Free e-book via Stone Soup + Open Invite for Dinner

I used to restrict most of my cooking to indian food. That is what I was comfortable with. I had started to explore into pastas and baked fishes last year. Browsing through blogs about minimalism, I stumbled upon The Stone Soup by Jules Clancy.
Jules writes about stunning recipes complimented by more stunning photography. I have tried her Garlic-Rosemary pasta recipe and Pasta with Crushed Sausage and Peas recipe and loved them. She regularly posts these on her blog. If you like to try simple and new recipes, this blog is a must subscribe.
She has a popular book for sale here and now, a free e book too! The two pasta dishes I mentioned above are in pages 47 and 48.
Download the book and subscribe to her blog. You wont regret it.
ATTENTION!!
I am going to cook Veggie Laksa (recipe on page 22) tonight.  If you know where I live, you are invited. RSVP via text msg (383 7435) by 6 PM. If you dont know where I live, text me for my address. Soup should be ready by 7. All ingredients used are as organic as possible.

Mixed Vegetable Side with Paanch Phoran

This is a quick dish made with simple ingredients. It pretty much cooks itself.

I keep a bag of frozen vegetables in the freezer for days when I don’t have the time or patience to cook something more elaborate. This is an excellent side to a Dal and Rice combination or just a side to a sandwich for lunch.

The key ingredient for flavor is Paanch Phoran (five spice). Phoran is a bengali word for spices added to hot oil before adding any ingredients to flavor the oil. Curry leaves and chopped green chillies are also added to oil as Phoran. We wont be using curry leaves and green chillies here though you may add it if you like.

Procedure:
1. keep your ingredients close at hand. The Paanch Phoran burns quickly. You shouldn’t let it sit in hot oil too long. It will burn the flavors and lose its value in the dish.

2. A half table spoon of Paanch Phoran is sufficient

3. Add the Paanch Phoran to hot oil

3. Add minced garlic to the oil quickly. These are the key ingredients for flavor.

4. Add vegetables to the skillet. Stir them around a bit to get them evenly coated with oil.

5. Add a quarter teaspoon of turmeric. I add it for color and its disinfecting properties. Too much turmeric adds flavor which is typically undesirable in most Indian cooking.

6. Stir the turmeric into the mixture. Cover and cook till all vegetables are evenly cooked. You may add a few ounces of water to the vegetables to expedite cooking. I do not typically add it to this mixture. The zucchini and cauliflower give off enough water.

Enjoy this as a side to Dal and Rice. It is flavorful enough to add to steamed Quinoa and eat as meal by itself.


I will be covering more vegetable dishes cooked with Paanch Phoran in the next few posts.


The Dal

Dal. A wonderful, delicious and steamy cup of dal! Ask my mom and she will gladly tell you that the only food I need or want to eat every day of my life is rice and dal.
Incidentally, she is to blame for my love affair with dal. If it wasn’t for her simple dal recipe made with only a few ingredients, I probably wouldn’t be such a fan.
This is her recipe.
Ingredients: To use one cup of Toor dal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
  • Mustard seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Onion seeds
  • Half an onion (roughly chopped)
  • Green chillis
  • Curry leaves
  • Garlic
  • Ginger (if you want. I forgot to use it this time. No big deal)
  • Tomatoes (not too much, roughly chopped)
  • Miscellaneous Spices, namely turmeric powder, garam masala, chilli powder (optional)
Start the cooking with a similar procedure as the chicken curry: http://bengalskillet.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/chicken-curry-moms-recipe/
Heat the pressure cooker. Add vegetable oil to it. You may use olive oil but I don’t get the authentic taste with it. Once the oil is hot, add a pinch (1/8th tablespoon) of mustard seeds. Only when they start crackling, add 1/8th tablespoon cumin seeds, a few cloves of garlic if any, chopped (or whole) green chillis and curry leaves.
As soon as the aroma rises, add the onions and stir occasionally. It is important to not let the spices burn before adding the onions. Curry loses all taste if the spices burn. I usually put a lid on it to speed up the cooking process and stir every 5 minutes. I sometimes like to get the onions seared on one side.
Once the onions are golden brown and caramelized, add 1/8th tablespoon of turmeric powder (no more, you don’t want the curry to taste like turmeric), 1/4th tablespoon of garam masala powder. You may add more garam masala powder if you want it to taste stronger. Stir it in the masalas with the onions and wait 30 seconds for the flavors to blend in.
Most of my recipes begin the same way. It keeps the cooking process simple and quick by creating the habit. Sometimes, I substitute the mustard seeds and cumin seeds with a five-spice-seed mix, sometimes I substitute the green chillis and red chillis with dried red chillis and bay leaves. No substitution for the dal though. Thats sacrilege!
Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and let it cook for about a minute and a half. Then, add the cup of toor dal, three and a half cups of hot water and around a teaspoon of salt.
Close the lid on the pressure cooker. I wait for the steam to blow out four times. You may have a pressure cooker that blows out steam continuously. Let it cook for 20 minutes. Switch off the burner and let the trapped steam cook the dal. Once the steam escapes completely, open the lid. The dal should be fully cooked.
Check the water for consistency and taste for salt. Add more water and salt if needed. I sometimes add a teaspoon of sugar to the boiling broth. Let it boil for a few more minutes for the flavors to blend. Taste again. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Serve over a bed of hot rice.
Add some indian pickles to the dal for more taste. There are sweet and spicy pickles available at the Indian store.

Shrimp in Coconut Sauce

 

This is another favorite mom’s recipe and is heavily adapted to my (lack of) cooking skills and inability to buy tiger prawns (large shrimp). Also, this recipe takes less time, about thirty minutes only. The lack of freshly squeezed grated coconut for the milk also affects the taste. I try to make it work with the little available ingredients. The end product is as delicious as it looks in the pictures.
It tastes a lot like Thai Penang Curry without the flavors of lemon grass and peanut.
Ingredients:
  • GOYA coconut milk. Be carful to not get the other GOYA coconut cream which is sweetened and more viscous.
  • Potatoes, two small
  • Red Onion, red, half
  • Bay leaves, two
  • Shrimp, frozen, half pound, deveined, tail on. Use fresh if possible. Always de-vein. Thaw before use.
  • Spices: garam masala, turmeric powder, chilli powder
  • Dried red chillies from the indian store, two to three pieces.
Remember that I prefer spicy flavors. Please scale back on the chillis and garam masala as per your taste.
Heat some vegetable oil in a skillet. Once hot, add the bay leaves and dried red chillies. Immediately add chopped red onions. The bay leaves get burnt quickly.
Dice the potatoes into half inch cubes. I like a smaller size so they can cook quickly.
Wait for the onions to turn golden. Add the diced potatoes to the skillet. Cover and stir every 5 minutes. Once they start sticking to the skillet, add very little water, 2 ounces or so. Cover and simmer on medium heat. The water is added to cook the potatoes. The skillet has to be dry before adding spices.
Check potatoes by piercing a fork in them. If the potatoes are not cooked upto 75% yet, add 2 more ounces of water and cover. Once the potatoes are about 75% cooked and the water has evaporated, add the spices, namely 1/4th table spoon garam masala, 1/8th spoon of turmeric powder and chilli powder each. Stir and let the vegetables absorb the flavors for about 30 seconds.
Add thawed shrimp to the skillet. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Stir to mix in the spices. Cover and let it cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Add half a can of coconut milk. Stir. Turn down the heat and let it simmer in the coconut milk. I add about 2 to 3 ounces of water to the curry per desired consistency. Potatoes get fully cooked in the coconut milk. The starch in the potatoes thickens the curry.
Once the shrimp is cooked, turn off the heat. Serve over a bed of freshly cooked white rice and enjoy.

 

Next Week – Shrimp Curry

Shrimp Curry in Coconut Milk Sauce.
This is what I cooked yesterday and will share the recipe sometime mid week next week. Tune in.


Chicken Curry – Mom’s Recipe

Mom would make this curry quite frequently as I grew up. It is quick and easy and tastes wonderful. A comparison would be a slightly spicy chicken noodle soup without the noodles and with potatoes and onions.

This curry is cooked in a pressure cooker. I have tried it on a wok and it does not come out as good. It has potatoes and carrots in it and is very simple and minimalist in composition.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lb chicken. I prefer split breast pieces with bone. I tear off the skin and dont use it in my cooking at all.
  • 1 Potato: medium size, cubed
  • Half onion, chopped
  • Three carrots, cubed.
  • Chopped green chillies from the indian store. The ones in Publix are not as spicy but a good option for people wanting the flavour but not the spice.
  • Curry leaves
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Miscelaneous Spices, namely turmeric powder, garam masala, chilli powder (optional)
  • Salt

Heat the pressure cooker. Add vegetable oil to it. You may use olive oil but I don’t get the authentic taste with it. Once the oil is hot, add a pinch (1/8th tablespoon) of mustard seeds. Only when they start crackling, add 1/8th tablespoon cumin seeds, a few cloves of garlic if any, chopped (or whole) green chillis and curry leaves.

As soon as the aroma rises, add the onions and stir occasionally. It is important to not let the spices burn before adding the onions. Curry loses all taste if the spices burn. I usually put a lid on it to speed up the cooking process and stir every 5 minutes. I sometimes like to get the onions seared on one side.

Once the onions are golden brown and caramelized, add 1/8th tablespoon of turmeric powder (no more, you don’t want the curry to taste like turmeric), 1/4th tablespoon of garam masala powder. You may add more garam masala powder if you want it to taste stronger. Stir it in the masalas with the onions and wait 30 seconds for the flavors to blend in.

Then add the cubed carrots, potatoes and chicken. Throw in some peas if you like. Stir it around for 30 seconds. Add salt to taste. Remember, less is more. You can always add more later but cant remove if salt is added in excess. Add some water. The chicken will give out water as it cooks (stock), so don’t add too much. Also, too much water will dilute the taste of the masalas. I typically add half a cup. I can always add more.

Put the pressure cooker lid on and let it cook. My pressure cooker does not continuously let off steam. It creates a pressure inside and then lets it all out in one blow. After the first let-out (approximately 10 mins of cooking with the lid on), I switch the burner off and let the steam inside cook the food. It saves electricity. Once the steam has completely escaped, I gently remove the lid.

Taste the curry and add salt if necessary. The chicken should be fully cooked and perfectly tender.

Serve over hot rice. Squeeze some lemon juice on it and garnish with cilantro leaves and raw onion rings.

Enjoy.

Why?

I have been posting a ton of pictures of what food I eat on social media, namely facebook and twitter. Some of those foods I make, some I buy.  One salivating friend asked me for the recipe of my recent meal which gave me the idea to post recipes.

This is a blog on what I cook, recipes etc. Read the ‘About‘ section to learn more.



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