Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Spicy Bolognese sauce

Italian food is one of my favorite. It is there on my top three list and I love to try different Italian recipes. This spicy Bolognese sauce of mine is influenced by Delia’s recipe which you can find here. As a South Indian I had to spice the sauce, not that I like spicing all food that I come across. But when I read a recipe, I feel it could do with some spices and this was one such. I cut down on the meat level demanded by the original and used lamb mince instead of beef mince. This went down very well with the troops. I also spotted a potential to camouflage veggies in this recipe - will have to try that next time.

This is how it can be made

  • Lamb mince – 500gms
  • Canned tomatoes – 2
  • Tomato puree – 4 Tbsp
  • Onion – 1 chopped
  • Garlic – 2 big finely chopped
  • Nutmeg – 1/2 grated
  • Coriander powder – 3 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin powder – ½ tsp
  • Olive oil – 4 Tbsp

Heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes. Add the mince to this and fry until the mince turns brown. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree and the spices and mix it all up. Season with salt and pepper and enough water and let it bubble. Once the gravy starts bubbling reduce the fire and let it simmer for 2 hours without the lid(this is important). The end result will be a thick brown-reddish sauce. It tastes yummy with Spaghetti. The sauce could also be frozen and goes well with rice and chapatti too.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Meen Varuval (Spicy fried fish)

It is Fish time again. My family especially my son can’t get enough of fish. This is a pan fried recipe. The fish could also be deep fried, but pan frying saves a bit of oil and so I prefer it. The marinade is very simple and the marinating time required is also only about an hour.

  • Coriander powder – 2 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Fennel powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  • Salt as required
  • Lemon juice – 1 Tbsp
  • Fish steaks – 4 medium size or 2 large ones.
  • Oil

Mix all the ingredients and make a paste with some water. Rub the paste on the fish and leave it to marinate for at least an hour. Heat a pan and pour about 5 Tbsp of oil. When the oil is hot add the fish steaks and fry them 5 minutes on each side. If the steak is thick the fish may need more time to cook. The fish goes very well as a side dish with many rice dishes. I made it with King Fish steak. But any firm fish will suit the recipe.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Chicken Biryani

Deepavali cannot be Deepavali without Biryani for me. My mother makes Biryani on that day. Many of friends think it is odd to cook non-veg on Deepavali. As with almost all recipes there are many different versions. I learnt to make mine from my cousin who is a fantastic cook. She was my savior when I first came to the big bad(or good) city of Chennai. She actually taught me the basics of many things apart from cooking like the art of buying make-up and draping a sari really-really fast. We don’t see each other or talk often now, living in different continents doesn’t help. Following in the family footsteps I made Chicken Biryani for Deepavali. Before I go in depth detailing my family history here is the recipe.

  • Red Onions – ½ Kg
  • Tomatoes – ½ Kg
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 2 Tbsp
  • Slit green chillies - 5
  • Mint leaves – a big bunch
  • Coriander leaves – a big bunch
  • Cardamom – 2
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Cinnamon – a long stick
  • Cloves – 3
  • Chicken – 1 Kg
  • Oil – 6 Tbsp
  • Basmati rice – 1 Kg ( 4 cups)
  • Salt as required

Slice the onions thinly, and chop the tomatoes finely. Chop the coriander and the mint leaves finely. Wash and rinse the rice. The preparation and cooking takes time. Heat the oil in a hard bottom vessel and add in the spices. When they start to pop add the green chillies. And when the skin of the green chillies start to turn white add in the sliced onions and fry. This is the most important stage of cooking. The deep dark brown color comes from these well fried onions. The quantity of onions should reduce to at least one fourth the original volume. When the onions are a deep brown and reduce considerably in volume add the tomatoes and fry them till the oil floats on the top. After this add the ginger garlic paste and fry till the raw smell disappears. Then add in the chopped leaves and again fry till they are well combined and sweated down. Add the chicken into the masala and coat the chicken well with this. Add the washed rice and 6 ½ cup of water and mix well. Season with salt and leave the vessel open until bubbles start to appear. Close with a lid and get the stove flame to as low as possible. You could also finish the cooking in a mild oven. To maintain the flavours, you can seal the lid with dough made from wheat flour. It takes approximately 25 minutes to cook, you can check by opening the lid to see if all is well. You can serve the Biryani with onion raita. I always make more, so there will be plenty of left-overs for the next day. The re-heated Biryani, the day after tastes even better. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Cabbage and Pattani Poriyal (Cabbage and peas stir fry)

Stir fry dishes are very popular in the region I come from. But they are not called stir fries, we call them poriyal. With a simple tempering process, the vegetables are transformed into delicacies that one craves for. Strangely I like cabbage poriyal, in fact I like cabbage in all forms. This poriyal is generally had as side dish for rice and would go well for Chapatti as well. This recipe can be adopted for any vegetable. I just added the peas to get a two dimensional color to the finished product. With the daylight becoming shorter, the photos of the food under my kitchen light are shaded and sometimes they end up like stills out of a badly shot Mani Ratnam movie.

  • Shredded or grated Cabbage – 2 cups
  • Peas – ½ cup
  • Green chillies – 2
  • Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 twig
  • Salt as required.

Steam the cabbage and the peas till nearly done. I like a little crunch, but if you like it well done, you can cook it thru. Heat a spoon of oil and add the mustard seeds. When they pop add the urad dal and when they turn golden add the curry leaves and the slit green chillies. After a few seconds add the steamed cabbage, peas and season it with salt. Stir fry it for a few minutes and remove from fire. It is a simple and easy dish.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Tandoori Chicken

I love all things food. I remember cherishing a copy of Folio – food edition that came long ago with ‘The Hindu’. The food of a region reflects the culture to some extent and one of favorite day dreams while traveling is – discovering an ancient recipe book while digging (I am always a foodie anthropologists in my day dreams) in the Indus valley (thinking big). I love to know what the ancients ate, no matter the geography and wouldn’t mind trying out recipes. Anyway back to reality and the best I could do is watch cookery programs on TV. As a native I am interested in how the British perceive Indian food, so of particular interest are the food programs that are actually shot in India. All famous TV cooks have done it. From Keith Floyd to the latest Gary Rhodes many have made the trip. Of them all, Madhu Jaffery’s series scores the highest and Gary Rhodes the lowest. He did not find a pudding in India worth cooking and that I guess sums it all about his understanding of Indian food. I chanced upon the Tandoori chicken recipe on the Indian series that Madhu did. This chicken was made by a street vendor in Amritsar. I can’t kick myself enough for not committing the recipe to paper. But I made an attempt with the aid of my brain calls and the results were certainly worth a try. Especially if you have parties, this recipe can come in handy as you can marinate the chicken the day before and cook it in an oven on that day.

You will need

  • Chicken thighs (with legs) - 4
  • Single cream – 50 ml
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 2 Tbsp
  • Coriander powder – 2 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 Tbsp
  • Garam masala – 1 Tbsp
  • Red food color – ¼ tsp (optional)
  • Lemon juice – 2 Tbsp
  • Chat masala – 2 Tbsp
  • Salt as required

Make the marinade by mixing all the powder except the chat masala with the cream, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste and salt. Remove the skin from the chicken and clean and dry them. Make deep slits on the thighs. Rub the marinade on the chicken and well into the slits. If you want to reduce or increase the heat, adjust the chilli powder accordingly. Cover with a Clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, the more the better. When the chicken is ready to cook, preheat the oven to as high as possible. Bring the chicken to room temperature and rub it with some oil. When the oven is really hot, keep the chicken into the oven on a baking tray. After 10 minutes turn the chicken over and baste it with the juices in the tray or with some oil. When both the sides are cooked (you can check by piercing the chicken and if the juices run clear then it is cooked) remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Then cut the thighs into 2 (you will get a drumstick and the actual thigh part). Toss the chicken or rub it gently with chat masala powder (this does make a difference) and the chicken is ready to serve. Every time I make it, the chickens are well received.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Meen Kuzhambu (South Indian Fish Curry)

Bang after an extremely busy and lazy period. How you may ask one can be both at the same. Actually this is what I specialize in and am good at it - 30 years of practice helps. It has been festivities involving fireworks first for bonfire and then for Deepavali. I have been bingeing on too many goodies that is way beyond my waist could cope with. Trying to sober down but without much success. This meen kuzhambu recipe reflects my position, trying hard to sober down but returning to old ways. So here is the recipe for meen kuzhambu for the pure pleasure of food. I got the recipe from this site (a great place for discussing food especially South Indian style) and have pretty much used it without any change.

  • Shallots – 1 cup (or 1 large red onion)
  • Coconut – ½ a coconut
  • Tamarind – lemon size
  • Tomato – 1
  • Corriander powder – 4 Tbsp
  • Chilli powder – 2 Tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Salt
  • Fish – 750 gms
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Curry Leaves
  • Sesame oil – 3 tbsp

Peel and chop the onions except 6 of the small onions. Is using a big onion chop it to medium size and reserve ¼th of them. Grind the coconut, tomato and the reserved onions to a fine paste. To this add the powders and grind again. Extract the tamarind juice and mix it with the ground paste. Clean the fish and rub it with turmeric powder and salt. Heat 2 Tbsp of sesame oil in a pan. Any oil can be used, in Tamil Nadu sesame oil is used to get a unique flavour. When the oil is hot add the fenugreek seeds (this gives a wonderful aroma) and add the curry leaves and onions and fry until the onions turns colour. Then add the ground paste with some water. This has to bubble of for atleast 20 mins. Use more water if the curry is thick. Then add the fish of your choice. King Fish goes very well for this recipe. Cook the curry till the fish is cooked. Pour over the remaining sesame oil on the curry and close it with a lid and enjoy. I have tried some other fish curry recipes as well, but none is as good as this one. The Kuzhambu taste even better the next day.