Friday, 30 May 2014

Bangladeshi Chittagong Chicken Curry

By now, all my friends across the globe know me well by my blog and also made many new friends through this common platform. How amazing technology is! People, whom I haven't met in ages and some whom I have never met as well, get connected through a common interest. Today's recipe is one such result of this amazing connection. A friend in Bangladesh, whom I have never met, shared this awesome chicken recipe with me which is famously called the Chittagong Chicken Curry, named after a place in Bangladesh. The curry is different in taste from other bengali curries and even though mildly spiced, it has a strong coriander flavor and is quite a refreshing change. Serve it with some Indian flatbreads and enjoy this wonderful delicacy shared by our neighbours.

750 gms chicken, washed and cut
4 tbsp + 1 tsp coriander seeds
6-8 whole dry red chillies (as per your heat tolerance, I added 6 and was easily had by my baby with plain rice)
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
6 medium onions (3/4 made into a paste and rest finely sliced)
1 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp cashew paste (soak about 12-14 cashews and grind)
2 tbsp Mustard oil, divided
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing

Dry roast the 4 tbsp coriander seeds and whole red chillies until fragrant. Cool and make a fine powder. 
Marinate the chiceken with this powder, garlic paste, little salt, 1 tbsp mustard oil, and red chilli powder for at least 1-2 hours or overnight. 
In a pan, heat the remaining mustard oil and add the 1 tsp coriander seeds. Let it brown and then add the sliced onions. Fry till pink and then add the onion paste.  Continue frying till the onion changes color to golden. Now add the chicken along with the marinade and stir. Mix the spices and the fried onions well. Continue frying till the chicken is slightly browned and oil starts appearing from the sides. Now add about 1/2 cup water and stir. Cover and cook on a medium flame till chicken is cooked thoroughly and oil again appears on top. Remove the cover and adjust seasoning. Add the cashew paste and fresh coriander leaves and let the gravy simmer on a medium flame till reduced to desired consistency. This dish is best eaten with parathas, naan, roti, or pooris. So the lesser gravy the better. Serve hot!

Thai Basil Chicken

Me and my husband are travel freaks and out of all the holidays we have been to so far, we love Thailand the best. It is best in every aspect, be it food, hospitality, beaches, safety, shopping, and anything and everything about it. While we are true fans of Thai cuisine, we particularly love the Thai Basil Chicken and the Thai Green Curry and can continue eating them day in and day out. However with the political unrest going on in Thailand, we do not know when we can visit it next and so decided to recreate some old memories with this extremely easy and quick Thai Basil Chicken. It is so simple to make that by the time your Jasmine rice gets cooked (in about 20 mins), your chicken is also ready to be served hot from the pan, which is ideal way to do it. Thai Basil Chicken is best served straight from the pan and with a bowl of fragrant steamed Jasmine rice and a fried egg. A typical Thai Street Food getting served right from your kitchen!

300 gms boneless chicken (I used thigh boneless)
5 fat cloves of garlic
3-4 thai red chilli (regular fresh red chilli will do)
A generous handful of fresh Basil leaves stem removed
2 tsp oyster sauce (if not available, can be substituted with fish sauce)
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

Wash and cut the chicken into bite sized chunks. Mince or finely cut the garlic and chillies. Heat oil in a pan and add the garlic and chillies. Fry till slightly browned and fragrant. Now add the chicken and fry till tender, about 7-10 minutes. Do not overcook, else your chicken will turn dry. You can cover the pan to speed up the process. Now add the sauces and the sugar. Stir and cook till the chicken is coated well. Now add the basil leaves and check for seasoning as the sauces already contain salt. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the basil leaves are just wilted. The leaves will continue to cook even after removing from heat. So do not overcook. Serve inmediately with hot Jasmine Rice and a fried egg.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Perfect Green Chutney

Eureka! Eureka! Eureka! Surely it was an Eureka moment when I tasted my chutney straight from the grinder. Perfect! Just the right balance of flavors and just the way me and, especially, my husband loves it. It is not the first time that I have made this but certainly a first for this perfection. I know that Green Chutney is a staple for most Indian households and most prepare it the perfect way with the blink of an eye, anytime and everytime. However, when you ask them the recipe, all you get to hear is "just put evetything together in the grinder and pulse!" Well, I do not blame them either. They are so habituated in making this chutney that it is more of instincts for them rather than measurements. Nevertheless, I have finally cracked down on the measurements today and henceforth, I will be able to proudly boast about my Green Chutney. Oh! And did I mention, my husband loves it and I strongly believe and implement that "The way to a man's wallet is through his stomach!" :D

Ingredients (Makes a big batch)
250 gms fresh coriander (preferably market fresh)
50 gms mint leaves (again, preferably market fresh)
10-12 fat garlic cloves (add more if you like it more garlicky)
6-8 green chillies (as per your heat tolerance)
12-15 cherry tomatoes/2 medium tomatoes (I wanted to finish off my stock of cherry tomatoes)
1 tsp sugar
Salt as per taste

Note: You can skip the tomatoes and add raw mango instead which is more preferable. Depending on the tanginess, add 1-2 mangoes. I did not have any stock.

Remove the mint leaves from the stems, except for the very tender ones, and wash thoroughly. Add it to the grinder along with the garlic, chillies, and tomatoes (eye removed). If you are using raw mango, peel and cut the mangoes lengthwise before adding and discard the stone. Pulse till everything is well grinded and smooth. 
Now cut the coriander at the root and discard any fat stem. Coriander usually has very tender stems and so need not be discarded. Wash thoroughly and with the help of a big kitchen scissors, roughly cut through the leaves. Add them to the grinder and continue pulsing with the other ingredients. At this point, taste the chutney for any additional garlic or chilly and adjust accordingly. Finally, add the salt and sugar and give the final few pulses. You might wonder the reason of not adding everything in one go. Basically, I am trying to recreate the traditional way of grinding the ingredients one at a time on the mortar and pestle (Sil Batta) and also adding ingredients one at a time ensures that everything is ground to a smooth paste without any chunks. 
Transfer the chutney to a clean and dry glass jar/bowl with a tight lid. Keep refrigerated. The recipe makes a big batch of chutney which stays fresh in the refrigerator in a tight lid jar for upto three weeks (if it does not get over by then)! Always use a clean spoon while serving out of the jar and you can see the chutney last even longer!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Egyptian Dessert with Couscous

I know you must be wondering what is wrong with me to keep posting recipes with couscous. The fact is, there are a few new ingredients I have recently come across and I really want to experiment with those. However, knowing myself, I know that once I buy those set of ingredients, I am sure to ignore this jar of couscous for another couple of months until maybe it gets spoilt. That would definitely not make me a good homemaker! Besides, I have no space in my pantry for any new jar and so I want to get done with the couscous and happily refill the jar with something equally interesting. After yesterday's superhit Couscous Pizza, I spent some time in the night looking for more variations and was quite happy to fish this super easy recipe popular in Egypt. I reduced the recipe to 1/4th as I wasn't too sure about the taste, which was pleasantly different and refreshing. Also, it is low on calories and so even more reason to eat and be happy!

1/4 cup couscous
1/2 cup fruit juice (I used orange juice)
2 tsp butter
2 tbsp almond pistachio meal (take a handful of almonds and pistachios and grind them. You can either remove the skin of the almonds or keep it)
2-3 tbsp crushed candied/roasted almonds
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinammon sugar for sprinkling

Bring the fruit juice to a boil and switch off the gas. Now add the couscous and mix. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Now fork the couscous and stir in the melted butter. Mix well. Add the almond pistachio meal and mix again. Lastly add the brown sugar and mix. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar. Top it with the crushed almonds and chill until served.

Flourless Healthy Pizza

First of all, a big sorry to my friends from India who may not find the key ingredient of this recipe in their nearby stores. People living in metros, however, do stand a chance of finding it in speciality stores or in the international section of big supermarkets. Today's experiment in the kitchen, after all the high calorie cooking in the recent weeks, is with a form of wheat called  "couscous" which is derived from Durum Wheat and is quite similar to Semolina in texture. You can call it an intermediate between rice and pasta. Couscous is a powerhouse of essential nutrients, the most important being lean protein and dietary fiber and a host of vitamins including vitamin B. It is a very good source of protein for my vegetarian friends and also a healthy diet option for the weight watchers. To know more about the health benefits of couscous, you can ask our trusted friend google for more advanced information.
Coming back to the recipe, I basically had a big jar of couscous lying in the pantry and since I am not a big fan of it I wasn 't giving it much importance as well. However, now my pantry is almost out of stock with every legumes and lentils and so this neglected jar of couscous finally found its place in my menu. I wasn't too sure how it will be accepted by my family, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they enjoyed the new taste and variety in the regular pizza. It not only tasted yummy, but also offered a unique variation coupled with the regular pizza toppings. All in all, it was a very satisfying meal and feeling happy and relaxed by presenting something healthy for the family to eat. 

For the couscous
1 cup couscous
1/2 cup hot water
1 tbsp olive oil
Other ingredients
1/3 cup assorted veggies (I used diced carrots, peas, and corn)
2 eggs
Herbs of your choice (I used oregano and basil)
A handful of fresh parsley
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
For the topping
2-3 tbsp pizza sauce
1/3 cup sliced mushrooms lightly sauteed in olive oil till the water content dries up
Sliced olives (use as per liking)
Grated cheese

In a bowl, place the boiling water and add the dry couscous. Nicely mix and keep covered for 10 minutes. Fork well and add 1 tbsp olive oil. 
Blanch the assorted veggies till soft. In a bowl, beat the eggs and half of the olive oil and whip till smooth. Add the couscous, salt, herbs, pepper powder, parsley, and the blanched veggies and mix well. At this point, I transferred the contents into a blender and pulsed a few times to get the mixture together and mash the big chunks. You can also do this with a potato masher. 
Pre-heat the oven at 180 degree celsius. Line a pizza tray or pie dish with parchment paper and transfer the couscous base onto it. Press it down with a spatula and spread it evenly on all sides. Drizzle the remaining olive oil on top and sprinkle some additional pepper powder. 
Bake in the pre heated oven for 20-25 minutes until the top starts slightly browning and feels little firm. Remove from oven and spread the pizza sauce and arrange the toppings. Garnish with cheese as per your choice and liking and bake it again for 10 minutes until the cheese starts melting and the toppings brown. Serve hot!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Wholemeal Spaghetti with Oven Charred Cherry Tomatoes

After all the cooking in the past few weeks, I have to be really a superhuman to want to cook again. However, family and, most importantly my baby, needs to be fed and while we adults can manage with store-bought food, a mother would not like her darling to grow up on unhealthy food just because her momma is lazy. Thankfully though, my baby has developed a liking to foods which I love too and so the job gets easier. Today's recipe is a quick-fix and healthy meal and is quite refreshing for the palate too. Enjoy it with some fresh garlic bread and a bowl of your favorite soup and you are a happy person.
1/4 of a pack of wholemeal spaghetti (the measurement here depends entirely on your requirement)
1 medium onion chopped
2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/3 cup broccoli florets (or any veggie of your choice)
4-5 leaves of fresh basil roughly chopped
1/2 red bell pepper chopped (can use any other variety)
12-14 or as many as you like cherry tomatoes 
1 + 1 tbsp olive oil 
1 + 1 tsp oregano
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt to taste
Cheese for garnishing (optional)

Wash and pat dry the cherry tomatoes. Place them on an aluminium foil and add 1 tso oregano, salt, garlic powder, red chilli flakes and drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil. The olive oil has been added in excess so that the spices and the tomato juices are well infused into it and will render a wonderful flavor to the spaghetti when drizzled on top of the spaghetti once done.
Place the tightly wrapped foil with the cherry tomatoes in the oven at 200 degree celsius with top heating only and let it remain for about half an hour while checking in between until the tomatoes leave out their juices and get slightly wilted. I did not pre-heat my oven. You can do so if you want. Once done, keep the foil wrapped tomatoes inside the oven, power off, until use. Alternatively, you can also do it on a iron mesh over medium flame for 10-12 minutes and opening the foil in between and turning the tomatoes.
Now, boil water in a big vessel and cook the spaghetti as per the packet instructions until al dante.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a pan and add the chopped garlic. Fry until fragrant and then add the chopped onions. Continue frying till translucent. Now add the veggies and the basil leaves and cook till done. Add the cooked spaghetti and toss. Add oregano or any other seasoning of your choice and stir. Finally add the cherry tomatoes along with the juices and serve hot. Garnish with grated or powdered cheese if you like.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Smooth and Creamy Coffee Ice Cream

Starting this post with an honest confession! This is not what I had set out to make. The idea was to make an ice cream with leftover chocolate cake (for which I even baked one and let it not get over) the recipe for which I saw on my favorite food forum and was quite excited to try it. However, the recipe was not quite perfect (at least did not work for me) and I ended up with a lot of creamy ice cream but sans any cakey texture or flavor (I had to literally search the cake bits with a spatula). The recipe called for just a muffin sized chocolate cake but I guess it needs a lot more than that to achieve the end result. Nevertheless, the recipe also called for 2 tbsp instant coffee powder and considering the glitch, I decided to increase on that. As luck would have it, I was out of any instant coffee but had lots of instant 3-in-1 premixed coffee sachets and I decided to use these for the ice cream. I kept adding the sachets until I reached my desired coffee taste. Once frozen, I had the most amazing coffee ice cream I ever had. If you do not like the flavor of coffee pre-mixes (some people like my husband don 't!), you can use regular coffee too. Just adjust the amount as per your liking.

Ingredients (Makes a big sized glass serving bowl)
2 cups full cream milk
1 cup whipping cream (I used half regular cream and half whipped cream)
1 cup milk powder
2 muffin-sized leftover chocolate cake (the original recipe called for just 1 muffin-sized cake; you can either increase the amount or skip it. The taste of the cake was no where obvious at the end)
1 cup hung curd (I used Greek Yogurt)
4 tbsp roasted ground almonds (I used candied almonds)
3 sachets Nescafe coffee pre-mix (can be substituted with regular instant coffee. Add as per your liking no less than 2 tbsp)
5 tbsp sugar (increase if using regular coffee. Taste and adjust accordingly)

In a bowl, take the cream and whip it with an electric mixer till stiff peaks. Add the milk, milk powder, and hung curd one at a time and whip it all together. In a separate mixer, mix the cake and the ground/whole almonds and add it to the cream. Mix everything until well combined. Now add the coffee and whip again. Lastly add the sugar as per taste and transfer to a freezer safe bowl with a lid. Freeze for 6-7 hours before serving or well set. I did not take it out in between this time to whip the ice cream to avoid ice crystals. If the cream has been perfectly whipped, this step can be skipped as per my experience with ice creams. You can decide to do it anyway. Enjoy your chilled coffee delight!

Royale Hyderabadi Chicken

It has been just a day since my In-Laws have left and I am all ready to welcome my second set of relatives, just for dinner though. At first, the thought of cooking an elaborate meal really pulled my spirits down as I am quite exhausted and tired of three weeks' continuous cooking. However, I came across this wonderful recipe on one of my google pursuits and immediately my spirits touched the sky and then there was no sitting back. With just an overview of the recipe, I knew it is a winner and sure it is! Although it took me more time and effort to make it, I was happy at the end of it all. After all, it is the only star of the evening to be served with Bengali Mishti Pulao, to balance the spiciness of the chicken, and so it had to be special. The guests are yet to taste it, at the time of writing this recipe, and I am not sure how well they like it but I love it and this I am saying not because I cooked it, but because I really think it is superb and very rich in flavors and high on taste.

For the marinade
1 kg chicken washed and cut (the original recipe was for 1/2 kg; I simply doubled it)
3-4 heaped tbsp yogurt
1 tsp spicy chilli powder (can reduce the qty as per tolerance)
1 tsp salt

For the spice paste
1 1/2 inch piece ginger 
8-10 fat garlic cloves
4 tsp poppy seeds (I would recommend soaking them first for 1/2 hour)
2 green chillies (I used only 1)
3 dry red chillies (again as per tolerance)

For the spice powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 green cardamoms
6 cloves
2" piece cinnamon

Rest of the ingredients
2 big onions finely sliced
1 big tomato chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (optional, but helps to enhance the color)
2 pieces mace, 2-3 cloves, 6-8 black peppercorns, and 1" piece cinammon roughly thrashed in a mortar
3-4 tbsp oil

Start with marinating the chicken. Wash and drain the water completely and mix all ingredients listed under marinade. Cover and keep aside. I did this first thing in the morning and kept covered in the refrigerator until used. 
Next, prepare the spice paste. Put all the ingredients in a grinder (one you use for your chutneys) and make a smooth paste. The original recipe did not mention soaking the poppy seeds which I followed and got a coarse paste as a result. I would recommend soaking it first to get a smooth paste and not getting to chew poppy seeds directly. 
Now, dry roast all the ingredients under spice powder and let it cool. Transfer to a dry grinder and make a fine powder. Make sure to skin the cardamom pods and discard the cover. Keep the powder aside till further use.
Time for the assembly. Take a big kadhai or wok, preferably with a handle, and heat the oil. Put the crushed whole spices and let the aroma arise. Now add the sliced onions and just a pinch of salt and fry until golden. Add the turmeric powder and chilli powder and fry till oil separates and the mixture turns a beautiful golden red. Add the tomatoes and fry till mushy. You can also add a dash of salt to quicken the process. Keep it covered on a medium flame and let it cook. Once done, oil should again appear on the sides. 
Now add the chicken along with the marinade and start the frying process until all the spices are well mixed and no water remains and its oil on all sides. This process took me a good 1/2 hour as my chicken and yogurt let out a lot of water. I cooked it covered on medium high flame and stirring every 5 minutes. However, be alert not to burn the spices.
Once the chicken and the masalas are well coated, add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of warm water (keep it ready while frying) and bring it to a boil. Cover and cook on high flame until oil starts floating on top and chicken is nice and tender. Let the gravy reduce a bit and thicken. Now add the spice powder and mix well. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. Cover and cook on a medium flame undisturbed for the next 10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl with a good fitting lid. Keep covered until serving time. For serving with indian breads, you can thicken the gravy a bit more. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Kashmiri Murg Makhani (Kashmiri Butter Chicken)

Three weeks of pure vegetarian food has finally come to an end and it was on special request by Father-in-law who could no longer manage with vegetarian food, however yummy it might be. So as a farewell meal, I decided to include both vegetarian and non vegetarian food in the menu to satisfy both the palate and the rituals. While it was Chena Kofta for Grandma, I prepared Kashmiri Makhani Gosht for the deprived non veggies. Oh! But Kashmiri Makhani Gosht calls for mutton and as I do not have access to good quality mutton, I rechristened it as Kashmiri Murg Makhani! However, if you have good quality mutton at hand, go ahead and prepare it the same way as I have cooked the chicken, except that mutton will need a few more whistles in the cooker.
500 gms chicken washed and cut
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 tbsp + 1 tsp ginger juliennes
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dry ginger powder
1 tsp fennel seeds
3-4 tbsp yogurt whipped
1 tsp crushed kashmiri red chilli (I used red chilli flakes)
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 each of cardamom, cloves, and cinammon roughly thrashed
6-8 black peppercorns
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil

Heat oil in a pressure cooker and splutter the cumin seeds and whole spices. Add the onions and fry till translucent. Now add the chicken and fry on a high to medium heat until slightly golden. Add the fennel seeds, salt, ginger powder, ginger juliennes, chilli powder and crushed chillies, and whipped yogurt and continue frying till the oil separates. Now add 1/2 cup warm water and 2 tbsp butter and pressure cook for 2-3 whistles until done (if using mutton, cook for about 5/6 whistles depending on how tender is the mutton). Let the pressure release completely and then transfer to a serving dish and garnish with a blob of butter and coriander leaves.

Bengal Special Chena Kofta Curry (Paneer/Cottage Cheese Balls in aSpicy Gravy) - No Onion No Garlic

The three week long pure vegetarian saga has reached its finale and I bid adieu to my dear inlaws last evening. While the stay was quite enjoyable and I managed to give them some good memories of their stay in Singapore, I had to really rack my brains and do intensive search for doable and quick no onion no garlic dishes with some variety. They enjoyed most of my dishes and were really happy and amazed to see my enthusiasm in the kitchen which they had never seen before. So all in all, it was a good experience for me in the kitchen and by the end of it, I can now confidently cook a no onion no garlic dish with a wonderful variety. I had planned today's dish as the finale dish as it required some previous night preparation and takes a little more time to be prepared than the other regular dishes. The koftas were a star and I could just gobble them up as is. So yummy they were! Try out these koftas with any kind of gravy you want and you are sure to be blessed! :)

For the Koftas
1 liter milk (use full cream for a more creamier paneer)
1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
1 small potato boiled and mashed (I used leftover potato from the previous day's Dum Aaloo)
2 tbsp Semolina (add little at a time as required but not exceeding the recommended quantity) 
Seasoning of your choice (cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli powder, etc. I did not add as I was using the Dum Aaloo leftover)
Salt as per taste
Freshly chopped coriander leaves (optional; use very little)
Few cashews (roughly chopped) and raisins for stuffing
Oil for frying

For the Gravy
1 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 each of cloves, cinammon, and cardamom roughly thrashed
1 tsp ginger finely grated or paste
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 black pepper powder
1 medium tomato finely chopped or pureed
2-3 heaped tbsp yogurt
1 scant tsp sugar
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing (you can add a fistful of leaves while pureeing the tomatoes, optionally)

For the koftas
Bring the milk to a boil and add the vinegar. The milk will immediately separate leaving the whey in the bottom while the chena or paneer will be floating on top. Place a muslin cloth in a colander and gently drain the liquid through it and holding back the chena in the cloth. Run the chena in cold water a few times to get rid of the smell of vinegar or lemon. Now tightly close the mouth of the muslin cloth and let the water drain off completely. I kept the paneer parcel in the colander and kept the colander on top of a big vessel to hold the liquid while keeping a weight on top of the tied cloth. Within 30 minutes , all the water would have dried out and then you can either use it right away or keep it in the refrigerator tied up in the cloth for use the next day. I had prepared it the night before and kept it in the refrigerator for use in the morning. How pretty and firm it looked!

Now, break the chenna with your hands and add all the ingredients, except the cashews and raisins, listed above to make the koftas. Mash and mix everything well. Now pinch out small balls out of this mixture and put a few cashews and raisins in the center and make small balls, ensuring that the cashews or raisins do not ooze out. 

Heat oil in a small deep bottomed wok and fry the koftas till golden brown. Remove from heat and drain the excess oil in kitchen napkins and keep aside.
 Making the Gravy
Heat oil in a pan and add the whole spices, cumin seeds, and heeng and fry till a lovely aroma emanates. Mix the ginger, cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli, and turmeric powder in 2 tbsp water and add it to the pan. Fry till oil starts coming out from the sides. Now add the tomatoes and continue frying till they are completely mushy and oil comes out again. Whip the yogurt and add it to the pan while lowering the flame. Stir and mix well. When the raw smell of the yogurt disappears and the masala starts to thicken, add the salt, sugar and 1 cup warm water and bring it to a boil. Put a cover and let the gravy simmer on medium heat till desired consistency is achieved. 
Now place the fried koftas in the serving dish and pour the gravy on top. Garnish with coriander leaves and keep covered until served. Adding the koftas directly to the pan and later transferring to a serving dish might result in breakage.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Soft Honey Oats Bread

Bread, my love in baking, can lift my mood anytime of the day and I do not even mind baking one at midnight! I have heard and seen people exclaiming about excellent midnight baking experiences though I am yet to experience that exhilarating moment, at least until my baby grows up and stops sleeping on me. All said and done, whether midnight or mid-afternoon, baking always gives me a high and I really hope someday I can take it up professionally. Until then, here is a simple soft Honey Oats Bread which is good enough to give your local bakeries a run for their money!!

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup oats toasted and milled (you can use any variety of oats here; I used rolled oats)
1 tsp salt (increase to 1 1/2 tsp if using unsalted butter)
2 tbsp butter
250 ml warm milk
1/4 cup honey
2 1/4 tsp instant active dry yeast
A dash of olive oil (for oiling the bowl and, if required, your hands while kneading)

For the topping
1 tbsp warm honey
Oats for sprinkling

In a medium sized bowl, warm the milk and melt the butter. To this, add honey and mix. When the mixture is just warm, dissolve the yeast and let it stand for 10 minutes until frothy. It is generally said that instant yeast does not need to be proofed but I like to follow this process just to be doubly sure.
In another bowl, mix the flour, milled oats, and salt. Slowly add the yeast mixture and stir with a spatula until all combined. You can also use an electric hand mixer with the dough attachment to ease the process. Once all combined, start kneading the dough with your hands. It will be extremely sticky and hard to handle at first. However, do not get deterred and continue kneading and by around 10 minutes you will have a super elastic soft and smooth dough. You can however lightly grease your hands to help you kneading. Oil the bowl as well as the dough from outside and cover with a clingwrap and keep in a warm place to rise. Be sure the bowl is big enough for the dough to rise. My dough completely overflowed!

Once the first proofing is done and the dough has beautifully doubled in size within about an hour, take the dough out and punch it down. Now place the dough on a parchment paper and spread it out with your hands in a square/rectangular shape.
Fold in the sides and form a log.
Now gently push in the two ends towards the center reducing its length bringing it to the size of the loaf tin. Place the dough alongwith the parchment paper and place it back in the warm place for the second rise, again about an hour or until doubled.
Towards the end of the second proofing, start pre-heating the oven at 180 degree celsius. Keep an empty loaf tin with 2 cups of water in the oven while pre-heating. Meanwhile, take the dough out and brush the top with warm honey and sprinkle oats generously on top, gently pressing it down with your hands. 
Now bake in the pre-heated oven for 40-50 minutes until beautifully browned on top and a tap on the bread sounds hollow. Remove from oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Allahabadi Aaloo Dum (Allahabad Style Potato Curry)--No Onion No Garlic

Dum aaloo is generally made with baby potatoes and with a generous amount of spices. Today's recipe also involves a generous amount of spicing but the procedure is a little different from the regular dum aaloo and involves regular potatoes mashed to constitute the gravy. The recipe is extremely simple and gets ready in a jiffy once you have your potatoes boiled and roughly mashed. This dish is a part of Allahabadi cuisine and the recipe was shared by a foodie from Allahabad on my favorite food group in Facebook. I teamed it up with a Bengal  Special Mishti Pulao instead of the usual puri/paratha and the combination was superb!

4-5 potatoes, boiled and roughly mashed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp asafoetida or heeng
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp dry mango powder or amchur
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
2 green chillies chopped (optional)
Salt as per taste
2-3 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
2 tbsp ghee (can be used in combination with oil)

In a pan, heat the ghee and add the heeng and cumin seeds. Add the boiled potatoes and fry till slightly golden. Add all the spices and continue frying till the masalas no longer smell raw and everything comes together. Now add a little water (I added about 1 1/2 cup of water as I wanted more gravy) and cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Remove cover and add fresh coriander and stir. Put the cover back and cook for few more minutes until desired consistency. Serve hot.  

Bengal Special Mishti Pulao (Bengali Sweet Rice)- No Onion No Garlic

As the days of no onion no garlic are nearing to a completion, I am trying to prepare and present some favourite dishes of my in-laws and go the final extra mile to keep them happy and satisfied. Today's recipe is a hot favorite with most Bengalis, especially the old school and also my grandma-in-law's most favorite dish of the whole of Bengali Cuisine. I did not know this until she sat down to eat and I was really glad it turned out exactly the way she likes it. This Pulao is a little on the sweeter side and to balance the sweetness, Bong's usually serve it with some spicy Mutton or Chicken curry. Since it is pure vegetarian in my household these days, I served it with some spicy tangy Allahabadi Aaloo Dum. The potato curry goes best with Indian bread but tasted equally good with the rice as well. All in all an effort well paid for!

2 cups gobindobhog rice (or any fragrant small grained rice)
1/2 cup combination of cashews and raisins
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Few strands of saffron soaked in 1 tbsp milk (optional)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt or as per taste
2 each of cloves, cinammon, cardamom, and bay leaf
2-3 tbsp ghee (I know it is a lot but the taste of this dish lies in this. You can substitute half with oil though)

Wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes. Just before beginning the cooking process, drain the water and keep the rice in a colander.
Heat ghee in a pan and fry the cashews and raisins until fragrant. Remove from pan and keep aside. Now in the same pan add any more ghee if required and splutter the cumin seeds and whole garam masala. Now add the rice, turmeric powder, saffron if using, salt, sugar, and fried cashews and raisins and continue frying on a medium to low heat until the rice is transparent. Now add water in 2:1 (water:rice) proportion and stir and close the lid tightly and let it cook till done, forking in between for even cooking. Alternatively, transfer the contents to a electric rice cooker and cook till done.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Super Healthy Kaala Chana Brownies (Brownie with Black Peas)

When you think of brownies the first thought that comes to your mind is lots of butter and chocolate! Well, chocolate or cocoa is inevitable for a brownie otherwise it won't remain a brownie. However , the other ingredients can definitely be experimented with for more healthier option. Today's recipe has not only replaced the butter but also the flour which does not hold any particular nutritional value apart from empty calories! Go ahead and enjoy these guilt-free delights and surprise your family in a healthy way! I saw this recipe long time back in some forum and had noted down the recipe. I am glad the person who originally posted this recipe has been found. She is Soumya from Creative Saga ( 

1 1/2 cup kaala chana (can also be experimented with chick peas) soaked overnight
1/2 cup oats, any variety, dry roasted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup milk (use if batter too dry, not exceeding the quantity)
1/2 cup chocolate chips 
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt

Wash the soaked chana and pressure cook it for 3-4 whistles until soft. If using the canned ones, you can directly proceed to the next step.
Once cooled, drain the boiled chana in a colander and let the water dry completely, takes about an hour. Now transfer the chana to a grinder and grind to a fine powder, as fine as possible. To this add the roasted oats and further grind to a powder. Transfer to a bowl and add all the other dry ingredients. Add the oil and mix. Most likely, the mixture will be quite dry. Add the milk, little at a time, not exceeding the recommended quantity. The mixture will not be runny like a cake batter but will be of drop consistency. Fold in the chocolate chips and mix again. 
Pre-heat the oven at 175 degree celsius. Grease a medium sized cake tin or bundt pan and keep aside.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle some choco chips on top. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve warm with ice cream or just enjoy with your favorite cuppa!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Golden Cranberry and Buttermilk Eggless Scones

Breakfast is usually cornflakes with milk and banana in my household which I think is synonymous with many others across the globe. However, weekends are expected to be different from the rest of the days, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner, especially when you have guests around. Since baking is the most easiest and hassle free, I try and make maximum use of my oven and do not even mind the cleaning. Today's recipe is a beautiful hybrid between a bread and a muffin, called a Scone and has a superbly crunchy crust and soft and cottony inside. It works wonderfully well as a grab-and-go breakfast or a snack option for your kiddo's lunch box. Either way, enjoy this beautiful bake with your favorite cuppa and enjoy your day!

Ingredients (Makes 12-13 Scones)
3 cups all purpose flour or maida
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup dried cranberries (can be replaced with raisins or any similar dried fruit/berry)
1/3 cup brown sugar plus 1 1/2 tbsp
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold butter cut into squares
1/4 tsp ground cinammon
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp grated orange peel

Pre-heat the oven at 200 degree. 
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange peel, and sugar. Now add the cold butter and mix together till a crumbly mixture is formed. Add the dried cranberries and buttermilk and slowly form into a dough. You can either do this with your hands or an electric mixer. The dough will be gooey and in between a bread dough and cake batter. It is however important that the dough comes together and has a rough stick/gooey texture. 
Now grease a baking tray or line it with parchment paper. Take small plum sized balls out of the dough, round it between your palms and place it on the baking tray gently flattening the top. Repeat for the rest of the dough. Ensure that the balls are not less than 1 inch apart which will give them sufficient space to rise and spread. 

Now brush the top with milk. Mix the remaining sugar and cinsmmon and sprinkle on top of the scones generously. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden on top. Remove from oven and cook on a wire rack. Serve warm.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Herbed Oatmeal Focaccia with Olives and Feta Cheese

Cooking Indian food can sometimes become a little monotonous with the same vegetables being available in the market and not much variation possible without onion and garlic. So I decided to take a break from the regular food and make this easy yet gorgeous Focaccia to serve with my healthy yet yummy Broccoli Soup. My bakes are usually accompanied by some experiment and today it was with oatmeal flour, homemade. Nothing fancy though, the use of oatmeal rather than the usual wholewheat flour lends a different texture to the bread, which is quite close to a white bread, unlike the more dense wholewheat bread. And after all the effort of making this beautiful Focaccia, I could not even grab a whole piece. So yummy it was, the whole Focaccia was gobbled up by my baby, hubby, and Father-in-Law! I guess next time I should reserve a piece for myself first before serving to the rest! :)

1 1/2 cup bread flour (all purpose flour can be used as well)
1 cup oatmeal flour (dry roast quick cooking/rolled oats and grind to a fine powder; optionally, you can seive the flour before using)
1 1/2 tsp instant active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp garlic salt (I used regular as I have to make it sans garlic)
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
180 ml warm water
50 ml warm milk (can add or reduce as per requirement during kneading)
2 tbsp olive oil (I used a spiced olive oil from the Feta cheese can)
2 tbsp steak seasoning or any Italian seasoning of your choice
Few slices of olives 
2 tbsp freshly chopped dill or any herb of your choice

For the Topping
A handful of Feta cheese cubes
A handful of sliced olives 
4-5 cherry tomatoes sliced
Italian seasoning for sprinkling
Dry grated parmesan cheese

In a bowl, mix the warm water and sugar and dissolve the yeast. Let it stand for 10 minutes until foamy.
Now in another bowl, take the oatmeal flour, salt, steak seasoning, grated parmesan, fresh herbs and mix well. Now add the yeast mixture and mix everything well till a clayey mix is formed without any lumps. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes until slightly bubbled and foamy. This is the sponge or biga. 
Now add the cornflour and the flour little at a time. Add the oil and the milk little at a time and start kneading the dough. Do not be anxious to add extra flour or oil to do away with the stickiness. Add the few olive slices and continue kneading and you will get a smooth and silky dough in about 5-10 minutes. However, be sure not to knead a dry dough. It should be smooth and elastic non sticky dough at the end of the kneading process. Now lightly oil the dough and cover with a clingwrap and keep in a warm place for the dough to rise, about 1-2 hours.
Take the dough out and punch it down. Place the dough on a parchment paper ir greased surface and roll out a circle of about 1/2 inch thickness. Place it on a greased or lined baking dish and keep covered in a warm place for the second proofing, about 45 mins to 1 hour. 
Towards the end of the proofing period pre-heat the oven at 200 degree celsius for 20 minutes. Take the dough out and brush the top with olive oil. Make indentations all over the top in a uniform pattern keeping a 1 inch space in between. Now place the sliced tomatoes, feta cheese cubes, and sliced olives and sprinkle the seasoning and the cheese. 
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes until golden on top. Towards the end I changed the oven mode to top only for a deeper browning.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Kashmiri Rajma with Saffron Rice-- No Onion No Garlic

It has been a whirlwind of cooking and sightseeing in my household for the past two weeks with my in-laws visiting us and more importantly my husband's Grandmum. My husband was hardly around during their stay and so the entire responsibility of the household starting from groceries to sightseeing lay with me.  While it was fun at times with my baby especially enjoying the increased attention, it was quite taxing and stressful at others. Nevertheless, now it's hardly a week before they leave and so I am all geared up to make their stay memorable, food wise. 
Today's recipe is a wonderful combination from the valleys of Kashmir with keeping the no onion no garlic restriction intact. Kashmiri Pundits mostly do their cooking sans onion and garlic and yet churn out superbly yummy dishes which leave a lingering taste on your palate. So go ahead and surprise yourself and your family with this yummy delight!

For the Rajma
1 1/2 cup rajma or red kidney beans, soaked overnight or at least for 6-7 hours
2 bay leaves
3 big tomatoes or 4 small, eyes removed and made into a puree in the blender
2 big tbsp coriander leaves
1 tbsp ginger grated
1 tsp red chilli powder
4 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida or heeng
7-8 green cardamoms (skin removed), 5-6 cloves, 2-3 small pieces cinammon all ground to a fine powder. (Alternatively, you can also use 1 tbsp good quality garam masala)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp mustard oil
1 tsp cumin seeds

For the Saffron Rice
2 1/2 cups long grain basmati rice
2-3 generous pinch saffron
2 tbsp cold/warm milk (I used cold milk)
2 each of cloves, cinnamon, and cardamoms
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
4 cups warm water (be sure to use the same measurement as you used to measure the rice)
2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil (ghee gives it a taste lift)
Salt to taste
Optionally, you can use paneer cubes lightly sautéed (I did not have at hand)

For the Rajma
Wash the soaked rajma thoroughly and pressure cook with fresh water and the bay leaf until done. Keep aside and let it cool. 
In a pan, heat the oil and crackle the cumin seeds. Now lower the heat and add the heeng and grated ginger. Fry for 1-2 minutes and add the puree. Continue frying until the raw smell of the tomatoes disappear. Now add the chilli powder and coriander powder. Mix thoroughly and stir till oil starts coming out from the sides. Now with a slotted spoon, take out about 1/2 cup boiled rajma and mash it in a bowl. Add this to the gravy and stir well. Now add the remaining rajma reserving the liquid. Mix all the spices and the rajma well. Add the fresh coriander and the reserved liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce the gravy to your desired consistency. Now add the ground garam masala and stir. Remove from heat and serve hot with the yummy Saffron Rice.

For the Saffron Rice
Wash and soak the rice for about 1/2 an hour. Thereafter, drain the water and keep the rice in a colander. Soak the saffron in the milk for about an hour and crush the strands a bit in order to infuse maximum color and flavor.
In a tight lid pan, heat the ghee and splutter the cumin seeds and whole garam masala. Add the turmeric powder and the drained rice and stir for a min till the turmeric raw smell disappears. Now add the saffron milk, paneer pieces (if using), salt, and water. Close the lid tightly and cook on a medium flame until the rice is cooked. Fork the rice in between to ensure uniform cooking.
Alternatively, you can transfer the entire contents onto an electric rice cooker and cook till done. Enjoy with the yummy Rajma or curry of your choice. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Leftover Delight--Rice Bread

Leftover rice is not a very wonderful sight when you open the fridge. While there are a few options when it comes to recycling the rice, but fried rice or tikkis do not always appeal the palate. So here is one interesting option which I am sure none of you have tried before. Its a bread made with leftover rice. The texture is same as regular white bread with a bit of stickiness due to the rice. The stickiness enhances the taste and softness of the bread and tastes best when lightly toasted. Have it with your favorite chicken or veg burger patty and enjoy this wonderful bread!

1 cup bread flour (all purpose flour can also be used)
1 cup leftover cooked rice (room temperature or cold)
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp flaxseed or sunflower seed (optional)
1 1/4 tsp instant active dry yeast
100 ml warm water
Sesame seeds for sprinkling
2 tbsp milk for brushing
Little butter for brushing

In a bowl, mix the warm water and sugar and dissolve the yeast. Let it stand for 10 minutes until foamy. 
Now, mix the flour, rice, flaxseed, and salt. Now slowly add the yeast mixture and start getting the dough together. Halfway through, add 1 tbsp oil and continue kneading until a smooth dough is formed. 
Lightly oil the dough and cover with a clingwrap and keep in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour. 

Now grease a loaf tin and keep it ready. Take out the dough and gently punch it down 3-4 times to release the air. Now make a rectangular shape and put it in the greased loaf tin, stretching and spreading it evenly on all corners. Return it to the warm place for the second proofing, about 45 mins to an hour. 

Meanwhile, pre heat the oven at 200 degree celsius for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the sesame seeds generously on the top and gently press it down. Now brush some milk on top for the glaze and bake in the pre heated oven for 20 minutes until the top is golden and sounds hollow when tapped. 
Remove from oven and brush the top with butter. Cool on a wire rack.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Homemade Naan - No Yeast Recipe

It was around August or September last year when I tried my hands on homemade Naan for the first time and what a moment it was! Nailed it at the very first attempt. I had guests over for dinner and they could not believe it wasn't from a restaurant. That was a day and another one was today. In my excitement of such huge success (I had not yet started my blog nor made any breakthroughs in baking), I forgot to bookmark the recipe and ever since I have been looking for that foolproof recipe. I did make a few attempts of replicating it a couple of times but could not achieve that perfection. Today, finally I decided to give it a shot again after being inspired by a college friend, who made it a few days back. Her recipe, passed on to her by her mom, however , had yeast and I still was on the lookout of my long lost recipe. So I took the help of a dear virtual friend of my regular food group and together we could fetch a recipe which was almost close to what I had made earlier. I made a few changes to her recipe and incorporated whatever I could remember from the recipe I had lost. Result was restaurant quality super soft homemade naan, perfect for my no onion no garlic Punjabi Chole!

2 cups bread flour (all purpose flour also works perfectly fine)
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup warm milk
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Black onion seeds (ideally you should be adding it on top while rolling; my family, however, likes it within the dough)
Oil for brushing the dough
Butter for brushing the naan

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the yogurt and mix. Now slowly add the milk and start kneading the dough. It might feel a bit dry in the beginning. Do not add any additional milk or yogurt or oil. As you continue kneading it, the cream from the yogurt and milk will start loosening and the dough will come together beautifully. Kneading a over moist dough may result in difficulty while rolling. Now lightly grease the dough from outside and cover with a damp cloth for at least 30 minutes. 
Heat a iron tawa (preferably). Take a small plum sized ball out of the dough and roll it out. You can use a bit of flour while rolling. You can either roll it in folding pattern (roll and fold and roll) or simply roll  up a circle. Now brush the top with water (especially the sides) and sprinkle some kalonji (black onion seeds), if not added in the dough already, and put it on the hot tawa top side down. The water will stick the naan on the tawa and so now gently turn the tawa upside down with the naan directly facing the flame. For first timers, I would suggest keeping a close eye on the flame adjusting it from medium to low until light brown spots are formed. Do not leave it unattended else you will be left with a burnt naan! Gently remove from the tawa and brush the top with butter and/or coriander/garlic and serve hot with curry of your choice.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Punjabi Chole -No Onion No Garlic

By now, the veggies that I had got from Mustafa and some from India are all over and some repeated over and over again. There is nothing interesting to come up with these dishes and so now it is time to make some interesting legumes. However, legumes like chole or rajma, cannot taste even close to good without the two important ingredients, onion and garlic. Myth! True it is that onions and garlic lift up the flavors of this dish but this recipe without onion and garlic tastes equally good, maybe even better. In fact, I got confused momentarily that I had added garlic by mistake. Such superb was the taste and I am thinking of making my chole with this recipe henceforth. Why shed those tears while cutting onions when you can make it with a smiling face! :)

1 cup chick peas or chole (I added about 1/2 cup more as I wanted to finish it off)
2 big tomatoes or 3 small
1 medium bunch of coriander (I used chinese parsley as coriander was not available)
1 heaped tablespoon ginger paste
2-3 green chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder (I used kashmiri chilli)
Salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil or any oil
Ginger juliennes for garnishing

Wash and soak the chick peas overnight or at least for 5-6 hours. Drain and pressure cook with freshly added water until done. 
Meanwhile, make a paste with the ginger, coriander, tomatoes, and green chillies. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the cumin seeds. Now add the paste and saute on medium flame for 3-5 minutes till raw smell disappears. Now add the dry spices and salt and mix well. Fry further for about 2-3 minutes till everything well incorporated. Now add the boiled chick peas, reserving 10-12 pieces. Mix well. Make a paste with the reserved chick peas either with a potato masher or the blender and add it to the pan along with the boiled chick pea liquid. Add any additional water if required or dry up the excess water if you desire a drier consistency. Garnish with ginger juliennes and serve hot with naan/kulcha/roti or jeera rice.