Monday, April 12, 2021

Easy Chicken and Baby Potatoes



In summer when the temperature and humidity make life quite difficult, the thought of cooking meals becomes quite unbearable. But we have to eat! And that's when I find myself making one-pot meals or easy dishes that can be had with bread so I don't have to cook rice. Since K loves bread anyway this is never a cause for complaint in our house. Among my many go to recipes in summer is this pan roasted chicken where I follow a few very basic principles and then vary some of the details so there is variety on the table without a whole lot of mental or physical effort. 

This easy chicken with baby potatoes is a dish that requires minimal effort and comes together in around 30 minutes if you have your chicken thawed and ready and a a couple of time saving ingredients like stock cubes in you pantry. 

Easy Chicken with Baby Potatoes

1 chicken, curry cut

20 baby potatoes, washed thoroughly and halved (don't peel)

a few cloves of peeled garlic

1 stock cube - vegetable/chicken/ham/beef

2-3 large onions, sliced thick

a stalk or two of celery (optional)

salt

pepper

olive oil

In a nonstick pan drizzle a little oil and sprinkle some salt and heat the pan. Place the baby potatoes cut side down in a neat layer, cover the pan, and let the potatoes cook on low heat. 

In a cooking pot heat some olive oil and chuck in the sliced onions and the peeled garlic along with some salt. Let it cook on medium heat for a few minutes till the onions change to translucent. Don't let the onions brown, so stir frequently. Add the chicken pieces - the legs and other bony bits first and after five minutes the meaty breast and other fleshy pieces. Legs take longer to cook so put the breast pieces into the pot a little later so they don't get overcooked and chewy. 

Crumble in the stock cube, add a generous amount of pepper powder (use freshly bashed for better flavour always!). Add salt to taste keeping in mind that you've added salt in the onions and that the stock cube will have a decent bit of salt. Add the baby potatoes from the other pan and mix everything nicely. Add celery stalks now if you have them. 

Cover the pot and let it cook for around 20 minutes on low-medium heat. Stir occasionally to cook everything evenly. The chicken and the onions will release enough water for the meat and the potatoes to get cooked. 

Serve hot with fresh pao or sliced bread, whatever you prefer.  


Stock Cubes

Stock cubes are very versatile and I have a few different kinds. You only need one though to make life in the kitchen easier. Keep veg cubes or the chicken ones and you're sorted. Though I'm no advocate of adding cubes to everything or using them daily, occasional use is perfectly fine. They can be a lifesaver when there's not much else by way of ingredients or when you want a quick fix meal without having to put too much thought or effort into it. 



Sunday, February 7, 2021

Shish Palong Chorchori - Bengali Mixed Veggies with Spinach Stalks



There's a veggie vendor in the market who stocks 'Bengali veggies' and I have devotedly started visiting his stall at least once a week. I keenly miss Kolkata in the winter and all that winter bounty that the veggie vendor there brings on his cart to our doorstep every morning. It is from him that I learned about so many seasonal vegetables that are eagerly anticipated once the temperature dips and Bengalis begin anticipating all the 'sheet kaal'er shobji'. Thus, finding a source so nearby for many of those winter goodies has been a real godsend! 

On my last visit I found shish palong - the stalks and inflorescence of spinach that has been allowed to grow and mature. 


Sayantani of A Homemaker's Diary  explains that this ingredient is very seasonal and comes into the markets around the end of winter - which is now. In fact, I saw these in Kolkata on my visits also at this time of the year. I have followed Sayantani's recipe for shish palong chorchori as much as I could as per the ingredients I had in stock. 

Here's how I made Shish Palong Chorchori

A small bunch shish palong

10-12 bori

1 potato

1 small onion

half a medium brinjal

10 broad beans or sheem

1/2 tsp panch phoron

1-2 green chillies

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp poppy seed/posto paste

2 tbsp mustard paste

salt

Mustard oil

First prep the vegetables. Wash all the veggies before you proceed. 

Peel and cut the potato into neat thick-ish chips or batons. Cut the brinjal into long pieces. Slice the onion. String the beans and chop into 3 or 4 pieces depending on how large they are. 
Separate the stalks and leaves of the shish palong. Cut off the hard base and woody parts of the stalk and discard, use only the more tender pieces of stalk. Cut the stalks into two inch pieces and halve the thick ones length-wise so they get cooked properly. Chop up the leaves and any flowers and keep them separate from the prepped stalks. 


In a kadai or wok heat a couple of tablespoons of mustard oil and fry the boris. This takes a minute at the most, remove from the oil as soon as they brown. Keep aside. 

In the same oil chuck in a slit green chilli  or two and follow it with the panch phoron. Let it sizzle and then throw in the sliced onion. Stir well and let it fry on low heat till the onion begins to brown. Add some salt and turmeric and then add the shish palong stalks. Cover the wok and let it cook on a low flame for several minutes till the stalks have softened somewhat. 

Now add the potatoes and other veggies except the leaves and flowers of the shish palong, and mix everything nicely. Cover and cook till the potatoes are done. You can add a little water to help it along. 

Add the posto paste and mustard paste, and salt if required, and mix everything well. Cover and let it cook for a couple of minutes and let the flavours blend in. 

Finally add the fried boris - I like to keep a few intact and roughly crush the rest before mixing them in. I used Kolai Daal'er boris (urad daal boris) sourced from Amar Khamar a bridge between consumers from all over the country and women farmers in Bengal. 



Serve this shish palong chorchori with hot rice. It's a wonderful addition to a typical Bengali multi-course lunch with daal, bhaat, a bhaja or two, and machh'er jhol finished with some rosogolla or other sweet indulgence. Bengali food is replete with vegetarian and vegan recipes and this shish palong is just one more gem from this wonderful cuisine. 

Bhetki Paturi - Bengali Fish in Banana Leaves



Bhetki Paturi is a very common and well known Bengali preparation that you would find on restaurant menus and at homes too. Though paturi is not restricted to bhetki, or even to fish for that matter, this mustard laden parcel of boneless fish is a joy! And it's so easy to make -you don't need any special ingredients or equipment. 

A little planning goes a long way in making top notch paturi. And by planning I only mean a long marination time. Otherwise it's just a matter of slapping the parcels together and cooking them. 

Here's how I made Bhetki Paturi.

4 boneless Bhetki fillets 

4 pieces of banana leaf enough to wrap the individual fillets

3 tbsp posto or white poppy seeds

4-5 green chillies

3 tbsp mustard powder

6 tbsp freshly grated coconut

salt

turmeric (optional)

2 tsp lime juice

1/5 cup mustard oil


Soak the poppy seeds for around 30 minutes and then grind to a smooth paste with a couple (or more) green chillies. 

Soak the mustard powder for around 15 to 20 minutes in a little water to make a paste. 

In a clean bowl or tiffin box marinate the fish fillets with salt and lime juice for an hour or so.

In a separate bowl mix the mustard and poppy seed/posto pastes and add a little bit of salt and the grated coconut. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of mustard oil and around half a teaspoon of turmeric if you are using it. I didn't. 

Use approximately half of this mix and coat the fillets nicely. Close the box or cover the bowl and marinate the coated fish fillets for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Reserve the remaining marinade in a separate box in the fridge for use later in the recipe. 

Remove both boxes from the fridge an hour or so before you're going to cook the fish and let them come to room temperature.

In the mean while prep the banana leaves. Wash and dry them and cut to a size that allows you to make neat parcels, each for a single fillet. Coat the inner side of the leaf (this will be darker) with a little mustard oil - take just a few drops on the tips of your fingers and smear to coat most of the middle of the leaf. Hold each leaf over a low flame and move it around quickly to 'roast' it very lightly. This softens the leaf and the central stem and makes it easier to bend and fold while making the parcels. 

To assemble the paturi parcels place a leaf on your work surface dark side up. Put a bit of the reserved marinade onto the leaf and spread it a little to cover as much as the fillet will sit on. Now place one marinated fillet and top with another small dollop of marinade. Add a drizzle of mustard oil and carefully close the parcel. You can use toothpicks or string to tie the parcels together. I didn't need to. Make up parcels using up all the fillets in the same fashion. 



In a flat pan large enough to place all four parcels heat some mustard oil - a tablespoon will be enough. Place the four parcels in a single flat layer, reduce the heat to the lowest and then cover the pan. Use two pans if your pan is too small or do them in batches. Let it cook for around 5 - 8 minutes depending on the thickness of the bhetki fillets and then flip the parcels and cook for another few minutes. Keep an eye on things and don't let the banana leaves char too much or the fish inside will taste charred instead of lightly smokey. 

Serve the bhetki paturis with plain hot rice. 

Among the general reading and YouTube videos I also referred to Debjani's recipe for Bhetki Paturi to understand how paturi is made.