Showing posts with label Vegetarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vegetarian. Show all posts

Monday, 19 November 2012

Winter Vegetable Stir-fry

Apparently, men cook briefly during courtship, and women cook forever thereafter. *I* cook whenever I want something that isn't deeply and completely Bengalil, because for the d. and c.-ly B we have a cook, and no one else in Chez Rimi is remotely interested in anything else. Which is why I cook during sleepy afternoons and late evenings, when the rest of the household is safely away from the kitchen-zone and probably snoozing.

And then I have to chew the cud, figuratively speaking, till the bowls of my culinary production have been polished off.

In other words, there's an excellent reason this blog hasn't been updated since September; I can eat the same bloody thing for only so many bloody meals.

However, winter is such a wonderfully tempting time to wander into the kitchen, that I haven't been able to resist a bit of stirring and boiling lately. This is an astonishingly simple recipe that I resort to often. It needs vegetables, salt, a touch of sugar, and half a teaspoon of soya sauce. It's a miracle!

Here's the picturebook:

First, decide what vegetables you want, and chop them up. I have broccoli, baby corn, carrots, mushrooms and green beans.

Blanch the 'hard' vegetables -- carrots and corn for about seven minutes, broccoli for about a minute and a half.

Then drain them.

Now heat a little oil. Fry minced garlic really well. You may even add about 1cm of peeled and minced ginger, if you like that sort of flavour. When the garlic (and ginger) is fragrant, add the hard veggies -- carrots, beans, corn.

Toss them gently for about four minutes. Then add the sliced capsicum (bell pepper).

When the capsicum smells sweet and lightly friend, add the chopped mushrooms. Stir in. Now add half a teaspoon of salt, two pinches of sugar, and a quarter teaspoon soya sauce. Fold in very well.

Add three teacups of water.

Toss occasionally for about half a minute on high, then cover and simmer. Cook till the vegetables are tender. Taste the broth to see if you'd like more salt or a touch more sugar (or soya, or any other sauce -- but I'd say keep it simple).

This dish is about decisions. Once the vegetables are tender and you lift the lid off, you have to decide: do I eat this as an incredibly lovely soup with tender yet firm vegetables, or do I let the hot, delicious broth dry in the pot and turn this into a light stir-fry to go with boiled rice?

I leave that decision up to you. I ate it, yesterday, as a steaming bowl of nutritious, yummy soup, and today as stir-fried vegetables with rice :-)  I can tell you this, though: whichever way you eat, you'll love it. And it's SO easy. So get cracking, people. It'll take you fifteen minutes, but you'll remember the almost unbelievably light-yet-rich flavour for a long, long time :-)

Monday, 20 August 2012

Banana Chocolate Biscuits


I've had some dark chocolate lying in the fridge for a deeeeliciously long time. Call it laziness, call it the comfort of nibbling a magically unending bar of chocolate, but I kept that bar in the fridge for almost a month. Till guests with ickle children came along, and my mother promptly said, right in front of them, "Isn't there some chocolate in the fridge? Maybe you can finally do something with it!"


Anyway, I'm not a big fan of bananas myself, and I definitely don't want them in my lovely chocolate. But the moment the children saw the bananas in the fruit bowl, they had to have banana-chocolate mousse.

Well. All right then. Good chocolate gone to waste. Or so I thought, while I set about making the mousse. However, in the middle I changed my mind, and started making fruity chocolate biscuits, because I've had the recipe in my mind for a while, and wanted to see if the pracs matched up to the theory. And when I was done, I must say, they turned out radically different from the sickly-sweet mess I expect all banana desserts to be.

So, here goes the picture book :-)

 Peel a frozen banana.

 Chop it up. Then mash it with a fork.

Now, in a wok, melt two teaspoon of butter on the lowest stovetop heat. Swirl the melted butter all around the wok, then gently slide in three teaspoons of flour (I used whole wheat) and stir with a spatula till it begins to turn golden brown. Then, whisk in half a cup of milk. If you like a smoother texture, you can use half heavy cream instead of all milk.

If at any point you think the wok is getting too hot and the mixture might char, take it straight off the flames and do the next few mixings by putting the wok on a cool table-top or stone slab.

 Then, add the mashed banana. Mix well. 

 Pour in a tablespoon of the chocolate sauce. Whisk.

 When it is evenly mixed in, add another two tablespoons (or three!), and mix it in.

The chocolate sauce:
Is tres simple. You take small pieces of dark, semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, top with milk, and heat for about thirty seconds. Given it twenty seconds to stand, then make an even sauce by whisking it.



The biscuits:
No dough required. That's the best part about these biscuits. You just coarsely grind some Marie biscuits, mix in a teaspoon of water to hold it together, then pour tiny, equally spaced heaps on a well greased baking tray. Then, you flatten each heap, so you get a tray full of this:

Bake this at 170/180C for five to ten minutes, till they take on a lovely chocolately shade. Or, you could leave them as-is. I like the slightly toasty flavour of baking ready-to-eat biscuits :-)

Then, you add a generous dollop of the banana-chocolate mousse on each flattened heap. Even it with the back of a spoon, if you have to. Then, pour another tiny heap on each biscuit, and flatten it again. Bake for another ten minutes. Voila! Heavenly banana chocolate biscuits are ready!

You can eat them as-is, or doused in chocolate sauce, or doused in chocolate and then frozen. I love the last option the best :-)


Go on, then. Such an amazingly easy chocolate recipe, aren't you going to give it a try? :-)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Whole Wheat Mushroom/Chicken Pie

Much too late in the season to help farmers, we've been having a spell of cold breezes and rain. Almost overnight, the weather has changed from the daal-bhat-lemon juice kind to the hearty soup type. Which is why I made a version of my savoury chicken pie, much a quicker, much less elaborate one, in a whole wheat crust (recipe for crust here).

It was very very yum.

Now, very quickly, this is what went into the pie, sharp enough to counter the chilly, wet weather. Skinned, cleaned chicken cut into small chunks. You can use meat-on-bone -- it gives the filling a better flavour, I think -- but before putting it into the pie, you'll have to pick out and chuck the bones. The chicken's substitutable with chopped mushrooms, by the way. Now, in a wok, heat a teaspoon of butter or white oil (sunflower, canola/rape seed) over a low heat. When it melts/warms, stir in half an onion, diced; one green chilli, chopped fine; and half an ich of ginger, peeled and minced (two cloves of garlic minced, optional). Keep stirring till fragrant.

Add the chicken, with a little salt, and stir like mad. When the meat changes colour from pink to white to golden-brown, add water (or chicken stock), cover the wok, and simmer till the meat is tender. Add enough water or stock so that when you're done, there's still quite a bit of gravy.

 A small greased earthenware bowl, lined with the crust. Make incisions in it.

 Pour in the filling. See the chilies? And how much gravy there is?

 Now, cover it with another piece of the crust, seal, and make incisions.

 Just baked! The perfect chicken pot-pie in twenty-five minutes!

 With thickened, delicious, savoruy gravy inside. Just the way pies should be, and not the way pies usually are these days, all dried meat pieces within.

Make this quick, people! The weather will not last :-) :-) 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Alooparatha and Aloopuri

When it rains, I like my meals piping hot and savoury.

True, it hasn't been raining as much as July should, but my tastebuds expect fried goodness this time of the year, so the same rice and daal and curries that were delicious just last month seem bland and pointless and vaguely disheartening now.

To soothe them and be nice to myself, I thought I'd make alooparatha. But, my chief complaint about aloo paratha is that it isn't quite as crispy or deep-fried or yummy as my favourite form of the stuffed Indian flatbread -- pooris. Now, I know people say potato is a difficult stuffing to handle when rolling the stuffed pockets of dough out, which is why one should stick to the safer paratha option, but I wasn't going to let a little thing like received wisdom stop me, was I? Not me!

So I didn't, and though the rolling out did take some patience, I had two lovely, lovely golden pooris to prove my point. Here's the picturebook :-)

Boiled and skinned potatoes.

Seasoned with chopped onions, coriander leaves, salt and pepper. One can add more herbs if one likes, and perhaps some ginger, but I stick to the basics.

Mash it all together. 

Roll little bits in between your palms to make smooth potato balls.
Put these inside thick cups of dough, made by mixing whole wheat flour, a little white oil, salt, touch of sugar, and slightly warm water.

Pull up the sides of the cups and seal them together at the top. Now dust it in flour and roll it out carefully.

The rolling needn't be that careful if you're making parathas. Shallow-frying doesn't need a smooth surface.

But deep frying does. Hence the perfectly shaped and carefully rolled-out pooris.

Touch of butter, for autheticity.

A little for the pooris too :-)

Monday, 9 July 2012

Strawberry Mint Jam

I am not a fan of the sweet stuff, unless it's good old milk and cottage-cheese based Bengali sweets. I'm especially averse to sweetness at breakfast. Cornflakes, fancy cereal and jam-on-toast have no place at my table. Indeed, the one time I was gifted a box of rather exotic breakfast cereal, I ate it as dessert. With warm milk and honey. Perfect for lulling you to blissful sleep.

Unfortunately, I don't always have sole and full control over my table. Occasionally, I'm forced to share it with people, and these people take to sugary breakfasts like a parched duck to water. And gradually, in their company, I've learnt to appreciate the delights of such easily-made meals as a glass of milk and homemade fruit-jam on toast.Only, of course, I'm lactose intolerant, so the milk had to go. And the jam-toast comes after my usual savoury breakfast, as a sort of sweet-afters, because there's no way I'm actually breaking fast with a mouthful of sugar.

So then, since it's strawberry season in the northern hemisphere, and strawberries make my favourite kind of jam -- tart, yet sweet, with a refreshing, wake-up-sleepyhead! after-tase -- here's the picturebook for an easy, three-step, homemade strawberry jam! Say goodbye to the preservatives and plastic packets, people!

NOTE: Since strawberries are far from abundant where I now live, I had a friend make me this batch. The shots are from his kitchen.

That's a kilo of strawberries, three large lemons, mint/pudina leaves, and sugar.

Step 1: Clean the leaves, roughly grind them, simmer the coarse paste in hot water in a covered saucepan, drain the infusion, and cool it.

Step 2: Add the cleaned and diced strawberries to a thick-bottomed wok or saucepan (this one's cast iron). Stir as the juices release, and simultaneously mash the softening fruit, so there are no large chunks in the jam. 

Step 3: When most of the strawberries are mashed into a more or less even consistency, raise the heat to medium-high. Let the fruit bubble. When it does, add 2 cups of sugar. Keep stirring till it dissolves. Then, add the juice of two lemons. Fold it in well. Let cook for five minutes. 

Now, taste. Take your time. Blow on the spoon or the edge of the spatula, wherever you test-taste rests, and let it cool till you touch your tongue to it. No point risking your tastebuds. Then, carefully savour the flavour. It is too tart? Is it too sweet? For me, two cups of sugar is usually a little more than enough, but you might like your jam sweeter. Depending upon personal preference, add sugar or lemon juice. When you're happy with the flavour, turn the heat back up. My friend used a candy thermometer (such fancy gadgets these Western kitchens have, eh?) to see if the temp is stabilised at 100C. That's apparently the temp. to aim for, if you want your jam to set*. Let it do the bubbly-boil at this temp. for about ten or twelve minutes.

If you like, to this mass, you can now add a handful of strawberries, diced. It'll give a certain chunky, fresh tartness to your jam :-)

Step 4: Turn off the heat. Let the hot jam cool a little -- say about ten minutes. Then, pour the mint extract into it, and mix thoroughly, and very quickly. Transfer the jam to clean mason jars, leaving about two inches of air at the top. Seal the jars. My great aunt said it's a good idea to put the mason jars in a jolshora -- or a water-bath -- before you scoop the jam into it, but I've done it without the jolshora, and my jar hasn't exploded, so I suppose you could skip if you like. Put the jars straight into the fridge!

Homemade strawberry mint jam on toast. As delicious as it gets!

This basic recipe works equally well for other berries and fruits, but use the mint judiciously. It's not a flavour that goes well with everything. But before the summer's over, do give your own jam a try. It's easy, relatively quick, and makes for lovely and thoughtful gifts :-)

*About setting though, be warned. Organic strawberry jam will never achieve a wobbly, jelly-like consistency unless you add things to it you probably shouldn't be feeding yourself. A good way of testing for setting, my friend said, is to put a plat in the fridge, then drop a teaspoon of bubbling jam on this plate, and put it back in the fridge. If it sets in a minute, your jam is done! Ta-daaa! If not, let it boil till it does. Twelve to fifteen minutes does it.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Red Bean Burger

Now that red meat is officially off my diet -- except maybe the occasional mutton biryani -- I had to hunt down reasonable substitutes for my tikias/tikkas and burgers (which, when you think about it, are basically the same things, only the former are seasoned better, and therefore far more delicious :-). Anyway, beans/daal are the most obvious animal protein sub., and since I had a handful of rajma (red kidney beans) leftover from... oh, I don't know, months ago, I decided to sacrifice them to the cause.


First, as always -- and especially in these  times of elevated chemical-content in produce and grocery -- I washed the rajma thoroughly, and then left them soaking from early morning till after lunch in hot water. Not warm. Hot. Bubbly-boiling water. Why should you do this? You should do this because taking chances is silly. The second-last batch of rajma I made tasted slightly bitter. The smell was a bit off, too. So when I made it again, I stopped right the rajma has been pressure-cooked to softness, and smelt the soupy bean-stock. And yes, there was that extra-dark brown colour you couldn't get naturally, the odd, un-placeable smell. So I chucked the stock, washed the beans thoroughly, and started from scratch. This time onwards, I was going to carefully right from the outset.

So! You soak well-washed beans in hot water. If you can remember to do this, drain this water after a few hours, give the beans another quick wash, and soak them in warmish or room-temp. water till late afternoon. Then, when the beans are plump and shiny, follow the steps below :-)

Lightly saute minced ginger, garlic and thinly-sliced red onion in a teaspoon of mustard oil, on a low flame. Add the washed and soaked beans to the pot/pressure cooker, toss, add water, and cook till they're soft.

Test the tenderness of beans with a fork. They must be mushy enough to be mashed.

Follow through to the logical conclusion. Mash them.

Mix in salt, a boiled potato, half a teaspoon of cumin powder, and chopped green chilies. But you can leave the last out if you don't like 'em.

Pat them into standard burger/tikia shapes, not too thick, or the insides will remain all bland boiled beans and potato.

Either grill them, or fry them on a lightly greased skillet. Unless you're exceptionally healthy and on a regular exercise regimen, please use white oil.

The tikias! Now, you can eat these straight away with a salad, or sprinkled with lemon juice. They're delicious!

Or, you could cut yourself a couple of slices from a ripe, firm tomato, slice through the middle of a (toasted) bun.

[Lather it with cream cheese or mayo :-] Layer the tomatoes on top of it.

Top with the tikia/burger. [Similarly lather the other half of the bun]

Maybe add some onions. And cucumber. And lettuce. And pickles. And whatever else you want.

[Maybe even a pat of that cream-cheese or mayo]

Aaaaaand, voila! Your totally healthy, no-cheese, no-mayo [brackets not included], tomato-and-other-veggie-laden burger is ready. 
If you're going to complain about the potato in the mix, go run yourself a mile after you've stuffed one of these down your gullet. It's good for you.

All the rest of you happy people, save this recipe. You might have thought the old rajma had no future beyond rajma-chawal or the occasional hearty, soupy winter dish, but man. I'm telling you. It makes a killer tikia. If you're vegetarian for ethno-religious reasons and can't bring yourself to bite into a standard-issue meat-inna-bun, but (rightly) despise the aloo-tikia they serve in the burger-chains instead, make yourself a whole batch of these burgers and freeze 'em. They're incredibly handy, fry in under two minutes, and are a filling and lip-smacking meal in less than five. Especially if you stuff the bun with crisp, fresh vegetables. 

Also, for the worker-bees and parents of school-going children: this makes an amazing packed lunch. Try it! You'll keep coming back to it :-)