Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Pork Curry With Ash Gourd

Pork curry with ash gourd
Pork Curry With Ash Gourd
April already. It does feel like the months have gone in the blink of an eye. Before the heat is fully upon us I thought it would be good idea to cook pork. A pork dish has not been on this space for a while. Yesterday we had a family dinner and I added it to the list of dishes I was making. I like to team up meat with vegetables. Mostly it's with potatoes and any greens that might be growing in my pots or in stock in my kitchen. And during the bamboo shoot and mushroom season (which is coming) these vegetables are usually fried with pork. 
Ash gourd
I still had a couple of ash gourds lying around around so I chopped the smaller one and added it to the curry. Ash gourd goes very well with meat and we add it to duck, mutton, venison and to chicken as well.

1 kg pork cut into medium pieces
400 grams ash gourd
3 large onions, coarsely grated
10-12 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
Thumb-size ginger, grated
10 green chillies, scored lengthwise
1 tbs coriander powder, broiled and ground
A quarter tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp vegetable oil
Chopped coriander leaves for the garnish

Pork curry with ash gourd
Ready to be served!
Heat a heavy-bottomed karhai and add the oil.
Make sure that the pan is really hot then add the portions of pork with the fat.
Fry for a few minutes till you see the fat turn into more oil. 
Remove the pork/fat with a slotted spoon and discard the oil from the karhai leaving about a tsp to cook the dish. This is enough.
Put it back on heat and fry the onions for a few minutes. 
Add the rest of the meat. Stir well. Add the rest of the spices and continue to cook stirring from time to time. Keep it covered on high flame.
If it looks like it's going to catch at the bottom, sprinkle some water and stir.
Season with salt. By this time, the curry will come together. Reduce the flame.
Add the chopped tomatoes, stir well.
By this time (after about 30-35 minutes) the curry will look almost like how it is in the picture above.
Add about 1 1/2 cups of hot water. Continue to cook.
Let the water reduce a bit before you take the dish off the stove.
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped coriander.
This dish goes best with rice.

If you look at the spices, there aren't many. But with a mix of meat and vegetables this is all that you need. Certain varieties of ash gourd are very fragrant. When you cook it the smell itself is mouth-watering. The heat was enough from the green chillies but I added the powdered chilli for the colour. The curry turned out very well.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Stinky Bean Chutney

Stinky bean chutney
Stinky bean chutney
Some of the tastiest foods in the world come with a tag- acquired taste. As the name suggests the smell is very strong but the taste is good and it is considered a delicacy in our region. Stinky beans are also found all across South-east Asia but I have yet to prepare the cuisine of other cultures. Hopefully, I'll get there. Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Myanmar are the countries where stinky beans grow. In our country, they flourish in our region, the North-East.
Stinky beans/Parkia speciosa
I had four stinky beans that weren't all that fresh. They were with mature seeds. We also like to have them when they are tender with the seeds in their nascent stage. In that case the outermost skin is scraped off and the beans are chopped into pieces before being cooked. Stinky beans grow in medium-sized trees. They are also known as twisted cluster beans. They belong to the genus Parkia in the Fabaceae family. This is what I got online about the benefits of stinky beans.
It is a good source of minerals and is especially high in calcium, phosphorous, potassium and iron. It is high in fibre and contains considerable amounts of Vitamin C and E as well as Vitamins A, B1, B2 and B3. Stinky beans have been used in folk medicine to traet diabetes, hypertension, liver disease, and kidney disorders. Source.
The roasted beans and the seeds
With the mature beans, they are roasted on an open flame till the outermost skin can be easily removed. The flesh and the seeds are separated. The seeds come in a casing that has to be removed with the help of a knife. Later the seeds can be left whole or chopped up as shown in the picture below. That takes a bit of time but the end result is definitely worth it.
Seeds chopped up
4 mature stinky beans
7-8 hot chillies (I used dried bird's eye chillies)
1 fermented fish/naphlam
A pinch of soda bicarbonate
Salt to taste
Chopped herbs for the garnish

Prepare the beans as described above.
Heat about 1 cup of water and boil the seeds till almost done.
Add the chillies after twisting and breaking them into smaller pieces.
After 10 minutes or so, the seeds will become softer.
Add the soda bicarb and lower the flame for a few minutes so that the chutney will not boil over and spill.
Add the salt and the fermented fish.
Then add the soft flesh of the beans that were set aside earlier.
Cook for a couple of minutes till the dish is almost dry.
Remove from the flame and mash with the back of a ladle.
Transfer to a serving bowl and scatter the chopped herbs.
Both coriander and serrated coriander work well here but today I used chopped spring onions.

Finely sliced onions can also be added to this dish. They can be added raw with the herbs or cooked. Another variation of making this dish is to boil the beans first till well cooked. The chillies and fermented fish can be roasted separately and everything can be mashed together with salt and a pinch of soda bicarbonate.
Dried seeds are black but they can be stored and used when the season of fresh beans is over.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried green tomatoes
Fried green tomatoes
Woke up to the sweetest music this morning, the sound of rain. It wasn't enough for everything to be drenched but the dust has settled down a bit. Too much rain is another story but the season's first shower is always welcome. With the temperature a little bit kinder today than most days, I longed for something crisp and fried and what could be better than fried green tomatoes?

Although tomatoes are a fixture in most of our dishes, the fried form isn't common. When I started blogging about six years ago, I saw plenty of posts on the same. Popular in the American South, I tried it a few years ago and absolutely loved it! And I have always made this with home-grown tomatoes. Green tomatoes do make an appearance in our markets but I think it's a headache to scour the markets looking for the same. Particularly when it's the ripe ones that are easily available. I chose three lovely green ones from my plants. At the rate they are going, they'll best be termed as vines.:) But one had started ripening although it still looked unsuspectingly green outside.
You can see a slight tinge of pink peeking through all that green!
This was made with my own twist added but the first time I tried it was a from Southern recipe.
3 green tomatoes
1 egg
Salt to taste
A quarter tsp ground pepper
Pinch of cumin powder
Milk for the batter
Some all-purpose flour
About 1 tbs rice flour for extra crispness
Oil to fry
I didn't really measure the ingredients here. It's like making pakodas.

Hull the tomatoes and cut into fairly thick slices.
Sprinkle some salt and set aside as you prepare the egg and the batter.
Heat the oil in a pan.
Break the egg in a bowl and give it a good whisk.
Make a batter with the all-purpose flour and rice flour adding some milk and seasoning.
Dust each tomato slice with flour and dip in the egg.
Then dip it in the batter and fry a few pieces at a time.
Turn over till both sides are golden.
Remove on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Continue with the rest till all the slices are fried.
Scatter some freshly chopped mint over the fried green tomatoes. Best eaten hot!

The cumin powder that I used was from my toast-grind-store container. So the aroma is better than cumin that has not been toasted.
This is a delicious snack even without a sauce of any kind. I haven't really gone into serving ideas with this dish. Happy to have it on its own. Till now.:)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Foccacia With Roasted Plum Tomatoes

Focaccia with roasted plum tomatoes
In my small garden, March to May is when I pick a handful of tomatoes  every other day. I usually sow the seeds in December but this year I'm growing the self-seeders. So many plants sprouted during the cooler season and I simply planted them in one patch. There are plenty of green tomatoes now and the picture below shows the first picking. The plum tomato plant was bought at the recent horticultural show and it has not disappointed. The pretty oval yellow ones have graced many a salad platter standing out amid the dark green of the spinach and the lettuce or the brilliant reds of other tomatoes or strawberries. 
With about 30 tomatoes in hand, focaccia was what came to mind. I am not much of a baker of breads but I do bake focaccia oftener than I bake other breads.
Today's pickings

3 cups wheat flour (I used Aashirvad atta)
1/2 tsp sugar 
1 tbs dried yeast (I used Bluebird)
1 tsp salt
About 300 ml lukewarm water
2 tbsp olive oil + extra for oiling
The Topping:
Plum tomatoes (I also used the other varieties in the picture: a total of 32 on the bread)
1 tbsp olive oil + extra for drizzling
salt and pepper

Pour the lukewarm water in a bowl and add the sugar and the yeast. Give it a gentle stir and leave aside for about 15 minutes till it froths up.
Transfer the flour to a large bowl. Add the oil, the salt and the yeast mixture.
Mix till it comes together then tip the dough on a floured surface. Knead for about ten minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm.
Leave in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes. Place them on a baking sheet, sprinkle some oil, salt and pepper and bake in a preheated oven at 140C for about 25 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for a few minutes.
Shape into a rectangle and place in an oiled tin.
Make indentations in the dough using your fingers.
Drizzle with some oil.
Top with the tomatoes and sprinkle some salt.
Leave in a warm place for another 10 minutes.
Bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes until golden.
Drizzle with some more olive oil and a few torn basil leaves.
This tastes best when served warm.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Onion & Goat's Cheese Tart With Zucchini Lattice

Onion & goat's cheese tart with zucchini lattice
Onion & goat's cheese tart with zucchini lattice
Crazy about pies and tarts! That's me! And this lattice was something I had wanted to make for a while. But we hardly ever see the vegetable in the markets in our locality and the plant that I bought recently from the horticultural show doesn't look too good at the moment. So when I returned from Delhi, one green and one yellow zucchini happily came with me. (So did the cheese!) I wanted the same size and length with both the zucchini but only the plumper and shorter yellow ones were in stock. Ah well, something is better than nothing!
Chards, amaranth and goosefoot
Although the main ingredients were the fried onions and goat's cheese, I couldn't make a tart or quiche without throwing in some greens. And from my front yard and some pots, I did get some chards, the ever-dependable amaranth and goosefoot. And I was set to go!

The pastry:
225 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams garlic and herb butter, chilled and diced (I used Amul)
A pinch of ground pepper
2 eggs + extra for the egg wash

Transfer the flour to a large bowl and add the diced butter.
Rub the butter into the flour using your finger tips.
When the mixture turns crumbly, break the eggs (one at a time) in the bowl.
Gently, let the dough come together.
Flatten it (makes it easier to roll afterwards) and then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 40 minutes.
Take it out of the fridge and cut out as much as needed and roll it a little bigger than the size of the loose-bottomed tart tin.
Place it on the lightly greased tin and press the edges. Trim overhanging pastry and put the trimmings back with the other half of the dough. (The rest of the pastry dough can be used for another recipe later).
Chill the rolled-out pastry for about 15 minutes then line it with buttered silver foil (sometimes the foil tends to get stuck to the dough). The buttered side must be in contact with the pastry.
Fill the foil with baking beans and bake for 10-12 minutes.
Remove the baking beans, brush the bottom with egg and put in back to bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove and let it cool.
Layering, first with the onions, the greens, and then the cheese

The filling:
3 medium onions, sliced fine
Salt to taste
3 tbs olive oil +extra to brush the lattice
A bunch of mixed greens, washed and roughly chopped
A quarter cup of Go cheese
4 heaped tbs goat's cheese (I used the one from Flanders Dairy )
Several thin slices of both green and yellow zucchini for the lattice top

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions and continue to cook till they turn golden brown. Drain and cool.
In the same oil, lightly fry the mixed greens for a few minutes. Remove and set aside.
Cut the ends of the zucchini and slice them thin, lengthwise.
Lay them on a flat tray and salt them.
After 10 minutes, place each slice on a clean kitchen cloth and lightly press them to remove the moisture. Set aside till needed.
The final stage:
Scatter the fried onions all across the baked shell.
Do the same with the greens.
Scatter the grated cheese and then dot the tart with goat's cheese.
Now make the lattice with the zucchini slices as you would for pies with pastry dough strips.
Either trim or tuck in the overhanging zucchini slices.
Brush with olive oil and bake at 180C for about 25-30 minutes.
The lattice will not look vastly different after its time in the oven but that's how it's meant to be. 
Remove and cool before slicing it into wedges.

This tart is a wonderful balance of tastes. The sweetness of the onions and the fresh leafy greens and the saltiness from the cheese is a lovely combination. Add to that the lattice. It wasn't the best but certainly this tart isn't one of the  usual ones. I'm pretty satisfied with today's baking.:)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Keema Pulao

keema pulao
Keema pulao
For years, March was a season that wasn't part of any travel plans. Exam fever came on full blast and whatever travel plans were made, they were all  after the school exams were over. But with the boys no longer being boys, March isn't to do with being immobile! And so one windy day last week with the plane swaying and the pilot assuring us we are in safe hands I landed in Delhi again. I was lucky to get a window seat with a wonderful view of the snowy Himalayas glistening in the afternoon sun. Ever since my sons came here to study after their school-leaving exams, this city has become my second home. I come only twice or thrice a year but every stay lasts about a month or so. After the humid weather at Guwahati, it was pleasant in the rickety taxi that I took at the airport. All along the road spring flowers were in bloom. The air was cool with a slight hint of rain. Certainly not a sight when I visit, usually. Mostly it's like being unceremoniously thrown into a furnace!
But there was a reason too for my visit. My younger son was suffering from terrible knee pain. He's studying here and is also a drummer. He also teaches drums to several students. His condition has been diagnosed as chrondomalacia patella and he is on medication/physiotherapy. He is recovering now but needs to rest for maybe several months. 
And I did cook some wonderful meals.:) Nothing exotic but mostly nutritious and wholesome. There are many that I did not photograph. More like enjoying the moment and not handling the camera too much.:) The ingredients available here are amazing. And I go crazy seeing the goodies in stores like Nature's Basket,Modern Bazar, Le Marche and INA Market.

The silk cotton trees are still in bloom in Delhi

A few of the dishes that I cooked this past week

With the transition from winter to summer, this is the season for a parade of blooms. One afternoon I headed to the Garden Of Five Senses just to take a look at the flowers blooming there. The primulas, geraniums, carnations, hollyhocks, asters, dahlias, nasturtiums and some more whose names I do not know, were a sight to behold. Apart from the blooms there were also many birds. I did capture some of them. Other gardens must be more spectacular than this one but I did not want to venture too far off on my own.
Primulas in the Garden Of Five Senses

Sweet peas

Stages of making the pulao
Coming back to my keema pulao, we had it with a spicy okra dish and a simple salad of tomatoes, onions and green chillies. This is for 4 servings.
The rice and the vegetables:
Wash 1 1/2 cups basmati rice and drain in a colander.
Prepare the vegetables. Shell the peas and peel and dice the carrots. Set aside as you cook the meat. I used two medium carrots and half a cup of peas.
The Keema:
300 grams keema
3 large onions
A mix of whole crushed spices like cardamom, cinnamon and cloves
2-3 Indian bay leaves
1 thumb-size ginger, grated fine
6 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
A quarter tsp ground black pepper
Red chilli powder as per taste
1 tomato, chopped
Salt to taste
A quarter tsp garam masala powder
A handful of raisins, washed and patted dry
Olive oil, about 4 tbs
Hot water to be used later for the rice. 1 cup of rice will need nearly 2 cups of water.

Keema pulao with bharwan bhindi and tomato kachumbar

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.
Throw in all the aromatics. Add the onions and cook till they change colour.
Add the keema and stir. The ginger and garlic can go in now.
Keep cooking and add the rest of the ingredients except the raisins.
Cook for another 12-15 minutes.
Add the rice and stir gently. Then add the prepared vegetables. Stir again taking care that the long grains do not break. Add the raisins.
Pour the hot water and keep the lid on. Once the liquid dries up, keep it on a low flame for another 5 minutes or so.
Before serving, fluff the rice with a fork.
This was one of the most satisfying meals I have had in a while. I had wanted to make this pulao for a long time but it didn't happen. And when it did, it was so good. The measurement used here is enough for four servings.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Chicken Pot Pies

We settled for pot pies today, with a filling of creamy, cheesy chicken, carrot, and potato bits. After the first forkful I kept asking myself why I hadn't cooked this before! Although I do bake a lot of pies and tarts, somehow pot pies did not make the scene in my kitchen. But now I am in Delhi spending some time with my younger son who wasn't keeping well but is on the road to recovery. And as usual I did what I usually do when I get here, haunt the places where you get the best ingredients and bakeware. These cute ceramic baking dishes with a handle caught my eye. I got two of these and ramekins as well. But before I return home I know what else I'll be getting.:)

Yesterday I had made and kept some pastry dough getting prepared for my sudden impulses. And the temptations are many! Although on the expensive side, the summer berries of temperate climes fill the shelves in many places. I should indulge....but not today. The sweetest of Australian pears apart from our usual tropical fruits are waiting to be feasted on. Coming back to my pies, I made the filling with just a few ingredients. Some green would have been nice, like peas, but I had forgotten to get them.
1 cup of cooked chicken pieces without bones(from the stock I made yesterday)
2 carrots, diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 large onion, chopped fine
Salt to taste
Ground pepper, as per taste
Knob of butter
Heat the butter in a pan and add the onions. Fry till the onions change colour.
Add the vegetables and cook till about half done.
Add the cooked chicken and the seasonings. 
There should still be a little crunch in the vegetables after the cooking is done.
While the vegetables cook, make the sauce.
1 tbs butter
1 tbs flour
Ground pepper as per taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
2/3 cup milk
100 grams grated cheese
1 beaten egg to glaze the pastry
Heat a tablespoon of butter in a pan and add a tablespoon of flour.
Stir till the raw smell goes off. Add the chicken stock and the of milk.
Season with ground pepper.
Add 100 grams of grated cheese, simmer for a couple of minutes till the sauce is thick enough.
Pour the sauce into the chicken and vegetable mix and stir well.
Take it off the heat and let it cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the pastry to the size of the baking dish. Repeat with the next. 
Pour the filling into the dishes. The filling was just the right amount for these two dishes.
Cut out the circles and cover the dish. Press the edges first with your fingers and then with the tines of a fork.
Make cuts on the surface for the steam to escape.
Brush with beaten egg and bake for about 25 minutes till the top is golden brown.
Remove and let it cool down a bit. Decorate with sprigs of parsley. Dig in.