Saturday, 28 June 2014

Baked Chicken stuffed with Goat's Cheese and Piri Piri chilies with Red Potato Mash


There are days when I cook something, especially when I develop a new recipe, which is appreciated by all and yet I do not feel satisfied. Just a little something missing there, I tell myself. And then there are times I absolutely embarrass myself  turning out disasters on a platter. But again there are days like today, when I make something, no matter how simple, and I am engulfed by a sense of accomplishment. When I feel satisfied. Ummmm...let's say the closest I can get to being satisfied. "Satisfactied" in no time turns into "complacent". That's not where you want to go!

Anyway, so today I made a simple grilled chicken which I had marinated with some garlic and a pinch of cinnamon overnight. And then stuffed it with some goats cheese to which I had added chopped Piri Piri chilies (the pickled-bottled variety) and some dried basil. And then I decided to pair it some mashed potato. At the last moment I changed my mind and replaced the regular potatoes with red potatoes that are sweeter and have this amazing texture I love. I mashed them up skin and all with a little butter, salt, chili flakes and chopped parsley! The juicy garlicky chicken, the tart goat's cheese, the tangy eat of the pickled Piri Piri and the flavour of basil -- they all hit off like a house on fire. And sweet mashed potato was the perfect accompaniment.With a salad on the side, I think it'l make for a pretty balanced and sumptuous meal too. I did use a little butter in the recipe but you can always skip it! .

Here goes the recipe!



Ingredients 

For Cheese and Chili stuffed grilled chicken
Boneless Chicken Breast - 4

For the marinade 
Minced Garlic - 1 clove
Cinnamon powder - a pinch
Salt
Olive to oil

For the stuffing
Goat's cheese - 75 g
Piri piri chilies - 4-5 (chopped)
Dried Basil - 1 tsp

Method

Marinate the chicken with olive oil, salt, cinnamon powder and minced garlic for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven at 185 degree centigrade. In a bowl mix the goat's cheese, chopped Piri Piri chilies and the basil together.

Insert a knife through the thicker end of the chicken breast horizontally and carefully cut a deep pocket, not cutting through the piece.

Stuff the chicken breast pieces with the cheese, chili and herb mix and press the open edges together.

Line the chicken in a baking tray, place a cube of butter on each piece and bake until the chicken is tender and has a tinge of golden brown.


Ingredients

For the mashed potatoes 

Red potato (boiled) - 1
Finely chopped parsley
Salt and chili flakes to taste
Butter - 1 cube


Method 

Just mash it all up toget. Do not remove the red potato skin,



Thursday, 26 June 2014

My Three-Cheese Bread soup!!! - Going nuts

Sometimes I go crazy in the kitchen. Yes, I do. The instances are numerous. I go into the kitchen to prepare a particular dish, sometimes a printed recipe in hand, and then I come out having made something totally different from what I set out to. Sometimes, these fits of crazy impulse yield delicious fruits, sometimes I have to go into hiding. Something similar happened today. I set out to make Ecuador style Sopa de pan (bread soup), I ended up making bread soup alright, but it was nothing like what I had initially set out to make.


So, the sopa de pan is basically a creamy but thinnish soup with chunks of soggy bread in it. I followed the recipe to the T, well almost, till the point where you add the bread to to the soup. And then I went nuts. First, I went for the Multigrain bread instead of the baguette I had brought for the purpose. And then just when it was all done, I decided I don't want chunks of bread, so I brought a whisk and in minutes the bread had crumbled and melted into the soup. Next I added some cream to make the mix thicker and rounded off with cheddar and mozzarella cheese and chili flakes. And then I added some more of the nuts and grains that fell off the bread into the packet. And finally topped off the thick, creamy, cheesy muddle with some cilantro. 

Years ago I had had a Spanish tomato bread soup which was quite similar in texture. This one is very thick, cheesy, creamy and nutty from all the grains. I think I could put it on the top of my latest comfort  food. Only you have to have it hot. I cannot call it Sopa de Pan anymore, lest purists grimace. So I'll call it my Three Cheese Bread soup. If you like really thick soups you'll like it too. Or you could simple tweak it to your liking that is terms of texture!


Ingredients 

Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Finely chopped onion - 3 tbsp
Orange food colour - a pinch
Milk - 2 cups
Water/chicken stock - 1 cup
Fresh cream - 75ml
Softened Feta Cheese - 1/4 cup
Grated Cheddar cheese - 3 tbsp
Grated Mozzarella cheese - 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried Oregano - 1 tsp
Chili flakes to taste
Multi-grain bread (a day old) - 4 slices (1 inch thick)
Finley chopped parsley or cilantro to garnish.


Method 

Heat oil in a pan and add the orange food colour. Stir and then add the onions and fry till they are soft and translucent.

Add water/chicken stock and bring to boil. Boil for about five minutes.

Now add the milk, cream, feta cheese, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir continuously while simmering on low heat for a few minutes.

Add the bread, the Cheddar and mozzarella cheese and cook until cheese melts and bread is cooked through. Either leave the bread in chunks or like I did whisk so that it crumbles and melts into the soup.

Finish it off with chopped cilantro or parsley ad some chili flakes. I sprinkled some of the nuts and grains from the multi-grain bread  too.

Serve hot.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Dining like the Nawabs


It is one thing to read about a person and admire his creations, quite another to meet him. I was psyched to say the least when I, along with fellow members of Kolkata Food Bloggers, received an invitation from the ITC Sonar to sample the hotel’s specially-crafted Royal Repast Experience that would showcase the incredible culinary wizardry of the legendary master of Awadhi cuisine and the man behind ITC Hotels’ celebrated Dum Pukht chain of restaurants, Chef Mohammed Imtiaz Qureshi. And yes, chef Qureshi would be present amongst us, it said! 

Now, this man doesn't simply belong to a family of royal chefs of Awadh, He IS royalty, as far as the Indian food scene is concerned. And was I elated, and honoured, to meet him.

Chef Mohammed Imtiaz Qureshi (centre) at the ITC Sonar, Kolkata
His handlebar mustache and a trimmed Balbo beard match his neatly combed silver white hair. His burly frame, underneath his immaculate white chef’s coat, still hints at his days in the wrestling ring. He loves to chew the paan in true Lucknowi style, and speaks chaste Urdu.  He is self-assured, but not vain. He might not sound particularly modest, but that’s only because of his old-worldly forthrightness. He knows, and he knows that he knows.  As simple as that. And he loves to talk, but he prefers his food talk the real talk.

For the uninitiated, Imtiaz Qureshi is the undisputed champion in the revival of the opulent and sophisticated Dum Pukht cuisine that underscores the goodness of leisurely, slow-cooking. A culinary style that had received royal patronage under the Nawabs of Awadh (Awadh comprised parts of present day UP, with its capital in Faizabad initially, and then in Lucknow) who were also its greatest connoisseurs.

I have been doing some homework and from what I have read the Dum Pukht style of cooking calls for cooking in heavy-bottomed pans, which are sealed and slow-cooked on fire. The popularity of Dum Pukht cuisine in India can be traced back to about 200 years ago, the reign of Nawab Asaf-Ud Daulah of Awadh. Purportedly, during the famine of 1784 Asaf-Ud-Daulah ordered the building of the Bara Imambara as a means to generate employment. During this time huge quantities of rice, meat and vegetable were cooked in mammoth vessels (heavy bottomed pans) which were sealed with dough and left in huge bukharis or ovens, where they continued to cook slowly in the gentle heat, a process termed as "maturing of the dish.". This was the food given to the workers working on building the Imambara. One day the Nawab demanded to taste the food and fell in love with it irrevocably.

In their book Prashad Cooking by Indian Masters, J Inder Singh Kalra and Pradeep Dasgupta, further write “The traditional Avadh cuisine found a champion in India’s best known gourmet, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Legend has it that his chefs vied with each other to create exotic delights – aromatic, embellished with dry fruits and, hold your breath, veritable aphrodisiacs capable of fulfilling the most insatiable of harems.”

And while Imtiaz Qureshi is the most vociferous campaigner for the heritage and traditions of Awadhi cuisine, what sets him apart is his commitment to continuous innovation and experiment. “There shouldn’t be stagnation. There is always scope for something new and I believe in modernizing or contemporizing without tampering with the innate character of the cuisine,” he says. “You know traditionally Biryani is made in larger quantities, 3kg, 5kg, 10kg, etc but I have made dum biryani for as little a quantity as 200 grams. That’s not something anyone else has done,” he says.

Chef Qureshi emphasizes his proclivity for the age-old Indian tradition of serving a meal by courses, rather than installing a buffet. A buffet is impersonal and somewhat indifferent. "Buffets are more of a Western concept and I am not inclined towards them. There are numerous items and most of the times you cannot even get past the salads. That is not how a meal is enjoyed. I prefer crafting the menu, one course at a time, with care and sophistication." And every course, the kebabs, the qaliyas and qormas, the dum biryani and desserts, that he brings to the table is an absolute stunner.


The first dish to arrive on this particular day at Dum Pukht, ITC Sonar, was the Rann-e-Huzoor and it set the mood for a spectacular meal. The leg of a lamb cooked at a leisurely pace, on dum, with a thick, slightly tangy and sweet date sauce, topped off with a generous dose of walnuts and slivered almonds. The meat melted in the mouth while the flavours from the chutney-like sauce that laced the meat filled your mouth with sweet and spicy goodness. Along with it came the Mughlai paratha. Now to me a Mughlai Paratha is one with layers of fried egg and meat stuffing. This was different. It was a plain crescent shaped saffron-tinged paratha, a little sweet in taste and hard, breakable in texture. But it’s quite good, especially with the Rann-e-Huzoor. I broke a piece, scooped up a bit of the pulled meat with it and took a trip to heaven.


What came next blew my mind. Jumbo prawns stuffed with dried apricot and cheese and encased in a soft pastry shell. Let me remind you once again, I am allergic to prawns of any kind. But it would be nothing less than a crime to not taste this stunner and tell you about it. I felt like I would be failing my readers. So once again, this is the second time I have done this, I popped a couple of anti-allergy pills, which my friend and fellow blogger P, had handy and dived in. To be honest, I have never tasted anything like that before, but my prawn was a little rubbery. But such were the flavours, the seductive subtlety of the dish, I had no time to ponder on the prawn’s texture. 


By now my stomach was full, my heart insatiable. I had to pass the next dish, Samudri Ratan, tender balls of crab meat in a fenugreek infused gravy, since the insides of my mouth had this tingling sensation and I didn’t want to aggravate it with more seafood.  So I went on to the Desi Murgh Ishtew and the Koh-e-Awadh, served with the softest Rumali and Naan-e-Bah Khummach. Before I say anything about the meaty dishes, I would like to emphasize how much I loved the roomali, paper thin and the softest I have ever had. And this wasn't the usual roomali, it was roomali made with whole wheat or aata, unlike the mostly elastic maida version which is ubiquitous nowadays. As chef Qureshi points out, it is also healthier. “You know previously dhabas would make aata roomalis until the hotels introduced the maida version,” he rues.



Coming back to the Desi Murgh Ishtew it was basically country chicken, cooked with whole pearl onions, whole peppercorns and other whole spices in a light yoghurt based gravy for hours on a low flame. The dish looks rather rich but it’s only when you take a spoonful of the gravy in your mouth that you are bowled over by how light and delicate the dish really is. In fact, that is the beauty of Imtiaz Qureshi’s dishes, no matter how rich in spices, each dish is delicate and nuanced, and never an overwhelming assault on your senses. 



The Koh-e-Avadh is a Qureshi special qorma made with lamb shanks which are cooked in their own juices, flavoured mainly with cardamom and saffron. Another stunner. In this connection I would like to say that I have a special spot for meat so tender that it should literally fall of the bone. And that’s exactly the kind of meat you will savour in Qureshi’s dishes. And the meat is succulent and dripping with its own juices. “I am very particular about the quality of meat I use in my dishes. Nothing less than the best would do,” he says smugly. And he attaches immense importance to the cuts of meat. “Each dish, if it is to be done the right way, demands a particular cut of meat. I ensure I have the right cuts. I never compromise on that,” he says, pointing out there are over 30 different cuts of meat that feature in Dum Pukht cuisine. “The raan (leg of a lamb) is one of the most versatile cuts. It’s fleshy and can be used in many a dish. And it’s the best cut for mincing, especially for dishes like the Galawati Kebab.”  



Now it is no secret that I am a hardcore non-vegetarian. But if a vegetarian dish is as good as Qureshi’s Dal Badami, I wouldn’t mind turning away from the meats for a while. Urad dal cooked with blanched almond and flavoured with asafeotida and dill. A vegetarian delight with a difference. The dal is subtle in flavours and the almong gives it a nutty bite. Loved the play of texture in this one. 

But the one dish which was the undisputed winner of the day, to me, was the Dudhiya Biryani - lamb and rice slow-cooked with milk, green cardamom and green chilies. It had a layer of pristine white rice, and then a spiced rice layer studded with morsels of tender lamb meat. It was nothing like the other version of Lucknowi biryani I have ever tasted. And it was so light and delicious, that despite the fact that my stomach was threatening to burst open, I went for a second helping. And what was even more surprising was that there was no ghee in this biryani, instead there was olive oil. In fact, during our little exclusive chat later in the afternoon, chef Qureshi emphatically insisted upon how Dum Pukht cuisine stressed on a healthy mode of cooking and healthy ingredients. And I was not questioning that. That qormas, qaliyas and biryanis could be as rich and flavoursome delicious as they were light on the stomach was a revelation, really.


The grand meal was rounded off with Shahi Tukra, a slice of homemade bread doused in syrup and served with saffron Rabri, and Lab-e-Mashooq, a royal version of the humble kulfi, with a hint of orange. 

To go with the royal cuisine was one of the finest blended whiskies, Royal Salute 21YO, a match made by whisky expert Sandeep Arora. He says, “As you know, we were trying to craft a experience reminiscent of our royal heritage. So, we have the cuisine patronized by the country’s royalty, and I decided to pair it with another superlative blended whisky that is spicy with hazelnut, lavender and gooseberries, which also has a royal connection. It was produced to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II,” he says.



With the legend!
As for Chef Qureshi, he has won innumerable awards and has cooked for many a man of fame including Jawaharlal Nehru. But it is the love  he has received, he treasures most. He shares a little anecdote with me. “Long ago, I was requested by a lecturer of the Lucknow University to take up the responsibility of a grand dawat for his daughter’s wedding. The family had been looking for a match for their highly educated daughter for a long time but in vain. They finally found a match, a doctor from Allahabad and were elated. In those days dowry was the norm. However, in this case the groom’s family refused to take dowry but on one condition. They said they would bring 100 guests and that they wanted superlative food. The guests must be impressed. At the end of the day, after the bride had left in her doli and the grand celebrations were over, the father of the bride came to me, hugged me, planted innumerable kisses on my face and forehead and cried uncontrollably.  He said that the groom’s family had been overwhelmed by the food I had treated them to and that I had saved his and his daughter’s honour. He said to me that in his eyes, I was the face of God.” To Imtiaz Qureshi, incidents like this mean the most to him. They are his greatest rewards. 

In case you want to sample Imtiaz Qureshi's magic 

Where: Eden Pavillion
Ask for : Signature Collection
When: June 22 - June 30
Time: 7:30 PM - 11:4 5PM
It's part of the dinner buffet priced at Rs. 1850 per head, plus taxes

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Arroz Con Pollo : Argentine-Spanish Chicken and Rice


 Ah! so we've come to the third chapter of our World Cup special series. Group F. And my pick from group F is well Argentina. I adore Lionel Messi, and I would like to see another Brazil-Argentina Finals, their football rivalry is legendary, and witness an epic Battle of the South Americans. The last time the two faced each other in a world cup match was in 1990 and Argentina had won!

My family is divided between the two countries and support their respective teams with such gusto, it is almost preposterous. Bengalis especially have a soft spot for football, and it seems to me their divided loyalty between Argentina and Brazil has something to do with their identifying the rivalry with the more local East Bengal-Mohunbagan divide. I was all of four back in 1990 , but I still remember my elder cousins, one a die hard Brazil supporter and the other a crazy about Argentina had a fist fight during the match. I had jumped in to participate cause it seemed like fun to me, and came out with a bruise and wouldn't stop wailing. Their mother, my aunt, had them by the ear and out of the room. They didn't see the match end! I think they still hold it against me.

Anyway, more than the football team, Argentina as a country really appeals to me. It is on the top of my "to see before I die" list. I have always wanted to see the Iguazu falls or roams the streets of La Boca in Buenos Aires. One day perhaps. And about their food. So Argentine cuisine showcases a mix of indigenous as also Mediterranean, (Italian and Spanish) influence. The dish I cooked this afternoon is one which can be found in every Spanish-speaking country but this version is one of the ways in which it is done in Argentina. And though Argentina's love for red meat is legendary, I picked a dish with chicken, because I have had my fill of red meat yesterday at a grand lunch with none other than legendary chef Imtiaz Qureshi sampling the grand chef's stunning dishes. Will post about it soon.

About this recipe, I found it in a book call Argentina Cook!:Treasured Recipes from the Nine Regions of Argentina  by Shirley  Lomax Brooks. It is a fairly simple recipe, a one-pot meal that has chicken, rice, herbs and vegetables. Healthy too, I would say. I have used only a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I loved the flavurs, simple and fresh and you will like it too! 





Ingredients

Chicken - 1.5 kg
Long grain rice - 2 cups + 2 tbsp
Warm water - 4.5 cups
Green Bell peppers - 2 (cut in 1 inch cubes)
Minced garlic - 1 tsp
Minced parsley - 4 tbsp
Tomatoes - 4
Onion - 2 small (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper
Saffron - A large pinch
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Olive oil
Chili flakes (optional)


Method

Heat olive oil in a pan and toss in the chicken. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and fry the chicken for about 8-10 minutes.

Add the onion, bell peppers, garlic and parsley and saute for another 10 minutes or so.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and toss them in at this point. Saute for another 5 minutes.

Add the warm water ad bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until chicken is almost done.

Now stir in the long grain rice, which you have rinsed well in advance, as also the saffron. Adjust seasoning and add chili flakes if you like.

Cover and cook until rice soften and the water almost dries up but not quite. We want the dish to be a little wet rather than completely dry.


World Cup Special Series
Qeijadas de Sintra 
Stoemp Aux Carottess 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Queijadas de Sintra: Go Portugal



I know Portugal's future in this World Cup is as bleak as bleak can be, but that shouldn't make me break my  loyalty pledge. What would that say about me? So, I have decided to cheer harder. And I am going to do so with these little beauties, Portuguese cheesecake tarts, Qeijadas de Sintra. 

I was rummaging through recipes and books, hunting for recipes from different countries, which would feature on my World Cup special series and I came across this recipe in a book called Eat Portugal by CĂ©lia Pedroso & Lucy Pepper. The book, in fact, has a number of good Portuguese recipes but I settled for this one because I have always liked the idea of cheesecake in a tart shell, only this turned out to be very different from what I had imagined. But no less delicious. 


Now, as I went through the ingredients list though, my heart sank. What's queijos frescos? I had no clue. This is the chief ingredient, by the way. Ah! Portuguese fresh cheese! Once I had solved that the question was where am I going to find this one. I sulked. But only for a moment. It struck me how the Portuguese had introduced the art of cheese making in Eastern India. In fact, the Portuguese introduced chhana or cottage cheese to the Bengalis, who initially resisted the idea of consuming anything that was made by splitting milk but ultimately fell in love with it, irrevocably. The rich tradition of Bengali sweets owes its origin to the Portuguese. There wouldn't be any rosogolla id Vasco deary had not landed in the court of Zamorin. So, my heart leapt as I came to realise and conclude that queijos frescos was nothing but good old chhana or cottage cheese. 

In this connection, I'd like to emphasize the immense influence of Portuguese cuisine on Indian food really. That said, the other thing that the Portuguese left us with, and something I am crazy about, is the smoky, salty  and delightfully crumbly Bandel cheese, named after the Portuguese colony in Bengal, Bandel. I was introduced to it by my dear friend Angona, and I couldn't stop thanking her. But that's another story. 

Now about the Queijadas de Sintra, it's a kind of queijadas (cheesecake tarts) made in the beautiful town Sintra, also a Cultural Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, in western Portugal. Interestingly it seems, I was reading, the origin of these delicious roundels can be traced back to the middle ages and what's even more interesting is that there are official documents stating that back in 1227 these Queijadas were used to pay part of the fixed-rent for land/ property in the Sintra region. 

So, naturally I was excited about making them. And the end product made me and everybody at home very happy. Have you tasted Chhena Pora? Yes Odisha's famous sweet, which literally translates to burnt cheese, well, the best I can explain Queijadas is...Cinnamon flavoured chhana pora in crispy tart shells! Only this recipe uses eggs.  



Ingredients
For the tart shell
All Purpose Flour - 250 g
Butter - 1 tbsp
Warm water
Salt - 1/2 tsp

For the filling 
Cottage cheese - 450 g
Sugar - 350 g
Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
Egg Yolks - 4
All purpose flour - 60 g


Method 

To make the Tart shell

Make the dough for the tart shell a day in advance.

Melt the butter. Pour the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in the melted butter and with a wooden spoon mix vigorously, while slowly adding warm water until its firm.

Wrap in  clingfilm and refrigerate.

To make the filling and the Queijadas

Beat the cottage cheese and sugar together.

Then beat in the egg yolks, four and cinnamon powder.

Preheat oven at 180 degree centigrade.

Butter your tart shells and keep ready. Now roll out the tart dough and cut out in circles big enough for the tart shells, with a pastry cutter or simply a glass, and line your tart shells with the dough.

Fill the tarts with the cottage cheese filling and bake at 180 degree centigrade until the top is rich golden brown, approximately 20-25 minutes.





In pursuit of parathas

Keema Paratha

The sight of a luscious dollop of butter slowly melting on a piping hot, fluffy, stuffed paratha, is a sight that makes my stomach do impossible somersaults. A bowl of thick creamy curd, cold, on the side and I am sorted. I had a few droolworthy parathas, aloo, gobi and paneer, on my recent trip to Kashmir and I have been craving good parathas ever since I returned. So, naturally, I jumped at the invitation from The Astor Hotel to attend their on-going paratha festival at Kebab e que. With the rains here, the weather too was perfect for parathas I thought.

On offer is a selection of vegetarian and non vegetarian stuffed parathas. So, there is egg, fish, chicken and Keema paratha on the non vegetarian section and for the vegetarian there are Aloo Gobi, Cabbage and Dal, Capsicum and cheese and finally one with a striking name, the Aliv Nutri Paratha. The parathas come with sides like cold curd, a bowl of creamy Kali dal, salad and pickles, as also a glass of spicy buttermilk to wash it down. And the best thing about the these parathas is that they ain't greasy, and hence lighter than you would expect.

Spicy Buttermilk
Egg Paratha

Since making a choice seemed difficult, I ordered a portion of every kind of non veg paratha and two of the vegetarian ones. And I was pretty pleased glad with what was served. The Egg Paratha, soft and crisp on the sides, wrapped in a blanket of fried egg with sauteed onions and peppers between the layers was good and so was the Keema Paratha, with it's spicy minced meat stuffing. I only hoped there was a little more of that delicious filling in between the paratha layers. The Chicken Parantha, also with a spicy shredded chicken stuffing was good but didn't strike a chord in particular. I would pass the fish paratha. But the surprise for the evening was the Aliv Nutri  Paratha. The name was intriguing, but hardly suggestive of what went into it. Well the Aliv Nutri paratha comes with a generous stuffing of mildly spiced cottage cheese, chopped onions and bell peppers. And it is my pick of the day!

The paratha festival is on till June 24. You might just want to go devour some.



Aliv Nutri Paratha





Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Belgian Stoemp Aux Carottess: Belgian Mashed Potatoes and Carrots

So, Germany won last night. And boy did they win. I was supporting Portugal, though. Ahem. Cristiano is kind of cute, no? Of course, I still like the Ronaldo who wore a yellow shirt better! Anyway, so here's kick starting the World Cup fever on Let's talk Food. The idea is to cook one dish from one world cup playing nation from each group...my favourite from each team that is.  Let me tell you I do not understand football but neither do I miss the opportunity to me part of any celebration. Why pass the World Cup madness?

I will go backwards and start with Group H.
Group H comprises Algeria, Belgium, Korea Republic and Russia. And I pick Belgium. My choice has nothing to do with their football prowess though. But Belgium is playing the World Cup after 12 years and that does call for some cheering! They are playing Algeria tonight. So, Go Belgium.

The recipe I am going to share with you guys today is what you can call Belgium's comfort food. Stoemp.
Belgian mashed potatoes. This version has some mashed carrots too. It's called Stoemp aux Carottess. And it's delicious. Stoemp is ubiquitous in Belgium and is best savoured with Boudin (Belgian blood sausages) but you can serve it with grilled chicken and I loved it just on toast too. Its a little chunky, rather than a creamy mash. And it is delicious.



I am a fan of mashed potatoes. I am crazy about mashed potatoes. My ultimate comfort food is Soft- cooked rice, mashed potato and obscene amount of butter, all mashed into a delicious muddle. Every time I return from a trip, this is the meal I demand. I like mashed potatoes the Bong style with mustard oil and green chilies as much as I like the classic English mash. And this one is only a new addition to my mashed potato list. I think I am soon going to do a post on different kinds of mashed potatoes! Say what?

Here goes!




Ingredients 
Boiled potatoes (skin removed) - 4 large
Boiled carrots - 2
Finely chopped onion - 1 medium
Finely chopped Garlic - 1 tsp
Finely chopped leek - 1/2 cup
Chicken stock - 1 cup
Heavy cream - 100 ml
Butter - 50 g
Grated nutmeg - 1 large pinch
Salt to taste
Coarsely ground pepper - 1/2 tsp
Sugar - A pinch



Method 
In a bowl mash the potatoes and carrots. The mash shouldn't be creamy, we want it a little chunky.

Heat butter in a pan, add the chopped garlic, onion and leek. Saute until they soften and are translucent. Add the chicken stock. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat and add the cream and season with salt and pepper. Simmer and reduce to half.

Stir in the nutmeg and remove from heat.

Add the sauce to the potato-carrot mix and mix well with a fork.

And your Stoemp Aux Carottes is ready.

Special touch: Top it with some bits of bacon fried in butter.


The recipe has been adapted primarily from http://www.food.com/recipe/stoemp-aux-poireaux-stoemp-met-prei-belgian-mashed-potatoes-121428 with inputs from few other sources

Monday, 16 June 2014

From the Nawab's orchard



Murshidaba, the erstwhile seat of the Bengal Nawabs, has always inspired in me a sort of reverent fascination, while triggering a kind of melancholy nostalgia. To me, the hoary arches, the magnificent domes, the intricate temple carvings and the majestic palaces of this historic city all seem to narrate an exciting tale of past grandeur, but one that gives way to a heart-wrenching story of stripped glory, hatred, treason and misfortune. The shameful tale of how the mellifluous melody of the sitar and sarangi was silenced by the deadly blare of cannon fire and the mighty pride of the Nawab throttled and stripped, the ignoble assaults on the city’s soul, of treacherous friends, gory murders and unashamed gluttony, is a tale that sends down a chill down your spine.

No, I have never been to Murshidabad, but after all the reading I have done over the years, that's how I see the place! 

And while its history, and its palaces and mosques, fascinate me, what bowled me over recently was the sheer variety of mangoes that Murshidabad produces. I, as part of the Kolkata Food Bloggers, was recently invited to attend the Mango Haat at The ITC Sonar, Kolkata, a joint initiative of ITC Sonar and the Murshidabad Heritage Development Society, which showcased a delightful assortment of mangoes from Murshidabad. A bonus was a sneak-peek at the cuisine and culture of the Sheherwali Jains of Murshidabad, who have metamorphosed the chore of cutting mangoes into an intricate art and their tradition of eating and cutting mangoes, is akin to the hallowed tea ceremony of Japan, or so they say.


Of the 200 different varieties of mangoes that were once grown on the fertile soil of Murshidabad, only few have survived the perils of time and yet the list will fascinate you. There is the small but fleshy Saranga and the prized Molamjam, the exquisite Kohitoor that is so delicate that it rests on cushions of cotton pads and is turned over every few hours for it to ripen evenly and the Bengali’s favourite Himsagar. Kalapahar, Bimli, Jahanara, Bara Sahi, Chandan Kosa, egum Pasand, Nawab Pasand, Bhavani and more. Luckily for us the mangoes weren’t just for show, and I could sample any kind I fancied, cut with delightful precision by members of Sheherwali Jain families, committed to the aesthetics of mango cutting. About that, little later. 


And if the luscious, juicy, fresh mangoes weren’t enough, there was on offer a delectable assortment of mango delicacies like Tangy mango salsa on bruschetta, Mango and Basil savoury tartlets, Mango phirni and Mango maki, an assortment of sushi rolls each of which had Mango as the centre piece. The sushi was delightful but it was the Sheherwali Jain preparations that caught my fancy. So, there was Kachhe Aam ki Launji, a sweet and sour chutney that’ll add that special touch to any meal, the Kachche Aam Chana ka Kutti, which has finely diced raw mangoes and black peas come together in a lip-smacking, tangy and spicy pickle, and finally the Kacche Aam Ka Kheer, a Sheherwali delicacy that enjoys a pride of place in their hearts and palate. The kheer, made with milk and raw mango pulp, with a smattering of saffron is served on a bed of crushed ice – the perfect summer dessert I say. 



Pradip Chopra, the President of the Murshidabad Heritage Development Society has penned a book, Mangoes from Murshidabad, which tracks the history of mangoes in the country and compiles a number of interesting anecdotes, legends, and reminiscences pivoting the king of fruits in its copious Murshidabadi avatars. It also illustrates the hallowed tradition of cutting mangoes so dear to the Sheherwali Jains of Murshidabad. 


The book traces the first mentions of mangoes to the ancient texts like the Brahadarankya Upanishads, and how Kalidasa attributed to mango a glory spot in literature and how under Akbar mango claimed royal patronage.

From Mangoes of Murshidabad

From Mangoes of Murshidabad
The British weren't immune to the charm of mangoes and they had them exported to their home country. The book also includes a letter from 10 Downing Street, a vote of thanks,  for the mangoes sent to the then Prime Minister by the Zamindar of Harawat, of Bhagalpur, dated June 9, 1914.

From Mangoes of Murshidabad
What got me though is the recipe of the Raw Mango Kheer, a Sheherwali Jain specialty, that the book includes. And though it's difficult to find raw mangoes now. I think I managed to lay hands on one of the season's last ones and made t at home this morning. It's yum, try it. 

Kachche Aam Ka Kheer




Ingredients 

Milk (full fat) - 1litre 
Sugar - 100 g
Raw mango - 250g 
A few strands of saffron 
Rose water: a few drops 

Method 
Bring the milk to a boil. Add sugar and reduce milk to half. 

Wash the grated mango thoroughly and then boil it in a cup of water for about 5-8 minutes. 

Drain excess water from the boiled mango pulp and hold it under running water wrapped in muslin cloth and squeeze out all excess liquid. 

Remove reduced milk from heat and add in the mango pulp, saffron strands and rose water. Cool before placing it in the refrigerator to chill. 

Best served on a bed of crushed ice! 





Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Jasha Maroo: Bhutanese Minced Chicken



I am hooked to Bhutanese food these days. I make a bowl of Ema Datshi or Kewa Datshi, every second day and I have been rummaging through recipes of Bhutanese delicacies. Fortunately, I have friends who are from Bhutan and those who have connections with the beautiful mountain kingdom. And they are always ready to help.

Now I have restrictions on the kind of meat I can cook at home. I stay with my parents still, and I only find it fair to respect their rules and reservations. I have been craving to cook all that pork-y deliciousness and savour it all, especially a dish called Phaksha Paa - succulent pieces of pork cooked with fiery red chilies, mostly with radish and bok choy. Cured dried pork is also added to the dish to give it
a unique flavour. And I read about a version of the dish which adds to it  hentoe, buckwheat dumplings, quite like momo, and usually with a filling made of wilted greens or cheese like datshi. Slurp!

But I have to do with for a chicken dish. And I found just the one that would make me happy. The thing about Bhutanese cuisine is... it is high on heat. And I love heat. Jasha Maroo is nothing but  minced chicken (diced actually) cooked with onions, ginger, garlic, tomato and loads of green and/or red chilies. You must be wondering what's special about it since the ingredients seem just like what we use in our cooking. Now I believe how and when you use an ingredient is critical to how the dish will taste. I think that works here. And yes the fact that you use only fresh ingredients and absolutely no spices gives this dish a refreshing flavour. By far it's the simplest recipe I have made. I think. And it's on my favourites list.

One of m Bhutanese friends, T, shared the basic outline for the recipe and then I checked a few recipe books and websites. And made my version. Give it a try. Traditionally it is had with Bhutanese Red rice, which has that nutty texture and the closest I could get to it was good old brown rice.




Ingredients
Boneless chicken (diced into 1 inch cubes) - 500 g
Chopped onions - 1 large
Finely chopped garlic - 2 tbsp
Grated ginger - 1 tbsp
Chopped tomatoes - 2 small
Chopped green chilies - 4 tbsp
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil - 2 tbsp
Chicken stock - 1 cup



Method 
Heat oil in a pan. Add the chopped onions and saute until soft and translucent. Add the chicken and fry for about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Now add the chopped garlic, grated ginger, tomatoes and chilies. Season well.

Cook until chicken is tender and the liquids have reduced, tough a little liquid should be left.

Remove from heat and serve with red/brown rice. You may add some some chopped cilantro on top, but I prefer the dish without it.

So Turn Up The Heat



Saturday, 7 June 2014

Hara Gosht: No onion, garlic or ginger




Mum and Dad are away for the weekend. So my brother and I have this part of the house to ourselves. A potentially dangerous situation, I respect my parents' risk-taking potential.They don't take such a risk often, only sometimes. And those rare occasions mostly make theme regret. But that's another story. This time around, it's been 36 hours since they left and yet everything is just fine I mean nothing's broken, the kitchen looks clean, reasonably clean, no ones had to try to breakdown doors or no passerby has stopped in their tracks bewildered by anguished shrieks coming through the second floor window. We've been good children. We haven't quarreled, he hasn't hung by my hair nor have I sat on him threatening to throttle him under my weight. No name calling eitheis. This is when Mum smiles a proud smile. To top it all I made this delectable mutton dish last evening on my brother's request and he complimented me on it. Unbelievable...true but. However I was so happy with the outcome of last evening's kitchen feat, I could wait to share it with you guys.


The dish is alled Hara Gosht. Yes because it is green in colour. It has no onions, garlic or ginger. A few spices. Loads of green. And some khoya to give it a beautiful creaminess. I loved it. And I am sure so would you. In fact, if you haven;t planned your Sunday dinner yet may be you should try this tonight.




Ingredients

Mutton: 750 g
Mustard oil
Asafoetida (Hing): 2 tsp
Coriander powder: 1 tbsp (heaped)
Fennel seeds (coarsely ground) - 11/2 tbsp
Vinegar: 2 tbsp
Minced raw papaya: 2 tbsp
Coriander leaves : 250 g
Mint leaves: 100 g
Green chilies: 5-6 (or according to taste)
Khoya (grated): 2 tbsp
Salt to taste




Method

Marinate the meat with minced papaya and vinegar for two hours.

In a mixer, make a paste (with little or no water) of the coriander and mint leaves and green chilies.

Heat oil in a pan and once it begins to smoke, reduce heat and a few seconds later add the fennel seeds and the asafoetida.

Once fragrant, toss in the meat, turn up heat and fry the meat until it turns brown. Also add the coriander powder at this stage.

Add the coriander-mint-chili paste and keep frying on high heat. Add salt too. Scrape out any bits sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Finally add 200 ml hot water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let it cook covered until meat softens. You can also pressure cook the meat for about 25 minutes and then simmer till they are tender.

Finally add khoya, mix well and let it simmer for another 5 minutes or so.