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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Braised Bacon and Silverbeet with Gratin Dauphinoise

Hello loves!

Where are you guys? You both have been too silent lately…tremendously busy, eh? But I have again started my cooking spree 🙂 and the latest was Braised Bacon and Silverbeet with Gratin Dauphinoise.  I learned about Silverbeet first from my German family, the Oppolds – Erik, Alexa, Leo and Marta (an awesome bunch of foodies who not only adopted me in their love-filled household but also introduced me to the German Cuisine and many new vegetables/herbs).  With a taste somewhat similar to spinach,  it belongs to the beetroot family and has highly nutritious leaves.  Do you know about this leafy veggie? Do you think any of the saags that we get in India, resembles this?  The Gratin Dauphinoise is a French dish that uses the technique of baking or broiling ingredients topped with cheese, butter or breadcrumbs till a golden crust develops.  It was created in the French region of Dauphiné where thinly sliced potatoes were layered with milk, cream, cheese and herbs in a garlic rubbed dish. Now you would ask how is it different from a Potato Au Gratin.  The difference lies in the fact that the latter has breadcrumbs in it and is a bit softer/mushier than the former which is more crusty on the top due to the cheese.  Besides gratins are made in deep pie dishes or casseroles where as a Dauphinoise only has 2-3 layers and can be cut into pieces to be served as savory.

Without much ado, I will proceed with the recipes ample for 4 people.

Braised Bacon and Silverbeet with Gratin Dauphinoise

Braised Bacon and Silverbeet

250gms Bacon Rashers/cubes

500 gms Silverbeet or any green leafy vegetable that can be cooked like savoy cabbage

100 gms Sour Cream or 2 tbsp sour curd mixed with 2 tbsp cream

2-3 pinch of Nutmeg powder

1 large Onion

2 cloves of Garlic

Salt and black pepper to taste

First, wash and chop the silverbeet. In a pan, throw in the bacon and saute till crispy and golden brown.  You don’t need to put oil in the pan as the bacon itself releases a lot of fat.  Add in chopped onions and garlic. When the onions have softened, add the chopped silverbeet, 1 tsp of salt and cover to cook on  medium heat.  Please be careful while using the salt in this as the bacon is already salty.  Once the leaves are cooked till a point that some crunch is left, add the sour cream, black pepper and the nutmeg powder. Stir well for 2-3 minutes, check the seasoning and take off the flame.

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Gratin Dauphinoise

4 big Potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices

1 shallot or 1/2 red onion finely chopped

1 big clove of Garlic (bruised)

Few Thyme sprigs

1 cup milk

1 tbsp cream

3/4 cup Grated Cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, pour in the milk, the cream, thyme and onion/shallots.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Take a shallow baking tin/dish, brush it with the bruised garlic thoroughly and put a layer of the potato slices (retain the large and well cut slices for the top layer).  With a ladle, pour half of the milk mixture over the potatoes, enough to cover them.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper and half of the cheese. Top this with another layer of potato slices, and the milk mix.  Then bake at 160 degrees in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes or till a fork goes smoothly through the potato layers.  The milk would start curdling and you may think that you would be left with a mushy bake. But don’t worry, take the dish out, sprinkle it with rest of the cheese and bake for another 15 minutes or till the whole thing is set and the top looks crusty and golden brown!!

Arrange the Braised Bacon and Silverbeet on a plate, cut a piece of the dauphinoise (didi you can present it in a better way I think) and serve with bread or fresh salad.  It is not necessary to combine these two elements…so one can try new combinations..like Silverbeet/Gratin Dauphinoise with a lovely fish fillet or a chicken steak.  One can also cook a vegetarian version of Silverbeet by adding mushrooms or ricotta/cottage cheese, just like our Palak Paneer 🙂

Write back both of you, missing the chatter 😦

Love,

Dakhina

Murgh Biryani (Chicken Biryani)

Dearest Rinki,

On April 8, 1981, one of my mother’s 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’s 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’s loved ones. The amazing fact is that, Madhusrava Das Gupta, a South Indian ‘non meat eating’ 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…or 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’s (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

Juicy Honey-Sesame Chicken Drummettes, Fried Eggs with Tamarind Relish & Fish Tikkis

Woooooooow Daibi!!! What a walk!!! I sure miss Delhi on such days….when I visit next time, please, oh please take me there again..coz I see new things that I never tasted…me and Niloy together drooled over your Iftaar foods post and the other pictures on your DelhiByFoot Facebook page and took a pledge..WE HAVE TO GO TO DELHI 6 ON OUR NEXT VISIT!!

Didi, I too wish I was at one of Rizi’s B’day parties…managing kids or helping you clean afterwards would have been a cake-walk if I would have had the chance to fill myself with all the goodies you make for these parties…I still remember the pictures of the self-made burgers that you made last year…yuummmm!! But lemme not stray with old memories of food again (is there something about food & memories, good or bad, they tend to linger on, don’t they?)… So getting back to your last post, like you, some of my friends too have been asking me about a few starters that I keep making regularly..so here are some of my favorite recipes..please note that in this post the ingredients of the recipes are in italics.

Juicy Honey-Sesame Drummets with Grilled Butternut, Grilled Tomato and Avocado Salad

There are four amazing starters on this plate.  Grilled Butternut, which is basically half-inch slices of this buttery-textured pumpkin arranged on a grill pan and then sprinkled with olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Just when the butternut slices are cooked (you can poke a knife in it to check) and slightly browned, sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Second is that beautiful Grilled Tomato where I cut the tomato in to half, cleaned the innards (Beauty Tip: don’t throw them..the juice and seeds mixed with one tsp of olive or almond oil and 1 tbsp whole wheat flour or black chickpea flour makes an awesome face pack or body scrub to reduce dark spots), stuffed it with lots of cheddar cheese and chives and then grilled it for 10 mins.

The third is an Avocado Salad or dip which as you know is called a guacamole.

The fourth is the very Juicy Honey-Sesame Chicken Drummettes! It is a bit different from the normal recipes coz I add a few extra flavors in it.  For the two of us, I take 8-10 drummettes with skin (A whole chicken wing has three joints – one is the wingette which sort of rectangular in shape with the two skinny bones & meat in between. The drumette is the section that is attached to the body of the chicken and resembles a drumstick. The wing tip isn’t eaten normally). If someone doesn’t like the skin, they can peel it off by soaking the pieces in hot water.  Then I marinate these drummettes in 1tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp tomato ketchup, 1 tbsp honey, 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder, 2 tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp ginger and 1 tsp garlic.  I also add grated lime rind and finely chopped coriander root in this (according to my Thai friend Paruedee to get the maximum flavor of coriander leaves, one must use the part close to the roots.  She washes them thoroughly and adds the green parts to her curry pastes or simply throws them in a boiling soup).  After marinating for 5-6 hours, I pan fry them with very little oil on mostly high heat till they are partially charred and yummily cooked 🙂 In this way, all the juices remain intact and you have these flavorsome soft and amaazing drummettes….gosh I am drooling!!!!

Fried Eggs with a Tamarind Relish

Fried Eggs with a Tamarind Relish

This is again a recipe from Paruedee and she used to produce this simple but totally delicious starter/main dish from thin air in what the Germans say, an augenblick (a moment).  So you pan fry boiled eggs and set aside.  Make a table tennis sized ball of tamarind and soak it in hot water.  In a pan fry some chopped red chillis (depending on how hot you want it) and then add the tamarind water, sugar and salt according to taste and boil. I like it hot, sweet and very sour..but you can tweak accordingly.  Then slice the eggs into halves and plate them.  Pour the tamarind sauce liberally all over them, sprinkle chopped coriander, mint and basil, and throw in a generous dash of fried shallots on top (here you get them prepackaged in the market, but you can fry some onions till they are crispy brown).  I drizzle some more sauce to add an extra kick 🙂 And you can serve these with drinks or as a party snack for kiddies or if you have made a lot of sauce, you can serve it with rice too!!

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Fish Tikkis

I made these fish tikkis or kebabs for Niloy’s b’day party.  It was again very simple…I made some 35 tikkis by mashing 1kg boiled Basa fish fillets (any boneless fish would do), 4 medium sized boiled potatoes, 2 medium sized onions and 4 cloves of garlic chopped finely, 2 handfuls of mint leaves & coriander leaves, 5-6 chopped green chillis, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 2 tsp homemade garam masala, 4 tbsp lemon juice and salt to taste.   You can do the maths if you want small amounts 🙂 With a clean hand roll out table tennis sized balls and flatten them into a shape of a tikki.  Pan fry these with few drops of oil.  The sheer exhilaration of producing 35 tikkis made me forget my blog and I didn’t take any pictures!! 😛

Let me know if you guys try these..sending lots of love,

Dakhina

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Hey Rinks,

I still remember those half-spheres of eggs and were they addictive or what…the sauce was to-die-for. Actually I always thought that the eggs were simply boiled, now I know that u did saute them a bit…

This is really simple, i am making this very very sooooon 🙂

cheers & take care

Ramit.

Spicy Veggie Cocktail Nibbles with Tangy Sesame Dip

Dear Rinki

How are you today? How was the movie? I wish we too could have seen it especially Riz wanted to see Batman so much but to travel to Kolkata just now isn’t possible. We shall have to wait for it to come on DVD. On Thursday we were invited for a dinner party. It was an enjoyable evening out after a long time. The rains have played havoc with our social lives! The food was great. With drinks there was a delicious chicken pakoda (fritters) and fish fries, but for the vegetarian option sadly there was just some potato crisps out of a bag. It’s surprising how many Bengali’s are stumped with the idea of putting up vegetarian options when they have company. So I was inspired to share out my recipe for an easy vegetarian starter which goes great with drinks or tea and also wonderfully well with a steamy hot novel on a rainy afternoon.

Spicy Veggie Cocktail Nibbles with Tangy Sesame Dip

Spicy Potato Cheese and Carrot nibbles

Ingredients (enough to make thirty bite size nibbles)

Boiled and peeled potatoes                                        5 large

Bread crumbs/ fresh bread crumbled                   1/2 cup

Cheddar Cheese grated                                                                   1/2 cup

Carrot Grated                                                                     2

Onion finely diced                                                            2

Ginger and garlic finely minced                                1 tsp each

Fresh Coriander leaves/mint chopped                  lots!

Sesame seeds                                                                    1 tablespoon

Tomato ketchup                                                              to taste

Green Chilies deseeded and finely chopped         2-3

Chili powder (optional)

Mint Powder (optional)

Salt to Taste

Oil to fry

Method

Take all ingredients in a bowl, mix them well, squashing together with your fingers to form smooth dough like mix….if the mix is watery add more bread crumbs, adjust salt and seasoning accordingly.Form into tiny bite sized balls and deep fry in oil till golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and serve hot with tangy sesame chutney (recipe follows).

There is no hard and fast rule to this recipe, please feel free to add or remove ingredients according to taste or dietary constrictions.The nibbles can be prepared before hand and kept in the fridge covered with a cloth till it’s time to fry.Crushed roasted peanuts can also be added to the potato mix to add taste and texture. 2 tablespoons of granulated soya meal which has been soaked in water and squeezed, can also be added to get a different taste. Mince chicken/meat may be prepared in exactly same method for non-vegetarian option, an egg maybe added to bind the meat.

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Tangy Sesame Chutney

Ingredients

Sesame seeds                   1 -2 tablespoons

Garlic chopped                  4-5 cloves

Red chili flakes                 according to taste

Chives (dry /fresh)          1 tsp

Tomato Ketchup

Salt to taste

Oil                                      2 tsp

Method

In oil fry the garlic with chili flakes, add the sesame, when a nutty yummy aroma permeates your senses and the sesame and garlic have turned golden brown turn off the heat and add the chives. Remove into serving bowl immediately to stop further browning, add tomato ketchup and mix. There you have it, tangy sesame garlic chutney in a minute.

Did you go through my post on Rizi’s birthday cake…We really missed you; you manage kids so well, having you around would have subtracted my stress levels enormously. I wish you would post your cocktail eggs with tamarind dip recipe, I remember making it years ago after I had it for the first time at your place in Delhi. I remember it was such a hit with everyone. I have forgotten the details of the chutney. Do share soon so I can make it next time we have company.

P.S. Am reading William Dalrymple’s The White Mughals. What an amazingly researched book and how it bursts so many misconceptions we have about our own history. I didn’t know that the Portuguese came to Goa before the Mughals, did you?  I’m enthralled… The book although a narration of real events reads better than any pot boiler… If you haven’t read it try and get hold of it.

Say hello to Niloy, and looking forward to hearing all about his birthday celebration.

Catch you soon

Didi