Monday, 27 June 2011

Nigella's saffron scented chicken pilaf

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I am obsessed with trying out new rice recipes. Maybe its because we have rice only over the weekend, that too just for lunch, and instead of the boring plain rice I'm always looking for a variety of ways I can play around with rice. I keep getting updates from nigella.com and this recipe was updated on one of the days. I realized I had everything in hand and so made it.
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I must say that it tasted good, except I may not actually add the chicken henceforth. It would be perfect on its own, with maybe a side of chicken curry or something. I love the fact that the procedure is easy and of course Nigella just makes it a tad more exotic. I watched her video for this recipe and the first few minutes I was completely distracted by her home and kitchen. Then the next few minutes I was trying to understand why she uses so many adjectives to describe food. Seriously this is how she describes the pilaf on her website:
"The cinnamon and lemony yoghurt marinade gives the chicken a soft, perfumed tenderness; the saffron in the rice, itself studded with nuts and the musky breath of cardamom (??????), is almost lit up with gold. "

Are we describing a hunk out of Mills & Boon or just some random Pilaf??? So while I was serving the rice, I started talking like Nigella (sans the fairy lights in the background) and telling Ro, "here's a touch of the Arabian nights in sunny Greenwich ...mmm beautiful isn't it?" Ro was annoyed and said I'd soon look like a "fat" version of Nigella if I didn't stop making rich carb-high food like this. That was uncalled for, but anyways, I enjoyed making this rice and eating it too :)

Recipe adapted from here
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Skinless, boneless chicken thighs/ breasts- 250 gms, cleaned and sliced into small cubes
Yoghurt- 100 gms
Cinnamon powder- a little less than a 1/4 tsp
Pepper- to taste
Salt- to taste
Lemon juice- 1 tsp

Basmati rice- 250 gms (approx. 1 1/3rd cups)
Chicken stock- 500 ml (approx. 2 cups) I dissolved a cube of instant chicken bouillon in boiling water.
Saffron threads- 1/4 tsp
Cardamon pods- 2, bruised
Oil- 2 tbsp
Lemon zest- of half a lemon
Lemon juice- of half a lemon
Coriander leaves- to garnish
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Marinate the chicken pieces with yoghurt, cinnamon powder, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Toss well and keep aside for at least an hour or overnight. Whichever is convenient.
Soak the saffron threads in the chicken stock.
In a large pan, heat the oil and add the rice.
On medium heat, sauté till the rice turns lightly translucent/ glossy.
Add the chicken stock with the saffron followed by lemon zest, lime juice, some salt and crushed cardamom pods. Give a good stir and cover with a tight fitting lid.
Turn the heat to very low and cook for about 15 minutes, or till you have noticed that the rice is cooked, and all the water has been absorbed.
While that's taken care of, remove the chicken from the marinade and shallow fry it in a pan with little oil or like I did, grill it on high in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Once the rice is cooked, remove from the fire and fluff it with a fork.
Transfer the rice into a serving dish, arrange the fried/ grilled chicken pieces on top and garnish with some chopped coriander leaves.
I served this with some chilled cucumber raita, baby tomato salad and some glorious white wine.
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Notes: Now the original recipe calls for roasted pine nuts, cashew nuts and almond flakes. I didn't go there because for one, I don't really like the whole idea of biting into the nuts in rice and two, didn't want to add to the calories and three and most importantly, I was too lazy to dry roast it :)
Coriander leaves can be substituted with parsley leaves. I didn't have any fresh leaves and dried ones would have been bleh!
The chicken stock is salty, so watch before you add more.
The cinnamon taste in the chicken is quite obvious, so reduce or omit if you are not a big fan
Double the recipe to serve about 4 to 5 people.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Zucchini mezhukkupuratti (zucchini stir fried with Indian spices)

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My friend J, my sis-in-law and myself were having this conversation on FB about a beetroot chocolate cake, a while back, and somehow the conversation turned to zucchini bread. We were commenting on each others' reaction to using vegetables in baking and J mentioned her moms yummy zucchini mezhukkupuratti. It sounded like a great idea and I made a note to pick some up the next item I went grocery shopping.

That very evening we headed to Sainsburys to pick up some stuff and Ro started his usual rants about 'how we don't eat enough veggies' and how 'brocolli is awesome.' So to shut him up I said we'll pick up anything but the wretched broc and steered towards the spinach and cabbage aisles. 'Cabbage has absolutely no health benefits, he said (I have to check on that btw!) and made a face. Since I am now so used to just nodding and agreeing to anything he says (without actually listening), I nodded this time too, but put in a packet of spinach into the trolley. That's it? was his next question and by then I was losing it..this is about 5 minutes into the shopping experience. I saw a packet of zucchini and grabbed the last one saying this is very good. 'But its like a cucumber, only water.' Me (rolling my eyes) managed to ignore him. At that point I would have done anything to not let him pick that broccoli. God I hate that vegetable with a vengeance.
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(Just a note to all the new wives out there...never take your husband grocery shopping. If he's anything like mine, you'd go mad, and also end up with a whole lot of unnecessary stuff which you'd have to eventually cook..not to mention the hefty bill amount. If the bags are too heavy to carry, call him just before you pay the bill). If there is one thing I've learned after 5 years of being married, its never to take your husband grocery shopping or send him grocery shopping alone. I get at least 10 calls from the shop asking me which variety of oil did i think was best. Trust me, I have proof for this...

Anyhoo, back to zucchini. Having experimented with zucchini only a few times, I was pretty apprehensive about how it would turn out. I am not too good with mallu preparations and till now don't know how to make the perfect thoran or mezhukkupuratti. So when J wrote back saying it is made like the usual mezhukkupuratti, I was a bit concerned. I don't know how the usual one is made, and so googled it. This would probably be my 1st ever mezhukkupuratti on my blog (after the really sad looking one here) and I hope you guys enjoy it. We loved it a lot!

Thanks a lot to J and her mom for the brilliant idea :)
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Zucchini- 3 medium, chopped into cubes (approx. 3 cups)
Onion- 1 small, roughly chopped
Garlic- 3 pods, finely chopped (or 1 tsp garlic paste)
Ginger- 1/2 inch piece, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp paste)
Dry red chilli- 1
Green chillies- 2, slit
Cumin powder- 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds- 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves- a sprig
Oil- 1/2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
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Heat oil in a kadai and throw in the mustard seeds.
Once they splutter add the curry leaves, green chillies, red chilli, garlic and ginger. Saute for a few minutes.
Add onions and cook till they turn soft.
In goes the turmeric powder and cumin powder. Mix well to coat the onions and cook till it doesn't smell raw any more.
Throw in chopped zucchini and salt, stir to combine. Close with a lid and cook on medium low for about 10 minutes, stirring in between to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.
The zucchini lets out enough water, so you might want to open the lid and cook after a while. Over cook it, and it will turn mushy.
We had it with rice, dal, cutlets and pickle..bliss!
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Notes: The oil somehow oozed out quite a bit when I used about 1 tbsp, and so have reduced it to 1/2 a tbsp
It was also a tad towards the spicier side, so go easy on the chillies if you want a milder version.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Guest Post on Journey Kitchen

Its a very exciting day for me. My first ever guest post is up and running on Kulsum's Journey Kitchen.

I stumbled upon Journey Kitchen quite by accident on one of those blog hopping days and there was no looking back. Her pictures are mind blowing, not to mention her writing which is simply the best. I sometimes head there just to check out her food styling and photography. 
So when she asked me to do a guest post on her blog while she was busy preparing for her exams, I was thrilled...and honoured! I have never done this before and I was a bit sceptical as to what to blog. She wanted breakfast ideas and so I set about wrecking my brains and finally came up with a Channa Bhatura recipe. 

Do head over to her gorgeous space and see what I've whipped up. Kulsum, thanks a bunch once again for this lovely opportunity.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Grilled chicken wings- the Indian way

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About 2 weeks back, we had some friends over for dinner and I did a Mexican theme with buffalo wings, quesadillas, ranch dressing and guava mojitos..a little Cuban influence there, but who cares? 

So having discovered cleaned, skinless chicken wings at another grocery store nearby, I was pretty much over joyed, to say the least. The problem is, they get over really fast (which is probably why I never knew they existed in the first place) and so if you are not lucky (in my case early enough) you may not get it. I had stocked up on 2 sets of wings the last time I chanced upon them and was very happy when the others who came by looking for them were disappointed (yup, totally mean, if you're wondering)

One set I used for the lunch party and the other set, I made some Indian inspired chicken wings which were served with a baked potato and a tomato salad. Now that's my kinda dinner. I have posted a recipe for buffalo wings and quesadillas here, here and here, if you're interested

Recipe has been adapted from here
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To marinate
Thick curd- 3/4 cup
Ginger paste- 1/2 tbsp
Garlic paste- 1/2 tbsp
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder- 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder- 1/2 tsp
Lemon juice- 1 tbsp
Dried fenugreek leaves- 1 1/2 tsp
Ground black pepper- 1/4 tsp
Oil- 1 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Coriander leaves- to garnish (optional)
Skinless chicken wings, tips removed- 1 kg, cleaned and dried with a kitchen towel

Sauce:
Onions- 1 medium, finely chopped
Tomato- 1 medium, finely chopped
Garlic- 5 largish pods, peeled and roughly chopped
Ginger- 2 inch piece, finely chopped
Salt- to taste
Water- 1/4 cup (optional)
Oil- 1/2 tbsp
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Mix together all the ingredients under the 'to marinate' section in a bowl until well combined.
Pour over the chicken wings, toss well, cover and marinate over night or for at least an hour.
When ready to grill, line a baking tray with aluminium foil and place the chicken wings in rows. Don't over crowd. 
Save the remaining marinade for basting and for the sauce
Preheat the grill for about 10 minutes on high and grill the chicken for a total of 10 to 12 minutes. Take it out after about 5 minutes, baste it with more marinade (if required), turn it over and cook for the remaining 5 or 6 minutes. Repeat with the remaining wings.
Once they are all grilled, transfer them into a clean mixing bowl.
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To make the sauce, heat a frying pan with oil and throw in the onions, ginger and garlic.
Saute on medium-low heat till they are slightly wilted.
Throw in the tomatoes and salt and cook till the oil starts separating. 
Add the remaining marinade from the chicken and cook till oil starts resurfacing again. Do this on low heat to prevent the curds from curdling.
Once completely cooked, pour the sauce over the cooked chicken wings, toss to coat well and garnish with coriander leaves. Alternatively, if the sauce is cooked in a vessel large enough to hold all the wings, then throw in the chicken and toss it around in the same pan itself.
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Notes: Grilling chicken on high heat takes no time at all...be careful not to burn it (as you can see, i did manage 2 burn it)
The sauce is completely optional, I didn't want it to be too dry, so opted for a sauce. If serving it dry, then probably a dipping sauce on the side would be a good idea.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Sable Viennois by Pierre Herme

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One of my favourite things to do of late is to walk around the food halls of Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Selfridges and generally gawk at all the glamorous food they have to offer. Everything is just so expensive, so gawking is all I do and maybe once in a while relish the occasional Laduree macaron.  I was in Selfridges the other day and came across the Pierre Herme section in their food hall. The macarons and pastries and all things French were so pretty that I actually spent a good 10 minutes taking it all in. These tiny biscuits were packaged well and I had half a mind to pick it up, but again, the price almost made me blind and so I chucked the idea, mentally making a note to do a search online and make it myself.
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Days passed and I completely forgot about it, and that's when the lovely Shirley of Kokken 69 blogged about a similar looking biscuit on her blog. Didn't think twice and so set about making a batch. I must say they are the easiest biscuits to make and are so delicate and pretty, I didn't even want to eat them, but just go on clicking pictures.
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Recipe adapted from here
Salted butter- 95 gms (at room temp.)
Table/ sea salt- 2 gms
Powdered sugar- 40 gms
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
Egg white- 30 gms
Plain flour- 125 gms
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In a mixing bowl cream together the butter, salt and sugar till smooth. You can use a wire whisk, no need for a mixer.
Add the egg white and whisk to combine well. Like Shirley says, the mix may look a bit curdled, but its fine, really!
Whisk in the vanilla extract and then fold in the flour making sure you have a smooth, lump free dough an the end.
Scoop the batter into a piping bag fit with the nozzle of your choice and pipe away on to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Make circles or any shape you prefer. Not a concern, they are gonna be awesome whichever shape  :)
Bake in an oven pre-heated at 180C for about 10 to 12 minutes or lightly brown. Please don't keep it longer than that.
Notes: The original recipe calls for Fleur de Sel, but obviously I didn't have it and so added some extra sea salt which did give out a nice salty taste, but if you have fds use that instead.
I accidentally ended up with 30gms of egg white when the original said 15 gms. I don think it made a difference though..to me at least!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Thai red prawn curry with sticky coconut rice

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I have been busy with my freelance work for the past few days which involves a lot of research and writing and I'm exhausted. So I am not going to rant on the blog because of all the typing I've been doing, and here I am going straight to the recipe.

This was an easy peacy friday night dinner for two. It works out best if you have ready made red curry paste. Even the pics don't look nice, but the recipe was really easy and good and I'd also promised my mom I'd post the recipe since Id sent her a box of red curry paste.

Thai red prawn curry
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Prawns: 250 gms, cleaned and deveined
Shallot- 1 small (optional)
Ginger- 1 inch piece, julienned
Garlic- 4 pods, chopped up fine
Thai red curry paste- 1 tsp (store bought..mine was really spice so i used onlt a tsp)
Thin coconut milk- 1 cup
Oil- 1/2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Thai basil/ coriander leaves- to garnish
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Heat a non stick pan and add the oil.
Once hot, sauté the shallot (if using), ginger and garlic till nice and fragrant. You don't want to over cook.
Add the red curry paste and on medium-low heat sauté it till you see oil appearing. This is important.
Add coconut milk with the heat on low and mix well. Bring to a gentle boil. Season with salt.
Once the coconut milk has slightly thickened (if its too thick, thin it out with some water), add the prawns and cook till done...max. 6 to 7 minutes on medium high heat.
Chop the basil/ coriander leaves and garnish just before serving.

Notes: If you want to make your own curry paste, here's the link 

Sticky coconut rice
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Basmati rice/ sticky rice- 1 cup (cleaned and drained)
Coconut milk- 1 cup
Water- 1 cup
Salt- to taste
Oil- 1 tsp
Coriander leaves- to garnish (optional)
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In a chefs pan, large enough to handle 1 cup rice, heat the oil.
Add the rice and sauté gently for a few minutes, till the rice becomes slightly transparent.
Reduce the heat to low and add the coconut milk, followed by water.
Season with salt, stir well and close with a tight fitting lid and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or till all the water has been absorbed.
Fluff the rice with a fork, sprinkle some coriander leaves and serve hot.
Notes: You can use 2 cups of coconut milk for a stronger taste. I wasn't too sure if id like the strong taste that much so i diluted it.
The rice will be slightly sticky, but that's the whole point really. 
I would also like to announce the winner of the giveaway- Ananda Rajashekar. Ananda, do pass on your address so I can send the books across :)
Thanks to all the others who participated. Stay tuned for more giveaways :)

Friday, 3 June 2011

Lemon polenta cake (gluten free)

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It is officially summer people, it is officially summer (imagine me screaming this). We are enjoying highs of 25C all throughout the day and I am glad I can go out in flip flops and shorts. I have also decided to start my swimming sessions next week, something I've been putting off for so long. Well I blame the weather for my lethargy really, I mean who wants to go jump into the water when its 10 degrees outside??? Not me!
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I picked up a packet of cornmeal after craving for some corn bread (reminiscing our Chicago days) a couple of days back. I have never really cooked with cornmeal, and I would have gladly picked up a ready cornmeal muffin mix from Selfridges, if it wasn't 6 bloody pounds. That's a ridiculous amount to pay for a small pouch of ready mix which I decided wouldn't taste half as good as home made. So while searching for the perfect cornbread recipe (the level I was trying to attain was the cornbread from Famous Daves btw!), I came across this in Delicious Magazine. Changed my mind immediately and came up with the most prettiest cake evah!
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This cake is as summery as it can get. It is perfectly moist, lemony and oh so yellow...the epitome of summer if you ask me. The only confusion being...is polenta and cornmeal the same thing?? After posting this question on FB, and some research online, I was able to come to the conclusion that it is. The cake actually turned out to be gluten free and I was damn thrilled about that as well. Serve it with a dab of crème fraiche and its a perfect cake to serve at a BBQ party or a picnic in the park.
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I am not usually a big fan of citrussy desserts or cakes, and so have reduced the lemon content drastically. In spite of that, the cake gave out a subtle lemony flavour which I must say is something I enjoyed. It would have otherwise been too plain a cake. There is also the lemon syrup and mascarpone with lemon curd topping which I almost did but then laziness got the better of me and so the cheese went straight into the freezer. When I am actually throwing a summer party, I'll probably make the whole thing. I am however giving you the recipe for a basic lemon glaze which can be drizzled over.

On another note, you still have time to enter the giveaway. Win 3 recipe books (Soups, Leftover, Desserts), and all you need to do is leave a comment on this post. I shall announce the winner on 5th or 6th June.
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Recipe has been adapted from here
Butter- 160 gms, at room temperature
Caster sugar- 150 gms
Fine cornmeal- 65 gms
Ground almonds- 150 gms
Baking powder- 3/4 tsp (use gluten free if you have it)
Eggs- 2 large, at room temperature
Lemon zest- from one large lemon (add the zest of one more if you want a stronger flavour)
Lemon juice- 1 tsp (or more if you please)
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Cream together the butter and caster sugar till light and fluffy, say about 3 minutes on medium speed.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. It might look a bit curdled, but its fine.
Fold in the almond flour followed by cornmeal and baking powder. The batter would be a bit thick.
Add the lemon zest and juice and mix well to combine. I did this on the lowest speed in my free standing mixer.
Transfer the batter into a greased pan (9 inch round or square pan) and even it out.
Bake in an oven pre heated at 160C for 40 minutes or till a skewer comes out clean.
Place on a cooling rack and once marginally cool, remove from the pan and cool directly on the rack.
Basic lemon glaze
Confectioners sugar- 1 cup
Lemon juice- 1 to 2 tbsp of lemon juice depending on how strong you want it to be

Place the sugar into a mixing bowl and gradually add the lemon juice, whisking continuously till you have a pourable consistency. It shouldn't be too thick. Pour over the cake/ muffin/ bundt.
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Notes: I used a small 7 inch cake pan and 2 mini bundt pans.
The bundt cake cooked in a matter of 30 minutes.
If you want to add flour..reduce the ground almonds to 100 gms and add 50 gms of plain flour.