Monday, May 25, 2015

Guacamole

Guacamole

It's not very often that I buy avocados. First of all they are not available in the markets that are closer to our house. And I never go too far for my usual kitchen ingredients. But when I am in Delhi (like now) it's so much easier to get the foods of the world even without venturing out too far. Avocados are grown in some pockets in India but I think it will be a while before we see them in our markets the way we see  mangoes, oranges, or apples.

Avocados, also known as alligator pears, are said to be one of the healthiest foods in the world as they contain more than 25 essential nutrients. I have tried only a few recipes with the fruit but guacamole is my all-time favourite. We had it with corn chips yesterday.
Ingredients:
1 ripe avocado
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 green chilli, diced with seeds intact
Half of a medium-sized tomato, diced fine
1 small bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped (leave some aside for the garnish)
Salt to taste
The juice of 1 lemon (I used the small round variety)
Guacamole

Wash the avocado. Cut along the length of the fruit on both sides.
Hold and gently twist so that it comes apart in the middle. Remove the seed.
With a spoon, scoop out the flesh and transfer to a bowl. Don't leave any of the darker green flesh next to the skin as that's where most of the nutrients are.
Mash with a fork, add salt and lemon juice. I used a fork as I didn't want a fine texture in the dip.
Add the other diced ingredients and mix well. I created the patterns on top by running a fork.
Add a few leaves of coriander as a final garnish.
Bring on the chips! Enjoy!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dal Cooked With Okra/Dal Jang Bhendi

Dal with okra
Red lentils cooked with okra
A wonderful way of cooking seasonal vegetables is to add them to a pot of dal. In smaller portions than what you would usually add to a vegetable curry. Till today adding certain vegetables like bottle gourd or okra takes me to the garden of my childhood. And okra has a distinct aroma that seems to get lost in frying but remains when it is steamed or added to dal. 
From top, clockwise: Teasle gourd, sponge gourd, radish/kohl rabi and bottle gourd
The list that gets cooked this way is long. Here are some of them: squash/chayote, teasle gourd, fresh bamboo shoots, ridge/sponge gourd, radish, carrots, turnips, green papaya, kohl rabi, drumsticks,the stems of amaranth and Malabar spinach. Leafy vegetables that are added are the tender stems/leaves of pumpkin, bottle gourd, drumstick leaves, spinach, radish leaves, vegetable fern and so on.
Dal with bottle gourd leaves (cooked on another day)
Today I made this variation of dal with okra. It's the simplest form of cooking but something that I enjoy particularly during this hot season.
Ingredients:
100 grams masur dal/red lentil, washed and soaked for 15 minutes
12 small-sized okras, washed, patted dry with cloth with both ends cut off

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped               
3 tejpatta  
A quarter tsp of cumin and fenugreek seeds
3-4 dried red chillies   
Salt to taste
A quarter tsp turmeric
A quarter tsp red chilli powder
A pinch of grated ginger
Coriander leaves for the garnish

Cook the dal in a pan adding enough water. In a separate pan heat the oil.  When it comes to smoking point add the tejpatta, the cumin and fenugreek seeds, and the dry red chillies. Then add the onions and fry till they turn golden brown. Add the okra and stir well.  The turmeric powder and red chilli powder can go in now. Continue to cook till they are almost done. Season with salt. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for a few minutes. Then pour the cooked dal into the pan and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the stove and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with the chopped herbs.
Alternately, the okra can be added to dal that is on the boil and almost done. Then the tadka of onions, tomatoes, chillies and spices can be added to the dal. 
A squeeze of lemon juice (on individual plates/bowls) adds that extra zing to this dish of okra cooked in masur dal. We like it best with rice and other accompaniments.
 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ricotta & Chocolate Hand Pies

Ricotta & chocolate hand pies
Ricotta & chocolate hand pies
For years my day started with a cup of tea with milk and sugar. Strong Assam tea and Everyday dairy milk. But seeing my boys switch over to green tea I have also done the same. It's been two months since I switched over to green tea. It wasn't easy and it took time to get used to the new taste. And the feel-good factor is that my sugar intake has been cut down to a large extent. But sometimes the craving for something sweet comes. Like today.

I looked at what I had in stock and the idea for these hand pies struck me. I had some dark cooking chocolate, a bit of white chocolate chips and a tub of ricotta. Why not combine all the three into a filling for pastry? I got on with the pastry. The tub contained 250 grams of the soft cheese from Flanders dairy.
For the pastry:
50 grams chilled butter, cubed
120 grams flour
1 small egg
Break the egg in a small bowl and set aside. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub it into the flour till the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and mix gently till the dough comes together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for about 40 minutes.
The filling
The filling:
250 grams ricotta
Dark chocolate cut into chunks
2 tbsp white chocolate chips
Whisk the ricotta till smooth. Add the chocolate and chill the mixture as you roll the pastry.
Take the dough out. I used the lid of a kitchen container to make equal-sized discs.
Roll out the pastry into a circle. Put a spoonful of filling on one side. Wet the edges with water, fold and press the edges. You can either use a fork or crimp the edges.
Repeat with the rest of the dough. Make two to three cuts on the top for the steam to escape.
Before applying the egg-wash
Line a tray with greaseproof paper or foil. Place the pies on it and chill for another 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Take out the prepared tray and brush the hand pies with egg-wash and bake for twenty minutes or till they turn golden brown.
Remove and cool on a wire rack.
This turned out to be a lovely snack. With just the right amount of sweetness. It was all by eye and no exact measurements were taken for the chocolate.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Enchiladas!




Enchiladas with a filling of chicken & carrots
Another recipe that I had kept putting off for later was the very popular Mexican dish, enchilada. But yesterday with some bony bits of chicken going into a heavy-bottomed pan with onions, garlic, pepper, coriander and carrots and simmering away for more than an hour, I knew it had to go into another level of deliciousness. And the thought of the dish I had at my friend, Smita's place, came to mind. She had made the maida/maize flour rotis so no ready-made tortillas for this one either. I made rotis with 2 parts all-purpose flour and 1 part maize flour. I also had a new pretty baking dish gifted by another friend, Ajita, when I had gone over to her place here in Delhi the other day for lunch. The only thing left to do was to assemble the ingredients. Wasn't I glad I started a day earlier!
The sauce:
I got one and a half cups of stock from the leisurely cooking but to add more ingredients to it, I fried up a large chopped onion and two blanched and chopped tomatoes. 2 teaspoons of red chilli powder went into the pan. Then I added about half a cup of water to it and cooked it for a while. This was strained and added to the stock. With so much flavour in the liquid the only other thing left was to thicken it. So I heated up two tablespoons of olive oil, added 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour and cooked till the raw smell went off. Then I added the stock (remember all the ingredients that went into it) and let the mixture get a little thick. Then I transferred it to a bowl where it was  left to cool.
Enchilada

The tortillas:
Place 1 cup flour and 1/cup maize flour in a bowl. Drizzle about a tablespoon of oil, add a pinch of salt and knead to a soft dough by adding lukewarm water. Set aside for about 10 minutes covered with cloth.
Divide the dough into 8. Roll out into a medium-sized roti and cook in a tawa till done on both sides. Brush with a bit of olive oil. Repeat with the rest of the 7 rotis.
The filling:
1 cup of chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup of carrots, picked from the stock earlier just when they turned soft
2 tbsp of the strained onion/tomato mixture from the making of the sauce
Pinch of pepper
Salt to taste
A quarter tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp olive oil
Leaving aside the oil and the carrots from this list, mix the rest with the chicken pieces. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the chicken in it till cooked through. Remove from the stove and set aside.
Enchilada
The filling/folding & the scattering of cheese
The cheese:
I used Cheddar. Grate a cup of the cheese and set aside till needed.
Assembling:
Preheat the oven at 180C as you get on with the assembly. Grease the baking dish lightly with oil.
Take one roti and spread a teaspoon of sauce on its surface. Add a few carrot discs, a few pieces of chicken and some grated cheese. Fold the roti and place it on the baking dish with the seam side down. Repeat with the rest of the rotis till all the filling is used up. Pour the remaining sauce all over. Scatter the rest of the cheese all across. (I felt that there should have been more sauce but there was none left. So I sprinkled some water on the exposed portions of the rotis).
Bake for about 15-20 minutes till the cheese melts and the sauce bubbles away merrily.
Remove and let it cool down. Garnish with coriander leaves before serving.
Enchilada
Just out of the oven!
These were exactly how I thought they would be. I was a little worried about the sauce, the quantity I mean but it was still good. Worth every bit of effort to make a wholesome and delicious meal like these enchiladas!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dal With Spinach & Grilled Paneer


I was leafing through an old issue of Good Food magazine and came across a recipe that I liked. Looking at the photo I felt that something so simple could still be made with a little twist and get a whole new look. Dal is a staple in most Indian homes and we also like to add all kinds of vegetables and leafy greens in it. Chunky pieces of bottle gourd, tender stems of amaranth and other leafy greens, drumsticks, teasle gourds, all happily find their way into my pot of dal. But this one had paneer, not cooked with it but it was added in the end. Here goes...although the recipe is from the magazine, I made a few adaptations.
Ingredients:
1 cup arhar dal/pigeon peas
1 tbsp olive oil
1 crushed and chopped garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped
A quarter tsp grated ginger
1 medium tomato, chopped
Pinch of roasted and ground cumin powder
Pinch of turmeric
Salt to taste
1 green chilli, scored lengthwise
100 grams spinach leaves, washed and drained
Coriander leaves for the garnish
200 grams paneer, cubed
Spice rub for the paneer (optional) I used a mix of ginger and garlic

Wash and soak the dal for about 10 minutes. Cook in very little water in a pressure cooker till one whistle goes off. The dal must not be mushy.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions, garlic, chilli, and ginger. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes and the other spices. Season with salt. When the tomatoes are cooked, add the spinach leaves and cook till they wilt. This will take about 2 minutes.
Add the cooked dal and give it a gentle stir. Take it off the heat.

Heat the oven to 200C. Rub the paneer cubes with the spices and place them on a tray lined with a baking sheet. Grill for about 7 minutes turning once in between.
Divide the dal between 2 bowls and top with the grilled paneer.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

This went very well with whole-wheat rotis that I made by adding yeast. The recipe in the magazine had red lentils and coconut milk. The lentils were cooked unlike how dal is usually cooked but I'm happy with my dish.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chicken & Baby Corn Pot Pies

I started making pot pies fairly recently and I love them! For years I had this thing about pastry. I always felt that it was time-consuming. But thank goodness all that has changed. Partly it was watching the food shows that transformed my thoughts. Now I derive such joy from the entire process. Coming back to pot pies isn't it wonderful that a bit of this and a bit of that, and there's enough to fill the 'pot' and belly!:) I made these the other day. I thought of using up the chicken and the corn but ended up adding two more kinds of vegetables. The recipe below serves 2.

Ingredients:
1 cup cooked boneless chicken pieces
1 punnet baby corn
1 carrot, diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small bunch spinach, washed, drained and torn
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, diced
1 & 1/2 cups well-seasoned chicken stock
4 cubes of Amul cheese, grated
1 tbs flour to thicken the gravy
A bit of milk to add to the flour
2 tbs olive oil 
1 beaten egg (for the egg wash)
For the crust, I used left-over pastry dough that I had made earlier for another recipe.
The filling cools down
Wash and cut the baby corn on the diagonal.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions. Cook till translucent.
Add the potatoes,carrots and the baby corn.
Season with salt and pepper but go easy on the salt as the stock will be added later. Add the spinach.
Cook till almost done and then add the chicken pieces.
Pour the stock and let it come to a boil.
When the gravy is slightly reduced (this will take about 5 minutes), make a paste of the flour with a bit of milk and add to the pan.
Give it a good stir and take it off the flame. Add the grated cheese, stir, and let it cool.
While it cools down, take the dough out of the fridge. 
Preheat the oven at 180C. Transfer the filling to 2 ramekins.
Roll out the pastry circles a little bigger than the pie dishes.
Cover the dish with one pastry circle. Press the edges inwards. Create patterns with a fork on the edges or any pattern you might like. With the remains of the dough I made a border as well as the "knobs" for the "lids". The border was brushed with egg on the underside to help it stick. The same was done with the "knobs".
Make one or two cuts on the surface with a knife for the steam to escape.
Brush the crust with beaten egg. Repeat the same process with the other one.
Bake for 30 minutes or till the crust is golden.
The smells that filled the kitchen made us even hungrier! A most satisfying dish...for baking as well as for eating!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mozzarella Fritters With Spicy Tomato Chutney

Mozzarella fritters

I had been wondering how to make the best use of the mozzarella that I still had in the fridge. So it was back to good old Google images and the one about frying them appealed to me the most. There are so many variations but I kept it basic.
Ingredients:

3 balls of mozzarella
1 tbs flour
Salt
Pepper...both as per taste
1 egg, beaten
Panko breadcrumbs (I used about 80 grams)
Olive oil to fry
Tear the balls into four pieces.
Transfer the flour to a shallow dish and season it with salt and pepper.
Coat the mozzarella with the flour then dip each ball in the beaten egg.
Roll them in the breadcrumbs and place on a greaseproof lined tray.
Chill in the fridge for about two hours.
Heat the oil in a pan. It should be about 3", enough to deep fry the fritters.
Once the oil is hot, keep the flame on medium and fry a few at a time.
Remove with a slotted spoon when golden brown on all sides.
Place them on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Only the basic seasoning was used in the fritters. The spice was in this:
Mozzarella fritters with spicy tomato chutney

Spicy Tomato Chutney
3 tomatoes, ripe but firm
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 level tsp red chilli powder
A pinch of black pepper, freshly grated
A quarter tsp cumin powder (toasted and ground)
Salt to taste
Sugar for the balance
2 tbs olive oil
A small bunch of basil leaves
Blanch the tomatoes. Peel, remove eyes and roughly chop them up. 
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions and fry till they change colour.
Add the garlic and the tomatoes.
Cook till the tomatoes turn mushy then add the rest of the seasoning/spices.
When the chutney looks done, remove from the fire.
Add the basil leaves, some torn and some chopped up.

The fritters went very well with the chutney. But with some of them, the coating wasn't good enough and the cheese oozed out. I'll be more careful next time.  Deep-fried food isn't something that I do often but with an ingredient as special as this, it calls for a little indulgence.