Sunday, 28 February 2010

Spicy roasted drumsticks

Simplest dinner *and* lunch I've ever made in my entire life (upto and including boiled potatoes with ghee and green chillies in white rice).

In India roasts like this are often served as snacks or as appetizers before dinner. When eaten as snacks, people usually peel the meat off the bone and eat it with a basic cucumber-tomato-red onion salad with a lemon juice dressing. Others eat it like a gyro, putting it inside a pita bread or a roti or paratha with the above-mentioned salad and some salt. It is a *very* versatile dish, and a snap to make.

Drumsticks (or thighs, or maybe even breasts).
Olive oil (or mustard oil)
Chillie flakes and/or chillie powder and/or green or red chillie paste.
Salt, pepper, a little sugar.
Garlic paste (optional)
Strained beaten yougurt (optional)

To give it a sweet and tangy edge:
Home-ground garam masala powder (use a coffee-grinder)--cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom without the skin. About a teaspoon for four drumsticks.
Aamchoor--it's dried mangoes, dry-ground into a powder.
If aamchoor is hard to come by, then tamarind paste (shop-bought is fine).
If tamarind and aamchor are too exotic, lemon juice. But it doesn't have the same taste.

How to:
Mix everything but the oil and chicken. If not using yogurt, it should just be a powdery mix, depending on whether or not chillie, tamarind and garlic paste is being used (pastes being moist, would make the mix slightly moist and thick). Make deep gashes on the drumsticks so the spice can flavour the meat inside too. Coat both sides of each drumstick with it generously and smooth some paste into the gashes. Lay it out on an aluminium foil-lined baking tray with the skin facing you. Or you could peel the skin, it's just that the skin makes the roast more crunchy.

Now pour on the oil and mix it in with the chicken. Preheat oven at 425F. Pop the tray in. Roast for between 30 to 45 minutes. At the end of it, check for crispiness and tenderness. Each drumstick should be both.

See the glistening oil? That's how much you need. Don't scrimp.

Inside the oven

Outside the oven

I ate mine with mashed potatoes.

Leftovers for lunch.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Chingrir kosha, flawed.

This is a chingrir kosha (prawn curry, shall we say) which lacked one vital ingredient: yogurt. And a few non-vital ones: mustard oil, turmeric, coriander (cilantro) leaves. The recipe includes these missing ingredients, but the curry as I was forced to make it is testament to the fact that it can be made just as deliciously without them.

Potatoes, diced.
Tomatoes, diced into long, thin pieces OR chopped into tiny ones.
Red onions, chopped.
Prawns/shrimps, shelled, de-tailed and de-veined.
Turmeric powder--teensy bit.
Salt, sugar.
Coriander and cumin powder (freshly ground)
Chillie powder OR chopped dry red chillies (optional)
Green chillies (optional)
Garlic, peeled and crushed (optional)

How to:

Cooking the wok. Allowing oil to heat and circling it around the wok.

Rub the prawns with turmeric and a little white salt. Sauté them in a wok in about two tablespoons of oil. If using more oil or a really small amount of prawns, give some time for the excess oil to drain. Frying prawns too much results in the flesh hardening and becoming fairly tasteless, so be careful. Do the same with the potatoes.

Heat some ghee (clarified butter) or canola/sunflower oil in a wok. Ideally one should use mustard oil, but I ran out. When one onion ring sizzles in it, lower flame and add onion. Keep stirring till you can smell the sweet smell of frying onions. Add a little crushed garlic if you want, and fry that too. If you want the curry *really* spicy, stir in the chopped red chillies. Now add the tomatoes and fry them well, disintegrating them so that the thing in the wok becomes a thick, dryish, spicy sauce.

Add corianders and cumin. Fold it in well. Slow cook till the oil separates out. This process is called kosha (bhuna). Now add the potatoes and prawns. Fold in well and stir gently for a couple of minutes. Add yogurt (be careful not to add the yogurty water) and blend it in with the potatoes and prawns.

When the spices, tomatoes, onions and yogurt have been thoroughly mixed, add water. Add salt and sugar. Bring the curry to a bubbly boil. Taste, see if it needs more salt and sugar. Add slit green chillies if you want them. Lower the flame and cover. Keep checking every few minutes to see whether the potatoes are cooked (the old fork test) and that the curry isn't drying out completely. When it's done, add garam masala powder and a little more ghee on the top and fold it in. Add chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves. Serve with white rice.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Mushur daal (spicy lentils)

My mum would be scandalised by this daal, but given that I can't pull off a 'proper' daal with only the Bengali radhuni seasoning, I cook this spiced-up, curried version of the beloved Bengali staple mushur (masoor) daal. I was brought up to believe it was full of proteins, and must be had by all naughty children who refused their daily portions of freshwater fish :-)

Split de-husked red lentils (in the US, pick up the Goya version at any supermarket).
Tomatoes, sliced thick.
Red onions, sliced.
Turmeric powder, a pinch.
Salt, sugar.
Ghee (or butter. Or, oh all right, refined oil).

How to:
Boil the lentils. Keep boiling till they're pretty mushy. At this point they shouldn't be much water left. If there is, drain it off carefully. Now take a whisker or beater to the mushy daal, and make it mushier still, till it reaches the consistance of a thickish, slightly watery paste. If you're impatient you needn't go that far, but make sure there are no individual hard grains of daal discernable.

In a wok/skillet, heat two tablespoons of ghee. Or butter or oil. After a few seconds drop a slice of onion to see if it sizzles. If it does, turn the flame down and add all the onions. Fry till they change colour and release the sweet, toasted-onion smell.

Now add tomatoes. Turn the flame up and cook them well, disintergrating them with a spatula. The final daal should have no chunks of tomato in it.

When the tomatoes have been well-cooked into an dry onion-and-tomatoe stew, add the lentils and mix them thoroughly with the vegetables. Add a small pinch of turmeric, and then salt and sugar. Taste to see if it needs more of either.

Pour a cup of water and let the flavours cook with each other. It's a good idea to cover the wok/skillet at this stage and lower the flame.

Eat with hot white rice, or, if you have them, freshly made rotis. Mmm!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Rounded Fingerchips, or, The Perfect Homefries

I had breakfast at the Arlington Diner a few days bac, and while everything else was all right, the homefries were terrible. Just because they're potatoes fried in a regular domestic environment and not in commercial french fry makers doesn't give them the leeway to be a oily, droopy mess. After all, we made and had the perfect crisp-outside-succulent-within fingerchips long before 'french fries' colonised the concept of deep-fried strips of potatoes. And also, possibly, our arteries, if this cute little pinky child is to be believed:

So here's how to make yourself a decent plate of fries at home, without killing yourself and without shelling out four dollars at a breakfast place. Let's face it, four dollars will buy you a bag of potatoes that will keep you in fingerchips (or fries) for a long, long time.

Potatoes (red bliss for this batch, but I use any kind of potatoes I can lay my hands on).
Flavoured salt, pepper.
Oregano, chillie flakes, parmesan (optional).
Oil (canola, vegetable, sunflower).

How to:

Chop potatoes. Boil potatoes till almost done. Fry in a cast iron/non-stick skillet, to minimise use of oil. Take care to separate each slice and turn them occasionally so both sides of each slice are well fried. Yes, I'm obsessive. Which is why I make damn fine fingerchips. Or fries. Sprinkle salt'npepper and spices. Give a final stir. Drain on kitchen towels. Serve. Maybe with parmesan on top.

Potatoes in the water.

Boiling potatoes!

Potatoes being drained.

Prettily arranged on a smokin' skillet.

Salt n' pepper.




My share, after three minutes.

My friend and dinner guest's share (for dinner recipe, see here)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

My delicious fish dinner (baked striped bass)

My lifetime habit of penny-pinching came in very handy when I moved across the seas to start living on a graduate student's stipend. However, it also cut out certain things from my diet, fresh delicate fishes being one of the first to go. However, sometimes, the purse strings will have to stretch. Especially for fresh striped bass.

This is the easiest preparation there possibly could be. All you need is butter, a little each of basil and parsley, and a little salt.

First, wash the fish briefly under warmish water. Then, carefully take the skin and dark flesh off. Or leave it on if you like. I personally cannot abide the skin or the dark flesh. Then, put a couple of thin slices of butter on an aluminium foil, and sprinkle on a little parsley and basil. Now place the fish on it. Arrange more pats of butter on the fish, and sprinkle generously with parsley and basil. Normally, I would use more spices, but masking the sweet, delicate flavour of striped bass with common spices is an Unthinkable. Never do it. Particularly since you're likely to have paid sixteen bucks or more for a pound of that damn delicate sweetness.

Fish on foil on baking tray.

And once more, with the flash on.

Now, pop it in the preheated oven and cook at 425F for about twenty minutes, although I advise check-ins after fifteen. My butter, I'm ashamed to admit, caught a teensy flame and nearly started burning. And then...

Ta-da! The Stripeness of the Baked Bass!

Nice and flaky. Responds well to a fork.

And oozes melted butter.

Eat with rice, or steamed and buttered greens, or by itself. I ate them with steamed french beans, daubed with butter. I'm becoming SUCH a New-Englander.

And to no one's surprise: