Monday, September 30, 2013

Fish Mint & Fried Fish Salad

Fish mint salad with fried fish cubes

This dish has been inspired by Luke Nguyen's  Fish mint root and tofu salad. However I have made some adaptations. Since I'm not fond of tofu, I've used fried fish cubes that were first marinated in soya sauce, ginger and garlic paste and chilli powder.

I have also used a few leaves along with the roots. Fish mint or bishop's weed is also known as the chameleon plant. The scientific name is Houttuynia cordata. This plant grows in shady and wet areas and can be invasive. But it is also a popular herb of our region. It is used in salads, chutneys, particularly with dried fish and most people like to have them raw because of the medicinal properties. In my mother tongue this is called mojo-khmou which translates to rat's ears. The dark green heart-shaped leaves are pungent and have a sharp taste. While watching the show on Fox Traveller I was surprised to know that in some parts of China it's the roots that are preferred. The leaves are generally ground to a paste and applied to the skin to take care of rashes and other skin ailments.
Fish mint with cleaned roots and marinated fish cubes

The fish:
Take a few pieces and cut them into a dozen small cubes. Marinate them for about ten minutes in a mix of ginger and garlic pastes, chilli powder, soya sauce, and a hint of salt. Heat about three tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry them till golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and keep aside.

Take a handful each of:
Fish mint leaves
Fish mint roots
Coriander leaves
Mint leaves
     &
A few garlic chives

Chop all these ingredients fine, except for the roots. They can be cut into 3 cm lengths.

The Dressing:
Sugar
Salt
Soya sauce
Vinegar
A quarter teaspoon chilli flakes
A thumb-size piece of ginger, julienned
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped fine
It's more by eye than by measurements with the dressing!

Mix everything together in a bowl and leave for about ten minutes or so for the flavours to infuse. In another bowl place all the other ingredients for the salad. Pour the dressing and mix gently. Transfer to a serving plate. Enjoy!

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Smoked Pork Curry With Colocasia


With all the different varieties of colocasia available in the markets, it's only fair that I share a recipe about what I cooked recently. It was smoked pork curry with the starchy tubers or corms. This vegetable is great with chicken as well. The small ones seen in the collage below are very good for khari, either on their own or teamed up with other veggies like papaya, ash gourd or pumpkin. I used them for a curry that did not have a great deal of spices.  

Smoking the meat:

The meat was rubbed in a mix of salt and generous lashings of freshly ground garlic and ginger. It sat in the marinade overnight. The next day it was taken out of the fridge, brought to room temperature and placed on a wire mesh on top of a fire that had been burning for more than an hour before the meat was placed. It's so important that the fireplace is Hot! Left over wood from building our house, dead branches of mango, guava, and Indian blackberry all go into the fire. People say that adding bamboo along with the wood brings out that wonderful flavour in smoked meat! The flames should never be high as the meat then gets blackened on the surface and the inner portions do not get cooked properly. About two and a half hours or so on the wire mesh with some turnings in between and patience in controlling the fire yields good results. The wood can be removed towards the end of the smoking process and the meat can remain on the wire mesh as the embers still radiate a substantial amount of heat even after the fire is extinguished and till the drippings indicate that it's done.


Colocasia and smoked pork

Ingredients:-

500 grams colocasia
750 grams of smoked pork
2 tomatoes, cut lengthwise
2 large onions, coarsely grated
2 teaspoons of chilli powder
A quarter teaspoon of garlic/ginger paste (as the meat was marinaded in the paste I cut down the amount to be used in the curry)
A quarter teaspoon of turmeric powder
A teaspoon of coarsely grated black pepper
A tablespoon of coriander powder
3 tablespoons mustard oil
About two cups of hot water
Fresh ginger leaves for the garnish

Method:-

~ Heat a pan of water. Let it come to boiling point then add the colocasia. Let the tubers cook for 5-6 minutes. Take one out and check to see if the skin can be removed easily.If so, then drain, cool and remove the skin from the tubers.
~Cut the meat into bite-size pieces.
~ Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the onions. Fry for a few minutes and add the meat.
~ Add the other spices, the tomatoes, and continue to cook with the lid on till the oil separates. Keep stirring in between. This will take about 25 minutes. Then add the colocasia. They needn't be cooked for too long because of the previous boiling. Stir gently. Overcooked colocasia can turn mushy.
~Add about two cups of hot water. Cook for another five minutes or so.
~ Remove the pan from the flame. Tear off the ginger leaves into one-inch pieces and garnish the dish.

This is a rustic dish that is high on taste. The use of spices is minimal as other flavours should not overpower the distinct and wonderful taste/smell of freshly smoked pork.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fried Rice With Corn


In an earlier post I had mentioned the multi-coloured corn grown in my home district of Dima Hasao. Glutinous in texture, it has the same name as that of sticky rice...maiju. Even the smell of the corn is similar to the aroma of steamed sticky rice. A marriage of rice and corn works wonderfully well as is evident in the use of this ingredient in many rice-based dishes.. I like using a handful or more of corn kernels in my fried rice. Of course it depends on the season and the availability. Against the white of the rice, the varied colours stand out elevating the dish to a different level!!

The other day I made this dish using some leftovers, rice and corn. The hint of yellow comes from turmeric. The garlic chives came from my backyard pots. 

Ingredients:-

2 cups of cooked rice
3/4 cup of boiled corn
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and cut into small pieces
1 thumb-size piece of ginger, finely diced
2 green chillies, chopped
3 tablespoons, oil
2 eggs
A pinch of turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Garlic chives/coriander for the garnish

Method:-


  • Heat the oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, fry the onions.
  • Add the garlic, ginger,the chillies, and the turmeric.
  • Fry for a few minutes then add the corn and the rice. Season.
  • Continue cooking then form a well in the centre of the pan. Break the eggs into the well and stir till the eggs are cooked. (Check to see if it's too dry and whether a teaspoon of oil should be added before the eggs go in).
  • Now gently stir the entire mix and keep cooking for a few more minutes.
  • Take off the heat and add the garnish.
This is a dish that can be rustled up in minutes but is nutritious and filling. Good on its own but an accompaniment of fried chicken works wonders!



Monday, September 23, 2013

Banana Koftas

One particular variety of banana locally known as kaas kol is cooked as a vegetable dish in our region. They are fried like potatoes, made into tikkis, added to vegetable as well as fish curries. Today I made stuffed koftas in a little gravy that was thickened with cashew nut paste. The garnishing was done with finely chopped serrated coriander.

For the koftas:-

4 unripe bananas
3 tablespoons flour (maida)
Salt to taste
A quarter teaspoon of coarsely grated pepper
Oil for frying the koftas
(These ingredients made 14 koftas)

The stuffing:-

1 medium onion, finely chopped
A handful of raisins, washed and roughly chopped
About 12 cashew nuts, broken into bits
Salt to taste
Chilli powder for that hint of heat
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

The gravy:-

1 onion, finely grated
2 cloves of garlic and a thumb-size piece of ginger, finely ground
2 tablespoons tomato puree
A quarter teaspoon red chilli powder
A teaspoon of coriander powder
A pinch of turmeric powder
8-10 whole cashew nuts ground to a paste
A teaspoon of freshly ground garam masala
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 Indian bay leaves/tejpatta
Salt to taste
1 cup of hot water
A bunch of serrated coriander chopped fine for the garnish
Fresh out of the frying pan before being added to the gravy
Method:-


  • Wash the bananas and cook in a pressure cooker with the skin on till one whistle.
  • Remove and cool. Peel the skin and mash with a potato masher.
  • Toast the flour in a heated pan till the raw smell goes off. Add the same to the mashed bananas. Also add the grated pepper and salt to the mixture.
  • Prepare the stuffing by frying all the ingredients mentioned above in a tablespoon of oil. Let it cool.
  • Take a bit of the mixture and form a round shape. Press in the centre and add a quarter teaspoon of the stuffing. Cover the stuffing by gently shaping it into a ball. Proceed with the rest of the mash as well as the stuffing.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a pan and fry the koftas, a few at a time, till they turn golden brown on all sides. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.  
  • In the remaining oil (should be about three tablespoons, any excess can be removed) add the bay leaves and then the onions.
  • Fry till the onions change colour and then add the other spices, except the thickening agent, the garnish, and the garam masala.
  • Cook till the oil separates. If the cashew nut paste is thick, a little water can be added to it before it goes to the gravy pan. Add the hot water and cook till the gravy looks done. Add the garam masala.
  • At this stage, the koftas can be added to the gravy. Reduce the heat and let the koftas soak up a bit of the moisture for a few minutes before putting off the flame.
  • Alternately, the hot gravy can be poured over the koftas if you feel that the koftas might fall apart.
  • Remove the bay leaves from the gravy. Garnish. You can also pour some cream over the koftas before serving. 
.


Note: The stuffing may sound very little but it adds a lot of flavour to the koftas. The spices, the hint of sweetness from the raisins and that bit of crunch from the nuts enhance the taste of the dish.

Monday, September 16, 2013

LemonTart


With all the lemons that came as gifts from our relative's flourishing kitchen garden, the first thought that came to mind was...a lemon tart. Much of the juice is used in my kitchen with the addition of some sugar (never in large doses), some rock salt and a dash of mint. It is indeed the most refreshing summer drink and exactly what we need reeling under these humid, humid conditions. But when a basket of the freshest lemons arrive, I need to use some elbow grease and think beyond nimbu pani!:) So a lemon tart it is...!


I started off with the candied zest in the morning. I used a slicer to remove a thin layer of the rind, careful not to include the pith as it tends to be bitter. These were cut into juliennes. Then I boiled them in water, not once, but twice, changing the water each time. A lot of the bitter taste must have gone because by then they tasted all right. The third time the water was changed, some sugar was also added. This was boiled till the water dried up. Then the zest was placed on a tray, on top of grease-proof paper and left at room temperature.


The Crust:

200 grams flour, sieved
100 grams butter, chilled and grated
1 egg, beaten
Chilled water, about 2 teaspoons
Half a teaspoon of lemon rind

In a bowl, add the flour and the butter. Rub with the tips of your fingers till they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and the lemon rind and bring the dough together without kneading. If some moisture is needed, you can sprinkle the chilled water at this point. Gently flatten the dough, wrap it in clingfilm and keep in the fridge. Let it rest for at least twenty minutes.

Grease a 10" tart tin with a removable bottom. Take a sheet of grease-proof paper and cut it into a round shape, a little larger than the tart tin. Butter the paper on one side.

Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it on a floured surface. Roll it a little bigger than the tart tin. Place the pastry on the tin and remove the overhanging extra dough by rolling the pin over the entire edge of the tin.

Prick with a fork all across the surface of the dough. Take the buttered paper with the greased side downwards. Place baking beans on the paper and bake in a moderate oven for about 12-15 minutes. Remove the paper and the beans and bake for another ten minutes or so. Remove and cool.


The Filling:

One cup of cream
About 50 grams of butter
80 grams sugar
The juice of two lemons
2 eggs
3 yolks

Separate the three eggs and beat them together with the other two. In another bowl add the cream, the butter and the sugar and whisk on top of boiling water in a saucepan. The water must not touch the bottom of the bowl. Gradually whisk in the eggs and then the lemon juice. The sugar can be adjusted at this point. Whisk till the mixture turns a little thick. Remove and let it cool.

Preheat the oven at 175* C. Place the crust on the oven tray and pour the filling till almost full. Bake for 25-30 minutes. When it's done, let it cool. Serve the tart in wedges with a sprinkling of the candied zest and tiny sprigs of fresh mint.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tiny Fruit Puddings


The idea of this pudding came from a food show on TV. Although I didn't have all the ingredients, I went ahead to create my own version. I had a cranberry and blueberry preserve in my fridge, some tinned cherries left over from a dinner a few night's ago, orange liqueur that I had made last winter, an orange...ah well, might as well! 

It looked as if these could come together and produce results!!
Half a bottle of preserve (I used a mix of cranberry and blueberry from a bottle that weighed 284 grams)
The juice of one small orange
A teaspoon of orange rind
2 tablespoons of orange liqueur
2 eggs
140 grams flour sieved with a teaspoon of baking powder
100 grams fine sugar
About 75 grams butter+ extra for greasing the ramekins
About two tablespoons of tinned cherries (pitted)
Hot water for the oven tray
Grease-proof paper
Silver foil


  • Heat the preserve along with orange juice in a pan. 
  • Grease the ramekins with butter. I used six small ramekins.
  • Spoon a mix of the heated preserve and the tinned cherries on the base of the ramekins. Keep aside. 
  • Let the fruit mix cool down a bit before you add the dry ingredients to it. 
  • Then gradually add the wet ingredients along with the eggs. Mix well.
  • Use a tablespoon and transfer the mix to the ramekins. Fill a little more than halfway.
  • Cover each ramekin with greaseproof paper and then with foil.
  • Put them in a 165* oven. Pour hot water on the oven tray and bake for about 30-35 minutes.
  • Remove, let them cool down a bit before turning them upside down on a serving plate.
  • Spoon some of the preserve over the puddings and serve with cream.

A little heavy-handed with the preserve!
The taste was just all right. The original recipe had breadcrumbs (as well as the flour) but I didn't have any breadcrumbs when I wanted to create this dish. So the puddings were a little dense. The next time I make them I would surely love a lighter version.


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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Snake Gourd With A Cheesy Filling


Another summer vegetable that floods our markets is the snake gourd. In taste it is somewhat similar to the sponge gourd. The flesh is mucilaginous and apart from the fruit, the tender leaves and shoots are eaten as well. There are numerous ways of cooking this vegetable. The other day I cooked them with a cheese filling.

I used two snake gourds weighing approximately 500 grams. After washing and patting them dry they were cut into three pieces each. The ends were chopped off too. Then with a  spoon handle, the flesh was removed. The flesh can be used for the stuffing too but in this case I kept them in the fridge to be included in another vegetable this later. A touch of salt went into the innards and they were left alone for ten minutes or so. Then I rinsed the salt out, patted them dry and into the oven they went till they started to wilt a bit. Took about twenty minutes in a moderate oven.

For the filling:
400 grams paneer/Indian cottage cheese
2 boiled and coarsely mashed potatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
A quarter teaspoon of garlic and ginger pastes
Chilli powder to taste
Salt
Half a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder
Oil
About fifteen raisins, soaked and chopped up
About ten cashew nuts, chopped into bits

Crumble the cheese and keep aside. Heat oil in a pan and when it is hot enough, fry the onion till translucent. Then add all the spices and keep stirring. Once the raw smell goes off, add the potatoes, the raisins and the nuts. The cheese goes in last. Mix well, check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. Remove and let the mixture cool.
When the mixture cools down, take the partly done vegetable and stuff them with the cheese/potato mixture. Then put them back in the oven on a well-greased tray and cook till tender.

The gravy:
2 onions, finely grated
About 3 tablespoons tomato puree
A quarter teaspoon of garlic and ginger paste
A bit of turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Chilli powder
A tablespoon of cashewnut paste
A teaspoon of garam masala
Hot water

Heat oil in a pan then fry the onions in it. Add all the spices as soon as the onion changes colour. Then add the tomato puree and keep cooking till the mixture comes together. Add the cashew nut paste and mix well. Pour about a cup of water and cook till the gravy thickens. Gently add the (baked) stuffed vegetables to the gravy. Keep the flame low and cook for ten minutes or so turning the vegetable once in between. Before serving you can add chopped coriander or a few dollops of curd. The gourds can be cut into required pieces before serving. Goes well with either rice or roti.


I couldn't resist including this picture of the blooms of the snake gourd. So delicate and so pretty.
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Friday, September 6, 2013

Coral Jasmine Blooms With Fish

 .The fallen blooms of the Coral Jasmine in my sister's garden
One of the most consumed flowers in our part of the world must be the Coral Jasmine/Nyctanthes arbor-tristis. The flowers bloom at dusk and fall at dawn from August to November perfuming the garden at night. It's a wonderful fragrance and it's a part of almost everyone's childhood memory because the tree is usually grown in most homes. We had one in our front-yard when we were young and the thinking about the tree still reminds me of play-time with my siblings and the smell from the tree at dusk also signalled the time that we needed to get back to the house and home-work! 

Although we had heard about the beneficial properties of the blooms and the plant, my mother did not cook the blooms. Maybe because there were plenty of other medicinal plants that flourished in our huge kitchen garden. Maybe I can incorporate them in some of my posts later. The other day I happened to be at my sister's house early in the morning. We were to go to a temple. As I waited for her to get ready I headed to the garden to pick up the blooms. Early morning sunlight filtered through the other trees in the garden. It was such a pretty sight! Tiny little white blooms with those bright orange tubes spread out on the grass. As I started picking the blooms, there were many that kept falling from the tree.
Fish curry with the fresh blooms
The dried flowers


There are only a few ingredients needed for this curry. 
A bowl of Coral Jasmine blooms
Fish pieces, 5-6
1 large grated onion
2-4 green chillies, slit lengthwise
A pinch of turmeric+ some for rubbing on the fish
Oil
Salt to taste
Hot water

Heat about three tablespoons of oil in a pan. Rub salt and turmeric on the fish and keep aside. Pieces of fish or  smaller varieties of fish (gutted and kept whole) can be used for this curry. When the oil comes to smoking point add the fish pieces. Shallow fry on both sides and remove from the pan. 

In the same oil fry the onion paste, then add the slit green chillies. Fry for a few minutes then add the turmeric. Then add the washed blooms and stir for a few minutes. Pour the hot water (about two cups) and the salt. When the curry comes to boiling point, put in the fish pieces. Let it cook for five minutes or so before you remove the dish from the flame.

The dish has a slight bitter taste. The bitterness is more in the dried blooms. Usually when we cook with bitter ingredients, the use of other spices is limited. The underlying taste/feel is that it is medicinal and beneficial and must be consumed once in a while. And flowers do not need to be cooked for long as they are so tender.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Starfruit Chutney

Starfruit chutney
The apple chutney that I made a week ago was such a hit that it has motivated me to try making chutney with other fruits that I haven't tried with before. With my potted starfruit plant bearing some sweet fruits I decided to have a go at making these into chutney. Most of the starfruits available in our markets are acidic and best suited for making sweet and sour pickles. I was lucky to get the sweet variety when I picked up my plant from a local nursery a few years ago. Since then the plant has not disappointed me. With two people in the house, well, most of the time, one potted (starfruit) plant is enough!

I didn't cut them up into stars like the one shown in the picture above. That's from the cut fruit drying in the sun to be pickled.
With some of the mature fruits on my plant, there are many blooms and several tiny fruits as well. The recipe for the chutney is given below.


  • 10 starfruits
  • 1 onion
  • 1" grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely grated chilli powder
  • A quarter teaspoon of salt
  • About 100 grams of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • Water
Wash and wipe the fruits dry. Remove the hard ridge on the fruit and cut into long or star-shaped pieces. Remove the seeds. Put them in a pan along with some water, chopped onions,sugar, and salt. Let it cook for twenty minutes or so. Then add the grated ginger and the chilli powder. When the chutney looks nearly done, add the vinegar. The entire process will last about 40-45 minutes. Cool and store in a glass jar. 
The measurements, particularly of sugar, can be adjusted according to the taste of the fruit. 

This chutney is a wonderful accompaniment to Indian flat breads and also goes well with aloo tikkis.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Pear Pie


It's been a week since we got back from Bhutan and I'm still happily cooking/baking with precious Bhutanese ingredients. A pear pie was what I made the other day. The fruits, bought at the Farmer's Market in Thimphu were sweet and juicy and so pie it was. I have often mentioned about the fruits from our region being acidic and not the best filling for pies. 
The pears...the sliced fruit before the addition
of butter and cinnamon
For the pastry

Flour             200 grams

Butter            100 grams (chilled)

Egg                1

Fine sugar      2 tablespoons

Iced water (to be sprinkled while working on the dough)

Sieve the flour in a large  bowl. Cut the  butter into cubes and add to the flour. I chill it earlier after making the cubes. Using both hands, mix with the fingers until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar. Break an egg into the mixture. Mix. Sprinkle some chilled water and bring the dough together without kneading. Lightly flatten the pastry dough and put in in the fridge wrapped in cling-film. Chill for at least thirty minutes. It's good to divide the dough into two portions as one portion will be used later than the other.

The rest of the ingredients:
4 pears
Sugar
Cinnamon powder
Lemon juice
1 egg for the eggwash

Peel the pears. Cut and core them. The slices should be even and not too thin. Squeeze half a lemon on the sliced fruit to prevent them from going brown. Add some sugar and mix.

Take out the dough from the fridge and roll out a little bigger than the size of the pie dish. Prick all over with a fork. Sprinkle some cookie crumbs on the pastry to prevent the pastry from becoming soggy. Alternately you can mix some flour into the pear mixture before you place the slices on the rolled out dough. If necessary add some more sugar to the fruit, sprinkle some cinnamon powder, give it a good mix, then place the slices in a circular pattern.

Take out the other portion of the dough, roll out and cover the pie with it. Cut out the overhanging extra dough and crimp the edges. Press with a fork on the edge of the pie to create a pattern and also prick with the fork in a few places on the covering. The pie can be decorated with floral, geometrical or leaf patterns before it's baked. Break and beat an egg. Brush with egg all across the pie cover and bake in a 180* oven till it turns golden brown. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool, cut into wedges and serve with dollops of cream or vanilla ice-cream.

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