Friday, 29 July 2011

French beans with mung dal

If I don't use up all that bounty we picked up at the PYO farm, I'm gonna be in deep shit. While I was going berserk picking this and that from the farm, Ro kept asking me "are you sure you know what to do with this?" "Do you need so much beans?" and then a threatening one "If I see these rotting in the fridge or being thrown out..." I didn't let him complete the sentence as usual :)
So I'm in a frenzy trying to finish off all that stuff I picked up, and must admit that I'm loving it so far. These beans for instance were so darn fresh even when I snapped it in half yesterday. Crunchy and so green, not to mention how cheap that whole packet was compared to the mere 250 grams packet I usually pick up at the grocery store.

I didn't want to make my usual stir fry and so with a bit of googling I chanced upon this beautiful blog Akshayapaatram and a beans' recipe that looked so damn pretty. Yes, I totally decide how good a dish is based on the pictures. So I went about making it and I think hence forth I shall make my beans only this way. We totally loved it.
Recipe adapted from here
French beans- 3 cups, chopped
Mung dal- 1/4 cup, washed
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Dried red chillies- 2
Curry leaves- a sprig
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Green chillies- 2, slit
Salt- to taste
Oil- 1 tbsp
Rows and rows of beans waiting to be harvested

Cook the mung dal in a sauce pan with just enough boiling water. The dal should still be firm and not mashed.
Heat oil in a large wok and throw in the mustard and cumin seeds. 
Wait for it to splutter and add the dried red chillies and curry leaves. Stir for a few seconds.
Throw in the chopped beans followed by cooked mung beans, green chillies, turmeric powder and salt. Stir well to combine it together.
Cover and cook, stirring in between to prevent the beans from sticking to the pan.
If you feel there isn't enough water, then add about a tea spoon of water and continue to cook.
Once the beans have been cooked through, do a taste check, add enough salt if required, give a final stir and take it off the heat.
Serve hot with some roti or rice.

Notes: I over cooked the mung dal a wee bit and so it got a bit mashed in the process. 
I wanted to add some shredded coconut as well towards the end, but completely forgot. Thoroughly optional though
Adding green chillies is optional, i kinda like a bit of heat. The husband complained though

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Curried lentils with Swiss Chard

We went to a pick-your-own farm in North London last weekend and brought back our bounty of fruit and vegetables. I don't think I've ever eaten strawberries that were so juicy and sweet and oh what pleasure just plucking them off the plant and popping them into your mouth. Yeah yeah I didn't wash it or wipe it or anything, just ate them with all the gusto I could muster on that hot summer day.

The 10 acres of land was filled with fruits and veggies of all sorts- from blackberries, to raspberries to beetroot to courgettes- I had a tough time deciding what I wanted to bring back. Ro who, till now, was of the opinion that strawberries were so over rated, succumbed to the stereotype and decided strawberries and cream were most certainly heavenly. I had major plans of making strawberry this and strawberry that, but at the rate its going I don't think I'll have any left to make my planned desserts, instead we have just been devouring them with whipped cream. Yummville!
I had picked up some swiss chard as well and honestly it was the after effect of an article I wrote recently about growing swiss chard and since then I have been curious. I knew it was part of the spinach family, but hoped it wasn't like the radish greens I recently cooked which was quite bitter. Maybe it was a mistake I did, but I don't think I will be trying that out again.

Initial plan was to make a gratin with the chard, but then slight miscalculations and a whole day spent on a debate with my friends on fb, with bits and pieces of writing thrown in between meant I had very little time to prepare dinner. So I decided to incorporate the chard into a dal preparation. Thanks to the pressure cooker, frozen chapathis and the last stash of chicken cutlets, dinner was ready in no time. The downside however was that I missed out on the lighting bit and hence the dark, shadowy pics. Well, you gain some, you lose some right?

So anyways, I made the dal and it turned out good. The chard tastes very similar to spinach, just that I thought it didn't wilt as much as the spinach and so there was enough greens floating around in my lentil curry. I am hoping to use up the other veggies I picked up asap and as time permits will blog about it too.
(Damn the articles I'm writing, I sound so bloody formal here too) :( :(
Masoor dal- 1/4 cup
Toor dal- 1/4 cup
Mung dal- 1/4 cup
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Swiss chard- about 3 cups chopped and packed (washed properly and the tough stalks removed)
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Onion- 1 medium, thinly sliced
Garlic paste- 1 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder- 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida- a pinch
Fenugreek powder- a pinch
Coriander powder- 1.2 tsp
Lime juice- a dash
Garam amsala- 1/4 tsp
Salt- to taste
Oil- 1 tbsp
Water- about 2 cups
Throw in the dals (washed), turmeric powder, swiss chard and salt along with water into the pressure cooker, give it a good stir and cook on medium heat for about 3 whistles. Release the pressure and keep aside.
Meanwhile, heat oil in frying pan and add the cumin seeds.
Once it sizzles, add the onions and garlic paste and wait for it to cook and wilt a bit.
Add all the powders- chilli, coriander, asafoetida and fenugreek- and saute well. Cook till the raw smell disappears.
Put the pressure cooker with the cooked dal back on medium flame and add the onion mix. Stir well to combine,
Do a taste test and add more salt, spice as per requirement and bring to a boil.
Add a dash of lemon juice and sprinkle some garam masala on top, give a final stir and take it off the flame.
Pour into individual containers and serve as soup or as a side to rice or roti.
Notes: Add chickpeas (garbanzo) to this and it can be converted to a stew on a cold winters night.
Replace chard with spinach and you have palak dal.
You can do the above prep with any dal of choice.
Freeze it once it cools down and trust me it will be a blessing on a day you don't want to cook.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Super moist chocolate cake

Sorry I have been MIA for a while. Work caught on pretty well and the fact that I was  am on a diet made me stay away from fancy cooking. Although I had tonnes of posts in my drafts, I wasn't in the mood to sit and pen down a whole blog post, edit the pics etc etc and it came to a point where I wasn't even signing into blogger and checking in on my fav bloggers. So if I haven't visited you guys in the near future, it is because of random stuff like this. 
I hadn't baked in ages, and somehow wasn't even having any withdrawals this time. But yesterday, we had a lil something to celebrate and I fell prey to the husbands nagging for a chocolate cake. Like I have mentioned loads of times before, I actually don't like chocolate that much. And every time Ro bugs me for a choc cake, I bake my moms easy Beat & bake chocolate cake which takes no time and you get the desired effect.
Was a bit in the experimenting mood yesterday, but not so much as to spend hours googling and grocery shopping, and so decided to head over to Marias Menu and borrow her recipe this time. Of course it was extremely moist like she said and pretty easy to put together as well. I didn't do the ganache or any frosting, since my love for plain cakes still rule. Even though I have restricted my in take to about one slice, the husband has been gorging on it non stop. So while I chew on those salads and fruit, you can go ahead and enjoy this yummilicious chocolate cake.
Recipe adapted from here
Milk- 1 1/2 cups
Butter- 100 gms 
Oil- 1/4 cup
Cocoa powder- 1/2 cup 
All purpose flour- 1 cup
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Baking powder- 1/2 tsp
Granulated sugar- 250 gms
Egg- 1 large
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
Salt- 1/4 tsp
Pour into a sauce pan the milk, oil, butter and cocoa powder. Mix together on medium low heat till the butter completely melts. Keep aside to cool, stirring in between.
Into a mixing bowl throw in flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. Whisk to combine.
Add the beaten egg and vanilla extract followed by the wet ingredients.
Whisk/ beat well to combine all the ingredients. There shouldn't be any traces of flour visible. The batter would be really loose, but not to worry.
Pour into a 9 inch pan lined with baking paper, and place in the middle shelf of an oven pre heated at 180C for 45 to 55 minutes.
If making cupcakes, then reduce time to about 15 to 20 minutes.
Do the skewer test at around 45 minutes and then continue if required.
Take it out of the oven, let it rest for about 10 minutes and then turn it onto a cooling rack and leave it there till it cools down completely.
Slice and serve with some vanilla ice cream or store in an air tight container.
Notes: I added vanilla extract, because I like the vanilla taste in chocolate cakes.
Add self raising flour if you have it and omit the salt and baking powder from above.
The cake is not really sweet (for my liking at least) so it would pair really well with some ice cream. A ganache frosting would also be sufficient
The cake cracked a whole lot on top and since im used to it now, i didnt panic. I turned it over and sliced it. hence the neat surface :)

Friday, 8 July 2011

Kothu Paratha (finely shredded Paratha's cooked with meat and spices)

My mom used to make kothu parathas with left over parathas and we used to love it. She used to do variations of it with bread and chapathi also. I have tried making the bread version here but it was pretty sad and so never really ventured into that again. I never really bothered making them with parathas because, for one I have no clue how to make parathas and two, store bought parathas were too precious to be torn up and used.

That's when I came across a frozen packet of 'kothu paratha' while scouting around the Indian grocery store. Picked it up thinking I'd give it a shot, hoping it would actually be worth it. My craving for kothu paratha made me prepare it the very next day for dinner. My mom and dad are holidaying In Delhi at the moment so I couldn't get the recipe she uses, but searched around a few blogs and came up with this. 

It tasted so darn good, I am kicking myself for not picking up more than one packet of kothu paratha. They are nothing but parathas shredded (which is for the plain lazy people like me). You can use left over chapathi's or frozen parathas for the same, but make sure you cook it before tearing it up. 
Shredded paratha- 2 cups (about 5 to 6 medium size parathas chopped or shredded)
Onion- 1 large
Tomatoes- 2 medium
Ginger paste- 1/2 tbsp
Garlic paste- 1/2 tbsp
Coriander powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder- 1.2 tsp
Cumin powder- 1/4 tsp
Meat masala- 1.2 tsp (optional)
Minced chicken- 250 to 300 gms
Curry leaves- a sprig
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Oil- 1 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Eggs- 2, lightly beaten (optional)
Chopped coriander leaves- to garnish (optional)
If you are using frozen parathas or chapathis, then cook them on the tawa as per instructions and then chop it up or shred it. Keep aside.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and splutter mustard seeds, followed by curry leaves.
Then add the chopped onion and sauté till it wilts a bit and turns a light brown.
Add the green chilli, ginger, garlic pastes and mix well. Cook till the raw smell disappears.
Throw in tomatoes and cook till it becomes one mushy ,mix.
At this point add all the spices- turmeric, chilli, coriander, meat masala and cumin. Season with salt and cook till oil starts appearing on top.
Add the minced chicken and stir to coat it well.
Cook till the chicken is done and all the water evaporates, but make sure its not too dry. Keeping it in semi gravy form is also ok, but not too watery. (If you feel that the chicken is too much, then store some away at this point).
Add the shredded parathas and give it a good stir to get the masalas and chicken to mix in with the parathas. 
Raise the heat to high and stir fry for a couple of minutes continuously.
Then make a well in the centre of the pan and add the beaten egg. Scramble it well and cook along with the paratha mix.
The kothu paratha is done when the egg is cooked through.
Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with some chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with yoghurt and pickle. (I made an okra-yoghurt side for it)
Notes: You can of course do a veg version of it avoiding the egg and chicken and maybe adding some green peas, carrots etc.
Technically the paratha pieces are shredded much finely, but I kept it as it is. Watch this to get a better idea about what and how kothu paratha is made.
If you don't have minced chicken, then use chicken breast or thigh fillets. Chop them up into tiny pieces and pre cook with a bit of salt. Then add that to the onion-tomato mix.
I read somewhere that you can also used left over chicken curry as the base and then add the shredded parathas into that. Mighty easy that sounds, I must say :)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Cappuccino at home

From scorching 32C a couple of days back we went to 15 degrees today and heavy rains. Although the heat kinda got to me at one point, I actually haven't had enough of sunshine (literally) in my life. I have also not been cooking too much, simply because I don't feel like it. After researching and writing and editing 2 to 3 articles a day, and an hour gone swimming, then grocery shopping, I am pooped by the end of the day. There is no energy left to whip up something nice, leave alone style it, take pics and blog. If Ro's working from home then its even more tiresome with lunch also thrown in.

But the good thing is, I learned a couple of interesting things with the articles I have been writing. For example, I learned that you don't need a fancy schmancy espresso maker with a foam nozzle to make a cappuccino at home. The bad thing, however, is the craving I get for all the things I write about :O
I used to love a good cuppa cappuccino when we were in India. The Coffee Day ones were so amazing, I could easily have 2 to 3 at one go. But here, its not the same. Its way too milky for my liking. So whenever I head to a Starbucks or Costa, I end up ordering an Americano and then add a wee bit of milk. I prefer super strong, super sweet coffee's and I must add that the coffee maker/ cafetiere ones come no where near our South Indian filter coffee. But we are now so used to having it, or rather we are so used to the convenience of just pouring it out of a pot that we have forgotten how yummy it really is. Ro has made it a point to grind his own coffee and use it, which is fine when you take it black. But with milk, it all just goes for a toss.

Anyways, coming back to the cappuccino. It is so darn easy that I cant even imagine how I never came across this procedure. Don't believe me? Read on.

Instant espresso powder- 2 tsp per cup (1 tsp if you don't want it too strong)
Sugar- 2 tsp (as per taste really)
Boiling water- 1/3rd cup
Milk- 1/2 cup
Tip in the espresso powder and sugar into a coffee cup.
Add the boiling water, stir and keep aside.
Heat the milk in a microwave for about 20 to 30 seconds and pour into a cafetiere/ French press and pump the plunger about 8 to 10 times continuously till you see enough froth.
It should be ideally half milk and half froth, but its OK if its not perfect.
Pour the milk over the strong espresso slowly followed by the froth.
You can top with some coffee powder or chocolate if you please.
Notes: I first tried using an immersion blender to make the froth but in vain. It just took forever, and the froth produced was meagre compared to the cafetiere.
Watch this video for a better idea. I gasped at the end of it cos it was as simple as that.
If you don't have instant espresso powder then make normal coffee and use that instead.
You can add some sugar to the milk to make it extra sweet :)

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Review: Domino's Reggae Reggae pizza

As you all might already know, I'm a big Domino's fan. So when I was asked to review their newly launched Reggae Reggae pizza, I didn't think twice. Gladly agreed to do so.

If you are a regular viewer of Saturday Kitchen Live, you would know Levi Roots who does gorgeous Caribbean cooking; and his new Reggae Reggae sauce is the main ingredient in this pizza. Its a very Caribbean inspired pizza with roast chicken, tomatoes, green peppers, pineapple and of course glorious mozzarella cheese. 
We went a notch further and ordered the large non-veg Reggae reggae pizza with a stuffed crust, which is also a new addition to their collection. The delivery, as usual, arrived on time (something I absolutely love about Domino's) and we dug into it with all gusto. First bite, and honestly I wasn't that impressed. I mean I don't usually prefer sweet/ spice combinations and maybe it was because I'm not a big BBQ sauce fan, that I didn't like the sauce too much. The addition of pineapple also was a bit of a bummer for me, but hey that's what Caribbean cooking is all about, so you need to go with the flow.

That said, after a few bites, the whole taste just grows on you. Prior to my observation, my husband thoroughly declared this pizza as more juicy and flavourful and he loved the sweet-spice flavours it imparted. But otherwise, the chicken was cooked to perfection and the cheese did its job really well. The stuffed crust was a bit of a let down and I don't think I'd order that again. But the next time if we pick up a Reggae Reggae pizza, I would do a thin crust and maybe try and omit the pineapple (just cos of preference, nothing else).
If you like BBQ flavours with a tint of sweetness, then this pizza is definitely for you. Vegetarians worry not, there is also a Vegetarian reggaie Reggae pizza with sweetcorn as an addition and can also be bought as one of Domino's oven baked subs. Go ahead and order and while you are at it, don't forget to check out their amazing pizza offers. We did ours as a 'Two for Tuesday' deal and paired it with an equally gorgeous 'Full House' Pizza.

With thanks to Dominos Pizza for gift vouchers to pick up the pizza