Thursday, 18 June 2015

Camel meat and fermented mare’s milk, deep fried butter cookies and salted milk tea - Mongolian cuisine is much more than boiled or dried meat and yak’s cheese and it is anything but boring.  And Mongolia is, in fact, the next stop on our culinary journey across Asia. Mongolian cuisine is heavily influences by Chinese and Russian culinary traditions and yet manages to preserve its distinct originality. The cuisine is an heartwarming assortment of soups and stews, boiled, dried and roasted meats, noodles and a yes, an array of dumplings. I love dumplings and hence picked Khuushuur a deep fried Monolian dumpling that is one of the most popular street bites in Mongolia. There are other popular kinds like baansh (boiled) and buuz (steamed) but then I have a soft spot for anything deep fried. Who doesn’t ?
The filling that goes into the khuushuur is as delicious as it is simple. Minced lamb, ideal high in fats, mixed with finely chopped onions and garlic, flavoured with nothing but caraway seeds and seasoned with salt and pepper, stuffed into dumpling shells and deep fried over a low flame to a perfect golden. You must eat them piping hot . . I love it how the Khuushuur is crunchy and squidgy all at once. I love it how the crunch quickly gives way to that squelching sound and soon as the caraway flavoured juices from the meat gushes out to fill your mouth.  You will love it too. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Spinach and Rice Chicken Roulade

In my previous posts I have quite effusively expressed my love for spinach. As far as my conscious life is concerned, or let’s say for as long as I remember I have loved spinach. But the other day my mother told me it was not always this way.   If she is to be believed, and I find it hard to believe, as a child I hated spinach. I would cry and throw tantrums if there was spinach on my lunch plate. At my adamant best I would arch backwards, at the risk of permanently damaging my spinal cord and produce strange guttural sounds. Spinach, and juice of Mousambi (sweet lime) – I hated the two. The latter I hate still. My mother had to resort to numerous tricks of persuasion to feed me some spinach or get a glass of Mousambi juice down my gullet.  And at times when all methods of persuasion failed she had to resort to fear-inducing tactics. And one thing the tiny-tot-me was very, very scared of is spider. So, Aloka, my nanny of sorts at the time would catch tiny spiders, and sometimes large ones too, she was fearless, in a glass jar and bring it to the dining table. I d wail for a while at the sight of those eight legged creatures I still abhor and finally proceed to eat my spinach or drink that glass of citrus juice. I wonder how those horrendous afternoons didn't scar me for life. My mother says my wails did, however, scar the poor spiders for life. 

Talking of spiders, err spinach, I do not know when or how, but some where down the line my hatred for spinach turned into pure love. And come winter when the loveliest spinach come up in the market, I go on a bender. At home, since childhood, spinach has always been prepared as a pure vegetarian dish, sans onion and garlic. On fact the best way to have spinach for me is stir fried, tempered with mustard seeds, and finished with a sprinkle of poppy seeds. But over the years I have cooked fancier stuff with spinach and one dish I have turned out quite a few times is chicken breast stuffed with spinach and feta. However, this time around I made the dish a little differently. Instead of chicken breast I used minced chicken to make a roulade and stuffed it with a creamy and cheesy rice and spinach stuffing. It is quite like a meat loaf stuffed with rice, spinach and cheese and it is delicious.The chicken wrap is spicy and juicy and inside the cheese and cream laden spinach rice is equally delightful. Try it ! 


For the chicken layer 
Minced Chicken - 600 g
Finely chopped garlic - 1 tbsp
Coarsely ground pepper - 1 tbsp
Eggs - 3
Cornflour/starch - 3 tbsp
Salt to taste
Paprika - 1 tsp
For the spinach and rice filling
Spinach, cleaned and chopped - 250 g
Long grain rice - 75 g
Minced garlic - 1 tbsp
A pinch of nutmeg powder
Fresh cream - 1/2 cup
Grated Parmesan - 1/4 cup
Grated mozzarella - 1/4 cup
Salt to taste
Butter - 50 g


In a food processor toss in the minced chicken, eggs, cornflour, salt, pepper, paprika and chopped garlic and pulse to a smooth mixture.

In a pan heat butter. Add garlic and fry until it begins to catch a golden tinge. Add a pinch of nutmeg powder followed by the spinach. Fry for a couple of minutes and then add the rice. Fry until rice is translucent.

Add the chicken stock, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook covered until rice is al dente, that is cooked but has a distinct bite to it.

The rice is most likely to soak up all the liquids by now. Remove cover and add the cream followed by the cheeses. adjust seasoning. Since the chicken stock will have salt in it, it is best to add salt, if necessary at this stage.

Remove from heat and keep aside.

Place two sheets of foil one on top of the other. Grease the open surface with butter. Leaving a margin of about 2 inches on all sides, spread the minced chicken mix in a uniform square.

Now tip the rice onto the chicken layer, along the middle of the square, length wise. Now hold the edges of the foil on one side, lift and place it on the rice so as to cover half of it, slowly and carefully peel the foil away. Repeat with the other side, thus creating a log. Seal the edges with your fingers. Once the log is ready, wrap the foil about so as to form a parcel.

Grill in a preheated oven at 170 degree centigrade for 20 -25 minutes. Once done let the log rest for about 10 minutes, before you cut in slices and serve. You could top it with some dry roasted sesame seeds for that smoky nutty bite. I did.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Asian Potatoes and Peanuts

So this post is yet another entry for the Kolkata Food Bloggers' event Know Your Blogger and this week's star blogger is Urmi of Ume's Kitchen. I have spent quite a few hours rummaging through Urmi's repertoire of delicious dishes, trying figuring out which of her numerous lip-smacking good recipes I should try and finally zeroed in on her Spicy Peanut Potatoes. Then I changed my mind and set out to try her lemon tarts, albeit with my own twist. The outcome of my experiment did not please me as much as I wanted it to, so I went back to the Spicy Peanut Potatoes

But while I took inspiration from Urmi's dish, what I whipped up is very different from Urmi's recipe. Driven by impulse, I gave the dish an Asian twist. So, there's peanut and there's potato but that's all that is common to the two dishes. I am not very fond of peanuts in my food, if you serve me a dish with peanuts in it you are most likely to find them stacked in a neat mound on the side. The only exceptions are perhaps a Phad Thai or a  crunchy Thai style salad. So I wanted to give the spicy peanut potato, distint Asian flavours, which I did. The result was pretty great. A few simple ingredients, you can alter proportions too suit your taste buds, and you have a delightful dish. Check it out. 


Baby potatoes - 500 g (boiled and peeled)
Finely chopped garlic - 2 tbsp
Fish sauce - 1 tbsp (optional)
Dark Soy Sauce - 2 tbsp
Tamarind pulp - 1 tbsp
Jaggery (melted) - 2-3 tbsp
Finely chopped red chilies - 3-4 tbsp
Roasted and crushed peanuts - 1/2 cup
Sesame seeds - 1/2 tsp
Vegetable oil - 2-3 tbsp
Salt to taste
Finely chopped coriander leaves for garnish
Lemon Wedges to serve with


Heat oil in a wok. Add chopped garlic and fry for a minute. Add the soy sauce and fish sauce and give it a quick swirl.

Toss in the baby potatoes and chopped red chilies and give it all a good toss. Add jaggery and tamarind pulp and keep tossing o the fire for a few minutes. Adjust seasoning (be careful, both fish sauce and soy sauce have salt).

Remove from heat. Add the roasted peanuts and give it all a good toss. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and sesame seeds and serve with wedges of lime.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Dum ki Raan

Every winter we hold a few mini-bonfire-and-barbecue nights for friends and family on our terrace. I love barbecue nights, I love planning for one, and every time we host one, I take charge of the food. That is, I decide the menu, I marinate the meats- chicken legs, goat chops and leg of lamb -  the previous night, make sure the salads are done and the bread and any other sides are taken care of etc. On the night of the barbecue however, I simply dress up, put on some lipstick and let my hair down. I do not go anywhere near the grills. I let my cousins and their friends do the grilling and roasting! I lap up compliments about how good the meats taste with a sugary giggle and secretly give myself a pat on the back for an awesome barbecue night. Come on, I am the one responsible for the great food people just chomped on. Only I wasn't and though I hate to admit it now, it was the people grilling the meat on that spit fire that should have been credited really - for their skill and more so for their patience. 

I would have never known had I not prepared this Dum ki Rann - slow roasted leg of lamb/ goat in a spicy and sweet gravy enriched with dates and cashew nuts. 

So, last Saturday, I resolved to be more active in the kitchen, I have been extremely lazy the last couple of weeks, and declared to the family that I will cook them a feast for Sunday lunch. I have wanted to roast a whole raan on a spit fire for the longest time and that is exactly what I planned to do as my Sunday project. So I spent Saturday evening at home tending to the raan, (not too fatty but some fat is a must) marinated it and satisfied, retired for the day.

Sunday morning was bright and sunny, but pretty windy. My mother warned that a spitfire might not be a good idea, considering it was my first time. She said, do it in the oven, put a burning coal inside the oven for the smoky effect. But I was determined. I had brought 3 kilos of coal, but sent for another 2 just to be sure. The bricks were ready. I was raring to go.

How I had pictured the morning: The smell of charred spiced meat in the air, the comfort of the winter sun on my back while I sipped on wine and basted the meat, between turning the pages of my story book, Beatles in the background perhaps, or some good country music.

How it all really turned out: First, I struggled to build the spit, then I struggled to light the fire. Then I sat their cursing myself for building too large a fire, then the fire went wild, thanks to the wind gods, it was now more like a bonfire really and I waited with mounting frustration so the fire would give up on the mad frenzy, I wanted hot coals not licking flames. My book caught fire in the meantime, and I forgot all about the wine. The only music there was was the rustle of leaves as the wind threatened to blow everything away. And there I was stomping around the terrace like a mad mad woman, cursing my fate.

And then when I could no longer be patient I put the meat on the heat anyway, and then panicked when it began charring right away. Oh God! the flames. An hour later I gave up. My raan looked great on the outside with char marks et al, and it smelt heavenly too, but I knew the meat was far from cooked. I was too tired to struggle anymore so I simply transferred the meat onto a baking dish and into the oven it went. My mother threw a condescending smirk my way, and that upset me all the more. But I was determined to make a mind blowing lunch and finally I did.


Raan - 1.5 kilo (approx)
Ghee to brush while roasting the meat

For marination 
Minced ginger - 2 tbsp
Minced garlic - 1.5 tbsp
Minced papaya - 3-4 tbsp
Yoghurt : 200 g
Roasted cumin powder - 3 tbsp
Red chili powder - 2 tbsp
Salt - 2.5 tbsp
Mustard oil - 1/2 cup

For the gravy 
Finely sliced onions - 2 large
Minced onion - 2 cups
Ginger paste - 2.5 tbsp
Garlic paste - 2 tbsp
Chopped tomatoes - 3 large
Chopped mint leaves - 2-3 tbsp
Chopped coriander leaves - 1/4 cup packed
Finely green chilies - 2 tbsp
Dates (pitted and minced) - 2.5 tbsp
Cashew nut paste - 1//4 cup
Cumin powder - 1 tbsp
Coriander powder- 1 tbsp
Red chili powder - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Garam Masala powder* - 1 tbsp
Raisins - 50g
Salt to taste
Mustard oil - 1/4 cup

For Spiced Caramel water to deglaze
Sugar - 50
Cardamom - 5-6
Cinnamon - 2 inch stick
Bay leaves - 2-3
Cloves - 3-4
Mace strands - 2-3
Ghee - 100 g


Rub in the salt and mustard oil, massaging it on the raan, apply a little pressure while you work the salt and oil into the meat. Keep aside for an hour.

Now rub in each dry ingredients in the marination list one by one.  Whisk the curd, minced papaya, garlic and ginger, into a creamy paste, add to the and coat it well, . Cover an refrigerate overnight/ or at room temperature for about 6 hours.

Roast it on a charcoal grill, basting continuously and alternatively with reserved marinade and melted ghee. Slow coking is the key and this will take a lot of time and patience.

Alternatively you can sear the meat on charcoal, thus getting the smoky flavours (brush ghee with ghee and baste with the marinade) and then transfer the meat and any remaining marinade into a finish it in the oven, at 160 degree for 3- 3.5 hours or until meat is cooked through. Keep basting with the juices the meat releases.

While the meat is being cooked, prepare the gravy.

First prepare the caramel water. Heat the ghee in a pan. Add sugar and wait till it caramelizes. Once it starts turning golden and bubbles, pour in 350 ml water. And stir until the caramel dissolves and bring to a boil. Add the whole spices and let it bubble for a couple of minutes. Then turn down the heat and let it simmer until reduced by a quarter. Remove, strain and reserve the caramel water.

Now in a heavy bottomed pan, heat mustard oil. Add the sliced onions and fry until they are brown (be careful not to burn them though). Add the minced onion, garlic and ginger and fry until oil separates.

Now add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and continue frying one again. Once tomatoes turn mushy, add the turmeric, red chili, cumin, coriander and garam masala powders and continue frying until oil separates. Keep stirring and adjust heat level so that the masala doesn't stick to the pan too much.

Now add chopped green chilies, chopped mint and coriander, minced dates and cashew nut paste and salt, mix well. Fry on high heat for a minute, reduce heat and cook until oil separates, stir continually.

Now turn up heat and deglaze the pan with the caramel water, scraping out bits stuck to the pan. Let the gravy bubble for a a couple of minutes, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until oil floats up. Remove from heat and keep.

Once the meat is cooked through transfer to serving dish. Reserve the delicious liquids in the baking tray.

Return the gravy to heat. Add the meaty juices from the baking tray and toss in the raisins, bring to a boil. Turn down heat, simmer for a couple of minutes and then pour the gravy on top of the roasted raan. Garnish with mint leaves and serve piping hot, with naans or rotis.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Almond Tomato Pesto From Manjari's Kitchen

Winter has made me lazy. I struggle every morning to get out from under the quilt, and when I finally manage to scramble out of bed, I throw myself on the couch, pull a shawl around and stay there for hours. I haven't been cooking much either. Today, however, I had to will myself to cook because I was due sending in my entry for the Kolkata Food Bloggers' event "Know Your Blogger" where every week one Blogger is declared the Star of the Week and the rest of us cook and post about something from her blog. This star of this week is Manjari Chowdhury of For the Love of Food

Manjari is not only a fellow blogger but a goof friend too. She is a delight to be around. What is more delightful than her nature is the food she cooks, especially the gorgeous cakes and breads she bakes. Her blog is not only a treasure trove of recipes, it also offers a lot of helpful information related to cooking techniques, ingredients, etc. She knows what she is talking about and that makes her blog a safe place to go to if it is good food you are looking for. 

 I have had the chance to sample few of her chocolaty treats. Once it so happened, at a food festival we were both attending, Manjari whispered from across the table,  "There is something for you, something I have made." I could no longer concentrate on the food in front of me, the same morning I had seen one of her posts on Facebook, a gorgeous chocolate tart, I had not been able to get my mind off. What are the chances that the something she had brought was a slice of that decadent chocolate tart? I couldn't wait to get out of the restaurant we were dining at. 

About half an hour later, we were finally in the privacy of my car and Manjari brought out a box from inside her bag. I was stuffed after all the food we had had at the festival. The very thought of food made my stomach lurch dangerously. But then she lifted the lid off the box and I squealed in delight. It was after all a slice of the chocolate tart I had been fantasizing about. And though my stomach continued to protest all the while, I preferred listening to my heart. And thank heavens I did, because that was in fact the most delicious slice of Tart au chocolat I have had and I am a tart fanatic. 

However, I chose to make one of her savoury dishes instead. I wanted a quick fix lunch and there was pasta at home. What could be better than muddling up a great pesto and making a pasta lunch out of it. So I made Manjari's Almond Tomato Pesto. I did add my own little touch to it,butostly i stuck to her recipe. It is easy, flavourful and light! I loved it, so would you. 


Tomatoes - 2 large (blanched and peeled)
Almonds - 12-15 (blanched and peeled)
Mint leaves - 7-8 
Garlic cloves - 5-6
Fresh Grated Parmesan - 2-3 tbsp 
Olive oil - 1/4 cup 
Chili flakes to taste 
Salt to taste 


Put all ingredients in a mortar and muddle away with a pestle, streaming in olive oil from time to time. Finally, add salt to taste and top it off with some more olive oil. Have it on your pasta done al dente.