Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Harissa Paste

How to make HARISSA PASTE

Harissa is a hot Tunisian chilli pepper paste used in dips, marinades, soups etc just like any other hot chilli sauce. It is a spicy red hot roasted pepper paste which brings depth of flavour to the dish. It has many variations and it can be made to suit your own taste. It is mostly made with a blend of 2 or more different types of hot peppers (like serrano peppers, Baklouti peppers, hot chilli peppers) garlic and your own blend of aromatic spices. The chillies are soaked in hot water till they soften and are ground to a paste with garlic, whole spices, lemon juice and olive oil. You can also use chipotle, poblano, ancho chillies or any other moderately hot peppers if you don't like it very hot. So you can actually customize it to your own taste.

Harissa paste pre packed in bottles is also sold locally in middle eastern stores here. Tunisia is the biggest exporter of Harissa paste. It is also referred to as the National Condiment of Tunisia. When you travel to middle eastern countries the local grocery stores there sell fresh harissa paste.


Here's the recipe:

Ingredients: 

1 Cup Red Hot Chilli Peppers
1/2 Cup Kashmiri Chilli Pepper or Chipotle Peppers
6 Garlic Cloves
11/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
Juice of Lemon
4 tbs Extra Virgin Olive oil

Method: 

1. Dry roast the peppers on medium heat quickly. Be sure to put the exhaust on as the fumes can make you choke. It is better to cover your face with a handkerchief or face towel when you do this. Remove from stove. Soak them in hot water for 1 hour until softened.

2. Toast the cumin seeds on medium heat until they turn lightly brown and aromatic .  Remove and keep aside. Roast the garlic cloves in a few drops of oil, give a quick stir till you see a little discolouration. Remove and cool completely.

3. Pulse the cumin seeds in a grinder till they are coarsely ground. Drain the water from the chillies and add to the grinder along with garlic cloves, lemon juice, salt and olive oil and grind to a fine paste.

4. Store in a clean dry bottle and store it in the fridge. Keeps well for a month.


Notes:

Kashmiri red chillies are mildly hot so if you want less heat then you can use 1/2 cup hot chillies with 1/2 cup kashmiri chillies. I like to substitute kashmir chillies with chipotle or poblano for their smoky flavour. You can customize according to your taste and heat level.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Apple Mango Ginger Salad
























This salad tasted delicious and I finished it all. The tartness of the apples with the delightful aroma of the mango ginger along with the other ingredients kicked it up a notch. Mango ginger is a root vegetable like ginger with a slightly sour taste of unripe mango and a sharp spicy taste of ginger in a mild form. It has great health benefits. It is mostly used in pickles and can also be used as a flavouring to enhance the taste in meat, chicken or vegetable preparations. Here I used it in this salad with great success. 
























Ingredients:
1 Tart apple
1 hot house Tomato
6 garlic stuffed big green olives
1 tbs pickled mango ginger
1/2 cup grated carrot
5-6 Red/green leaf lettuce
Sesame seeds for garnish

Dressing:
2 tbs Olive Oil
Juice of half a lemon
Pink salt
Black pepper
1/2 tsp Harissa paste 
Brown sugar

Method:
1. Cut the apple into small dices. Chop the stuffed olives with the garlic and chop the pickled mango ginger. 

2. Gently squeeze out the seeds from the tomato, remove its stem and cut into small dices. 

3. Clean, wash, drain and dry the lettuce leaves. 

4.  Mix together the diced apples, tomatoes, grated carrots, chopped olives and mango ginger. 

5. Prepare the dressing by whisking together all the dressing ingredients till it emulsifies and changes to a creamy texture. Add this dressing to the salad and quickly mix well. 

6. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a salad plate. Spoon all the salad on to the lettuce leaves. Sprinkle some brown(roasted) sesame seeds on top for garnish. Serve immediately. 

Notes: 
1. Add the dressing just before serving the salad or else it will turn runny. 

2. You can pickle the mango ginger by cutting it into dices and adding vinegar and salt and store in a clean glass bottle. You could also use it in many preparations. 



Thursday, January 26, 2017

Saffron Rice




Ingredients: 

1 Cup Basumathi Rice
A pinch of Saffron
Salt to taste
4 tbs milk


Method: 

1. Wash the rice 3 or 4 times or till the water is no longer murky. Then soak the rice for half an hour.

2. Boil at least 2 litres of water in a pot. When the water is boiling put the rice in it. Add 1 tsp of salt or a little more. The water should taste like sea water not too salty. Give it a stir and let it cook.

3. Check the grains to see if they are done. Take one grain of rice and press it between your thumb and index finger. It should be just a little gritty inside but soft outside. So it is time to stop cooking.

4. Drain the rice immediately in a colander.

5. Soak the saffron in 1 tbs hot milk in a mortar and pestle and crush the saffron threads till they soften and dissolve. Add the remaining milk and pour it in the rice pot. Throw in some mint leaves and close the lid, leave it to simmer for 2-3 minutes. Then switch off the stove.

6. Serve hot with any curry of your choice. You could serve the Saffron Rice  with the following Curries:

Green Masala Chicken Khorma
White Chicken Khorma
Butter Chicken 
White Methi Chicken


There's one more way of making saffron rice. Dissolve the saffron in hot water instead of milk. To this add a blob of unsalted butter. Let it rest for sometime till the saffron softens and leaves out color. Take a bowl of rice and add the saffron solution to it. Mix well. The rice gets saffron colored. You could sprinkle this rice on top of the white rice as garnish with some toasted nuts or mix this with the white rice and serve.

Green Masala Chicken Khorma

I was kind of inspired by Farruqh Aziz's "Hariyali chicken khorma" on her interesting blog "CubesandJuliennes". She had made it in mughlai style with a rich and creamy sauce. But I wanted to keep it simple and make it in my south indian style which I love too. The concept was good enough to get me going. Here's the recipe:








Ingredients:
 Chicken 2 legs and 2 wings
1 Onion thinly sliced
1/4 cup Yoghurt
1/2 cup Coconut milk 
2 tbs Olive oil
4 - 6 Green chillies
1 sprig of Cilantro
A few fresh Mint leaves
2 black Cardamoms
1 inch Cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp crushed Black pepper
2 tsp fresh Ginger Garlic paste

For the ground masala
2 green Chillies
1 sprig of Cilantro
1/2 tsp whole Black pepper
1 tsp Coriander seeds
1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
2 Cloves 
3 green Cardamoms

Method: 

1. Clean wash and drain the  chicken,  Cut the onion into thin slices.

2.Put all the dry masala ingredients in a grinder and pulse them first before adding the chillies and cilantro with a pinch of salt.

3. To a sauce pan on medium heat add the whole spices - black cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf followed by the sliced onions and fry till golden brown.

4. Add the ginger garlic paste and the ground  masala to the fried onions and saute then add the chicken pieces. 

5. Turn over and roast the chicken in the masala till it changes colour.  Add the yoghurt, whole green chillies, coconut milk and let it cook on medium heat till done. 

6. For the last finishing touch which gives the extra flavour toss in the crushed black pepper, cilantro and mint. Cover with the lid and switch off the stove. Let it rest for 2 minutes then serve hot with saffron rice and pineapple kachumbar salad. 



Notes:

 For the coconut milk,  I always choose "A taste of Thai" if not available then I go for Aroy D.   Unlike the other brands. "A taste of Thai" has 85% coconut milk and 15% water while Aroy D has 60% coconut milk and 40%  water with no preservatives or guar gum. There is another brand "Thai Kitchen" looks similar to "A taste of Thai" but not as good. It has guar gum in it which gives the milk a gooey texture. In cooking if the quality of the ingredients is not good then all the taste and flavour is lost.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Chicken Kadai Roast


I had no onions at home as it was the end of the week and I wanted to make something different with the chicken, something flavourful and dry without any gravy, something quick and easy but also healthy. I finally decided to make roasted Kadai Chicken. The whole spices gave so much flavour to the chicken while it roasted in the pan and without the onions and tomatoes it tasted even better. Above all it was so quick and easy and ready in less than 30 minutes.


Here's the recipe:

Ingredients: 
1lb Chicken pieces
2 tsp Ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp Deghi Mirch (Red chilli powder)
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Coriander Powder
2 Green Chillies
Chopped Cilantro for garnish
Salt to taste
1 tsp Lemon juice
2 tbs Vegetable Oil

Kadai Roast Spices:
1tsp Coriander seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
1tsp Black Pepper corns + 1/2 tsp for garnish
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes + 1/2 tsp for garnish
4 Cloves
4 Green Cardamoms
1 Black Cardamom
1/2 inch Cinnamon stick
2 Dried Red Chillies

Method: 

1. De skin, cut, clean and wash the chicken pieces. Keep aside to drain.

2. Heat oil in a non stick sauce pan or wok. Crush all the Kadai Roast spices with a mortar and pestle except the dried red chillies, just pounding them once or twice.

3. Add the dried red chillies to the medium hot oil in the pan, followed by the crushed kadai roast spices. Give it a quick stir and toss in the ginger garlic paste, then add the turmeric, chilli, coriander and cumin powders and red pepper flakes.

4. Quickly add the chicken pieces to this roast masala, turn over and roast well in the pan. Add the green chillies, cover the pan and let it roast on medium low heat for 5 minutes.


5. Do not add any water. After 5 minutes the chicken would sweat out and be a little runny as seen in the picture above. Turn over, cover with the lid and leave to roast on low heat for 5 more minutes. Keep checking the chicken from time to time, turning it over as it roasts in the pan. In 10- 15 minutes the chicken is well roasted and ready.

6. Sprinkle the lemon juice, adjust the salt till it reaches the bliss point, garnish with 1/2 tsp pounded black pepper, 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes and chopped cilantro.

7. Serve hot with rice. I served it with khichdi rice, cranberry tomato chutney and salad.

Tips: 

1. If you want to make it less spicy omit the red chilli powder.

2. Eat the chicken as soon as it is done.  The chicken would lose its flavour on reheating over and over again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tandoori Chicken

Barbecued Tandoori Chicken Biryani
Smoked Butter Chicken 
Butter Chicken, My Style!

The secret to good tasting tandoori chicken lies not only in the marinade and the length of time the chicken is marinated, but also the technique of cooking it.

The rule #1 is to keep the chicken dry before rubbing in the marinade. The yoghurt and the ginger garlic paste should not be runny. You should use hung yoghurt or greek yoghurt and grind the ginger garlic in a wet grinder to get a thick paste without adding water. If you don't have a wet grinder then you could use grated ginger and garlic (1:1 ratio).

Next comes the technique of cooking. Of course the tandoori chicken is at its best when cooked in the tandoor which is a clay oven. Since we cannot cook in the tandoor at home we could barbeque or grill it and also bake it in the oven.

Soaking the chicken in brine for up to six hours and marinating in the tandoori masala for up to 4 hours before cooking, enhances the flavour and taste to a great extent.



Here's the recipe!

Ingredients: 
3 Chicken legs
2 tbs Hung sour yoghurt 
1 tbs tandoori masala 
1 tsp Kashmiri red chilly powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tbs ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1tbs vegetable oil 
Salt to taste

Method:
1. Clean, wash, drain and towel dry the chicken legs each cut into 2 pieces (thigh and drumstick).  Make slits in the chicken pieces then rub with salt and lemon juice and set aside for 10 -15 minutes.

2. Mix together all the spices and the hung yoghurt in a bowl, add the vegetable oil and the required amount of salt to make the tandoori marinade.

3. Massage the chicken with this marinade and leave for up to 4 hours. 


4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and bake for 40 - 45 minutes. I line the cookie sheet with tin foil and place the chicken pieces on it. This way it is easier to keep the cookie sheet clean. 

5. Remove from the oven when the chicken is well done - should be moist and juicy inside and brown and crispy outside. 

6. Serve hot on a bed of onion rings and lemon wedges sprinkled with chaat masala. Enjoy with Naan and dal or rice. 


Friday, December 23, 2016

Layered Idly Sandwich
























When ever we eat Idli we dip a piece of it in a chutney and then try another bite with a different one - it is always one chutney at a time. And if you dip the same piece in all the chutneys it becomes messy. So I thought why not build an idli layer by layer like a cake and fill each layer with a different chutney, like icing. I had been toying with this idea so much to the extent of checking with manufacturers if they could make a square idli mould for me. That seemed like a lengthy process for which I had no time. But I had to satisfy my craving to taste the idli and my favourite chutneys together - all in one bite. There was a shortcut which was tempting enough. I used the round steel plates from my Dhokla maker (I could have used a cake pan too) to steam my idli rounds and voila made my idli sandwich with different chutney layers. I had chutney powder (mologai podi), coconut and mint chutney which I used for each layer. It tasted just yummy as I had expected. Plus it looked so beautiful!
























Here's the recipe:

Ingredients: 
Idli batter
Mint chutney 
Coconut Chutney
Chutney Powder (Mologai Podi)
Clarified butter 
Round cake dish or Dhokla Maker plates
Parchment Paper


Method: 
1. Grease the cake pan/plate and line it with parchment paper cut in a circle, the same size as the base.  Pour in the Idli batter to your desired thickness. I keep it 1/2 " thick.

2. Place the cake pan in a steamer and steam for exactly 10 minutes. Remove and keep aside to cool.

3. When cooled, pass a knife around the sides of the pan/plate then overturn the plate carefully after topping it with another plate to unmould the idli cake. 

4. Cut the idli round into 4 quarters. Take one quarter and spread coconut chutney on it, then top it with another and spread with mint chutney, then alternate again with coconut chutney.  I had made only 2 chutneys this time so I had to repeat the layer. But you could use another different chutney instead. Then for the topmost layer I sprinkled with MTR's chutney powder and a few droplets of melted ghee (clarified butter) and brushed it evenly to coat. You could use as many layers as you want with different chutneys of your choice.  Enjoy!






























Notes:

1. You can get ready made refrigerated idli batter from indian stores. The other option is to make your own. I will be soon posting a recipe for making traditional recipes.

2. The chutney powder is available in indian stores as well, but MTR is a good brand.