Thursday, October 31, 2013

Potato, Rosemary and Pecorino Bread

We have a friend who is a food importer and every once in a way he summons us to his warehouse and we come back laden with goodies. Cheeses, meats, condiments, varieties of flours and fancy ingredients - it's like an Alladin's Cave of foodie treasures! Summons came again this week and the hubby came back laden with a mountain of goodies once again.

Among all the loot were these wedges of Pecorino Romano cheese. Hard and salty, this Italian cheese is made from sheep's milk and, according to the Wikipedia article, is one of the oldest cheeses of Italy.

Now that I had a pile of this cheese I started looking around for recipes and as I wandered around the Internet I chanced upon this recipe via Pinterest. As I read through it I realised not only was it a very easy bread to make, I also had all the ingredients. It was perfect! Well, I didn't have fresh rosemary so I used dried, but that much adjustment is always allowed.

Potato, Rosemary and Pecorino Bread

(This recipe makes two loaves)

1 cup boiled potatoes
20gms Instant yeast
1 tsp sugar

1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup olive oil
2 eggs
3 tbsp sugar
2 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tsp dried rosemary
6-7 cups plain white flour

Boil the potatoes with a good pinch of rosemary. Reserve 1 cup of the water that the potatoes have been boiled in.

In the reserved potato water sprinkle in the yeast if you're using active yeast or fresh yeast and a tsp of sugar. Though I used Instant I forgot it didn't need soaking, but that didn't harm the bread, thank God!

In a clean mixing bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer mix the boiled potatoes, butter, oil, eggs, cheese and the rosemary. Roughly mashing up the potatoes before helps if you're using a stand mixer. If you're mixing by hand make sure there are no lumps of potato in the mixture. Once roughly mixed add the yeast water and stir to combine.

Add two cups of flour sprinkling it in, a little at a time and mix till you get a sticky dough. I used the paddle blade till this stage.

Add the remaining flour slowly, cup by cup, letting the dough firm up. I changed to the dough hook at this stage and it didn't take more than a few minutes for the dough to come together. Roughly 6 cups of flour were enough to get a soft dough.

Clean your work surface and sprinkle some flour on it. Knead the dough for 5 -7 minutes and once it is smooth you can put it aside to rise. Transfer the dough into a clean, floured bowl and cover with a cloth. Let it rise for an hour, undisturbed.

Once the dough has risen all you need to do is punch it down, divide into two and bake. Since my oven could accommodate just one loaf at a time I refrigerated half the dough while the first loaf baked.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and place your loaf on the tray. Cut a square on top of the loaf and put it in to bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let it cool and then slice and serve with butter if you like.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kori Gassi - Chicken curry from Mangalore

I'm a fundamentally lazy cook. The very thought of a long laborious process to getting food on the table is enough to dissuade me from cooking the more complicated or just elaborate or time consuming sort of dishes. However, there are those rare moments when a recipe simply calls out to me and my inherent laziness evaporates and I am filled with enthusiasm and energy.

I saw this recipe for Kori Gassi on Ruchik Randhap, one of the first blogs that made me literally drool all over my keyboard - the gorgeous photos, the beautifully documented recipes and the little vignettes about Mangalore, the food, the customs, and the author herself, all had me hooked. Though I have always planned to try out a recipe from here somehow my laziness always won. However today I felt energised enough to make the effort and cook something a little more involved.

I stationed the hubby at the dining table with the laptop and the browser open to the correct page. He read out the ingredients and I put them together on a large platter as I checked to see that I had everything I would need. Luck was on my side and I had everything. Well, nearly. With a few adjustments and replacements I was on my way to making Kori Gassi as described by Shireen on her wonderful blog.

Kori Gassi 

For the masala

2 medium onions sliced
12 dried kashmiri chillies (I used only these)
2 cups grated fresh coconut
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp cumin
12-14 pepper corns
1/2 tsp fenugreek
5 -6 cloves garlic
1 tbsp coriander powder (in place of whole coriander)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp agal (in place of tamarind)
1 inch cassia bark
3-4 cloves
1 tbsp ghee

Heat the ghee in a thick kadai and fry the onions, cassia, cloves and poppy seeds. Let the onions turn a nice golden colour and throw in the grated coconut. I used a tray of grated fresh coconut that I bought from the supermarket. Roast the mixture well and once it gets nice and fragrant add the turmeric and continue to roast for another 5 to 8 minutes. The coconut needs to be nicely toasted.

Now add the remaining ingredients for the masala and let the entire mixture roast well. Keep an eye on the heat and don't let anything burn. Just stir around for a couple of minutes and then switch off. Remove to a large platter and spread it out so it cools faster.

Once cooled grind the masala to as smooth a paste as you can. Use water as required, of course.

Now that the masala is done, the rest of the procedure is fairly simple.

Cooking the Gassi

1 large onion, chopped fine
2 medium tomatoes, chopped fine
1 chicken, cut into pieces
2 cups coconut milk
1 onion, sliced

Heat more ghee in a thick bottomed vessel and fry the chopped onion. Once the onion has turned golden add the tomatoes. Fry well and mash the tomatoes in. Let it cook for a few minutes till it all smells good and you see the ghee emerging again. Add the chicken pieces now. Stir well to coat and add a quarter of the masala paste too. Add salt. Stir well and cover the pan. Let the chicken cook for around 10 to 15 minutes till it's nearly done.

Now add the coconut milk and the rest of the masala paste. Mix it well and add half a cup of water too. Add more if you feel the gassi is too thick. Add salt if required. Bring it to a boil and then simmer till the chicken is cooked through.

On the side in a small pan or vessel heat a tablespoon of ghee. Fry the sliced onion till it is pale golden and then add it to the gassi. Mix it in and the gassi is ready.

I served the Kori Gassi with plain boiled rice. It was wonderful!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bhetki Machher Laal Jhol - Bhekti Stew Bengali Style

Our local fish seller stocks most fish varieties that Bengalis like and of them all, the hubby really likes Bhetki. With few bones and a delicious flavour, this fish is something that we have on our table quite often. While the boneless fillets are great simply fried, once in a way I also make a typical Bengali style jhol or thin stew.

There must be only a rare few Bengalis who don't have strong memories associated with childhood, comfort, security and 'maccher jhol'. Fish is served practically every day in a traditional household and my mother also cooked fish daily. There was always a jhol or jhal or, if nothing else, a bhaja.

I remember two basic variations of the daily jhol - the jeere'r jhol or pale greenish grey stew which included a variety of vegetables along with plump Rui  or Katla steaks, and the laal jhol (as I called it) - a richer red gravy with onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic. Jeere'r jhol was more frequently made while the laal jhol was made maybe once or twice a month. Though I love both versions, as a kid I yearned for the laal jhol - probably because it wasn't made that frequently.

I had some bhetki steaks at hand and I decided to make that same Laal Jhol of my childhood. My mother always added potatoes to this but since I had none in stock I made mine without potatoes. Do add them if you're making this jhol - half the joy is in squishing the soft flavourful potatoes into the rice as you enjoy mouthfuls of this wonderful jhol.

Bhetki Machher Laal Jhol

4 - 6 Bhetki steaks, with the bone

2 large onions minced fine or made into a paste
2 large potatoes, cut into large pieces
2 medium tomatoes, puréed. Use fresh tomatoes.
3 - 4 fresh green chillies

Mustard oil

chilli powder
cumin/jeera powder
ginger-garlic paste

3 green cardamoms/elaichi
2 bay leaves
1 black cardamom/ bad elaichi

Smear salt and turmeric on the fish steaks and leave aside.

Heat the mustard oil in a thick bottomed wok or kadai till it smokes. Reduce flame. Fry the potato pieces and once they start getting a little red, remove to a plate.

In the same oil fry the fish steaks in two batches. Add more oil if necessary and be sure to heat the oil really well before adding the fish. Don't cook them through, just fry lightly till the surface on both sides is opaque. Remove to a plate.

Now add the whole spices into the oil and fry for a minute till they release their flavours and aromas. Add in the minced onions. Sprinkle a generous pinch of sugar and continue to fry the onions.

Dissolve 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chilli powder and 1 tsp cumin powder in a little bit of water - about 2 tbsp should do. Pour this into the frying onions. Stir really well and see that it doesn't burn. Add in the puréed tomato and a tablespoon of ginger garlic paste. Mix it all well, add another tablespoon or two of water and let it cook. Keep the flame low so it doesn't burn. You will need to fry this for a bit stirring and mixing frequently.

Add the fresh green chillies. I just break them in half but you can also split them down the middle if you like more heat. Put in the fried potatoes too.

Add about two cups of water and bring it all to a good rolling boil. Add a teaspoon or so of salt. Once the gravy looks cooked and the potatoes are nearly done, add the fish steaks carefully. It won't take more than 3-4 minutes for the fish to cook.

Remove carefully to a nice serving bowl and enjoy this Laal jhol with plain hot rice.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fried fish with Agal - an extract of garcinia or kokum

Fried fish is something the hubby and I, both love. A simple meal of daal, rice and fried fish is at the top of both our lists of most cherished comfort foods and we have this as often as we can. We are also fortunate to have access to excellent fish here in Kharghar, both fresh water and sea water varieties.

The usual method is to smear the fish pieces generously with salt, turmeric and a good dash of chilli powder and leave them to marinate for 15 - 30 mins before frying. Today, K decided to do something different.

Earlier this year he had worked on an archaeological excavation at Chandore, near Mangaon, that is on the way to Kolhapur and Goa. One of the benefits of working in the villages of India is getting access to some of the finest ingredients for the kitchen.

This time he came back with a huge amount of Kokum (Garcinia indica), something I identify easily with the delicious sharbat that sees us through the heat every summer. I even have a small quantity of the dried kokum fruit in my pantry for adding into the Parsi style coconut curries. He brought home made sharbat, loads of the salted fruit, and a big jar of 'agal'.

I had never seen nor even heard of agal before so I was quite daunted to see the big jar full of this beautiful, though completely unfamiliar new addition to my pantry. Bottles of agal were promptly shared with some of my foodie friends and a more reasonable quantity was saved for our own use.

It has a gorgeous deep pomegranate colour and has uniquely sharp tart flavour - something that K thought would elevate the fried fish from its regular everyday avatar into something much better. How right he was!

Another staple from these trips into the Konkan that K always brings back is kurdai. I've had rice kurdai and wheat kurdai and it's hard for me to decide which ones I like better. They're a kind of papad and must be deep fried and served hot. They're similar to sago papads in that they swell up beautifully and are crisp and light on the palate - a perfect accompaniment to daal and chawal.

Fried fish with Agal

6-8 pieces of firm fish - K used Bhetki or Barramundi
chilli powder
1 tablespoon agal

oil for frying.

Wash the fish pieces and drain off the excess water. Marinate in the mentioned spices and agal for at least 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the fish pieces. Dribble the extra marinade onto the fish pieces so they remain moist and succulent.

Two to three minutes with the skin side down and then flip over and cook another minute or two.

We had the fish with hot ambe mohor rice, a nice masala daal that was tempered with lots of garlic, green chillies and fresh coriander, and of course, a pile of kurdai :)

Kheema par Eeda - Eggs on mince. A well loved Parsi breakfast

Breakfast is the husband's domain and though we usually have simple stuff like bread and spread, or muesli/cornflakes, or simple fried eggs, once in a way there's something special.

Yesterday I'd made chicken mince and there was quite a lot of it and so I asked the hubby to make Kheema par Eeda for breakfast the next morning. Ideally I prefer mutton or goat mince but chicken is what we had so we made do with it.

An easy recipe that leads to a sumptuous dish, you might end up making extra kheema more often just so you can indulge in a lavish breakfast more often!

Kheema par Eeda

4 eggs
Goat mince, cooked Indian style with onions, spices and loads of fresh coriander and mint
a dash of oil

Take a flat nonstick pan and set it to heat. Spread the cooked mince evenly across the base of the pan, about half and inch thick.

Take an egg and press it gently into the kheema to make a depression. Make four such depressions. If you're using more eggs, make more! These depressions keep the eggs from running into each other while they're cooking.

Now crack an egg into each depression. Sprinkle a little salt.

Let the eggs cook on a slow flame. You don't want the kheema to burn while the eggs cook! Cover the pan with a loose lid or plate.

Cook the eggs to your desired level of 'done-ness'. The hubby likes them runny and I like mine cooked to death :)

Serve up with toast, butter, jam, mayo and a glass of fruit juice on the side.