Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Chicken and Vegetables Pie

I like pies. I have mentioned this before. So finally I shook lazyness off and made myself a nice, steaming, buttery, flaky pie. I'm just SO enterprising.

Shut up.

Deboned and cleaned chicken chopped in medium and small pieces.
Vegetables of choice--cut, peeled, sliced, shelled. As required.
Onions -- 1, small.
Butter -- 50gms (frozen and cut into little pieces).
Flour/maida -- 3 cups (you can use as much as you like, of course, provided you use more butter).
Salt, sugar.
Optionals: Garlic and green chilies -- pasted. Ground black pepper. Sour cream. Li'l white wine.

Now let's see how may pictures we can generate from that tiny req. list.

First, the filling. In a wok/korai or skillet or frying pan, heat a little butter. If it's a age-worn thinning-bottom steel korai like mine, beware. Taking your eyes off will make the butter char (and impart a lovely smokey flavour to the dish). First, in butter, fry chopped mushrooms. Keep aside when done.

Now, in the same piece of butter-charred kitchenware, heat a teaspoon or two of sunflower/canola oil and fry the rest of the chunky ingredients in succession. Till they're all nicely browned. Exceptions: ingredients like peas. In other words, make your common sense earn its keep.

Drain and keep aside in a bowl. In the same p. of. k-ware, heat another teaspoon of oil. Move it around. When the already-greased bottom is even more greasy, drop in the sliced onions. Fry till all of it turns transparent and some of it browns. Now add the optional garlic/green chilli paste and fry till the garlic browns lightly.

Bring back the veggies. Add the ones your common sense held back last time. Mix thoroughly. Add water. Add salt and sugar, plus herbs/spices of choice. Cover and let cook.

When the meat and vegetables are tender and the gravy hasn't thickened, scoop them out and keep in a bowl to prevent it becoming unrecognisable fragments (or a gloopy blob). At this point, the gravy can be thickened with a few dollops of sour cream, or by boiling off water. When the gravy is thick enough, pour it over the vegetables and chicken.

I skipped cream and used a roux. Which I tried to make over an unlit oven, leading to initial droplets of buttery flour all over the wok.

Pour the thickened gravy with chunks into this. You might consider keeping the filling in the fridge for a day. A day had passed between me cooking the filling and me making the pies, and most of my gravy had been absorbed by the chicken and cauliflowers, leading to a delicious taste-explosion in my mouth with every substantial bite.

Gravy-absorbed chicken and vegetables

Said chicken and vegetables into the roux

Add a little water if you want a thick soupy feel. After all, this will be cooked further inside a pie, and you don't want them drying out. This is the consistency I had at the end.

The filling is now done. Now, I know Dea_Chan said she gets puff pastry for the pie crust, and I'm sure I'll get some in Calcutta if I really looked, but I'm more inclined to spend ten minutes making my own pastry dough, right in my own kitchen, in my tattered blue dress and slippers. No running around for me, thank you.

Pastry/pie crust:
Mix the flour, salt and sugar. Say, three pinches of salt and a tablespoon of granular sgar (less if powdered). Now upend the bowl of frozen butter pieces onto this. Mix them quickly with your fingers (the more you touch, the more the butter will melt) and then attack it with a fork, cutting into the floury butter till it looks all crumbly.

Going with the spirit of not melting the butter, we now add some water. Ice water. In batches, little by little. And then using the fok further we mix it in slowly with each little bit of water, till it's holding together. Then we use our hands to give it a basic roundish shape.


Rolling pin to beat the dough down

Rolled-out dough stretched out on a bowl


Ladle some thickened soupy filling into the bowl. Cover with the remaining pie crust dough to make a lid, Seal. Make a few holes or gashes on the surface of the lid. Bake in a preheated oven at 250C till your place is redolent with the aroma of meltinng, toasted butter cubes. Keep checking if the gravy inside is bubbling (you'll see through the holes at the top) and the top crust is browning.

The bowl-pie

The larger dish

The too-small top crust :-(

Taken care of!

Once it's nicely browned, let it cool for a few minutes. Tuck in!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Chicken Shapta

I iz sad. Awl the pics I took of this dish came out awful. My heart iz broken.

Not really. I'm just so used to adding pictures to my recipes, it's a bit odd to write one without them. Tell you what, I'll take pics if I ever make it again, and then upload them. Okay? Okay.

Now, shapta. Wot eez eet? Eet eez, apparently, a Tibentan dish of the most delicious kind. I ate it first at the Blue Poppy yesterday, thanks to young Rhea and Mandy (who know their menu better than I). It's a very spicy dish of chicken cooked with vegetables. In the case of Blue Poppy, only onions, but in mine, baby corn, mushrooms AND onions. I'd have put in carrots and broccolis if I had them handy, too. I'm a dedicated vegetable-gobbler.

Cumin + coriander paste/powder -- preferably ground freshly from seeds.
Garam masala powder.
Black pepper -- ground.
Onions -- sliced.
Garlic -- crushed.
Tomatoes -- sliced.
Chicken -- chopped into pieces about an inch long and half an inch thick. Basically, small pieces.
Garlic, green chilies, onion, ginger -- pasted together for the marinade.
Flour or besan + water + salt + red chilli powder + black pepper for batter-dip.
Baby corn -- chopped and boiled till tender (optional).
Mushrooms -- sliced (optional).
Red chilli paste (optional).

Marinate the chopped chicken pieces in the pasted onion, garlic, ginger and green chilies for a couple of hours. To this I also add a dash of soya sauce, because I like the mixed flavour.

Now, just as an experiment, I made a batter with besan, pepper, red chilli powder, salt and water, and tried to make fried babycorn by dipping slices into it and then deep frying. First, the batter was rather thin and this is how the corn came out.

Then I thickened it (with more besan, of course) and tried again. This time, there was rather too much batter on the corn. So when I finally batter-fried the chicken, I used a very thin layer of the thick batter, and it was perfect! Third time's the charm, like Goldilocks and baby bear's bed. It's completely fine to not batter-fry the chicken.

Anyway, keep the batter-fried chicken aside, drain the fried oil (which should be a dark brown now, if you fried as many chicken pieces as I did) and splash some fresh in. Now toss the chopped, boiled baby corn in. When they're lightly fried (you'll smell it and see the colour change), drain and keep aside. You can also sauté the mushrooms in with the corn.

Now fry the chopped onions and crushed garlic. If NOT batter-frying the chicken, add now and keep tossing on medium till the chicken turns brown. If batter-frying, skip adding chicken and move onto red chilli paste. This will splutter, so turn down the flame and be careful. Add the vegetables back. Add the cumin and coriander paste, sugar, salt, garam masala. Toss on high for a couple of minutes and then add water. Cover and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes.

Uncover and check tenderness of vegetables and flavour of gravy. Make adjustments. Add the batter-fried chicken. Cook for three or four minutes, so the chicken absorbs the gravy and becomes tender. Serve over hot rice :-)

This is SO perfect for the winter, I can't BEGIN to tell you. Del.lee.shuss.

Cheese and Chicken Omlette

Because this is such an absolutely simple thing to make, I'm not say a word about the how-to. You'll need an egg or two, some slices of whatever cheese you prefer, some cooked chicken (I use leftover roast or curried chicken, washed), purple/red onions, green chilies, salt.

Onion, cheese, chilies, ehicken.

Can you see the window reflected in the egg?

As my friend T says, nomnomnom!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Daal puri (daal stuffed puris)

Daalpuri. The term is self-explanatory... unless you don't speak Bengali, of course. Although really, if you frequent Indian restaurants, you know what daal is, and you know what pooris are. Put them together... and there you go!

This is, again, a typical Bengali breakfast food, served on holidays. But not the way turkey is served on Thanksgiving -- it's not that kind of holiday food. There is no special symbolicism attached to daalpuri, except maybe the happy subtext that you won't have to go to work that day. Neither is it stapled with a particular holiday or ritual (like bhuna khichuri with ashtami, payesh with noboborsho, haleem during Ramzaan, plum pudding for Christmas, mutton for Bakr-Eid). It merely signifies a holiday because when else will the modern woman (and man) have the time to sit down and savour a hearty breakfast, much less make it?

Chholar daal (check translations here)
Methi and mouri (fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds)
Flour to make dough.
Salt, sugar.
Sunflower/canola oil. Ghee for flavouring.
Ginger (optional) -- minced.
Cumin, coriander or other spices for seasoning (optional)

Chholar daal, washed under a tap.

Make a moist, stretchy dough with the flour. First sift the flour with some salt and sugar, and a tablespoon of white oil/melted ghee (3 cups of flour: 1 heaped tablespoon of ghee). Adding the oil/melted ghee is called 'adding moyaan'. Add the water slowly and keep mixing it in, so the dough doesn't become runny and sticky like gum.

Now run the daal and ginger through a food processor/mixie.

Sliced ginger on bNoti

Daal in the mixie

Pasted daal+ginger

When pasted evenly, keep aside. In oil (or melted ghee) in a wok/pan, add mouri and methi in 4:1 ratio. For every two levelled cups of daal, take 1 teaspoon mouri and one-fourth methi. Fry for a few seconds on low, till the mouri starts smelling fried. Add the pasted daal and mix thoroughly. If using extra spices, add now and fold it in well. When the pasted daal has been slow-cooked in seasoned oil for about ten minutes (or till it changes colour), take it off the flame and keep aside.


Now divide the dough into roughly equal-sized balls. Flatten them between your palms till it becomes a small, thick disc. Now push down the centre so the disc starts resembling a rough-hewn cup. Fill with seasoned daal. Bring the rims of the cup together and twist them to seal the daal in, pressing down the twisted part onto the closed-cup. Flatten it again between your palms.

Roll out each stuffed flattened ball carefully, so as not to break the surface. Deep-fry them and serve with aloor dum, or any other curry of choice. I usually am too lazy to make the curry, so I eat the puris with a little lump of seasoned daal :-)