Friday, June 26, 2015

Fusilli With Cheesy Eggplant

Fusilli With Cheesy Eggplant
Fusilli with freshly-made tomato sauce and a cheesy eggplant dish
Lunch today was pasta with freshly-made tomato sauce and an eggplant dish as an accompaniment. Since we are rice-eaters other staples do not often show up on our table. My older son is home now so there is a taker for pasta. As for my husband, he will only stick to rice, dal, sabji, and fish/meat curry. I had made the same but with more accompaniments the other day when my beloved sisters, nieces and nephews spent some time with me over lunch.
My sisters (1st and 4th from left), nieces and nephews. My first-born is 3rd from right (with glasses).
I clicked this picture after lunch with almost everyone squinting in the hot afternoon sun. The menu had pasta with roast pork, cheesy eggplants, baked potatoes, and trifle pudding with mangoes that my mother had sent from her garden. With family elders it's best to stick to Indian and Dimasa cuisine.:D
Ingredients for the sauce:
6 large tomatoes (about 400 grams)
1 large onion, finely diced
8 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
Sugar and salt to taste
3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs freshly grated pepper
1 red chilli, chopped
3 tbs tomato puree(optional/I use it for making the colour more intense)

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Take out one, peel, remove the "eye' and chop roughly. Repeat with the rest.
Heat the oil in a pan. Fry the onions till translucent, add the garlic and the chopped chilli, then add the chopped tomatoes. Cook till the tomatoes soften. Add the seasonings and the sugar for the balance. Check and make adjustments if needed. As soon as the mixture looks done, take it off the heat and let it cool. The time needed for this sauce is about 15-18 minutes.
After it cools down, blitz it but not too fine.
The sauce before being blitzed
Ingredients for the Cheesy Eggplant:
1 medium eggplant
4 cheese pieces (I used Go cheese triangles)
1 egg
3 tbs vegetable oil to fry the eggplant
Salt to taste
Basil for the garnish
2 tbs tomato sauce (above)
Chop off the top end of the eggplant. Use a mandolin slicer to make thin vertical slices.
Sprinkle a bit of salt on the slices and set aside.
Break one egg in a bowl and beat it.
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg batter and fry till golden on both sides. Repeat with the rest till all the slices are used up.
Transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper. After the eggplants cool down, place one on a plate and scatter the grated cheese all across its length.
Roll up and repeat till all the fried eggplant slices are used up.
Heat a small pan and add the sauce to it. Place the rolled eggplants on the sauce. Scatter the remaining grated cheese all across. You can also pour a bit of water to the pan. Cover and let it remain on a low flame till the cheese melts. This will take about 10 minutes.
I used the sauce today as there was enough of it. On other days, I heat a pan with a bit of oil, add chopped garlic and finely chopped or grated tomatoes. This is cooked for about 5 minutes before the rolled eggplants are placed on top of the sauce. Then the grated cheese is scattered all across.The rest of the cooking remains the same.
Cheesy eggplants
The pasta:
200 grams fusilli
Grated pepper
Basil leaves
Salt
Heat water in a pan. Let it come to a rolling boil. Add 1 tsp salt and add the pasta. Boil till it's done. Check one by taking it out with a slotted spoon. Drain in a colander. (Reserve a bit of the pasta water. This comes in handy if you need to add some liquid to the sauce). 
Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and pour the sauce over it. Mix well so that each is coated with the sauce. Add grated pepper and scatter fresh basil leaves over it.



Dig in!
A satisfying meal indeed. Eggplants team up so wonderfully well with cheese. And pasta. I tried the recipe after seeing James Martin's show but with my own adaptations. Whoever tastes it says the same. That it's delicious! The basil leaves are from my pots. The plants aren't doing too well but I'm glad I could still pick a few leaves on both (pasta) occasions.:)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jackfruit Fritters


jackfruit fritters
I had been waiting for the rains to work on my plants. These past few days I was rather busy repotting my alocasias and anthuriums, and planting bahanda, a herb that we use in our cuisine. Which is why blogging took a backseat these past few days. And throughout, jamun juice has been a regular feature in my kitchen. There are just a handful left on the tree now but we've had our fill this year.
During the monsoon season, both sweet and savoury fritters are relished thoroughly. With the rain bringing down the temperature somewhat, it doesn't seem like a punishment to actually fry sweet somethings:) in hot oil. This is also the time of the year when jackfruits ripen. I used some of the flesh today to make these fritters. Ripe jackfruit has a strong and sweet smell. I love it! 
The flesh blitzed to a pulp
Ingredients:
20 'bulbs' of ripe jackfruit, seeds removed. This yielded one cup 
3 heaped tbs all-purpose flour
A quarter tsp baking powder
Sugar to taste
1 heaped tsp milk powder
Pinch of cardamom powder
Pinch of salt
Oil to fry
Blitz the jackfruit flesh to a pulp. Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Heat enough oil in the pan to fry the fritters. When the oil turns hot reduce the flame or else the fritters will brown easily but the inside portion will remain half-done. Take a teaspoon of the batter and drop it in the oil. Fry 6-7 at one time. Turn over so that the other side also turns a golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper. Repeat with the rest of the batter till the last bit is used up. This batter produced 16 fritters.


I had added about 3 teaspoons of sugar when I blitzed the flesh. Adding the cream of milk (the thick layer after boiling milk) is another good option. These fritters were delicious, crunchy on the outside and soft inside with just the right amount of sweetness. These go really well as a tea time snack.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jamun Madeleines

Jamun madeleines

With the jamun ripening it seems most appropriate to incorporate the purple fruit into more recipes. I haven't baked in a while but I didn't want something that will take days to finish or will have to given away. So these little French cakes called madeleines seemed just right. They can be very addictive too! Don't you love the purple bits on them? The birds have also been very active on the jamun tree. None of the exotic ones but the common sparrows and mynas.

The recipe, by Rebecca Franklin, for these cakes are from my earlier post here but I made a few adjustments because of the fruit. Madeleines are small sponge cakes made in shell-shaped moulds. They are said to have originated in Commercy and Liverdun, two communes of the Lorraine region in north-eastern France. I have used jamun in cakes and muffins before but this is my first with madeleines.
Jamun has a slight acidic and astringent taste. So it's best to leave it to macerate with the addition of sugar and lemon juice. 

Ingredients for 12 madeleines:
(I made them in two batches as my tin has only six "shells")
1/2 cup butter, melted+extra for greasing the tin
2/3 cup fine sugar+ extra for adding to the fruit
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1tsp lemon juice
15 jamun
3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbs icing sugar
Jamun madeleines
Ready to be baked
Start with the fruit and choose the ripest ones as they are the sweetest.Remove the seeds by holding the ripe fruit between thumb and index finger. The flesh will separate from the seed easily.
Discard the seeds. Mash the fruit a bit using your fingers, add about a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Mix well and leave to macerate in its juices for about an hour. The colour will turn more intense by then.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and keep aside.
Cream the butter and fine sugar till the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one by one till well-combined and the mixture looks lighter in colour. Add the vanilla paste and the zest of lemon.
Gently fold in the flour/baking powder into the egg mixture.
Add the macerated fruit and its juices. Fold in.
Once the batter is smooth, cover it and keep it in the refrigerator for two hours.
Grease the madeleine moulds really well so that you the cakes will come off easily from the tin.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Take the batter out of the fridge and spoon the mixture into the mould. Bake for about 15-20 minutes till they are puffed and golden brown.
Jamun madeleines

Remove and cool on a wire rack. Before serving, dust the cakes with icing sugar.
These cakes taste best the day they are made.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lasia Spinosa

 
During the rainy season, one of the delights of buying vegetables is that many are sourced from the wild. Foraging is still a way of life for many in our region. Whenever we travel to our hometown, we stop at tiny village markets and buy a lot of local produce. These are all organically grown. Pesticides and fertilizers are not used and all they use are fallen leaves, cow manure and ash. The smell and the taste of the same vegetables are so refreshingly different from the ones we get here within the city.
Vegetables foraged during this season include a variety of mushrooms, vegetable fern, bamboo shoots, alpinia nigra, colocasia and the one shown in the picture, Lasia spinosa. This is a plant that is sourced from its habitat. In my mother tongue, it is known as "shidubu". It grows near water bodies and can grow up to 2m. This perennial plant is native to temperate and tropical Asia from China to India, Vietnam and Indonesia. The young leaves and stalks are used as a vegetable
The rhizomes are used for various treatments such as treating tuberculosis of lymph nodes, stomach aches, swollen lymph nodes, snake and insect bites, injuries and rheumatism. Source.
Curry of lasia spinosa, potatoes & dried fish
This recipe will serve 4.
3 whole dried fish, medium-size
1 bunch of lasia spinosa
2 potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise
2 large onions, finely grated
2-3 tejpatta
A quarter tsp mustard seeds
7-8 cloves of garlic, ground
1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and ground
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbs coriander powder
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
6-7 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tomatoes, eyes removed and sliced fine
Salt to taste
4 tbs mustard oil Serrated coriander for the garnish

The dried fish:
Cut into 11/2" pieces and place in a bowl.  Heat about 2 cups of water in a pan. When it gets warm (you should be able to put your hand in the water), switch off the flame. Pour this water on the fish. Soak for 2-3 minutes. This makes it easier to remove any dirt and some remaining fish scales. Rub the pieces with your fingers checking for any sandy residue. Wash the fish pieces under running water and drain in a colander.
Remove from the colander and rub some turmeric powder on the fish pieces. I am not adding salt here as a lot of salt is used on the fish during the drying process. While cooking the curry we have to keep this in mind.
Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, reduce the flame a little and fry the fish pieces for 2-3 minutes, a few at a time.  Remove and set aside.
The vegetables:
Place the peeled and cut potatoes in a bowl of water so that they do not turn brown.
Remove the leaves of the lasia by breaking off the leaves from the stalks with your hands.
Take each stalk and break off into similar lengths till the point where it breaks easily.
Wash the leaves and the stalks and keep aside.
The cooking:
Heat the pan where the fish was fried earlier. Check to see if another tbs of oil might need to be added.
When it turns hot, throw in the tejpatta and the whole mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds sputter, add the onions. Cook till they change colour then add the rest of the spices.
Add the potatoes and stir well so that they are coated with the spices.
When the potatoes are half done, add the lasia. Cook for another 20 minutes stirring in between.  Add a bit of water so that the vegetables and the spices do not catch at the bottom. Lasia is not like spinach and will not turn really soft even after it is cooked. The texture is more like a variety of clerodendrum that we consume, the East Indian Glory Bower.
Add the sliced tomatoes and cook till they turn soft. Season with salt. But be careful here. You might need only a pinch of it.
Add about 11/2 cups of hot water. When it comes to the boil, gently add the fried fish pieces. Cook for another 5-6 minutes. Remove from the flame.
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped serrated coriander.
This goes best with rice.
Braised lasia spinosa
Lasia spinosa can also be plunged in boiling water before cooking. In that case the duration of cooking will be reduced. If it is boiled you will see a thread-like substance (much like the ones from cut banana stems) on the vegetable. This will have to be removed before cooking.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jamun Juice

Jamun juice
Jamun juice
June is when the jamun/Indian blackberry ripens on my tree. I look forward to this season because the possibilities of using home-grown fruit are endless. Every year I'm adding a new recipe with these gorgeous-looking purple fruits. But one that I make more often than the rest is the juice. It's beautiful and very refreshing.
The berries begin to ripen in the first week of June
The small, creamy fragrant blooms appear in the end of March/early April. It's joy to see myriad pollinators feeding on the blooms. The green fruits first turn to pink and then to a deep purple. The picture above was taken on June 4. But by now many hundreds have been picked and given to near and dear ones. The birds feast on them and fallen berries go into my compost pit.
The first picking
Ingredients for 2-3 glasses depending on how thick you want the juice to be.
40-45 jamun
Salt to taste
Sugar as per taste
Lemon juice
Mint for the garnish
Freshly grated black pepper
Water
Jamun juice

Choose the ripest of them all as they are the sweetest. Wash them. Place one between your thumb and index finger. Twist your fingers so that the seed comes out easily. Continue with the rest of the berries. Put them in a blender and blitz.
Transfer to a jug. Add fine sugar, salt, lemon juice, water and grated pepper. I'm not adding the measurements here as you can check the taste and adjust accordingly. If you like you could also add a dash of toasted and ground cumin seeds. Chill for about an hour. Serve by adding a lemon slice and sprigs of mint in each glass. Enjoy!

You might be interested in my old posts here about:-
Jamun jam
Jamun Season
I tend to go ga-ga every year!!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Echor Chingri/Curried Raw Jackfruit With Prawns

Echor chingri
Echor chingri
Along with the gourds, this season is for using raw jackfruit as a vegetable and cooking the same into various dishes. I have never really delved into variety regarding this fruit mainly because they are large, and there are no takers in our house. So it's usually a once or twice-a-year thing. But on our last trip one of the gifts that came along with us were a couple of raw jackfruits. I gave one to my sister-in-law and cooked the other into a much-loved Bengali curry. The idea came from Rupa (do check out my post here) and I couldn't wait to cook it. I wasn't even aware of the fact that jackfruit is also cooked with prawns. Known as echor (raw tender jackfruit) in Bengali, this is popular during this time of the year. The ripened fruit is known as kathal.

Since jackfruit does feature on our table once in a blue moon I cooked it my regular way. The only difference was in adding the fried prawns. With jackfruit, cutting it is a little messy. I prefer to use a banana leaf to do the needful by placing it on my work top. It is easier to scoop up the discarded portions later. Newspapers can be used instead of banana leaves. Since the fruit oozes a gummy latex when cut, it is best to oil your hands and even your knife. The hard portion right in the middle needs to be removed and the thick rind peeled. Then the fruit is cut into bite-size pieces and boiled till half-done. Here are some facts from Wiki. 100 grams of raw jackfruit provides about 95 calories and is a good source of antioxidant vitamin C. Jackfruit seeds are rich in protein. The fruit is also rich in vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, and iron.

Ingredients:
Raw jackfruit, about 450 grams (I didn't use the entire fruit)
250 grams fresh prawns, cleaned/shells removed
3 medium onions, finely grated
8 cloves of garlic, ground
1 thumb-size ginger, ground
1 tbs coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp cumin seeds,               "
5 green chillies, scored lengthwise
1 tsp red chilli powder
A quarter tsp turmeric powder + extra for the prawns
Salt to taste + extra for the prawns
1 tsp pepper, ground
1/3 cup tomato puree
Pinch of sugar for the balance
3-4 tejpatta 
A quarter tsp cumin seeds 
4 tbs vegetable oil
Garam masala made by soaking and grinding:
3-4 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
4 green cardamom pods
Coriander leaves for the garnish
Echor chingri

I have written about the method of cutting the fruit in the above section of my post.
Method:
Heat about 6 cups of water. Add some salt and add the jackfruit pieces.
Boil till half-done. Remove from the flame and drain in a colander.
Add a touch of salt and turmeric powder to the prawns. Mix well.
Heat the oil in a pan. Fry the prawns for about 2-3 minutes and remove. Set aside.
In the same oil, add the tejpatta and the cumin seeds. As soon as they sputter, add the onions.
Add the green chillies, the garlic/ginger pastes and the turmeric powder. Keep adding the rest of the spices except the garam masala.
Sprinkle a tad bit of water to the pan to keep the dry spices from burning. Season with salt.
Add the tomato puree and the sugar. By now the masala will start to look good.
Add the boiled and drained jackfruit pieces. Stir well so that all the pieces are coated with the spice mix.
Continue to cook till the vegetable is almost done. This will take about 20 minutes. It should be soft but not mushy.
Add about 11/2 cups of hot water. Continue till the gravy is slightly reduced.
Add the fried prawns, stir and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Add the garam masala and stir well.
Take it off the heat and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
You can also add some ghee to the dish as it gives a really good flavour. This goes best with rice and also with rotis.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Stuffed Teasel Gourds

Stuffed teasel gourd
Stuffed teasel gourds
This is the season when gourds flood the markets. And one that seems to be everyone's favourite is the teasel gourd. It's from a climber with tuberous roots. The leaves are soft and edible. In fact the tender leaves and shoots cook easily and is somewhat like spinach. Also known as the spiny gourd, the 'spines' are actually soft. Called hangathai in my mother tongue and bhat kerela in Assamese, the vegetable is rich in carotene, protein and vitamin C. These gourds are eaten as fresh as one can get them. The taste is mild. When they ripen, just like the bitter gourds, they turn yellow and the seed encasings, a bright red.

In winter the vine dies but with the first rains, the new leaves appear. It needs a support and even a small trellis, or bamboo, smaller branches of trees make a good support for this plant. Once I had wanted to make palak paneer in the month of July. But spinach wasn't easily available during that time of the year in the 90s. But I had the vines in my backyard and I used the tender leaves for the dish. It worked like a dream!
Teasel gourd/leaves, the ripened fruit and the flower
Before we left for the weekend I had made some stuffed gourds. The gourds can be stuffed with any filling of your choice but I made the simplest form using two medium boiled potatoes.
Ingredients:
5 tender teasel gourds
2 medium boiled potatoes
1 large grated onion
2 cloves of garlic, ground
A tiny piece of ginger, grated
3 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp coriander & cumin powder
Pinch of turmeric
Pinch of whole cumin seeds
Salt to taste
A small bunch of chopped coriander leaves
Vegetable oil to fry+ extra for frying the filling
For the batter:
4 tbs chickpea flour
1 tbs rice flour
Pinch of turmeric
Pinch of chilli powder
Pinch of salt
Chopped spring onions for the garnish

Lightly peel off the 'bristles'. It doesn't make any difference to the taste but looks neater. Heat about 3 cups of water in a pan and boil the gourds till half-done. Remove from the flame and drain in a colander.
When the vegetables cool down, cut each one in half lengthwise.
Take a small sharp knife and run it along the edge where the skin and the flesh meet. This makes it easier to scoop out the gourdy innards with a spoon.
Repeat with the rest of the gourds. Set the shells aside and finely chop the scooped-out parts.
Peel and dice the potatoes. Heat 2 tbs oil in a pan and add the whole cumin seeds.
When they sputter, add the grated onions. Fry till they change colour, add the chopped chillies then add the rest of the spices.
Add the chopped scooped-out pieces of gourd and the diced potatoes. Season with salt.
Cook till the vegetables are done. Remove and add the chopped coriander. Mix well and set aside to cool.
Prepare the batter by mixing the two kinds of flour, the powdered spices, salt and a bit of water.
After the filling cools down, fill each shell with the prepared stuffing.
Heat enough oil in a pan. Dip one stuffed gourd in the batter and fry it in the hot oil.
2-3 gourds can be fried at the same time. Fry till one side is golden. Turn and fry on the other side.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with absorbent paper.
Repeat with the rest. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with chopped herbs.
This goes best with rice, dal and maybe another accompaniment. The extra crunch came from the rice flour and the filling was just right. I might soon be making more stuffed gourds but with a different filling.