onions and spices; the only variation came from whether tomato was to be added to the curry or not. With my food experimenting nature, I decided to sway off the regular traditional food and include chick peas here and there. After a lot of mix and match, I found that chick peas go along with almost everything and I was particularly fond of this recipe because of the nutritional value as well as the enticing taste of spinach that is being used as a base for this curry.

There are two things that can be substituted in place of chick peas – sweet American corn kernels and paneer (cottage cheese). Both have their unique taste and both go amazingly well with spinach. As always, I do want to mention that the level of heat can be altered according to the taste. You can always cut out the clarified butter from the recipe. However, I do insist on using it as it endows a creamy sophistication to the end product.  

For the Recipe:

1 cup chick peas (boiled)
2 cups fresh spinach
2 medium tomatoes (diced)
2-3 cloves of garlic
½ inch ginger
10-12 raw cashews
2-3 green chilies
1 medium onion (diced)
½ tsp whole cumin
1 dry red chili
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
Salt and sugar to taste
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin powder
11/2 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp garam masala

Toast the cashews in a little bit of oil until they are light golden. Put the ginger, garlic and chilies with the cashews and make a paste. Set aside.

Heat some oil. Pop the whole cumin and the dry red chili (cut it into small pieces to release more flavor) until fragrant. Toss in the onion and fry until it is translucent. Add in the tomatoes and let it roast in the heat until its pulpy; add in the spinach and let it wilt. Once wilted, make a paste out of it and set aside.

Heat some more oil and add the cashew and ginger garlic paste. Cook the paste until oil is separated. Sprinkle in all the spices (except garam masala) and season well. Add the spinach paste and give it a good mixing. Toss in the chick peas and add water. I would generally leave it on a low heat and keep simmering it until oil separation but you can always opt to let it simmer for about 15minutes. Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Add the garam masala and ghee at this time. Give it a stir and serve hot with chapattis, rotis, steamed rice, etc.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Orange Chicken

The smell of fresh oranges reminds me of my childhood winters. I have grown up knowing oranges to be a special part of my winter mid morning snacks where we bask under the mellow winter sun, peel fresh oranges, and savor the fresh fruit while enjoying the juicy tart and sweetness along with a round of good gossip. While all these things remain engraved in my memory, as time went by, I started loving oranges in sweet as well as savory avatars.

I have always liked the combination of sweet and sour; because of which I completely worship orange chicken. The first time I tasted orange chicken, my mouth reacted in quite a lot of different ways. My taste buds were dancing in tune to the gorgeously syrupy and fragrant dish– the chicken was crispy and juicy, the sauce was thick, gooey, sweet and savory all at the same time. However, my palette wasn’t satisfied until I tried replicating this sunny recipe and added notes of hot chilies making it delectably gratifying for my soul. This is something I always turn to during mood swings and it has never ceased to surprise me how a simple recipe could do wonders to the forever hungry soul ;)

As far my tinkering with the recipe goes, I have added chilies for the extra push and oomph. You can always omit that step. I suggest using fresh oranges in this recipe – the end product will not be the same if you use store bought orange juice or from the carton. If you want a healthier version, don’t deep dry the chicken, instead you can just dust it with a little flour (garlic powder and salt added for seasoning) and shallow fry it.

For the Marinade:

500 grams boneless chicken thighs cut into small pieces
1 cup Orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp Garlic
1 tsp Ginger
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
I suggest marinating a day earlier, if not it needs at least 3-4 hours in the fridge. Toss in all the ingredients together, cover and leave it overnight.

For the Paste:

3-4 tbsp Flour
1 tbsp Cornflour
½ cup Milk or enough to make a slurry
1 tbsp Garlic minced
1 Egg white
Salt to taste
Make a slurry out of the ingredients and set aside.

For the Chicken:

Take the chicken pieces out of the marinade and dry them with before dipping it in the slurry and deep frying it. Fry until golden brown and check for doneness of the chicken pieces. Drain the excess oil and set it aside.

For the Sauce:

1 tbsp Oil (any flavorless oil will do)
1 tsp Ginger (minced)
1 tbsp Garlic (minced)
1 cup Orange juice (fresh)
1 tsp orange zest
½ cup chicken stock
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
3-4 tbsp Soy sauce (dark)
2 – 3 tbsp Sesame oil
2-3 tbsp Sesame seed (lightly toasted)
2 tbsp green or red chilies (chopped finely)
1 tsp corn flour (mixed with a little water)

In a pan, add the oil, chilies, ginger and garlic. Put it on low heat as we do not the garlic to burn. Once it turns golden, add the orange juice and chicken stock. Let it come to a bubble before adding the soy sauce, salt and sugar. This should be done on a high heat. Chuck in the seasonings and let it reduce to a syrupy consistency. Give it a taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.

I find it absolutely unnecessary to use the corn flour slurry as I like a very thick sauce coating the chicken. However, if you wish so, while the consistency of the sauce is still a little thin, add the corn flour slurry and make it into a nice gravy.

Once you are done with the sauce, throw in the chicken, toss it around and sprinkle the sesame seeds and zest on it. Just before taking it off the heat, drizzle the sesame oil.

Orange chicken can be eaten with just plain steamed rice, jasmine rice, fried rice or any kind of noodles. However I like to keep the integrity of the dish thereby brazenly indulge myself having it with no accompaniments.

Serve hot. Happy cooking!

Monday, 25 January 2016

Lemon Curd Tart

A very simple tart yet loaded with heaps of flavor. The sharp tartness of the lemons is contrast with the creaminess of the whipped topping. The topping, in fact, compliments the sharpness of the lemons. The bright yellowy-ness of the curd really does elevate my mood even in the bleakest of days. This dessert is wonderfully light yet lusciously creamy, flawlessly balanced with the freshness of the lemons – a perfect ending to a sumptuous meal in the summer or the most wonderful accompaniment to a cup of tea in the winter.

This is a cheat’s version of a lemon meringue pie. Tinkering with the original recipe, I have found a way to make it faster and easier. The base would be a simple biscuit base however; there is no cheating or any shortcut to making a good lemon curd. You could, of course, buy jars of lemon curd and use it instead of the fresh one. But do keep in mind; the taste is going to be altered.

I like my tart neither on the “too sweet” or “too sour” side. However, you are absolutely free to adjust the sugar or the lemon juice accordingly.

The tart tin should be 10 inches in diameter.

For the base:
200 grams digestives
100 grams melted butter

Chuck in the digestives in the food processor and whizz it. Add the melted and cooled butter into the mixture. Whizz it again to combine. Once combined, it should look malleable and somehow it does mimic “wet sand”.

Put the mixture into the tart tin and press on to the sides properly. The mixture should be spread and pressed well. Rest it in the fridge for it to set.

For the Lemon Curd:
1 cup castor sugar
150 grams butter (softened)
7 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp lemon zest
2/3rd cup lemon juice

Beat the butter, the sugar and salt until combined. Add the egg, the egg yolks and the zest and whisk until creamy. Mix the cornflour with a teaspoon of water and pour it into the egg mixture. Now add the lemon juice. Do not panic if you see the mixture splitting. It is supposed to split, just be patient, it will all come together when it is heated in a pan.

Pour the mixture in a pan and gently heat it. Make sure it’s on the lowest heat, stir continuously. After stirring for about 10 minutes, you will notice that the mixture thickens and it should coat the back of a spoon. By this time, the mixture should look very smooth. There should be no lumps. In case, if you happen to find lumps in the mixture, do not panic. Just sieve the mixture and it should work out fine.

Cover the mixture with cling film and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before using it in the tart.

For the topping:
1 cup whipping cream
2-3 tbsp icing sugar

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate at least an hour before using.

For the assembly:

Spoon the lemon curd into the tart base and spread it. Completely flatten the top so that it’s easy for the tart to hold the whipped cream in it. Put the whipped cream on it. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Lastly, I am a terrible photographer. The image does look a little lopsided but I promise the taste is not compromised..! ;-)

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Coconut Tart

Starting with "A very Happy New Year to Everyone" - this is my first recipe in this year and I thought I should start with something the I absolutely love and adore. Since my childhood, the attraction to Coconut was immensely enormous. I loved coconut in any form – sweet or savory and as long as there was coconut, I was happy and serene. I could not conclude which form of coconut I loved more -the sweet or the savory. Irrespective of its form, fresh coconut itself has its own flavor and aroma. I simply loved chewing the fresh flesh of the coconut. The mellow sweetness and sugariness of the flesh could be used in curries to give it that extra edge and depth and also could be used to make it into gorgeously delectable desserts.

I believe this tart does justice to Coconut as it is not mixed or adulterated with anything else, thereby giving it the fresh sweet coconuty taste.

The inspiration for this came from eating at a Thai Restaurant that served custard that was made with coconut milk, eggs and palm sugar. However, I modified the recipe by adding gelatin to set it and made it into a tart form making the whole process a whole lot easier.

For the Tart::

1 can coconut cream (80ml)
4-5 tbsp palm sugar/regular jaggery
150grams sweetened coconut cookies
75grams butter (softened)
2-3 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tbsp gelatin (heaped)
A loose base tart tin

Before proceeding to the tart, I would like to mention a few things about the tart. I used regular jaggery, the jaggery that is readily available in stores across in India. However, you can substitute it with palm sugar thereby deepening the flavor and the sweetness in the tart. Also, I added about 4-5 tablespoons of “liquid” jaggery – since jaggery comes with a lot of impurities, it is essential that it is liquefied by adding a little water, heating until the jaggery melts and straining it through cheesecloth. You can always choose to tinker with the sweetness a little by adding more jaggery or palm sugar to the tart.

I used a can of coconut cream as the cream has its own intense sweetness adding depths of flavor to the tart. However if you wish to make it a little lighter and less creamy in texture, I suggest using coconut milk. So that would be half a can of coconut milk and half of the coconut cream.
I don’t think this dessert needed any adornments and trimmings as I believe that presenting a slice simply would be enough to mesmerize the eater of this wonderfully gorgeous and mellowy golden dessert. If you wish to beautify it further, please toast some fresh coconut shavings and strew it across greedily! J

I know I am being terribly shameless ;) by using a can of coconut cream but you can always use fresh coconut milk and coconut cream for this recipe but using the can makes it a whole lot easy and less time consuming.

Blooming the Gelatin::

The most important step is to bloom the gelatin. Add the tablespoon of gelatin to ¼ cup of cold water and just keep it aside for few minutes. As soon as the gelatin is swollen and fat, add ¼ cup of hot water, stir vigorously until it is all melted in the heat of the boiling water and looks completely transparent. Set aside.

For the Base::

Use a food processor, throw in the biscuits and the softened butter. Whizz it until it resembles wet sand. Then put the mixture into the tart pan and press it with the back of a spoon coating every inch of the pan. Put the pan into the fridge so that the mixture hardens.

For the Cream Mixture::

Mix the palm sugar and the coconut cream until fully combined. The color should change from white-ish creamy to mellow gold/brown. Heat the mixture a little and add the liquid gelatin. Remove from heat and keep aside until it cools down a little.

Once it is of bearable temperature, fill the tart pan completely with this creamy mixture until the brink and put it back into the fridge. As the mixture cools down in the refrigerator, it will start to set.

Cut into pieces and serve cold :)