Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Healthy Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

I made chocolates today and I was going to sit down with a cup of Jasmine tea and write about them. When I looked at my blog home page, however, I realized that my last post was also about chocolate (in fact, a LOT of my posts are about chocolate). Also, Easter was just the other day, so it occurred to me that some of you are probably feeling a little stuffed, maybe even a little ill from all the chocolate eating. In thinking about how guilty and sick you might be feeling, I began to feel somewhat stuffed myself. I’ve been eating loads of homemade, cheese covered pizza and of course, tonnes of chocolate. It was time, I decided, to eat something yummy but healthy.

So, I made myself the healthiest lunch that I am capable of enjoying. It included one of my favourite dishes, palak dal (spinach lentils) and was served with rice and baked beets and sweet potatoes.

Palakoora pappu, palak pappu, palak pulusu, palak dal, spinach dal, lentil soup

In general, I hate eating  vegetables. The prospect of having to eat a bowl of crunchy and/or leafy vegetables makes me feel ill, miserable and hopeless. Yet, this lunch included tonnes of spinach and I still loved it! The spinach lentils shown above, are as flavourful, as they are good for you (I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I think you will all agree with me when you see the ingredient list). I think spices make vegetables not only edible, but enjoyable 🙂

Healthy Indian food, low-fat spinach lentils, palak dal

 

You can also include rotis and a light vegetable sauté with the meal. I also like to eat some yoghurt along with my meal, but of course, this isn’t compulsory.

 

Indian healthy spinach lentil soup recipe

A quick note:  You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide whether you want to stay on the lower side of that range or be brave and add in the highest amount that I recommend.

If you would like to try to make the lentils, the recipe is below; I will write later about the sauté.

Ingredients:

1 cup Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi; a type of lentil, native to India; you can also use Toor Dal, or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 large onion or 2 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned (you can also crush them if you don’t like having large pieces of garlic in your dal: I like the chunks :))

3-6 green chilies cut in half lengthwise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seed powder

1 – 2 teaspoons red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

About a medium-sized bunch of spinach (250 g) (I used organic baby spinach)

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (you can use white if you don’t have brown sugar) (optional)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the tadka, baghar, or popu:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3-12 dried red chilies

1 or 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves (optional)

2-4 peeled whole garlic cloves

2-3 tablespoons of ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. If you want to make your own, here is my recipe. If you don’t have ghee, you can simply use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). I use moong dal for this recipe. If you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for a few hours before I cook them (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas; I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step. This is how the lentils look soaked:

Moong dal (lentils native to the Indian subcontinent)

2. The easiest way to cook dal is to cook it in a pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, just boil the dal in water until its cooked. Add half a teaspoon  each of turmeric and salt to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this:

Cooked moong dal

3. I like to purée the dal in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional, however. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

4. In the meantime, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sauté them until softened and lightly browned. Now add the ginger, garlic, and green chillies and sauté again until the ginger and garlic is cooked (their raw smell should vanish).

5. Add the tomatoes, followed by cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala (if you are using it), and half a teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook all of this for about 10 minutes on low-medium heat.

6. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach well.

Spinach for healthy lentil soup

7. Place the spinach in a bowl and microwave for a minute, until tender.  I like to simply use a herb scissors or a normal pair of scissors and cut up the spinach in the bowl (after it has been microwaved) into slightly smaller bits. If you don’t like this method, you can, of course, chop the spinach on a cutting board with a knife (before or after you microwave it.

8. Add the spinach to the sauce pan, then add the lentils and sugar (if you are using it). Let everything cook for about 5 minutes.

9. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan like this:

Hot ghee

Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the cumin and stir the seeds about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the curry leaves, garlic cloves and red chilies.

Baghar
Tadka, popu or baghar

Once the red chillies darken like this:

Baghar, tadka or popu

Add the baghar to the lentils.

Making Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

Immediately cover the pot.

The dal is now ready! Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, dahi (yogurt), Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté.

In the photograph below, it is served with rice , roti, dahi (yogurt), some pickle (Gongura pickle, to be precise, which you can get in most Indian stores if you live in North America) and sautéed Dondakaya (Indian Ivy Gourd).

 

Healthy South Indian lunch with lentil soup

 

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Spicy Fish Keema

I spent half of my childhood in a Southern Indian city called Hyderabad. What I love the most about this city is its food. Hyderabadi cuisine is spicy, complex, and flavourful, with a fascinating history. (I’ve already touched upon some of this, including the story of the origins of Hyderabadi food and its evolution (involving the Mughals and the Nizams) in a previous post.) On top of all this, several Hyderabadi dishes play an important role in my own personal history. For instance, I have memories of delicious Biryani lunches with my father at Nizam Club, during which we would have long chats about communism, god, black holes, and the senselessness of vegetarian Biryani (I maintained, and continue to maintain, that Biryani must be made with mutton, or, in an emergency, with chicken; my father, is more flexible in principle, but frankly, seems to agree with me in practice), amongst other things.

Another dish that I love and associate fond memories with is Kheema. Kheema is spicy minced meat, and it’s made in different parts of India in slightly different ways. Kheema reminds me of Hussein, an elderly, gentle, kind, funny, patient man, who was our chauffeur. I used to be driven to and from school by Hussein, whom I was really very fond of. As it turned out, Hussein’s wife made the most delicious kheema, and every time she made some, he would bring me left-overs the next morning, which I would eat for lunch in school. This was a special treat as my parents’ was a vegetarian household, and no meat was ever cooked or served in it. 

Of and on, over the past decade, I’ve craved kheema made just like that. But, I no longer eat meat, and in any case, I have no idea how to make kheema that tastes like Hussein’s wife’s recipe. Today, I decided that I was going to make some kheema, one way or another; I was gripped by a craving so powerful, that I set about crafting a recipe with a kind of single-minded determination that I only wish I could summon when I sit down to write a chapter of my thesis. Although I don’t eat meat, I do eat fish, so awful as this is likely to sound to a Hyderabadi, I decided to make fish kheema. Using a recipe for “Bhuna Kheema” and adapting it quite a bit (for instance, I used tomatoes, which isn’t common in Hyderabadi recipes, and of course, I was using fish instead of mutton/chicken), I arrived at this creation:

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It was delicious, even if it wasn’t quite authentic, and it still had a distinct flavour profile that resembled the kheema from my child hood! If you’d like to try it, here’s what you will need:

1 pound fish fillets (any white fish should do, used haddock)

2-3 tablespoons oil (the more you use, the better the kheema will taste, up to a point of course)

1/2 stick cinnamon

2 bay leaves

A handful of curry leaves

4 cardamom pods

3-4 cloves

1 large red onion, (dice 3 quarters and slice the remaining quarter)

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon grated ginger

10 sprigs of coriander, chopped

5-8 mint leaves

6 green chillies, chopped

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons red chilli powder (I used 1 teaspoon Kashmiri mirch powder and 1 teaspoon extra hot red chilli powder that I bought at an Indian store)

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon garam masala powder

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Method:

Boil the fish in a pot of water with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cool the fish and chop it into bite sized pieces.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, curry leaves, and cloves. Once the spices become fragrant, add the onion and fry until golden brown. Now, add the grated ginger and crushed garlic, and fry for a few minutes.

Next, add the chopped chillies, followed by the mint, coriander, salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam a masala. Fry for a bit, and then add the chopped tomatoes. Fry some more.

Finally, add the boiled fish with a little bit of water, and toss. Using a flat ladle, break up the fish into little pieces, whilst stirring everything on medium to high heat. Continue periodically stirring the mixture until the water dries up, and the fish begins to look like mince meat. At this point, take the fish off the heat, squeeze some lime juice on it, stir it, and serve it with some coriander and/or mint leaves garnished on top. You can eat kheema with naan, roti, chapati, parathas, or just by itself. I ate it with chapatis and dahi (Indian-style Yoghurt), and made a cup of lemon tea to wash it all down.

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Categories
Baking Cooking Food General Recipes

Baked Mushroom Arancini (Baked Risotto)

Risotto is one of my favourite Italian dishes. The only problem with it is that while it tastes great right off the stove, it doesn’t re-heat well. As a result, until recently, I’d usually make up a big pot of the stuff, and then be left with a lot of cold risotto that tastes sub-par when reheated in the microwave. Alternatively, I’d make just a little, and then have to cook something from scratch for my next meal.

That is, this used to be my problem with making risotto, until I tried some arancini (fried risotto balls) at a restaurant. While eating the arancini, I had an epiphany, and now I have a whole new risotto-system 🙂 Now, I make up a pot of risotto, eat it fresh off the stove for a meal, and then use the left over risotto to make arancini. I basically roll the left-over risotto into balls, which I refrigerate, and then bake them (instead of frying them because it’s healthier and easier) whenever I am ready for my next meal.

And just like that, I have a delicious, hot meal in a few minutes!

Baked Risotto

If you’d like to try making some, here’s the recipe for the arancini part of the process. For my risotto recipe, go here. There are also plenty of recipes out there on the great Internets. For instance, you could try Jamie Oliver’s mushroom risotto, the recipe can be found here. (I’d skip the celery part of the recipe, though, if I were you, (yuck!))

Ingredients:

1 pot of risotto (Whichever recipe you use, make sure to chop the mushrooms into fairly small pieces, rather than slicing them. if the mushroom slices are too large, it becomes difficult to shape the risotto into balls for the arancini)

1 cup (approx.) panko crust

3-4 egg whites

1 cup (approx.) flour

Goat cheese or mozzarella to taste for the arancini filling (optional)

Method:

Cool the risotto in the fridge for at least a few hours. Once you’re ready to shape the risotto into balls, place three bowls and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper on the counter, table, or wherever you are going to be working. Put the panko crust in one bowl, egg whites in another bowl, and flour in the third.

Using an ice cream scoop, portion some risotto into your hands and shape it into a sphere, about the size of a tennis ball. (If you’d like to make arancini with goat cheese or mozzarella centers, flatten a scoop of risotto in your palm, place the cheese at the centre of the flattened risotto, and then wrap the risotto around the cheese). Now, roll the ball in the flour and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat this process until all the risotto is used up.

Next, dip each flour-coated ball into the egg white, immediately roll it in the panko crust, and then place it on the baking tray.

Baked Risotto

Once you’re done coating all the balls, you can bake them immediately, or you can store them in Tupperware, and bake them when you’re ready to eat them.

To bake the arancini, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the arancini in the oven on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake the arancini for about 15 minutes, until they are crisp and golden brown on the outside. Finally, enjoy!

They’re a great meal, but they’re also great as appetizers for a party.

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Easy Fish Tikka Recipe Served with Mint Chutney

Tikka is one of my favourite appetizers, but unfortunately, good tikka is surprisingly difficult to come by outside India. Craving decent tikka (especially fish tikka), I have tried multiple recipes over the years, and finally, I think I’ve found the perfect combination and balance of ingredients. This recipe, arrived at after some fine-tuning and re-mixing, and much experimentation 😉 is also relatively easy to follow.

Mmmm just look at how delicious this looks:

Tandoori tikka recipe

If you’d like to try it out, here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

1 pound fish cut into 1.5 inch cubes (I’ve found that haddock works really well for tikka)

For the Marinade:

6-8 large cloves of garlic

1/2 tablespoon grated ginger

1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves

3 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp grated lime zest

1 tbsp kashmiri red chili powder

1 tsp freshly ground cumin powder

1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp salt

1 tsp rock salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard oil

1 tbsp gram flour

1/2 cup yoghurt

Method:

Set aside the gram flour, yoghurt and half the oil. Put the rest of the marinade ingredients in a blender, or food processor, and process into a smooth paste.

In the meantime, fry the gram flour in the oil that was set aside, until the flour darkens a bit and becomes fragrant (this should take about one, or one and half minutes).

Combine the fried flour, spice paste, and yoghurt in a bowl, then add the fish pieces to this. Marinate the fish in the mixture for at least 4 hours, or even overnight (place the fish and marinade in the refrigerator during this time).

image

When you’re ready to serve the tikka, broil the fish in the oven (at the highest setting for about 15 minutes, basting half way through with butter), or, if you can, grill it over a barbecue. I think it tastes best when it’s grilled on the barbecue, but broiling works well enough, at a pinch.

Serve the tikka with mint chutney (to make chutney at home, blitz a cup of coriander leaves with half a cup of mint leaves, 2-3 green chillies, 2 tbsp of lime juice, 3-4 tbsp of greek yoghurt, and rock salt to taste. Add more yoghurt if you want a thicker consistency, or if the chutney tastes too hot for your liking). You can also garnish the plate or tray you serve the tikka on with onions sliced into rings, or green chilies.

And there you have it, a delicious appetizer, that I sometimes eat with roti or rice as a main course. It also makes for a great snack at cocktail parties.

Fish tikka

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Buttery, Fiery Fish Kebabs, Inspired by Hyderabad

The wonderful weather we had over the Easter weekend had me excited about summer being around the corner. Then, as some of you know, the weather took a turn for the worse; it’s been rainy, grey and relatively unpleasant, on and off, since that weekend, and summer seems like a far away dream. This combined with the fact that I miss India, my parent’s home, the sun, my family and most importantly (:P) the ease with which I could get my hands on some delicious food, and the whole thing made me depressed.

But, instead of giving in to the grey, I decided that I was going to protest the gloom and the fact that I was not in India any more, by making some spicy, nay, fiery Indian food! And what combines Indian spices with the suggestion of summer in North America better than kababs (kebabs in this part of the world)?

Since I eat neither meat nor chicken, I decided that I was going to use fish instead. Also, since it was Hyderabad in particular, that I was missing, I wanted to make something with a Hyderabadi base (for more on Hyderabadi food, read this post). So I did some reading and thinking, and revisited memories of some of the more delicious kababs I’d eaten in my good old meat-eating days, and then went to work.

It took some experimenting, but I finally ended up with a literal and figurative mash-up: fish kababs that pay homage to Hyderabad. I won’t of course stake any claim to either originality or authenticity; all I will say is that these turned out to be spicy, soft, buttery and delicious fish kababs.

Spicy, buttery fish kebabs!

If you’d like to re-create this magic, read on for my instructions.

Ingredients:

1 pound white fish fillets

1 pound salmon fillets

1 tablespoon yoghurt

4 tablespoons butter

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons coriander leaves

2 tablespoons mint leaves

4 spring onions

4 Indian green chillies or two jalapeño peppers, coarsely chopped

Zest of 1 lime, finely grated

3 cloves of garlic, with their skins removed

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon red chili powder

Oil or ghee (indian clarified butter, go here for more information on this and a recipe for making it at home) for frying or grilling the kababs

Spices to be Dry Roasted:

1.5 teaspoons fennel seeds

1.5 teaspoons black peppercorns

1 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons Chana dal

3 whole dried red chilies

2 cloves

Seeds from 1 black cardamom pod

Method:

Place the spices to be dry roasted in a pan, and roast them on low heat until fragrant. Take them off the heat and let them cool.

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In the meantime, place the coriander, mint, spring onions, chilis, lime zest, garlic and ginger in a food processor.

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Whizz the ingredients around until they are finely chopped up, like this:

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Remove (what I am going to elegantly refer to from now on as) the ‘green mixture’ into a bowl.

In the same food processor, process the fish fillets until they become an even paste, like this:

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While the fish is being processed, grind the dry roasted spices (with a mortar and pestle or in a dry grinder) to a powder.

Once the fish is processed  mix in the ‘green mixture’, chili powder, dry roasted and ground spices, and salt.

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Add the yoghurt, egg whites and butter, and process until smooth, like this:

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Your ‘kabab batter’, if you will, is now ready. You can refrigerate this. Whenever you’re ready to eat, take it out, and cook up your kababs.

I tried pan searing the kababs, and that worked out fine. However, the best way to cook them, in my opinion, is to grill them in the oven on a baking sheet, at a fairly high temperature. I went with 450 fahrenheit. Also, instead of oil, I used ghee to grease the tray, and halfway through the grilling (about 7 minutes in) I flipped the kababs and brushed some ghee on them with a basting brush.

And voilà, you have some delicious, buttery, spicy as hell kababs, right in the comfort of your home! I felt a wee bit less home sick after a few of these!

Spicy, buttery fish kebobs!

A great way to serve these kababs is with some green chutney. This is the recipe I used to make it. 

Spicy Indian fish kebab recipe!

Categories
Cooking Food General Recipes

Tuna and Olive Crostini

I had a lot of crostini left over from a big party I threw, as well as plenty of olives. So here’s a little snack I came up with using these left-overs. Tuna and Olive Crostini Recipe

This tuna and olive crostini makes for a delicious snack or even a light dinner; and it’s pretty easy to make. What’s more, the recipe doesn’t involve too many ingredients and it isn’t labour intensive at all.

Here’s what you will need:

2 baguette slices

A teaspoon of olive oil

A can of tuna or half a cup of fresh tuna

A handful of good quality pitted olives, ideally, use a combination of green and black olives.

A wedge of lime

Extra sharp cheddar to taste

Chili flakes to taste

Method:

To begin with, cut two slender slices off a baguette. Brush both sides of the baguette with some olive oil and grill the slices in a panini-maker or the oven. If you’re using an oven, pre-heat it to 350 degree Fahrenheit and then bake the slices for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Next, top off the bread with some tuna, squeeze some lime juice on top. Slice the olives in half and then arrange them on top of the tuna, as shown in the photograph below. Place the slices in the oven and let them bake for 5 minutes.

How to Make Tuna and Olive Crostini Recipe as an appetizer

In the meantime, cut 3-4 slices of cheddar. Once the slices have baked for 5 minutes, place the cheese on top of the olives and top off with chili flakes.

Tuna and Olive Crostini Recipe

Place the slices back in the oven and let them bake for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is all melted.

Tune and Olive Crostini

And there, you’re snack’s ready!

Categories
Chocolate Chocolate Truffles Cooking Food General Recipes

Dark Chocolate Truffles with Mint-Buttercream Centers

Last week I decided to invite some friends over to mine for drinks, desserts, cheese, and some cheese related hors d’ oeuvres. It was my birthday you see, and what better way is there to celebrate one’s birthday than by feeding one’s friends and drinking with them? 🙂

I tried several new recipes out for this party, including three new types of chocolate truffles! Here’s one of my favourite ones: truffles with mint centers!

Mint Chocolate Truffles

This was a modification of a basic truffle recipe that I came up with while fooling around with new flavours and textures; If you’d like to try it, read on!

Ingredients:

100 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids) (the better this chocolate is, the better your truffles will taste)

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 pinches of salt

5-6 tablespoons of icing sugar

5 tablespoons butter

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mint essence

3-4 drops green artificial food colouring

5-6 squares of dark chocolate for coating the truffles

Equipment:

4 Bowls and several spoons

1 large plate

A hand-held or stand-alone egg-beater/mixer

1 sheet of foil or butter paper

Method:

I began by heating the cream in a little pan to a gentle simmer. In the meantime, I chopped the chocolate into bits (you can also use a food processor), and placed the chocolate bits in a bowl.

How to make chocolate truffles/chocolate ganache

Once the cream began to simmer, I poured it over the chocolate and let it sit until the chocolate melted.

Making a chocolate ganache for chocolate truffles

Once the chocolate was melted, I took a whisk and gently mixed the chocolate and cream into a smooth mixture adding a pinch of salt as I did this. This delicious ganache needed to cool and firm up, so I covered it up and placed it on the dining table. Once it reached room temperature, I transferred the bowl to the fridge.

Chocolate ganache

While the ganache cooled, I placed the butter in a bowl and began whipping it up with a hand-held mixer (egg-beater). When it was creamy and softened, I added a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of icing sugar, 1/4 tsp of mint essence, and a few drops of green food colouring. I whipped all this up into a  creamy smooth mix and then tasted it. I thought the mixture needed a little more sugar, so I added another 2 tablespoons. (You should also taste the mixture intermittently and see if it needs more sugar or mint essence; add as much as you think is appropriate.) Once it tasted just right, I covered up the bowl and placed it in the fridge.

Once both the ganache and mint-filling were firmed up in the fridge, I took them out and began working with them. I covered two baking trays with wax paper (you can also use baking paper or aluminum foil) and then began scooping large blobs of chocolate on one of the trays.

Making assorted chocolate truffles

Once all the chocolate was divided into ‘large blobs’ on the first tray, I began scooping smaller portions of the mint-buttercream into my hand, shaping them into rough spheres and then placing them on the other tray.

Making mint Chocolate Truffles

As soon as all the mint mixture was used up, I placed both trays in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Once the scoops and mint-spheres had hardened from the cold, I was ready to start shaping the truffles!

(When you’re trying this, make sure you have enough works-space on your kitchen counter. I like sitting down while I do this, because it takes some time, so I usually move over to the floor because I feel more comfortable sitting cross-legged. You could move over to the dining table if you prefer.)

Now I was ready for the fun part! I picked up one of the chocolate scoops and shaped it into a sphere in my hand. Then I flattened it out on my hand like a mini chapathi or tortilla.

Shaping chocolate cream cheese truffles Step 1 in shaping chocolate cream cheese truffles

Then, I took one of the mint flavoured balls and placed it at the centre of the ‘chocolate chapathi’:

Shaping chocolate cream cheese truffles Step 2 in shaping chocolate cream cheese truffles

and carefully rolled the chocolate layer over the mint centre, shaping the truffle into as perfect a sphere as possible. (I don’t have a photograph of the sphere-shaping bit because I needed both hands and by this time my other hand was covered in chocolate.)

Shaping chocolate cream cheese truffles Step 3 in shaping chocolate cream cheese truffles

I repeated this until all the chocolate was used up:

Shaping chocolate truffles

Next, I melted 5-6 dark chocolate squares in the microwave. (When you do this, be sure to do this on a low setting as you don’t want to burn the chocolate. Ideally, you should melt the chocolate in a double boiler to avoid this, but I find that if I am careful, I can do it in the microwave. After, I let the chocolate cool a bit (it’s important not to let it harden), I picked up one of the truffles, and dipped it into the chocolate, coating it completely, as shown in the photograph below:

Dipping truffles in chocolate

Then, I placed the truffle back on the wax paper to cool. I repeated this until all the truffles were coated. Finally, I let them all cool and then placed them in little green-coloured paper cups.

And Ta DA! They were ready to be devoured! Rich dark chocolate truffles with soft mint-flavoured butter-cream centers. 

And then, all that was left was one lonely half-truffle. If it looks half-eaten, that’s because it is 😛 I did it for you all, so you can see what the centers look like 😉

Mint Chocolate Truffle

Categories
Cooking Food General Recipes

A Deliciously Sweet Dinner

Normally, when I have a dinner party, I cook Indian food. The main reason for this is that most of my friends love Indian food, and they tell me it’s nice for them to get a chance to eat home-made Indian food. Second, I think I cook it better than I do any other kind of cuisine. After Indian food, Italian food is probably my favourite type of food, and most of my Italian recipes are heavy on the cheese :), like risotto, or gnocchi in a gorgonzola and walnut sauce.

Earlier this week however, I found myself in a bit of a quandary. One of my friends was coming over for dinner, and she’s not a fan of either spicy food or heavy, creamy, fatty food. The thing is, every Indian recipe I know, is one or the other, often both. And every Italian dish I’ve ever made was either smothered with cheese or drowning in butter, sometimes it was both. So I decided to make her something different, something, non-Indian.

“What could I cook?” I wondered frantically on my way home from school. It was a tough question; after all, what is delicious and neither spicy or fatty/buttery/cheesy? It seemed like a truly insurmountable, unsolvable problem.

And then it hit me, I should cook something sweet! So I settled on a sweet themed dinner: grilled salmon marinated in a brown-sugar and lemon sauce served with roz bi zaffaran (saffron rice). (I made the saffron rice based on a recipe from ‘The Book of Jewish Food’ by Claudia Roden.)

The meal turned out rather well; the rice and fish complimented each other well. Another surprising upside was: the whole meal was really easy and quick to make, and the kitchen-clean-up involved was minimal.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’d like to try it, here’s what you will need:

For the Grilled Salmon:

1 pound salmon fillets

1.5 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/4th cup of brown sugar

1 tbsp dry white wine or water

1/8 th cup olive oil

Saffron Rice:

1 cup basmati rice

2 cups water

1 tbsp butter

Salt to taste

2-3 pinches saffron threads

A handful of toasted flaked almonds

3 handfuls of golden raisins soaked in a cup of hot water

Method:

Mix all the ingredients for the salmon (except the salmon itself), stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Place the salmon fillets in a small baking dish and then pour the marinade over the fish. Cover with the dish with a lid or foil and let the fish marinate for a bit. Turn the oven on and pre-heat it to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the meantime, grind the saffron threads with a mortar and pestle into a fine powder. Next, boil the water, oil and salt in a deep pot. When the water begins to boil, add the rice and saffron powder. Stir, lower the heat, cover the pot with a lid and let the rice cook. Check on it periodically, stirring.

While the rice is cooking, place the fish in the preheated oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. Every 5 minutes, bast the fish with the extra marinade in the baking dish.

The fish ought to be ready around the same time that the rice is cooked. Take the fish out of the oven when it’s slightly browned on top and flakey. Once the rice is cooked, fluff it, and mix in the raisins and almonds.

Serve the fish and rice up on a plate, with a few springs of fresh oregano and maybe a slice or two of bread. If you’re feeling like eating a healthier, more balanced meal, toss some spinach with some chopped strawberries and blackberries, and a lemon-honey vinaigrette (3 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp honey, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tbsp poppy seeds and salt and pepper to taste). Throw in some toasted almonds and walnuts for some extra deliciousness. The salad goes perfectly with the sweet-theme of this meal. You won’t even want dessert 🙂

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Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Miriyala Pappu-Charu/Rasam (Low-Fat Peppery Lentil Soup)

Summer is clearly over, and as climate-change enthusiast Ed Stark has been known to say, ‘winter is coming’ (if you don’t get this reference, google ‘Game of Thrones’). In fact, I prefer the cold winter to these months of pre-winter anticipation otherwise known as fall; at least in the winter there is the hope of snow. And so, I woke up this morning feeling a bit peevish. It was a little chilly and I really didn’t want to leave the warm-coziness of my wonderful duvet.

Unfortunately, get up I had to, because a thesis does not write itself. I motivated myself with the prospect of a cup of rich Italian hot chocolate (the kind that is so viscous it takes about 10 minutes to empty a cup of it even when you are holding the cup completely upside down). But as I made my way downstairs to the kitchen, a new craving hit me: I wanted some spicy, garlicy steaming hot charu! Charu or Rasam, a famous South Indian creation, is best described in English as a spicy soup. One can make it with or without lentils, and various types of souring agents can be used in it, including tamarind and lemon juice. What I was craving was a particular type of charu that is a quite common in Andhra Pradesh: ‘Miriyala (pepper) Charu’. So I set about grinding some fresh spices and cooking up some hot (in every sense of the word) charu for lunch.

It turned out pretty well, and now I feel cheery, warm and ready to get to editing word-documents (otherwise known as thesis-writing) 🙂

Recipe for peppery low fat South-Indian lentil-soup

If you’d like to try making some, here’s what you will need:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup toor/tuvar dal (split pigeon peas) (for more on these lentils see this wikipedia entry)

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 large tomato, cubed

1 lime sized piece of dried tamarind soaked in a cup of water or 1.5 tsp tamarind paste

1 tsp brown sugar

10 curry leaves

Salt to taste

For Charu powder:

1 tsp toor dal

2 tsp pepper

2 tsp coriander seeds

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

3/4 tsp cumin seeds

1-2 dried red chillies

5-6 menthulu (fenugreek seeds)

For Popu/tadka/baghar:

1- 2 tbsp ghee (for more on ghee and my recipe, go here) or oil

4-6 cloves of garlic

2 twigs/sticks of curry leaves

2 pinches of asafoetida

1 tsp mustard seeds

4 dried red chillies

For garnish:

A handful of fresh cilantro or coriander leaves

Method:

The first step involves cooking the lentils (toor dal). If you have a pressure cooker cook the lentils in it; it’ll only take about 10 minutes. Otherwise, cook the lentils in a pot with 2 cups of water and a pinch of turmeric, until the lentils are completed cooked and soft.

Next, in a large pot bring 2 cups of water and the tomato, turmeric, tamarind (use only the water if you’re using dried tamarind), salt, curry leaves and sugar to boil.

While waiting for these ingredients to begin boiling, prepare the charu powder. Place all the ingredients for the powder in a dry grinder or blender and grind them to a coarse powder. You can also use a mortar and pestle, but this will require a little patience.

Once the ingredients in the pot are boiling, add the cooked lentils and charu powder, stir, cook for a few minutes, and then turn off the heat.

Now for the last step! In a small pot heat the ghee or oil and add the mustard seeds. As the seeds begin to splutter add the remaining popu/tadka/baghar ingredients. Fry until the chillies darken and the spices are fragrant. As soon as you think the spices are ready, pour the ghee and spices into the bigger pot (with the other ingredients) and immediately cover the pot with a lid. Your charu is ready! I must warn you though, this is a very spicy concoction.

You can eat it like soup:

Peppery low fat Indian lentil-soup

Drink it like a warm fall/winter drink:

Recipe for low-fat peppery lentil soup

Or eat it with hot rice and a peppery papad!

Categories
Baking Cooking Food General Recipes

Refried Beans Remixed Part II

Sometime ago, I wrote about how relatively easy it is to make refried beans. Now that I’ve figured out a recipe for beans that works for me (and by that I mean that it is a wholly vegetarian recipe and it’s super-spicy) I’ve been making refried beans a lot lately. My favourite ways to eat beans include: beans on top of rice, beans inside burritos and quesadillas, and even just beans on more beans with lots of cheese on top 🙂 And then of course, there is the refried bean pizza 🙂

My latest bean-related experiment involves mixing two iconic foods from Mexican and French cuisine respectively: refried beans and crepes. Here’s how it turned out:

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

If you want to try it out, here’s what you will need:

For the Filling:

One serving of re-fried beans, go here for my recipe.

Freshly grated aged cheddar, to taste

Chunks of mozzarella, to taste

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

For the crepes:

1 cup all-purpose flour (leveled)

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Method:

I started by making the crepes. I just threw all the ingredients for the crepes (in no particular order) into a food processor (you call also use a blender/mixie) and whizzed them all together until I got a smooth mixture. The batter will be pretty thin, quite unlike pancake batter.

Now for making the crepes. I heated a skillet, melted a little butter on it and poured a ladle of batter on it. Then, I swirled the batter about to make a thin layer completely covering the entire skillet. I cooked the underside of the crêpe for about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula I loosened the edges of the crepes and then flipped the crêpe over and cooked the other side for about 2 minutes. Then I placed the crêpe on a plate, covered it with plastic wrap and repeated the crepe-making process until I’d used up all the batter. (You can also store the batter in the fridge for a day or two if you prefer.)

Now I was ready to stuff the crepes with their filling! (You can stuff and bake a couple at first and store the rest of the crepes in the fridge. Since they’re all wrapped up in plastic, they will stay fresh.)

But first, I had to pre-heat the oven, which I did to 350 F. While the oven heats up, start filling the crepes with refried beans and cheese and lining them up on a baking tray. To keep the crêpe nicely wrapped and beans snug inside, I used a toothpick.

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

Once the oven is warmed up, place the crepes in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or so. Monitor them and reduce the temperature, or take them out sooner if they look like they are browning too much. You just want them to be a nice golden colour with the edges starting to crisp up.

Once they are ready, take them out of the oven, sprinkle with cumin and cayenne pepper and enjoy!

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

If you don’t want to spend the time decorating the crêpe with cayenne pepper and cumin polka-dots like I did, you can just lightly dust the crêpe with the spices:

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

They made for a perfect snack while working on my dissertation.

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese