Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fish & Purslane Fritters

The small variety of fish that I bought today reminded me of my mother's fish pakodas and I kept some aside for the same. I remember with such fondness some of the simple but delicious treats that we had as children. And although the taste of food that came from a wood-fire cannot be recreated, this version isn't bad either. 
Sometimes it's the leftovers that leads you to another dish. I had a bit of rice flour left and I needed to finish this batch off. This was the wet variety. I had soaked the rice and ground it for thickening a particular curry a day earlier. And who doesn't love the crunch that comes from rice flour?!
100 grams small river fish, cleaned 
1/3 cup rice flour
2 tbs all-purpose flour
A dash of baking soda bicarbonate
A pinch of turmeric powder
Salt to taste
2 hot chillies, chopped fine
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped fine
3-4 serrated coriander + extra for sprinkling on the dish later
One small piece of ginger, finely sliced
Mustard oil to deep fry

Transfer the rice flour to a bowl. Add the all-purpose flour.
Add very little water. The batter should be thick.
Add all the other ingredients other than oil and fish.
Give it a good mix.
Lastly add the fish. Mix well so that the fish is coated with the batter.
Heat the oil in a pan and let it come to smoking point.
Take spoonfuls of the batter and drop them in the hot oil.
Reduce the heat a bit so that the fritters are evenly cooked.
Turn once when it becomes golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon when the other side is done. Place them on kitchen paper.
Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle the chopped herbs.
Fish & purslane fritters
Common purslane/Portulaca oleracea
Purslane wasn't on my mind today.But with a bit of batter left over I hurried to my front-yard where these (edible) weeds are threatening to take over my small circular flower bed. I picked a bunch, washed them and plunged them in the batter. Oh, I did add another spoonful of flour and a bit of water to the batter. But nothing else! Since the stems, leaves, buds and flowers are edible, I simply dipped them one by one in the batter and fried them till they turned golden brown.
Fish and purslane fritters
A closer look at the purslane fritters
The Common Purslane/Portulaca Oleracea does well during this season. I had tried planting them in my backyard but I think these plants do best where they appear. So the best thing is to let them be and try to include them in our diet as often as possible. Purslane is said to contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable. It also contains vitamins and dietary minerals. The presence of oxalate in this vegetable makes the taste slightly acidic. But not in a bad way.
These fritters taste good on their own but we had them as an accompaniment to our lunch of rice, dal and another vegetable.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mini Pies With Jamun Jam Filling

Mini pies with jamun jam
We have had a lot of rain in the past few days. An hour's shower and our city gets flooded. Earlier the flooding never affected us so badly but since last year it's been harrowing. Two rooms get flooded (the floors in the rest have been raised) and as I type this I can still get the smell that flood waters leave behind. Today's post is about these cute pies I made about a week ago.

One great way of using up left-over pastry dough is to make them into these cutie pies. Filled with jam made from home-grown jamun fruits these little treats are such a delight! But I found out as started working on the pastry that it's not so easy handling mini pies!
One needs to work very fast particularly in a climate as humid as ours. The dough warms up faster than you can handle it. But the thought of the finished pie and using up some of the jam kept me going.:)

After rolling out the dough with a bottle cap, I placed about a teaspoon of the purple jam on the tiny disc. Then I placed another disc on top of the jam. The edges were moistened with water and a fork did the rest. The tightening and the designing. And the little holes in the middle to let the steam out. These were then brushed with egg and baked in a preheated 180C oven for about 15 minutes.
After they had cooled down for about 15 minutes, they were dusted with icing sugar. These go so well with tea or even in between.
It's now the start of the guava season and looking out of my kitchen window this is what I found on my neighbour's guava tree.:)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Solanum gilo

Solanum gilo

As children we have wondered how grown-ups could possibly eat bitter food. Despite pushing it away from our plates we were told that it was good for us. Decades ago, a small bowl of neem leaves fried in home made ghee and dal that accompanied rice made me think about bitter food in a different light. I don't remember the other accompaniments but this taste was what made me think that bitter was also good! I have recreated it many times. It is occasional, but if Mother Nature has her fair share of bitter foods, we might as well get the benefits of the medicinal properties present in such foods.
Another variety of solanum that is extremely bitter
According to an article titled Bitter Is Better by Dr. Andrew Weil that I read in The Huffington Post, this is what it says:- 

Bitter foods challenge the liver. They make it work and help it to remain healthy just as muscles challenged by exercise function better than the ones that atrophy from under-use. A liver frequently challenged by bitters can efficiently process the occasional sweet treat but inverting the bitter-sweet intake ratio leads to fatty liver disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

In most cultures bitter foods are part of the occasional diet.  Among all the bitter foods, this is one that I really like. Known as phanthao khimkhathai in my mother tongue, it has a milder taste and a little bit of sweetness that you usually get in fresh vegetables.The common bitter foods  that we consume are: bitter gourd (both fruit and leaves), neem leaves, leaves of the passion fruit vine, papaya flowers, the flowers of Phlogacanthus curviflorus (known as alusho bubar in my mother tongue).
Solanum gilo

This variety of solanum is one such vegetable.  Summer is when they flood our markets. My mother had kept this ripe fruit for me so that I could dry the seeds and sow them. Because of its colour, the ripe fruit looks deceptively delicious. Like a juicy red tomatillo. The two pictures below are from my mother's garden.
Solanum gilo
The right time to be picked
Solanum gilo
The ripening: golden before turning red
They taste best when they are still tender and the seeds are not mature. We usually have them added to dal or steam the tender ones. We also make khari on its own or added to other vegetables. The other day, for a change, I made a simple sabji that went very well with rice. It had the usual curry ingredients and was garnished with serrated coriander.
Solanum gilo

On other occasions this vegetable is usually cooked with fermented fish and thickening agents like rice flour or dal are used. The picture below shows one such dish that is thickened with rice flour.
Solanum gilo
Khari  is not photogenic!:)
I wonder what kind of bitter vegetables you like to cook with. It would be interesting to know the popularity and the availability in the regions you live in.:)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Teasel Gourd In A Green Curry

Summer means gourds and teasel gourd happens to be my favourite. Despite its spiny appearance (which gives it its other name...hedgehog gourd) the taste is mild. I usually buy this vegetable but the other day I was at my sister's in another part of our city and she picked some for me from her garden. I also got some tender leaves and shoots which I intended to use in another dish.
But since the leaves are mild and cook easily I used it like the way spinach is used in palak paneer. So the leaves were incorporated with the vegetable.

The picture below was taken in summer last year in a village market in Upper Assam. When we were growing up, almost every backyard garden had this plant making an appearance during the first rains of the year and them climbing up trellises or branches to bloom and bear. The monsoon season is when the gourds are at their peak. They are usually eaten fried, added to fish curries, cooked with other vegetables, made into chutney or made into fritters.

This recipe is not the usual kind that I make but I liked the creaminess that came from the tender leaves. And home-grown vegetables taste incredibly better!
8 medium-sized tender teasel gourds
Half cup boiled corn (I used fragrant multi-coloured corn)
1 bunch of teasel gourd leaves
1 medium onion, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and ground
1 small piece of ginger, peeled and ground
5 dried red chillies, ground to a paste
A pinch of turmeric powder (optional...and for me it's out of sheer habit)
A quarter tsp coarsely grated black pepper
1 tsp coriander powder
A quarter tsp cumin powder
(Both the powdered spices were toasted and ground)
Oil as needed
Salt as per taste
Cumin seeds for tempering
The bloom and the tender gourd
Remove the ends of the gourd and scrape off the soft spines.
Wash, halve and quarter them.
Wash the leaves and drain in a colander.
Steam the leaves till they wilt completely. Cool and blitz in a blender. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan. As soon as it comes to smoking point, add the cumin seeds.
Add the grated onion and fry till it turns translucent. Then add the garlic and ginger. 
Add the cut vegetable and stir. The rest of the ingredients, except for the steamed leaves and corn, can go in now.
Cook till the gourds are soft and almost done. If the curry threatens to catch at the bottom, sprinkle some water and stir.
Add the corn and the leaf paste. Add about half a cup of hot water as the gravy needs to be thick. Adjust accordingly.
Cook for a few minutes till the curry comes together.
Remove from the flame and transfer to a serving dish.
This simple dish goes best with rice. We had two more accompaniments..dal and fried fish! 
Even if you do not remove the soft 'spines', it is all right. That makes a difference only in appearance but not in taste. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Chocolate-dipped Madeleines

Madeleines dipped in white and dark chocolate and coated with toasted/sliced almonds
I have been spending time with some of the books I had bought ever since I started blogging about food. One of them is Richard Bertinet's Patisserie Maison. The other one is Pastry by the same author. The inspiration usually comes by looking at the beautiful images and I couldn't resist making these little French cakes, madeleines. I have made them a few times and there are two posts here and here.
World Chocolate Day went by and that reminded me of the chocolate I had recently bought and was yet to use...And these little French cakes were born.:) It's always easier to make the smaller versions of cakes or pies for that matter and it's a welcome treat for anyone who might drop by. After all home-made goodies are loved by all!
The recipe isn't much different from what I have made earlier but here are the ingredients for 24 madeleines. I halved the recipe and made 12 in my mould. My mould isn't one of those elongated ones you might see in French kitchens. It's more of a 'short and stout' shell.:)

4 eggs
50g honey
180g caster sugar
275g all-purpose flour
25g baking powder
250g butter and some extra for greasing the moulds
zest of half a lemon
For the decoration I used a bit of dark chocolate and some white chocolate. The recipe used crushed and roasted hazelnuts but I used some almonds. 
Put the sugar, eggs, flour and honey in a bowl. Whisk together and set aside in the fridge for about four hours or overnight. I chose the latter.
Beat the butter with the lemon zest till it softens. Take the mixture from the fridge and add it to the butter. Mix till well incorporated.
Grease the madeleine mould and with the help of a spoon, transfer the batter to the 'shells'.
I made mine in two batches as my mould only has six 'shells'. 
Bake in a preheated (at 190C) oven. Bring the temperature down to 170C and bake for 12-15 minutes. They should be well-risen and golden brown.
To decorate, toast whatever nuts you are using and cut/crush them. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and dip the rounded ends of the cakes in the melted chocolate. Immediately coat the chocolate end of the cake with the nuts. Place on a wire rack to set. 
These go so well with tea or coffee. And they taste the best the day they are made.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Pineapple Salad

Pineapple salad
Pineapple salad
Between my last post and now, much has happened. I went on a short visit to Delhi in June end. The reason was that my son Nishant will be leaving for Vietnam soon to play with an American band there. Recently, Lakme, the Indian cosmetics giant came to our region for the first ever auditions for their Winter Collection. And among 109 girls, only two were selected. One of them was my niece, Suzanne. Our entire family is so excited at the thought of seeing Sue on the ramp and modelling/wearing famous designers' creations. Can't wait for August.:) That's when it's due to take place in Mumbai.
A small pineapple farm near my hometown
We are right in the middle of pineapple season now. The other day friends stopped by for dinner and they brought a couple of sweet pineapples from Meghalaya. The fruit reminded me of a trip we had taken last year to a small village in Meghalaya. Apart from the usual additions in a salad, usually served as a snack, this was garnished with toasted and crushed black sesame seeds. The last ingredient took the simple dish to another level. Sesame seeds are widely used all over the region but I think the consumption in Meghalaya is more. So here is the dish.
1 medium pineapple
2 green chillies (I used one green and the other ripe for the visual appeal)
The juice from a quartered lemon
Salt to taste
Sugar as per taste (optional)
A few sprigs of mint leaves (you can chop them up)
1 tsp black sesame seeds toasted and lightly crushed
Using a sharp knife, remove the ends of the pineapple. Peel off the skin and remove 'eyes'. Halve the fruit and cut into slices. Remove the hard core and dice the fruit into bite-size pieces. Do the same with the other half.
Pour the lemon juice over the diced pieces. Season with salt. Chop the chillies and add them. Scatter the chopped mint leaves. 
Give the salad a good mix and transfer the contents to a serving bowl. 
Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and if you like, decorate with a few more sprigs of mint. 
This is a refreshing in-between snack. If the pineapple is sweet, you can leave out the sugar.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pesto Bread Rolls

Pesto bread rolls
Pesto bread rolls
As I type this I can see my jamun tree with only a few fruits left. Seasons come and go but for food bloggers, each one is a delight with the produce it brings. I have done my fair bit of experimenting with the purple fruits but now it's time to turn again to my basil plants and incorporate the leaves in my cooking.
Pesto is the obvious choice as it's so delicious and easy to make. The other day I made these bread rolls stuffed with pesto. There were made in two batches but nothing remained as rice was momentarily forgotten and we (my elder son and I) feasted on these bread rolls. My husband isn't a fan of bread.:( This recipe is enough for 12-14 rolls depending on the thickness that you like/cut.

3 cups all-purpose flour+extra for dusting
1 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
300 ml lukewarm water
A quarter tsp salt
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 cup pesto (I had made the pesto earlier with almonds)
1 beaten egg mixed with a tablespoon of milk

Pesto bread rolls

Place some of the water in a small bowl.
Add the yeast and the sugar. Or any sweetener like honey to activate the yeast.
Keep it aside till it froths up. This will take about 10 minutes.
Sieve the flour and place it in a large bowl. Add the salt and a glug of extra virgin olive oil.  
Pour the yeast mixture and bring it together. Add some more water if needed. I didn't need to use up all the lukewarm water.
Tip the contents on your work surface and knead for about 8 minutes till the dough is soft and elastic.
Grease the bowl that you had used earlier and tip the dough into it.
Cover with clingfilm and keep in a warm place till the dough doubles in size.
This will take about 45 minutes.
Take it out on the work surface that has been dusted with flour. Knead for a second and roll out in a rectangular shape.
Spread the pesto all across the dough. Then roll it away from you as tightly as you can.
With a sharp knife cut the 'rolls' according to the size you like.
Place each one on your baking dish. I didn't bother to grease the baking dish as there is enough olive oil in the pesto which ensures that the rolls do not stick to the pan.
Leave to rise for another 25-30 minutes.
Brush with egg-wash and  bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 20 minutes or till they are golden brown.
These rolls taste best when they are still warm.
The olive oil in the pesto makes these buns extra soft. It was a joy to bite into these rolls. 

Pesto bread rolls

About a week ago I had tried out this recipe but the pesto was concentrated in the middle of the rolls. That didn't look so good but the taste was heavenly!