Quick & Easy Prawn Risotto with a Mushroom-Prawn Sauce

Part 2 of Easy Peasy Meals –

Matt Preston, one of the Masterchef Australia judges, calls risotto to be a ‘Death Dish’.  That’s because there are just too many elements to a classical risotto, like making a fresh broth from vegetables like garlic, onions, carrots, leeks & celery; bay leaves and cloves; parsley; and some meat. The rice (normally Arborio) must be fried in a chopped onion and butter mix till it is coated well and then cooked in some wine on medium heat. Then the broth is added slowly, one ladlefull at a time, till the rice is creamy and bitey soft (as Italians say ‘al dente’..as in the rice should be soft but should be a little hard and munchy for the teeth).  The total preparation time can be anything between 2-3 hours as the broth itself takes long to cook.  Now meat or fish or veggies can be added to this cooking process to add flavour..the result is a lovely creamy risotto. But wait; this is a shortcut risotto..so none of this is required! 😀

Easy Peasy Prawn Risotto with Mushroom and Prawn Sauce

Quick and Easy Prawn Risotto with Mushroom and Prawn Sauce

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Basa Fish Rolls stuffed with Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce

Dear Cousins!

How are you guys doing? I want to share a news with you! Hehehhee…no no..don’t guess, coz I am sure you guys don’t know (and trust me it not anything usual!).  Well actually I bought a Guitar!! yipppppeeeee!! Since I was in school where we had those music classes, I wanted to learn Guitar. But I was too shy to go up to the teacher and ask her to help learn this instrument…Sandra Banerjee, our western music teacher at Mater Dei Convent was truly one of the best music teacher I have ever had.  She was good with everything..the piano, the guitar, the drums!! Oh and her voice..I loved her powerful voice which would would remind many of Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act…..be it a hymn or a popular song, she was the best!! Every event, small or big ended with her singing the popular rock number of 90s What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes.

I still remember her running heartily from one end of the hall to the stage, coolly picking up the Guitar, and striking those familiar chords which would make the whole crowd roar and clap in appreciation….with her guitar and her voice she would wake up the likes of me who would be sleeping during an inter-school debating competition!! 😀 All I did at that time was clap loudly and imagine myself singing like her one day….that never happened though coz you know how life is….I got caught up in the race to achieve goals….studies, exams, career…but now I have some time and thought, why not use it to fulfill my childhood dreams. Hence the GUITAR came into my life. Possibly I would never play like our teacher, but nevertheless her love for music would always inspire me!! My friends who have learned guitar themselves tell me that I need a lot of patience….so I just hope I don’t loose patience!! Wish me luck and then one fine day while you guys eat a lovely meal (like the one below), I will play the guitar for you!

Till then, I will continue with my recipes and today’s is one of them which would go very well with the music of the guitar in the background (I think). Its a recipe I saw in an old English style  book from 1980. With a few additional ingredients, I present to you a plateful of soft fish fillets stuffed with mushroom in a white wine sauce!

Fish Rolls stuffed with Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce

Basa Fish Rolls stuffed with Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce

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Grilled Snapper with Chermoula and Pan-Fried/Grilled Trout with Butter, Dill/Parsley & Lemon

Dear Cousins!

Lately I have taken on experimenting with various varieties of fresh fish available in the Victoria Market here in Melbourne.  Have I told you about this market earlier?? I think no, and even if I have, please bear with me again coz I just love that market!!! Its like a gold mine for foodies like us…you get everything….from Indian veggies like Karela or bitter gourd, to Southeast Asian fruits like Durian, to the Latin American Tamarilloyou really get everything there…and that’s not just the fresh fruits and veggies am talking about!! There is also an exhaustive Deli section with a lovely spread of cured meats, cheese and chocolatiers; a Meat wing where one can buy crocodile meat to quail & rabbit meat; and last but not the least a Seafood section where numerous varieties of fresh fish, molluscs and crustaceans are available!!

Trust me, this is THE place to be for foodies who love to cook and try out new things. Since Niloy and I are totally adventurous when it comes to food, we have tried out many new things…since I had experimented with many things during my stay in Germany and South Africa, it was easier for me to buy them here and cook them as well.  I can happily say that now our normal day to day food does not have the Indian daal chawal roti sabji fare…instead it consists of things like oyster mushrooms, silverbeet,  celery, leeks, shitake mushrooms, sausages, hams, cured meats and cheese…recently we have started our fishy encounters 😀 (how can we ignore our Bengali pheeshy blood?). These days fish varieties like snapper, silver whiting, trouts, salmon and trevally  find their way to our dinner table (and we are planning to try out John Dory and Flounder next).  Hence today’s post is about the fish recipes that I have cooked in the last weeks. We don’t get these varieties in India, but pomfret, prawns or any other boneless fish steaks can be used to replace these. I derived the concept of baking the fish in a parchment paper bag from the classical French dish, ‘Fish en Papillote’.  It is made by placing a fish steak or whole fish with herbs, lemon, butter and other seasoning in parchment paper which is then sealed from all edges and baked. One can even use foil instead of paper.

Grilled Snapper with Chermoula

Baby Red Snapper with Chermoula marinade

Baby Red Snapper with Chermoula marinade

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The Quintessential Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani with Panchmehl Daal and wholewheat Naan

Thanks a ton Didiiiiiiiiii for putting up the masala chai recipe coz this would be a perfect reference point for me to make a good tea!! You know how I don’t like drinking tea (another reason of being a Fraud Bengali as they are known to be avid tea-drinkers) and as a result I am regrettably incapable of making that good “Kadak Chai” or strongly brewed milk tea which many Indians love.  Every time I make this tea, either the milk quantity or the leaves are in excess leading to a pretty yukky tea..those who endure the torture of drinking this would politely say its good! But am sure the moment I go back to the kitchen they look for the nearest plant pot to discard the tea and silently mock at my culinary skills!! haah!!! HOPEFULLY not anymore!!! 🙂

Today I would write about Butter Chicken which is possibly the best known Indian dish in the world. One can find many versions of this on the internet and I tell you each one looks awesome! But they all go back to the original concept that Moti Mahal Delux produced in 1947 by cooking leftover Tandoori Chicken (roasted whole chicken with spices)  in a tomato based velvety gravy with copious amounts of cream and butter.  Therefore mine is similar to the 100s of versions available.  However, the only difference I have in my recipe is I use caramelised chicken instead of tandoori.  I think when you roast a chicken without skin (the normal practice in India), the boney ends tend to become a bit hard if one is not able regulate the temperature properly.  I know Didi you wouldn’t agree with me on this point, still I would insist that the results of my dish and the one you make (with roasted chicken) would be same. Coz ultimately it is the gravy and the aroma that should sweep one off from their feet, right? So here is my version!

Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) with Wholewheat Naan and Panchmehl Daal

Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani

Chicken                            800 gms (With bones or boneless)

Yoghurt                           250 gms

Lime juice                       2 tbsp

Ginger-Garlic paste       2 tsp

Tomatoes                       1 kg chopped (or 2 cans of tomatoes)

Onions                             2 large chopped

Ginger                              4 inch piece cut in julienne

Garlic                               1 whole chopped

Green Chillies               5-8 cut into long slices

Spices                              3-4 strands of Mace, 5 whole and 3 powdered Green Cardamom, 5-6 Cashew nuts

Fenugreek Leaves (Kasoori Methi) 2 tbsp

Kashmiri Chilli powder  1 tbsp

Butter (50-100 gms) and Full Cream (200 ml)

Freshly made Garam Masala Powder   1 tbsp

Salt and Chilli powder to taste

Marinate the Chicken for 2-3 hours (if boneless cut into 3 inch pieces) in yoghurt, salt, 1 tsp red chilli powder, lime juice and ginger-garlic paste (if you like you can add red/orange food color but since I don’t like using artificial color, I skip it). When done, in a pan put 2 tbsp butter and fry the strained chicken pieces in batches (use very little butter/oil at this time).  Caramelise them well on medium to high heat and set aside.  In the same pan which is now brown with all the juices from the chicken, add 1 tbsp butter, the mace, 4-5 cardamom pods and 1/2 tbsp kashmiri chilli powder.  The idea of butter chicken is to get that nice orange colored gravy which many get by adding food color. I used another trick – I learned it from a TV show where the chef’s tip was that if you add kashmiri chilli powder to the hot oil, the curry gets a lovely red color. After this, add the tomatoes. Once they are softened, add the onion, 1/3rd of the ginger and all the garlic. When everything is soft, add the cashew, keep on the fire for another 2 minutes and then blend the mixture into a fine paste.  Run the whole paste through a metal sieve and discard the seeds/skin residue.

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In a fresh pot, heat 2 tbsp butter and add half of the remaining ginger julienne and green chilli slices.  Fry them well and add the tomato paste as well as the fried chicken pieces.  Cook for 10 minutes in medium heat or till the oil begins to surface on the curry (cook for 15 mins if there are bones).  Mix in the cream, season as per taste (salt, chilli and kashmiri chilli) and stir well.  Simmer for another 5-7 minutes – the gravy thickens by this time into a creamy consistency due to the cashew paste (keep a watch or else the gravy might become too thick and stick to the pot..if this happens, add 2-3 tbsp water).  In a separate pan, dry roast the fenugreek leaves for 2-3 minutes and then powder it.  At the end, sprinkle the garam masala powder, cardamom powder, ground fenugreek leaves, ginger julienne and a dollop of butter on top and serve. Some like a dash of lime juice with it too, but feel free to savour this delicate and flavorful dish as you like! Vegetarians can replace the chicken (and the yoghurt) with paneer to make Paneer Butter Masala or Paneer Makhni with all the rest of the ingredients and process remaining the same.

Panchmehl Daal:

I learned this from my friend Mubashira, who is an awesome cook like her hubby Ali. She instructed me to take 1 part each of Red Masoor daal, White Urad daal, Arhar daal and Moong daal mixed with 2 parts of Chana daal (I tweaked the recipe by reading more about it though). Together the whole mix should be 1  cup (for 4 people).  You boil these together with 1 tsp Fennel seed powder, 1 tbsp cumin powder, 2 chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, green chillies, salt and 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter).  I pressure cooked all together for 15 mins till it was a nice mash.  Then one has to temper it. In a pan, put 2 tbsp ghee, 1 tsp cumin seeds and 2 whole red chillies (broken).  Add 2 finely sliced medium sized onions and fry till golden brown. Add to the daal, mix well, season with salt and add water for the desired consistency.

Healthy Naan:

Didi, I was running late that day when I cooked this fare..so I quickly used the same recipe as the pizza dough (proofed the dough for an hour) but replaced the white flour with atta (whole wheat flour) and oil with ghee.  I rolled them into long elongated shapes, stuck cumin seeds on top and put them in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 15 mins.  Now these turned into pita breads, so I made the rest of the naans on a frying pan. I kept the heat on medium and let the naan rise from one side. Then flipped it over to cook it well from both sides.  The good thing about these wholewheat naans was that they remained soft even after they got cold unlike their white flour versions which become chewy and hard when they are cold. Some critics would even say this is not a naan, but trust me there are so many recipes of naans, and all I would say is this, “These are Dakhina’s versions of healthy and soft naans” 😛

Didi and Daibi, do try out my versions of these famous dishes and let me know how you like it.

Till then, lots of love,

Dakhina

‘Black Pearl Ship’ Cake and Eggless ‘Thomas Engine’ Cake

 6th August ’12

Hi Didi!

I was going through some old pictures in the last days and saw the pic of that wonderful eggless Thomas Engine cake you made once.  I never got to taste it and neither that Pirates of the Caribbean inspired “The Black Pearl Ship” cake….but I dream of making such cakes someday! Could you tell me your tricks for those delicious looking icings and the cakes? I could look up some book for these, but you know how you and I are bad with measurements and calculations (Maths was a dreadful subject always!). Only you can hence tell me your tried and tested ‘not so perfect’ measurements and methods for baking those wondrous looking cakes 🙂 Will you please? 😀

Waiting for your reply!

Rinki

Eggless Thomas Engine Cake

The Black Pearl and Eggless Chest of Gold Coins

12th August ’12

Dear Rinki,

Sorry for such a late reply in the day, but you do know how I was kept busy with guests as it was your nephew’s ninth birthday, which I will tell you in all back-breaking details later! I hope your dinner party went well the other night. Did you make the salad with that yummy dressing, you know the one you made when you came here? You have to give me the recipe.

When we were kids, my mum used to bake egg-less cakes for her vegetarian friends and it had things ranging from yoghurt to vinegar in it. Actually I tried that recipe and the cake turned out a disastrous sticky sour mess …Yuck! Probably because I didn’t have a recipe. I distinctly remember Ma’s cakes were quite good. Anyway, luckily I heard of this recipe from a friend, who didn’t have any idea about the measurements. So I tried to do it my way and guess what…It turned out perfectly well-behaved like all cakes should! And it wasn’t sticky so it could be cut and carved into shapes, which I stuck together with Butter cream icing. I even iced the cakes with this as it is quite a versatile icing which doesn’t melt easily under “hot” conditions like a mills and boon heroine ; )

So here goes….

For the Egg-less cake

Ingredients (for a two cup cake)

Flour                 2 level cups (If making chocolate cake then 1 cup flour and 1 cup cocoa powder)

Butter              1 cup softened at room temp. (If using vegetable oil, reduce it to 3/4 cup)

Baking powder             2 level teaspoons

Condensed Milk           1 cup (less if you want the cake less sweet)

Aerated soft drink (anything from coke to club soda)

Essence of choice

Method

First thing even before you start mixing the ingredients, pre-heat the oven at 250 degree C. Prepare your cake tin by oiling it well and dusting with flour really well, taking care of the corners. A well oiled and dusted tin will ensure your cake comes out perfectly. Sieve the flour with the baking powder (this is important to aerate the flour),dump in the butter, the essence, the condensed milk and mix it together, it will come together like a dough. Taste it, if it is not sweet enough for you, add more. Next slowly pour in the soft drink while mixing. Your aim is to make a batter like consistency, not a watery mess. Pour immediately into your cake tin and bake for ten minutes at 250 degree C, then lower the heat to 200 degree C and bake for a further fifteen minutes. Insert a skewer in the centre to see if its done. Take out , cool and GOBBLE !

Note: It is better if your egg-less cake is not very large or thick. after all it doesn’t have eggs which are the binding agents and a thick cake can turn crumbly.

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For the Chocolate Butter Cream Icing

Ingredients

1. Margarine/ Butter   2 cups

2. Icing sugar                  3-4 cups ( sifted)

3. Milk                                1/2 cup ( more or less)

4. Cocoa Powder            1 cup     (sifted)

5. Powder milk                 1/2 cup ( sifted)

6. vanilla essence

Sift all dry ingredients so there are no lumps or impurities. Let the butter soften completely at room temperature, slowly add the cocoa powder, and the milk powder and mix. Add the essence and slowly add the icing sugar and whisk, if it becomes too thick add some milk and mix again.  Do not add all the sugar at once.  Slowly your mix should turn into a glistening thick creamy chocolatey mix with a satiny texture. You can use this to sandwich your cake or ice it. You can also thin it a little and pipe it through a nozzle for all the details like writing names. If it is a little runny add more Icing sugar. If it is too thick add a little milk. If it is crumbly add more butter. You know me, there is no fixed measurement in my cook book! Whatever works.

You can preserve this in the refrigerator for almost a month!. Just take it out to room temperature and start slathering it on your cake. Do not heat it. If using butter you may stand your mixing bowl over a bowl of ice. Margarine doesn’t require this. Whatever you do don’t despair. This time for Riz’s birthday cake when I was making this ( I used margarine) the whole thing just curdled up and separated into an oily mess. For a few minutes I was in a daze of hopelessness. Then I brought out every cooks secret weapon…A Hand Blender!  I whisked the mess and magically it came together in front of my eyes!

For a variation  Strawberry Butter Cream Icing

Ingredients

Margarine/Butter                    2 cups ( softened at room temperature)

Icing sugar                                  3-4 cups

Strawberry Syrup                     2-4 tbsp (or pulp made of 5-6 Fresh Strawberries)

Strawberry flavour

Method: Follow the same procedure as the Buttercream Icing.

So go ahead and enjoy, make your own changes and do post pictures…soon.

Love you

Didi

Sinful Dark Chocolate Cake

Dear Didi,

I wanted to ask you how to make your famous chocolate cake. Can you post it soon as I wish to make it for mum’s birthday next month. But I would like to try it at least once before hand. I am really rushed at the moment, will write to you later. Please do post it as soon as possible

Love

Ramit

July 21st

Dear Ramit,

I got your message asking me for my dark chocolate cake recipe. It is wonderfully sweet of you to wish to make it for your mum’s birthday. I am posting it here and if you follow it there should be no problem at all. It is a tried and tested recipe.

This recipe is a basic two cup cake recipe for a 8 inch diameter 2 inch height cake.If you want a larger cake, increase everything proportionately, or decrease if need a smaller batch. As this is a chocolate cake the amount of flour has been halved and replaced by cocoa powder, in a plain cake the flour itself would be 2 cups.

Ingredients

Flour ( maida) + Cocoa powder                          2 cups ( 1 cup flour + 1 cup Cocoa)

Sugar                                                                              1 cup

Baking powder                                                            2 level teaspoon

Butter/Margarine                                                      1  cup ( 3/4 cup if using Oil)

Eggs                                                                                  4 large

Essence of Vanilla                                                      2-3 tsp

Method

Like any other cake, pre-heat the oven at 250 degree C and prepare your cake tin by oiling it well and dusting with flour. Sieve the flour,cocoa powder, and the baking powder to to aerate and get rid of lumps and impurities. Whisk sugar, egg and butter/margarine/oil together till frothy. Add the essence. Add the flour slowly. Another important thing to remember is that don’t over mix or keep the batter too long after its ready, as the baking powder will start loosing its potency. Pour in the tin and bake at 250 degree centigrade for ten minutes and then reduce the heat to 200 degree C and bake for further fifteen minutes. If you insert a skewer in the center it should come out clean. Let the cake stand for a few minutes. Now if you had oiled and dusted your tin well the cake tin can be upturned and tapped on the bottom and the cake will come out clean. If this gives you nightmares, use oiled paper to line your tin bottom.

Take care.

Love

Didi.

21st July

Super Quick Oats and Multigrain Cupcake Breakfast for Kids

Dear Rinki,

A rain drenched good morning to you. Rizi has just left for school…and I’m taking a breather, writing to you. Today like a good mother I hoodwinked my son into eating a super healthy breakfast and he never realized it. He hates eating porridge or oats, and you tell me who wants to make tiffin and then come up with brilliant breakfast ideas everyday….so on most school days it is a bowl of cereal drenched in threats for his breakfast. I know I know,certainly not the sign of a good mommy, so shoot me! But today when I heard him inquire in a tiny voice whether he had to eat porridge again, my heart melted. And as I had already taken out the oats,raisins and milk I suddenly had a brilliant inspiration. I took out some nuts and some multi grain flour and used it to make cup cakes…Turned out brilliantly and Riz polished them off with glee….He he he !…he never knew what he was eating. It is quite tasty for us adults as well.

So here is the recipe piping hot from the oven. .. An ODE TO OATS…have fun making it.

Super quick Oats and Multi grain Cupcakes

Super quick Oats and Multi grain Cupcakes

Preparation time : 5 minutes

Cooking time         : 10 minutes

Ingredients

Oats                                                        1/2 cup

Multi grain flour                                1/2 cup

Baking powder                                     1 level tsp

Dried figs                                                2-3 nos

Raisins                                                     handful

Nuts (whatever you have)               a few chopped up into small pieces

Butter                                                      2 tsp

Vanilla essence                                     1/2 tsp

Egg                                                           1 (  you can make it without egg)

Honey/ Apricot jam/Sugar               2 tsp

Milk to make a batter                          1/2 cup ( or thereabout)

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Method

First thing even before you get your ingredients together just switch on your oven to 250 degree C on bake and let it pre-heat while you groggily (presuming its a school morning) get around to getting the ingredients together.

Second Step slap some oil on to your muffin tray and sprinkle with flour, I couldn’t find any cake flour today so I sprinkled multi grain and it worked just fine.

Finally just slap everything into a bowl, stir it around sleepily, spoon into the muffin tray and stick in the oven.

(  Do not make the batter too watery or put too much mix in the muffin trays, two teaspoon in each is fine I think. The aim is to get it done in as little time as possible, trust me I kept an eye on the Clock the whole time ! )

Ten minutes on high heat and it is done.

Serve it hot and say in your head VIVA LA OATS.. while your clueless child is gobbling it up!

Gotta go now, love ya

Didi