Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tendli Kajubi Upkari/Ivy Gourd With Cashewnuts


Tendli kajubi upkari
Among all the gourd varieties that are so abundant around this season, I haven't yet included the Ivy gourd/Coccinea grandis. This tiny vegetable which looks like a smaller version of the Pointed gourd, goes by many names. In Assam it is known as kunduli and in other parts of the country it is known as kunduru, tendli, or kovakayya. The vegetable is said to be rich in beta carotene.
It does taste a bit like cucumber. The inside is filled with seeds but they turn soft as they cook. The exterior has a bit of bite left even after the cooking is done. When these gourds start to ripen, the outside portion remains green. It's only when you cut them, you see the orange colour inside. When fully ripe they turn a vivid red.
Today's recipe is from an earlier issue of Good Food magazine where some lovely recipes are by Akshata Karkaria on Saraswat cuisine. I wanted to try it as it's different from the usual spices that I use. The recipe does not include ginger, garlic or onions. I have used all the ingredients as per the recipe but cut down on the quantity. This recipe will serve3-4.
Ingredients:
2 tsp oil
A quarter tsp mustard seeds
A quarter tsp asafoetida
10-12 curry leaves
3-4 red chillies, scored lengthwise, seeds intact
300 grams ivy gourd
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (for the colour)
A handful of cashews, halved
1 tsp jaggery (I used jaggery powder)
Salt as per taste
Tendli kajubi upkari
Method:
Wash the gourds and remove both ends. Halve them vertically and cut each half into three. Set aside.
Heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds and as soon as they sputter add the red chillies, asafoetida and the curry leaves.
Add the prepared vegetable and the cashews and mix well.
Add the chilli powder. Mix well.
Stir in the jaggery and the salt and cover with a lid. Cook for 12-15 minutes.
Sprinkle a bit of water if it catches at the bottom.
Remove the lid and let the dish remain on the flame for a few more minutes.
The tendli kajubi upkari is now ready to be transferred to a serving dish.
This preparation goes best with chapatis or puris.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pasta Pie

Pasta pie
Pasta pie
One pie that I had wanted to bake for a pretty long time was a pasta pie. An attempt a while ago turned out to be a little dry and I wasn't satisfied with the outcome. But yesterday I tried it again and I was pretty happy with it. For the filling I used about 2 cups of elbow macaroni.

I used some lovely red tomatoes for this simple sauce. Other ingredients were shredded chicken and half a dozen chicken sausages.
My flower-shaped tin, well-behaved speckled pastry, & the filling
I have had this flower-shaped mould for donkey's years and I don't remember when it got burnt so badly that no amount of cleaning will ever remove the scars. But it still remains one of my favourites. Cakes look so much prettier in this tin when you turn them upside down.
Ingredients for the pastry:
100 grams cold butter, cubed
220 grams all-purpose flour
1 large egg + extra for the egg wash
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
Add the pepper and the thyme  to the flour. Mix well.
Rub the butter into the flour till the mixture turns crumbly.
Break  the egg  into the dough and bring it together. If you feel that the mix needs a little more moisture, sprinkle some iced water.
Flatten the dough, wrap it in clingfilm, and chill it for at least 40 minutes or overnight.
The stages of making the tomato sauce
The sauce:
9 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 large onions, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic,diced
2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp red chilli powder
Salt & sugar to taste
2 tbs olive oil
Heat the oil in a pan. Fry the onions till the colour changes. Throw in the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes. Add the chilli powder and cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and add the sugar for the balance. Check for any adjustments before taking the pan off the heat. Set aside.
I usually do not add two large onions to this quantity of tomatoes but the filling had to be full of flavour!
The pasta:
2 cups pasta
Salt to taste
Boil water in a pan. Throw in the pasta and add the salt. Remove when it's almost done. The pasta should be firm and not mushy. Drain in a colander.
The rest of the filling:
1 cup well-seasoned shredded chicken
6 chicken sausages, chopped and fried with 
1 chopped onion
100 grams herbed cheese, grated
Cooked vegetables & about 2 tbs chicken stock (optional)
Transfer the drained pasta to a bowl. Pour the sauce and mix well. Add the shredded chicken and the sausages with the onions. I also added some beans and carrots that had been cooked in chicken stock earlier. I added two tablespoons of that as I didn't want the filling to be dry. Add the grated cheese and give it a good mix.
Before and after pictures. No flipping done as yet.
Grease the tin and set aside.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out a little bigger than the size of the tin. Press on the edges and cut off the overhanging extra dough.
Add the filling but don't pile it high as the pie will be turned upside down later. Think about a flat even bottom.
Roll another round disc as big as the tin and cover the pie with it. Wet the edges with water or egg and press so that the border is sealed. Prick with a fork for the steam to escape.
Brush with egg and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes or till it turns golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes.

Flipped it...ready for the egg wash and some more oven heat
Flip it on a baking tray and brush the surface (which was the bottom earlier) with egg and put it back in the still-hot oven for 5 minutes.
Remove and cool.

Cut into wedges and enjoy!
All the filling did not go into this pie. There was some left and I made two small pies with lattice tops. No pictures were taken as my attention was on this one.:)
Adding the vegetables and a bit of the stock made the filling better. The filling remained moist. This has been a most-satisfying pie-baking session. The moment I cut a wedge I knew it was going to taste wonderful. And as I tasted the first bite, I couldn't stop smiling....

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pork Rendang

Pork rendang
There are some dishes that you fall in love with even without getting to taste them. This is the effect rendang had on me when I first saw it on TV. It was on my eternally favourite channel, Fox Life. Since then I have made it a few times, blogged about it once but it's only now that I used all the ingredients that the recipe asked for. Of course with some minor adaptations here and there. 
I had never grown galangal before and my first attempt to grow from them store-bought ones (in Delhi) was not successful. The second time the shoot sprouted fast and I now have a small clump with beautiful foliage flourishing in one of my pots.  
I looked up Wiki and here are some facts about rendang:
Rendang is a spicy meat dish which originated from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia and is now commonly served across the country. One of the characteristic foods of Minangkabau culture, it is served at ceremonial occasions and to honour guests. Rendang is also served among the Malay community in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Southern Philippines. In 2011 an online poll by 35,000 people held by CNN International chose rendang as the No.1 dish of their World's 50 Most Delicious Foods (Readers' Pick) list.
Most of the ingredients used in my pork rendang
Traditionally the recipe is made with beef and culinary experts often describe it as "West Sumatran caramelised beef curry". I have used pork in this recipe. In my earlier post I used chicken. I is said that a bit of fat in the meat makes this dish tastier.
This recipe has been adapted from SBS Food Safari in an episode that featured Malaysian cuisine.
800 g pork, cut into regular bite-size pieces
1 star anise
1 stick cinnamon broken into two
10 dried chillies, soaked
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
3 cm piece galangal, chopped
1 lemon grass stalk, finely chopped
1 thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
7-8 garlic cloves
3 tbs vegetable oil
1" piece fresh turmeric
1 tender turmeric leaf
6-7 lime leaves
2 tbs curry powder ( I used a mix of toasted and ground cumin and coriander)
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coarsely grated pepper
2 tsp thick soya sauce
Salt to taste
3 cups water
Half a cup of dried coconut
1 cup thick coconut milk

Galangal flowers bloomed this June and attracted a lot of bees
 
Galangal (left) & lemon grass

Wash the meat and set aside.
Put the soaked chillies, ginger, turmeric, galangal, lemon grass, garlic, and sliced onions in a blender and blitz to a paste adding the water from the soaked chillies.
Roll up the turmeric and lime leaves together and slice them fine.
Toast the dried coconut pieces and grind them using a mortar and pestle.
Heat the oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, throw in the star anise and the cinnamon stick.
Then add the ground spices and the chopped leaves. Fry for about 5 minutes then add the meat.
Add the curry powder,the pepper and chilli powder and cook till the oil separates. Add tiny amounts of water in between so that the curry does not catch at the bottom. Season with salt.
Add the ground coconut and continue to cook till the meat is tender. This will take a little more than an hour.
Add the coconut milk and simmer for another 10 minutes. The rendang is now ready to be taken off the flame and served on a platter.
Garnish with coriander leaves. This goes best with rice.
Pork rendang

Although I have cooked rendang before, I did not have all the ingredients at hand. But now I have galangal and lemon grass in my potted garden. Other ingredients that I could use from my garden are turmeric and lime leaves as well as the two coconuts. One that dried in the shell and the other which was fresh. I grated the latter to extract the milk. This is a curry that has a wonderful heavenly taste and so very fragrant. When I first cooked it I thought that the spices would be a little overpowering. But adding the coconut milk balances the taste so beautifully. It becomes perfect! I'm likely to cook rendang in a bigger quantity the next time we have guests over.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sausage-stuffed Buns


Sausage-stuffed buns
Sausage-stuffed buns
I have been baking a lot lately, mainly with yeast. But stuffed buns were something I had never attempted before. I started experimenting recently and was very happy with the outcome. For breakfast, at teatime, or as an anytime snack, these stuffed buns are fantastic! They are good on their own but I make hummus pretty regularly now and I often reach for the jar in the fridge when I snack on a stuffed bun.
The measurement that I use is enough for 8-10 buns. Today I used a packet of very well-seasoned smoked pork sausages. There were six in a packet so the rest of the remaining dough were made into round buns and with no stuffing. But they'll surely not see the light of another day...
Ingredients:
1 level tbs dried yeast
1 tsp fine sugar
A quarter tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 level tsp dried thyme
Olive oil
1 tbs black sesame seeds
1 egg for the egg wash
For the filling:
Vegetable oil
1 packet sausages, thawed and fried
2 sliced onions, fried to a golden brown
Sausage-stuffed buns
The different stages of making these buns
Heat 1 cup of water. You should be able to dip your finger in it.
Add the yeast and the sugar in a bowl. The sugar will activate the yeast.
Pour the water, give it a stir and set aside till the mixture froths up. This may take about ten minutes.
Transfer the flour to a large bowl. Add the dried herbs and mix. Drizzle the oil on the mixture. I must have used about 3 tablespoons. Make a well in the centre. Pour the yeast and start to mix. Sprinkle some salt and mix again. Tip the contents on your worktop and knead for about 10 minutes.
Grease a bowl and transfer the soft and pliable dough into it. Cover with a kitchen towel and put it in a warm place till the dough doubles in size. This will take about an hour.
Knead the dough lightly for a few minutes then shape them into balls. Take one ball and dust your rolling board with flour. Roll out the dough large enough to hold the sausage. Smaller shapes look better but I happened to have the longer sausages.
Sausage-stuffed buns

Place one sausage on the rolled-out dough with a sprinkling of onions and pepper if you wish. Roll up the dough encasing the sausage. Dab some water on the ends and seal any openings. Place on a greased tray with the folded ends touching the tray. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover and leave to rise.
Preheat the oven at 180C. Brush each bun with egg wash and sprinkle them with sesame seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes till the buns turn golden. Remove and cool. These buns taste best when they are still warm.
In the picture it looks as if there isn't much of filling with a single sausage. But these are very well seasoned and with the fried onions they tasted wonderful.:)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Tri-colour Chicken Biryani With Cucumber Raita

Tri-colour biryani

Much before Independence Day draws near, the colours of our flag light up a million spaces and invariably my thoughts turn to the beautiful combination of saffron, white, and green. Around this time of the year my floral decorations do not steer away from these colours. And this biryani had been on my mind for a while...
I have done a post on biryani before but today it was these colours that I concentrated on. Coriander and mint were used for the green and a large pinch of saffron for the topmost colour. This biryani is for 4-5 servings. I also made a cucumber raita to go with it.
Ingredients for the rice:
3 cups basmati rice (I used Dawaat)
1 bunch coriander leaves
1 bunch mint leaves
2 medium carrots
15-20 cashew nuts
A handful of raisins
3 onions sliced fine and fried
50 grams butter, cubed
Whole spices like cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon sticks, black pepper

The chicken:
400 grams of chicken cut into regular pieces
1 tablespoon grated garlic and ginger
4 medium onions, coarsely ground
7-8 green chillies, ground to a paste
1 tsp coarsely grated pepper
Salt to taste
3 tbs vegetable oil
3-4 tejpatta
Garam masala paste made with:
1 stick of cinnamon
3-4 cloves
2 cardamoms
(The quantity of meat isn't much and I didn't want it to overpowered by spices).
Wash the rice and soak it for about an hour.
Marinate the chicken with the ginger/garlic/green chillies/onions for about 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the tejpatta and the marinated chicken. Cook by stirring at regular intervals. Season with salt and pepper. When the meat is almost done, add about 2 cups of hot water. Let it cook till only some moisture remains. Add the garam masala paste, give it a good stir and remove from the fire. Set aside.
Drain the washed rice in a colander.
Wash the coriander and mint leaves and grind to a paste.
Soak the saffron in about 2 tbs warm milk. Grind to a paste using a mortar and pestle.
Wash and peel the carrots. Grate them. Set aside.
Wash the raisins, pat dry with a kitchen towel and lightly fry them in vegetable oil.
Fry the cashew nuts till golden brown. Remove then add the grated carrots in the same oil. Fry for a couple of minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Drain on kitchen paper.
Divide the rice into 3 equal parts. Usually for biryani, a lot of water is boiled with whole/bruised spices and the rice is added and cooked till almost done. However for this recipe, I cooked the rice in a small pressure cooker with a few whole bruised spices till one whistle went off.
Start with the plain rice. Transfer to a greased bowl when done.
For the green rice, add the coriander/mint paste. I squeezed out all the green liquid and cooked the rice with the addition of water.
For the saffron, I cooked the rice by adding the paste I had prepared.
Tri-colour biryani

Assembling:
Grease a baking dish with butter. Since I used a shallow dish and there was no space for the usual kind of biryani layers, my first layer was a thin spreading of (white) rice. On top of that I added the chicken along with the thick gravy. The gravy could have been added on the top too but I didn't want the (dark) break in the colours/layers. Half of the fried onions were scattered all across. The dish was dotted with butter and baked in a preheated oven at 180C for 30 minutes. 
After it was removed from the oven the prepared carrots went on top of the saffron. Some chopped coriander were sprinkled over the green and the entire dish was decorated with more fried onions and  the fried cashews and raisins.

Accompaniment:
To go with the biryani, I made a cucumber raita.
1 medium cucumber
350 grams thick yoghurt
Pinch of rock salt
Fine sugar, about a teaspoon
Half tsp dried mint leaves
A quarter tsp red chilli powder
Peel the cucumber and grate fine. 
Squeeze out the water. (I usually reserve the water to make a refreshing drink by adding rock salt and roasted/powdered cumin).
Beat the yoghurt by adding salt and sugar till the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add the cucumber and mix well. Chill in the fridge till required.
Before serving, decorate with red chilli powder and dried mint.
Tri-colour biryani

And this how it looked on the plate. I made sure all the layers came with the meat pieces and the (remains of ) the gravy.
Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pumpkin Leaf Chutney

Pumpkin leaf chutney

After what seems like a very long break I'm back with this delicious chutney made with the tender leaves of pumpkin. In between there was some entertaining and plenty of cleaning. I had been neglecting the house except for the daily chores so spring-cleaning was done in the middle of summer!:) 
The tender shoots and leaves of pumpkin are widely used in vegetable dishes. Not only do they taste great but are a rich source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium. We also add the leaves to dal and other dried fish preparations.
Pumpkin leaf chutney

This is a Bengali chutney. I got the recipe from my friend, Rupa, but I made my own adaptations. I used about 20 leaves and with the addition of spices it's enough for 3-4 people.
Ingredients:
20 tender pumpkin leaves
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
A quarter tsp grated ginger
6-7 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp toasted and ground coriander and cumin powder (optional)
2 tbs mustard oil
Salt as per taste
A quarter tsp fenugreek seeds

Wash the leaves under running water and leave to dry in a colander for an hour or so. You could pick a bunch and flap them in the air so that the drying process is expedited. Repeat with another bunch of leaves...
Heat a flat pan/a roti tawa and place 2-3 leaves on the hot pan. Toast on both sides till the leaves let out a nutty aroma. Repeat with the rest of the leaves. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the fenugreek seeds. As soon as the unique aroma comes out, remove the seeds with a slotted spoon. Discard them as the chutney will be ground and we don't want to add the fenugreek seeds to the mixture.
Throw in the chopped onions and fry till they change colour. Add the chopped green chillies, garlic and the ginger. Add the rest of the spices and sprinkle a bit of water so that the spices do not burn.
Now add the toasted leaves and cook till they are done. This will take about 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle some water so the mixture does not catch at the bottom. Season with salt.
Remove from the flame and let it cool.
Transfer to a blender and blitz till the mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
This dish goes best with rice.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Short Trip To Meghalaya

A variety of ginger blooming in Umden
In my last post I had mentioned about our trip to Meghalaya. Today I'm sharing some of the pictures I had taken on that trip. Going to the "Abode Of The Clouds" for that is the meaning of the word, Meghalaya, it's apt that we are greeted by dense mist/fog on a rainy July morning. We had wanted to go to another location but it was booked till a certain date so we headed to Umden.

A tea garden on the way to our destination. Umden is a village that is about 55 kms from our city. We headed to the Eco Park that has two cottages with basic amenities. The owners, a Khasi couple, went out of their way to make our stay most comfortable. Food was simple and prepared with minimal ingredients, all put in a bamboo hollow and cooked on an open fire. The aroma was wonderful and reminded us of the chutneys and the steamed preparations using bamboo.

Our cottage in the woods.:)
Front view of the cottage
The cottages were very clean and comfortable. Food was served in the dining area and every dish was made with locally grown/sourced ingredients. Even the bamboo used for cooking was freshly cut. The flavour and the aroma was fantastic. Unfortunately, because of the low lighting, I couldn't get clear pictures in the dining area.
This collage shows mt brother-in-law having a go at angling. Later Ilias, the owner caught a fish. All the time spent turned out to be fruitful! Bird's eye chillies are widely grown and used in local cuisine.
The next day we headed to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.
A view of Shillong from Galeria restaurant at Centre Point hotel.

The hotel lobby had beautiful floral arrangements. Honestly I had never used mother-in-law's tongue/Sansevieria in decorating before. Love the idea!

Apart from the local cuisine, it's always Chinese food that we eat hog whenever we are there. Chicken and pork dumplings, two kinds of chicken, noodles and fried rice were what we had. Each dish was delicious!

Then we went to Ward's lake, another popular tourist destination. The hydrangeas must have have been a sight to behold a month or so earlier. I always enjoy walking around this lake and feeding the fishes from the bridge. But now the bridge is being repaired and it did look as if something was missing...
Water lilies, dahlias, rudbeckias and zinnias in bloom.

Ducks resting on the green slopes

Never seen fungi like this one before!
View from the restaurant where we stopped for coffee
On our return we stopped for a coffee break/long walk on the banks of this lake at Umiam also known as Barapani. The lake has boating and other water sports facilities.
Umiam lake
Soon it was time to head back home. And cook with the beautiful ingredients we had bought on this trip.:)