Kitchen Faux Pas and the case of Spinach and Cauliflower Uttapam

Dear Didi and Daibi,

So it has been a year or more that we have touched this blog. Niloy says, google must have archived it because we have not updated it for a while…but I still found it on the first page of google which is not bad, right?!

So to start things again on this blog I thought I will share a simple recipe, which is a healthy take on a traditional recipe. Although I must say in my relentless efforts to cook healthy stuff I have ended up in quiet a few Faux Pas moments!  For instance, once I made apple muffins with super tiny amount of sugar. Once they were done and we tasted them, Niloy and I thought it needed more sweetness. So I decided to sprinkle them with some sugar granules. In Australia, the sugar and salt look very similar as they have almost the same size of granules. And at that time I had both sugar and salt in identical jars. So instead of sugar, I sprinkled the muffins with salt!! Niloy was to take them to office and I, with all my pride told him, “here are my lovely sugar kissed apple muffins for your colleagues!!” Later he called and told me that although everyone loved the muffins, some people commented, did your wife use salted butter? 😛 And I realised my mistake!!! hahhahahahha…super funny!!

Then there was another time when I added parsnips and carrot in a sabudana khichdi. Some friends said that was sacrilege! Niloy has still not forgiven me for that!! Be it poha or maggi, I keep adding peas, corn, beans and carrots to everything possible and get kolkata style ‘cholbe na’ type protests from Niloy too! But I continue my journey of healthy cooking.

So this morning I made Spinach and Cauliflower uttapam from an Adai batter. 2015-09-03 14.53.01

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Mushoor Daaler Boda’r Dalna (Masoor/Red Lentil Fritters in a spicy curry)

Dear Cousins!

Since you guys are busy with other things, lemme carry on my writing.  This is a dish that I learnt from Ma. Now one must note that she doesn’t like cooking, yet every time she cooks, she does create wonders falsifying the notion that only people who love to cook can cook good food!! Usually, she just throws in this and throws in that and !!VOILA!! a splendid dish emerges…one can rightly call her a good careless cook! She tells everyone that she can’t cook, apparently when compared to me, but Ma, you are my true inspiration to cook.  From childhood I saw you create amazing things out of nothing or with limited things…Baba used to say, ‘Anyone can cook well with a lot of oil, spices and expensive ingredients; but your mother cooks well even with limited resources, that’s why she is a good cook!’  I second my Dad in this….you rightly exemplify the funda of jugaad (we Indians are so adept in jugaad, that there is even a wiki page on it!!).  You were the one who taught us how to bake a Cake in a pressure cooker; grill an awesome Pizza on a pan, where even the dough is homemade without yeast; make a Egg & Crumbed Bread pizza (will surely write about that in another post); the gorgeous but delicate steamed Caramel Pudding; Mutton Rezala; 1/2 an hour Chicken Biryani; Fish Biryani and the entire fare of Bengali foods….shukto (a veggie dish with a bitter taste) to payesh (rice cooked in a sweetned milk thats been thickened through slow cooking)…I guess this is why I too have learned the art of using jugaad ingredients & less oil!! My mother – my inspiration, my strength and my friend!! This post is dedicated to you, Ma…

Mushoor daale'r Boda'r Dalna

Mushoor daale’r Boda’r Dalna

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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