Friday, 23 December 2011

Koraishutir Kochuri

Really the only difficult part about koraishutir kochuri is handling the stuffing. Stuffing, like free-range children from cannibal farms, should be tasted and not seen. Each portion must be small enough not to pop out of the dough while rolling, yet large enough to dominate the flavour of each mouthful.

And then, admittedly, there is the rolling. There's not trick to rolling out stuffed flatbreads perfectly but practice. If you want them rolled out thinly enough (so there are no uncooked thick lumps), if you want the stuffing to remain invisible, and most importantly, if you want your kochuris to be close approximation of the circular form, you must single make breakfast for your family every single Sunday. That's my prescription.

However, if you're fine with post-structual flatbread, you can skip the practice and dive right in. You will serve yourself kochuris mimicking fractured maps of continents, but they will be utterly deliciously works of art :-)

Grind together sweet green peas, green chilies, as much ginger as you like, some salt, and a teaspoon of sugar.

Cook this minced chilli-pea in a wok with half a tablespoon of oil, over a low flame. It will stick to the sides and base of the wok at first, but will make a little green self-contained ball as the chilli-pea cooks. You'll also smell the divine smell of toasty sweet peas as they approach doneness.

Once the peas are cooked, take them off the flame and add ground black pepper, mixing it well. Do this with a light hand and strictly according to your own taste, because too much black pepper will ruin the dish entirely.

Then make small green balls from the pea-dough. These, I might add, are quite delicious -- absolutely bursting with flavour.

Then make the usual flatbread dough -- a little moyaan, a little salt, a little sugar, and some hot water. Divide them into flattened balls, larger than each green one.

Make a cup of each flattened ball, and put a little green dough in it. Then seal it, flatten again, and roll it out on a flour-dusted rolling board. In any shape you prefer.

And voilà! Perfectly deep-fried in hot sunflower or canola oil, with the green glowing through the crisp golden dough.

Serve in complementary colours. Green-gold kochuri, leftover stuffing, and Bengali mustard, for that extra zing.

Or, you could just eat it wrapped around more stuffing. Yum yum!

Go on, try it while the peas last. You'll regret it if you don't!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Cheese-baked Vegetables

This is an apology for the mushroom-chicken tetrazzini. I made the afternoon of the evening we had guests, some of whom are vegetarians. They saw and smelled the delicious melted cheese, and the toasty crisp-topped chicken and mushroom, but they couldn't taste it. So, as a way of saying sorry, I made this a few days later. I'm not sure what it is, except that it includes lovely winter veggies, and a perfectly piquant cheese sauce.

Chop mushrooms, capsicum (green bell pepper), a quarter of a small cauliflower, and any other vegetable you might fancy in a casserole. Boil a couple of potatoes. I kept their skins on, but you mighn't want to. Finally, soften some cheese (same old cheddar for me), and chop some shallot stalks for the sauce.

Sauté cauliflower in melted butter, and when they change colour, add the capsicum, then the mushrooms. Add a little salt, and any herb or spice you'd like. I leave out spices altogether on this one.

Add chopped tomatoes as a final touch, for piquant crunchiness. Let them stay on the flame for less than a minute.

Set the vegetables aside.

In the same wok, add a cup and half of water. Bring to a slight boil, scrape up the drippings, and then add some fresh/heavy cream. Simmer.

When the cream is evenly mixed, add the cheese. Fold it in well. Add a little more water if required.

Flavour the sauce with ground black pepper and shallots (plus any herb of your choice).

Remember the boiled potatoes? Grate and mash them, with a little salt and butter. Actually, the grating is an unnecessary complication. Just mash them into a tight, buttery lump.

Line a greased earthenware bowl/baking dish with the mashies.

Pour the veggies into the bowl. And admire the colours. Ah, winter. Such produce you bring.

Top with the cheese sauce.

Seal the top with the remaining mashed potato, and then, on a whim, top with the veggies that wouldn't fit inside the potato-lined pie. Pour some olive oil on top, or pat with softened butter. Bake at 240-50C for about thirty minutes.

And this little pot of deliciousness is what you'll get. Crisp vegetables on top, golden-browned potato beneath, semi-baked cheese-wrapped vegetables under that, and a buttery layer of baked potatoes at the bottom. Perfection!

Eat it hot, scooped out on a plate.

Or on warm toast, as a sandwich filling. It's a perfect steaming winter meal, in way you look at it.

Bon apetit, my vegetarian friends. I promise you won't regret the twenty minutes you invest in this ;-)

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Hot Chocolate

Winter has just kicked in in Calcutta, with temperatures going as low as 13 degrees C. Yes! It will be snowing any minute now -- thirteen degrees centigrade, people!

All right, snigger if you must, you cold-winter types. But temps in the lower teens minus heating is far more miserable than a centrally heated -32F, and I speak from personal experience. And since chills outside are best combated with rugs, blankets and steaming beverages -- and since I lack the resources to make cider or stronger brews -- here's falling back on an old favourite: hot chocolate! Here goes the pictorial: 

Morde's 'Dark Chocolate Compound', best served uncooked, in chunks, with whipped cream. No, don't listen to me. This chocolate is meant entirely for cooking. Yes.

Nahoum's chocolate fudge. Made with dark chocolate, fresh cream, vanilla, and a little too much sugar.

This is what it looks like outside the packet.

Fudge and dark chocolate, all chopped up.

Heat water. When it bubbles, lower the heat and add the fudge and chocolate. Stir gently. 

Add a teaspoon of coffee. Because why the hell not? It's freezing outside! Your body wants to hibernate, but you know, there bills and chores and a job and things.

Fresh cream. You'll need it to sweeten the dark chocolate and coffee pot. This is also the point at which you add a little more sugar and vanilla if you like (the fudge was all the sugar I needed), and any spice you like to flavour your hot chocolate. I added a dash of cinnamon, and a little nutmeg.

And finally, bliss in a cuppa. 

For all you people who want to be shaved imitations of bears this season, but simply can't afford to: Show yourself this little love, and charge ahead. I'll be right behind you, with the leftover in my thermos flask. 

Much love, 

A cold and overworked me.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cheese-baked Chicken and Mushroom Noodles

Or, if you like your names shorter and with a touch of the foreign, "Chicken Tetrazzini". I made this and similar dishes very often while I lived by myself, because they're both absolutely simple, and unfailingly divine. Of course, few things are capable of mediocrity when baked crispy-gold, swimming in hot, melted cheese. Therefore, it is a testment to my culinary genius that I remembered to stock up on cheese every time we had intimations of a snowstorm.

Because this is just perfect for kitchen-lazy souls on chilly, windy, freezing nights. No contest. And so you can try it yourself, here's the picture-book.

 First, dice mushrooms of your favourite variety.

 Thaw the cheese (this is mild cheddar. My hometown hasn't much variety I can afford).

Toss in tinily-diced chicken (marinated in lemon juice and salt for an hour, if you like) and mushrooms in butter or cooking oil. I usually flavour this with ground black pepper, a touch of sugar, salt, parsely, but feel free to experiment.

Next, some deeelicious fresh/heavy/sour cream. Simmer and scrape up the pan-drippings. Scraped drippings are my secret ingredients.

One more step to go! Add some of the softended cheese to the simmering sauce. Fold it in well. Taste for the right salt/pepper/sugar/herb balance.
Pour the sauce over cooked and drained noodles (I just some leftover macaroni). 

You can see the base of the baking dish peeking because no one but me would touch a lip-smacking cheese-dripping creamy casserole, so I only make about enough for myself. Because I don't have to share. My life is a living tragedy, I know.

Layer the cheese on the noodle-in-sauce. 

In my case, the cheese covered empty bits of the dish in several places, so when I took the steaming cass. out of the oven, there were little pools of pure, unadulterated, melted cheese in between the mushroom and chicken. Don't you feel sad when little imperfects like that mar a dish you took absolutely no trouble over? No? Goodness. We could soul-siblings.

Next, in the absence of shop-bought breadcrumbs (I don't even know if we get them in non-supermarket Calcutta), I crushed a couple of Marie biscuits, and a few salty cumin-flavoured ones. So much better then bland breadcrumbs.

And drizzled it on top of the cheese.

And then, after a thirty minute bake at 200C...

It was ready! You can't make out the bubbling cheese pools, nor smell the divine savoury-baked aroma, but you can take my word for it: Colour, smell, texture -- this was irrestible.
So I wasted no time resisting it.

Yum yum yum!
But enough about my fabulous dinner. Time to go make your own! Shoo!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tangy Green Sprout Salad

Normally, I despise salads. Minus the dressing, they're utterly pointless and better suited to moo-cows than bipeds. However, I recently realised that the deliciously dressed sprouted grams sold at street corners -- all the chhola and moog in tangy lime or lemon juice -- can quite easily be called a salad, and for once I'd have a salad I could actually stomach.

So, here's what you do: first, soak green gram (gota moog) or chhola (small, hard chickpeas) overnight, or at least for eight hours. Then wrap them in a thin muslin or cotton cloth -- a large handkerchief should do it -- and hang the cloth in the kitchen, or any other warm place. Maybe your bedroom on a winter's night? Anyway, leave it to sprout for a day.

Whole green gram, post-sprouting.

Add chopped green (and red) chilies.

Then add chopped tomatoes and onions.

At this point, step back. Admire your handiwork. Then squeeze a lime over it. If that isn't tangy enough for you, squeeze two. Then add a little salt. Then add a few drops of mustard oil. This is usually enough dressing for me. However, for that extra kick, you might want to add a little aamchur (dried and powdered green mango), a little red chilli powder, a little dry-roasted, dry-ground coriander and cumin. Maybe a little more oil, if you like.

Then, mix it all up! And if you're really hungry, add a handful of muri or puffed wheaties to the mix, and eat it as masala muri. Yum yum! Not even the pickiest of health-obsessed eaters could possibly complain :-)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

A few years back, there was a tiny piece in The Telegraph about some Scottish chap attempting to trademark chicken tikka masala. It provoked some amused outrage hereabouts, but nobody particularly cared about the crazy caprices of strange foreigners, and the news sank without further trace. We had, of course, no idea how big chicken tikka masala was in the ethnic eating scene of the former Raj. This was probably helped by the fact that 'chicken tikka masala' is a postcolonial, Anglo collage of mangled culinary memories, and not a weal dish from ye olde Nawabi kitchens. People tend not to care about the ownership of things they don't know exists. As long as we had the succulent tandoori kababd and creamy butter-chicken, 'tikka masala' could hunt seals in a tutu in Iceland.

So when I first had tikka masala, it was at a Punjabi 'Indian' takeaway in Somerville, almost midway through my twenties. It was the perfect example of a disappointment. (Just chicken curry with extra tomatoes, in this instance). So, in the interest of humanity that is not native to these tropical parts, this is how one makes the traceable ancestor of 'tikka masala' -- chicken tikias or tikka-kababs in a thick gravy (I've kept the tomatoes because they're in season, but one can make a perfectly serviceable gravy without them):

Marinate the cleaned and washed pieces of de-boned chicken in salt and lemon juice.

Peel and slice ginger and a few cloves of garlic.

Put the garlic and ginger with half a small, peeled onion, cinnamon sticks, two large shelled cardamom, and a couple of cloves, in a mixie/grinder/mortar-and-pestle.

Scoop the mix onto the lemon-marinated chicken. Top with half a level teaspoon of cumin and coriander, ground red chilies, and just a pinch of sugar.

Then add a dollop of yogurt, and just for kicks, minced green chilies. Mix it all up. Let it stand for at least, at least, three hours.

In the absence of skewers (I couldn't find ours), grease a baking dish well with mustard oil. Put the chicken and the marinade in a tight cluster on the dish. Pour some more oil over it all. Be generous, you don't want dried little pieces of charred meat. Now, let them bake in a pre-heated oven for about twenty minutes at 230-240C (450F). Cooking time differs for different ovens, but at such high heat, anything beyond thirty minutes would end in dry, hard meat, esp. since the chicken we're using has no fat to buffer it.

For the gravy, chop a medium red onion, mince a quarter inch of ginger and about five cloves of garlic, grind a few red chilies, and purée two tomatoes.

Heat two teaspoons of mustard oil in a wok. Simmer when hot (but not smoking), and sauté the garlic, followed immediately by the red chilli paste (healthy-minded people can substitute chopped green chilies: Different flavour, but just as delicious). After half a minute of frying this mix, add the ginger, then the onions, and raise the flame to medium. Stir like mad (or the red chilli paste will char).

Then add the puréed tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt, half a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander, and keep stirring gently.

Till it looks lovely and cooked, like this. You should be able to make out the oil separating from the tomato. Taste for salt and spiciness. Add a tiny amount of sugar if the tomatoes taste too tangy.

Now add a cup of water to the gravy. Some prefer adding cream, or whole milk. My doctor tells me I should prefer water. Bring the gravy to a slight boil before simmering again and adding the kababs. Cover and let the flavours blend for a few minutes. Take off the flame, sprinkle a quarter teaspoon of garam masala powder on top, and mix well. Serve with rotis, naans, or parathas.

And there you go! A delicious dish, decoded. Despite the spices, it's healthy, hearty, and perfect for cold winter evenings. Make it! :-)