Shikampuri Kebab (stuffed meat tikki/patties)

As usual…..I did the vanishing act, again ūüôā but have a good reason for that this time…Ma and Baba were here to stay with us in Melbourne…Oh! What a wonderful time we had together…visiting Tasmania where we went to Hobart, the 2nd oldest settlement of Australia and New Norfolk (a rusty old town rich in Antique shops dating back to World War II). We traveled a lot in the last few months, but in between I did cook..Baba and Ma, as you guys know, love variety and I wanted them to taste everything that isn’t easily available in India…from quails to new fish varieties like salmon, snapper, etc.., from veggies and fruits like fennel, butternut pumpkin, celery, persimmon, ¬† to ‘strange’ foods like raw oysters and mussels. In the next few posts I will share some of the recipes I that I made for them.

To start with lemme write about Shikampuri Kebab. Now the Mughals are praised for bringing in the concept of kebab to India. ¬†But it seems making kebab in different forms was a well-established tradition in India.¬†The Rajputs made ‘Suley’ or smoked kebabs with the game meat they brought in from their hunting expeditions. To preserve the meat they would spice &¬†pickle it and then cook it the next day over an open fire in the forest.¬†¬†When the Mughals came, they brought in their version of the kebabs and introduced the use of dried fruit, fragrances such as rose and¬†kewda¬†and nuts with the meat.

Interesting eh?! Anyways, going back to the post, here is the recipe.

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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!!! ūüôā

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 Рthe 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” ūüėõ

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

Murgh Biryani (Chicken Biryani)

Dearest Rinki,

On April 8, 1981, one of my mother‚Äôs great-aunts passed away. Two years after the incident on her second anniversary, her husband showed his regard for his partner of forty three years by doing something extraordinarily beautiful. Kings of yore may have built marble edifices, but he a simple ordinary man did what he could do best. He painstakingly collected and documented his wife‚Äôs recipes from over a period of 37 years and had each one typed and bound into a recipe book. He then proceeded to gift a copy of this book to all of his wife‚Äôs loved ones. The amazing fact is that, Madhusrava Das Gupta, a South Indian ‚Äėnon meat eating‚Äô Brahmin, did not know how to cook when she got married and yet she left behind this impressive culinary legacy of almost five hundred recipes of which more than half are scrumptious meat dishes. She loved to cook and she cooked with love. She toiled in the kitchen to feed her friends, family and neighbors. Her book has such a vast array of recipes from snacks to jams, ice creams, sweet-meats ,fish and meat dishes from all over India, as well as what was then called continental food‚Ķor the sahib food of the British Raj like Bread and Butter Pudding, Roast chicken, Treacle tarts, and even a Baked Egg Custard for Baby! This much loved; dog eared book was passed on to me by my mother exactly a decade ago right after I got married. The action, may have been precipitated by the fact that, stuck in the middle of cooking something, I would call her long distance every day, from Santiniketan to Delhi to ask what I should do next. In recent times, the internet or apps on the phone may have become an easy source to access more exotic food. But when it comes to old favorites, Madhu didu‚Äôs (grandmother) book is still my bible. I met her only once when I was a small kid, yet her food has talked to me across decades. Some of her recipes like Mutton Biryani, I know by heart, and it has occupied a place of pride in my repertoire. ¬†I had occasion to make it just a few days back, and felt that writing about it here was a befitting tribute to the umbilicus called food.

Chicken Biryani

Murgh Biryani

Biryani is found in different avatars all over the country. Although there is no single fixed recipe for it, there is a logic which runs as the thread. It is usually a meat, chicken or fish and rice dish, usually slow cooked in a Handi (metal or earthen-ware pot). And it is usually served with a side dish of Raita or other kebabs. The one shared here was initially learnt from the cookbook I have talked about above, yet over the years it has undergone several changes according to my own tastes and preferences…This is a chicken biryani, but this can easily be replaced by mutton(goats meat), lamb or beef.

Ingredients (for 8 servings)

Chicken                                                                      2kg

Rice (long grained basmati)                             1kg

Potatoes                                                                    1 per person

Sour curd (yoghurt)                                             500gms

Onions (halved and thinly sliced)                   600gms + 400gms

Ginger + Garlic paste                                            2tbsp+2tbsp

Garam Masala powder                                         4 tsp

Kashmiri chili powder                                          4 tsp

Cumin powder                                                          4tsp

Coriander powder                                                  4 tsp

Whole spices: Cardamom 4-5, Cloves 4-5, Cinnamon 2 sticks, Bay leaf 2

Green chilies deseeded and julienned           6-7

Ghee (clarified butter, melted)                      2tbsp (the more the better!)

Cashew nuts, fried in ghee                             50 gm

Raisins                                                                    50 gm

Coriander and Mint                                        1 bunch each

Sugar                                                                     1 tsp

Juice of 4-5 Lemons and 2-3 tbsp Rose Water

100 mg Saffron strands soaked in 2 tbsp warm milk

Salt to taste

White Oil to cook

Method

Wash and marinade the meat in the yoghurt. Add salt enough for the meat, half of all the Powder Masalas (spices), half of the ginger garlic paste. Marinate for 1 hour if chicken and 2-3 hours for other meats.

Fry the 400 gm of onions to a crisp golden brown, in small batches. Mix half of this with the marinated meat. Reserve the rest for garnish.

Cut the potatoes into half lengthwise. Deep fry to golden brown, keep aside.

In a large pot heat approx. 250ml oil, add the sugar and let it caramelize, add the cardamom and cloves, next add the 500gm finely chopped onions and fry till soft and golden. Add the remaining ginger garlic paste and the remaining chili powder, Coriander powder and the cumin powder. Fry the masala stirring often, till it changes color, reduces, and the oil separates from it. Add the marinated meat, stir and slow cook covered. (At this stage add a little more salt for the masala and the potatoes) Stir occasionally. Arrange the potatoes on the top of the meat and cover and cook on slow fire. After fifteen minutes check the potatoes, if done take them out and keep aside.  Cook till meat is tender and the gravy thickened and oil has risen to the top. Now take out the meats and keep in a dish, and reserve all the gravy.

Wash the rice delicately. Boil a pot full of water with salt, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. You must not let the rice cook completely. The rice has to be taken out while it is still undercooked. It will cook in its own steam. If the rice is cooked well, then finally it will become soft and soggy. Check the rice; it should still have a white core in the center. Pour it out into a colander to drain the water.

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Traditionally Biryani is arranged and served in a handi. If you have one, it’s good otherwise a deep large pot with a lid will do. Arrange in front of you all the following:

(a) The meat and the gravy

(b) Rest of the crispy fried onions, fried cashew, raisins, julienned chili, mint and coriander   leaves, melted ghee, rose water, lemon juice and the garam masala.

Layer the bottom of the pan with an inch of rice, over this sprinkle a little of all the (b) ingredients. Then arrange a few meat pieces and gravy. Layer with the rice. Then again ingredients (b), on top of this the meat and gravy, and again rice…till all your rice and meat is used up. The top layer is rice. Over this arrange the potatoes and a final sprinkling of (b).Cover and stand the pot on the very slow fire, or you can put it in the oven for further fifteens twenty minutes.

Serve hot with Raita.

 I hope you will make this wonderful flavorsome and hearty dish. Trust me, it is guaranteed to make your home a favorite destination of all your friends !

Love you

Didi

Chicken Involtini aka Roulade/Galantine/Ballotine/Braciola with Basil & Nuts filling

Dear Daibi and Didi,

Hope you two are doing well. I too haven’t been able to write much lately as we attended an Indian wedding here..was awesome to see a traditional wedding in Australia where mostly all rituals were followed to the letter. ¬†The wedding reception was very European with tables marked, set menus that were served by waiters, speeches from family and close friends and dancing to a live band!! I felt like a tourist there awestruck with everything coz I have seen such weddings only on TV!! ¬†heheeeehe…Then there was Janmashtami. ¬†We celebrated it with pooris, potato curry and 6 types of home-made mithais (sweets)…I also learned how to make narkol nadu (coconut laddoo) with packaged dry desiccated coconut from Niloy’s sister who lives in Melbourne too. ¬†One has to soak it in milk enough to cover the whole amount for 2-3 hrs and then cook it with sugar/brown sugar/jaggery and some milk powder till it becomes sticky. ¬†For the first time I also tried to make the Bengali¬†malpua¬†but instead of putting them in a¬†sugar syrup, I added some sugar in the batter itself…while frying them, I realised how much oil they absorb…out of shock, I turned the malpua batter into pancakes ūüėõ they tasted the same…next time am thinking I would drop them in sugar syrup and see what happens!! What say??!

Anyways, what I wanted to talk about today was this dish called Chicken Involtini.

Chicken Involtini (with basil) and Polenta with Tomato Veggies

Chicken Involtini (with basil) and Polenta with Tomato Veggies

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Chicken Salami Pizza with Homemade Dough and Sauce

My dear Rinki,

Rizi has been pestering me these last few days to bake him a pizza, you know how it is here, no Pizza Hut or Dominoes to order from! I was wondering how great it must be for you to just go to the supermarket and pick up ingredients from all over the world…here i have to look really hard to find even a capsicum ( or should i say bell pepper now that you are living in Australia!)…sometimes it is hard but hey it is fun and adventurous. Do you remember the days when i didn’t have an oven and used to bake bread in a saucepan on the gas hob ! I remember you asking for the pizza base recipe so darling here goes. It takes a little time but nothing beats the aroma of fresh pizza…… I can almost hear Rizi shouting Yipppeeee

Chicken Salami Pizza with Homemade Dough

Basic bread recipe ( can be used for pizza, calzone, rolls )

Ingredients

Flour                                    400 gm

Dry Powder Yeast           1 heaped tsp

Salt                                        1/2 tsp

Sugar                                     2 tsp

Warm Water                       2 cups

Oil   (Olive oil )                   2 tsp

Method for Dough

In a bowl sprinkle 1 tsp sugar, add the yeast , pour about half a cup of warm water and cover. In a few minutes the yeast will have started to bubble. This is indicative of your yeast coming alive. Test the warmth of the water by sticking your finger in it. It should be comfortable warm. Hot water will kill the yeast instantly.

Take the flour in a bowl sprinkle the rest of the sugar(1tsp) over it, make a well in the center. Do not add the salt now. Adding Salt to the Yeast directly will kill it.  Pour the frothy yeast in the center and mix with the flour. Now you may add the salt. Bring the whole thing together by adding more warm water. Add water very sparingly or you will end up with an unmanageable slurry. (You may not need the whole water or you may need more! cup sizes are rather arbitrary)

Next turn out the sticky mix on to your counter, sprinkle a dusting of flour and knead…knead and knead some more. Using the heels of your palm, stretch the dough away from you, then collect it back into a ball and stretch away again. This action helps to create the gluten in the dough and will result in a good bread texture. Do not add too much dry flour or your bread will go hard and doughy. After¬†exercising¬†your biceps for about fifteen minutes, if the dough looks satiny and smooth then it is done. It will be springy to touch. Make the dough into a ball. Oil it and keep it in a bowl covered with a tea cloth.

Depending on the temperature of where you live, the quality of yeast and flour, the dough will take anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour to double in size. This is the first proofing. Knock back the dough and and knead it again. Use just the lightest dusting of dry flour. Again oil the dough ball and let rest for another twenty minutes, the dough will rise again. This is the second Proofing. Now roll out your dough into whatever shape you want, you can make dinner roll shape, bun shape, add filling to a circle of rolled dough and fold over making a calzone. Let the dough rest finally for another twenty minutes prior to baking.

If making pizza  Roll the dough out in a circle,or like you see in the picture I have made a large rectangle ! not traditional but saves me the trouble of making multiple ones in a not so large oven. Sprinkle the baking sheet with a little dry flour before keeping the rolled dough on it. Now would also be the time to prick the base with a fork to prevent it from rising like a loaf.

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For Pizza Sauce, please refer to our Basic Chutneys and Sauce post.

Assembling the Pizza

Ingredients

Pizza dough ( see above)

Pizza sauce ( see above)

Onion                                                          2 nos cut into thin round slices

Capsicum (bell pepper)                       2 cut into thin strips

Chicken/pork salami                            as many as you wish

Olive oil( or any white oil)                 for drizzling

Cheese                                                        as much as you want!

( mix of¬†mozzarella¬†and cheddar is good although I’m thankful for whatever I can get here, which is usually processed cheese); ( your veg pizza option could be mushrooms, pineapple, baby corn, paneer, tofu) and¬†most important get your kids to help…my son loves to assemble the pizza, resulting in a magical reduction of the salami!

Step 1.    Spread olive oil on the pizza base and bake blind( without any topping) for ten minutes n a very hot oven ( 250 degree C )

Step 2.    Take it out and spread generous amounts of sauce on the base .Reserve about a third of the sauce for drizzling on top.

Step 3.    Spread all the various toppings on the sauce-y base : )

Step 4.    Smother it in cheese, then drip the reserved sauce over the toppings, and finally drizzle olive oil over the whole pizza

Step 5.   Bake in a very hot oven , 250 degrees C, for about twenty to forty minutes depending on shape, size and thickness of your pizza .Best way to judge is, the veggies will seem nice and grilled, the cheese will be bubbling, the base will no longer appear doughy but would have taken on a border of crispy brown, but most importantly your tongue would most definitely be  salivating from the wonderful aroma of freshly baked pizza !

I always have trouble in keeping Rizi still while the pizza is being sliced…I wish he would eat his dinner just as fast every day!¬†I hope you will make the pizza, if not you can make the dough separately for bread, or you can make the sauce and keep it in the fridge¬†for later use. The sauce keeps for a few days easily in the fridge. I use leftover sauce for sandwiches or even fish curry!¬†Tell me your experience with the recipe, it¬†isn’t¬†bound in cast iron, you make changes and tweak it as you wish to. Happy Pizza eating!

Till next time,

Didi