Saturday, 29 May 2010

Towards a Healthier Ramen

Comparing the ingredients of the Indian Ramen, Maggi, to the Asian varieties available in the all-powerful American supermarket chains (Shaw's, in this case), I noticed that the latter is ever so slightly better, depsite the high concentration of salt, starch, and monosodium glutamate (ajinamoto). On the other hand, they are wayyy blander than Maggi, and therefore make eating a chore. And I'm not at home to the concept that eating should be anything but a lot of fun. So here's my recipe, for a new and improved Ramen.

Two packets of Ramen noodles (neutral flavours, like beef or chicken)
Carrots--peeled and diced.
Onion (large, 1/4; medium, 1/2)--chopped.
Green beans (sheem) -- ends cut off, diced.
Cauliflower--cut into tiny florets.
Celery, water chestnuts--cut into semicircles.
Pork/chicken--chopped into tiny pieces, minus fat.
Garlic, a clove or two -- crushed or at least minced.
Oil (canola/sessame/sunflower).
Salt, pepper, dash of sugar.
Green chillies (optional)

None of the veggies are mandatory. Use what vegetables and meat scraps you have left.

How to:

In a deep saucepan, heat about a tablespoon of oil. When the oil's hot, lower the flame and drop in the hard vegetables (carrots, beans, cauliflowers, water chestnuts) and meat. Stir-fry till they change colour and start smelling fried. The cauliflowers need more stirring, since they take more time to take on the brownish-golden fried colour. Now add the onions, adding a little more oil if needed (and garlic, if using). When the onions change colour and you can smell the frying garlic, add one packet of Ramen seasoning. Mix well with the veggies for about half a minute, then add about three cups of water (the vegetables will need cooking).

When the water starts boiling, drop the noodles. Let cook till they soften and separate in strands. Season with salt, lots of ground pepper, and a little bit of sugar. Mix well. Cook till the noodles till done. Now add the second packet of seasoning and stir in well. Keep cooking till the noodle soup reaches desired consistency.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Curried Omlettes

This is a dish my partner absolutely refused to eat... till after the first forkful, when he gobbled up half the curry. Called, descriptively, omletter jhol, this is an Indian omlette cooked in a thin gravy with potatoes.

Red onions.
Green chilies.
Ground cumin and coriander (2:1).
Salt, sugar.
Garam masala powder.
Eggs, one per person.

How to:
Make the omelette batter with chopped red onions and green chilies, and salt and a little milk. Make an omlette and then slice it into two.

In a skillet, heat some oil. Add chopped red onions and diced skinned potatoes. When the potatoes turn golden brown on the surface, add ground cumin and coriander. Give it a good stir, and add water. Add salt, sugar. Cover and let cook for about fifteen or twenty minutes. Now immerse the omlettes and cook uncovered for about five or ten minutes, or till the extra water boils off, leaving the gravy as thick as you like. At this stage, one can add red chilli powder for colour (it has almost no heat, for someone used to green chilies).

Serve over boiled white rice.

Beef Stroganoff

I had a mouthful of the most startlingly tasty beef stroganoff with egg noodles at, of all places, a meet-and-greet for a local chap running for office. I loved it so much that I looked up one of the family's old recipes for it, made a few substitution, and came up with this hearty, yummy recipe below.

Beef--I use two commercial steaks, but if you can afford primo or choice, by all means, indulge yourself.
Beef broth, tinned.
White onions at the end of shallots (pNyeaajkolir pNyeaaj).
Red onions--chopped.
Salt, pepper.
Vinegar (red wine).
White wine for cooking.
Sour cream.
Flour for thickening (not strictly necessary).

Cut gristly and fat away from the beef. Cut the remaining into chunks or slices, depending upon preference. Marinate them overnight or for a couple of hours at least in red wine vingegar, or just regular vinegar. Or lime juice and a touch of salt, in the absence of vinegar.

Heat butter in a frying pan or skillet. Spread it around. Add the pieces of beef, retaining the vinegar or lime juice in the marinating bowl (the meat will release juices of it's own). Wait till the meat is nicely browned--don't start cooking further at the red stage--and add the red and white onions, and the crushed garlic. Let fry for a three or four minutes. Toss the meat to make sure it doesn't stick to the pan/skillet and char. Add a little white wine to deglaze the pan, but this is optional.

Add the vinegar/lime juice and beef broth and stir them in well, scraping up drippings from the pan. Add four cups of water--the broth will reduce in the time the meat needs cooking for--salt, pepper, a dash of sugar (that's right, sugar). I also added some powdered cayenne pepper for a bit of heat, and some powdered dill and parseley, because you can't go wrong with dill and parsely :-)

Give it all a good stir and cover. Let cook on the lowest possible flame. Let simmer for about an hour (check back after forty minutes).

Check if the meat is tender. If not, give it time till it is--add more water to keep the broth going. On the other hand, if the meat's done but the broth's too thin, stir in a tablespoon of flour to thicken it (I had to), and whisk well so it isn't lumpy. When meat and broth are both as you like it, stir in two large tablespoons of sour cream. Pour over boiled and drained egg noodles. Dinner is ready :-)

Comfort Food :-)

One of the most delicious meals a Bengali child can be offered in the face of recalcitrance, sounds (to the foreign ear, apprently) not only rather simple, but also a little bit strange. It's boiled rice, boiled potatoes, and boiled red lentils (mushur/masoor daal), mashed together with a little salt, a green chilli, and either a dollop of butter or ghee, or, in true Bengali fashion, raw mustard oil. Try it sometime. It's quick, healthy (despite the high carbs), and really quite delicious.

And then, because I put a little too much water, some draining:

The barely visible glimmer on top of the boiled lentils is the mustard oil :-) Since I make this only occasionally, I prefer to eat it the old-fashioned way, with the sharp pungency of mustard oil flavoured by the slow-kicking heat of two green chillies.