Khao Lak contd. | Thai Green Curry with Chicken and eggplants

As I begin to recollect my Khao Lak experience, reports of a strong earthquake and a Tsunami warning come flashing in all over the news media. A sense of panic struck. Considering I was there just over a week ago made matters worse. All I hoped for was the damage to be minimal and the tsunami averted.

I breathed a sigh of relief once the Tsunami warnings were lifted and reports confirmed that things were under control.

The joy of idling away an entire day by the beach knows no bounds. The clock stops ticking. Hunger takes a back seat. It almost feels like every part of your body is on that much needed vacation!

We continue our little party at the poolside bar. The poolside bar is one of the best places to hangout in this resort. The cocktails are inviting but the part I enjoyed most was sitting on the bar stools inside the pool. There is something so casual and refreshing about it.

Later that evening, we took a so-called taxi (songthaew in Thai) to explore the Khao Lak market. It’s a rather small market area with rows of individual shops. In particular, I was interested in a boutique shop named ‘Kanyarak’, after reading about it online. All the desperate attempts to find the shop were futile. Frustrated, we decided to stop for a drink. As luck would have it, the shop I was looking for was right opposite the restaurant where we stopped for a drink. ‘Kanyarak’ has an impressive collection of designer stainless steel cutlery and dining ware (no plates though!). Be sure to carry enough cash or a credit card if you intend to shop 🙂

On the last day, we spent the afternoon at the ‘White Sand beach’, a 20 min songthaew ride from our Resort. The beach holds true to its name. Although it has its share of tourists, it is still less crowded than the Resort. The shacks at the entrance of this beach where the songthaew dropped us, serves some really authentic and spicy Thai food. Undoubtedly, the best we had in our trip.

We concluded our vacation with the last few hours spent at the spa, bringing us to the end of an absolutely gastronomical and rejuvenating retreat.

As the old adage goes: a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a snapshot of some of the heavenly food we had during our trip.

Green Curry Chicken or Keng Khiao Wan Gai Recipe

I wouldn’t shy before concluding that Green curry or Kaeng khiao wan is one of the most popular Thai Curries across the world. The main reason for such universal appeal, in my opinion, is the ever-so-faithful combination of all the different herbs and spices used to make the Green Curry paste as well as the fact that it is mostly a mild curry.

Be forewarned: My version is on the spicy side of the spectrum. Please tone it down by reducing the number of chillies or use less-hot chillies in your Green Curry Paste if you prefer a mild curry.

Some restaurants like to add carrots and potatoes in this curry. I am not too big a fan of that in this context. Mine is a simple version with baby eggplants and green round eggplants. You may want to add more vegetables as you like.

Serves: 4

To print this recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

Green Curry Paste: 4 tblsp [To make it at home: Refer to my previous post : How to make Green Curry paste]
Boneless chicken: 300 gms (sliced into 2″ pcs)
Low fat Coconut milk: 2 1/2 cups (substituted by:  1 & 1/2 cups of coconut cream and 1/2 cup of water)
Kaffir lime leaves: 10 – each leaf roughly torn in two (tearing these leaves gives an  instantaneous aroma)
Galangal (Thai Ginger): 1″ pc, lightly crushed
Sweet Basil leaves: a big handful
Baby egg plants: 1/2 cup; Stem removed and washed.
Small round green egg plants: 5 (can be substituted with any other egg plant): Cut into quarters
Oil: 1 tbsp
Palm sugar: 2 tsp
Fish sauce: 1 tbsp or more depending on your preference

For Garnish:
1 big red Thai chilli (remove seeds and cut into thin strips)
3-4 tsp of coconut milk

How I did it:

Heat oil in a deep bottomed dish. Add the green curry paste and fry for 3 mins on medium-low heat.

Next, add 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Continue to cook until the coconut milk is almost assimilated into the green curry paste (5 mins).

Next add the chicken and fry for 2 mins until the chicken is nicely coated with the curry paste and begins to turn white. Now add the remaining 2 cups of coconut milk. Let it boil on medium heat for about 5 mins.

If using coconut cream, use 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk in all. Add 1 cup water. Coconut cream is thick in consistency so adding water helps to achieve the desired consistency.
Add the eggplants followed by palm sugar, torn lime leaves, galangal and 1 tbsp of fish sauce. Fish sauce is salty so make sure you taste the curry before adding more.

Note: the shrimp paste already has salt. So, if you have added shrimp paste in your green curry paste, do not add too much fish sauce at first. Let it cook for another 5 mins on medium heat. Stir in between. Do not overcook the eggplants as they become too mushy when overcooked.

Cooking Green Curry Chicken

When almost done, check the seasoning. Adjust palm sugar and fish sauce as per your liking.

Once done, turn off the heat. Add a handful of sweet basil leaves. Give it a good stir.

Garnish with a swirl of coconut milk and red chilli strips. Enjoy with steamed rice.

A beach vacation in Khao Lak | ..and Thai Green Curry paste

R & I are always looking for reasons to travel. Both of us love traveling but our motivations are different. Yet, one thing unites us : FOOD !

A well-planned but badly executed surprise holiday was in the making. It was R’s birthday last weekend.

At first, a dear friend spilled the beans – Phuket! I dodged that one somehow because we were going to Khao Lak, 1.5 hours drive from the Phuket airport. And then it was me – a terrible case of ‘slip of tongue’ 😦 So, just before the trip started, R knew exactly where we were going. And I cursed myself for it !

We landed very late that night. A prearranged car and driver was waiting for us at the Phuket airport. In my far-from-perfect-Thai, I explained to the driver that we were hungry! He took us to a small eatery nearby selling Khao Man Gai (Thai Chicken Rice). Khao Man Gai brought back memories of my university days in Bangkok. It was a standard meal for the times when I needed to have a quick lunch in between classes. Lost in nostalgia, I had an extra plate of chicken and two bowls of soup !

Our resort, Ramada Khao Lak, was a solitude by the beaches far from the madness of Phuket. The room was tastefully furnished with modern fixtures, a fancy jacuzzi indoors and sun-loungers in the balcony – perfect for a romantic vacation.

We were here to unwind and soak in every bit of sea, sand and sun.

The sun-loungers by the beach were highly sought after. We were almost always the last takers. As the boys played in the sun, I sat there listening to the sound of the sea. My mind drifting along with the whoosh-whash of the waves. I couldn’t help but imagine the plight of the many people who were here, just like us, more than 7 years ago when the giant Tsunami hit the Asian subcontinent. Khao Lak was one of the worst affected areas. I shuddered as images of those giant killer waves kept flashing in my mind…

After a couple of hours, we headed to the nearby shacks for lunch. What a treat that was! Tom Yam Prawns, Basil Chicken, Papaya salad, Spicy Noodles, and more – all phed phed (extra spicy). And some chilled Singha Beer to cool us down 🙂

As the sun went down, we strolled to the nearby local weekend market. What better way to experience a place than to shop and eat where the locals do ! One street dedicated to fresh spices and herbs, another to street food and yet another to the 199-Baht clothes and souvenir shops. The aroma of fresh basil, mint, coriander, lemon grass, galangal and lime leaves are enough to give anyone hunger pangs! As we just about managed to get past that, the most vibrant, innovative street food awaited us – Smoked pork balls, coconut pancakes, fried chicken, Stick noodles (Phad Thai) and much more! Needless to say, we kept sampling all the food as we walked along.

V chose an Angry Bird t-shirt for himself, which by the way he calls ‘bad birds’. Soon our little boy was getting cranky. It was dinner time. We were in the mood for something authentic, and not toned down for ‘foreigners’. A small Thai family restaurant down the road was the unanimous choice. They made a Stir Fried Prawn and Vegetable dish for V – Thai style but without chillies and he loved it! We had our share of everything spicy – fried fish, garlic chicken, stir fried prawns, stir fried vegetables and a yum load of sauces to go with it!

A little bit of pampering in the spa was exactly what we needed to end this long and tiring day.

More on the vacation in my next post for fear of exceeding the word count limit, if any!


To give myself a continued sense of that perfect beach vacation and to celebrate my love for Thai food,  I wanted to share one of my all time favorite curry recipes. I first made the curry paste and then used it to make a curry. I will share the curry recipe in the next post.

How to make Green Curry Paste:

To print this recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

Shallots: 8
Thai Garlic: 15 cloves
Lemon grass: 3 stalks
Galangal: 1 ½ “ pc
Fresh Green Peppercorns: 10 pc
Kaffir Lime rind: of ½ a lime
Thai Green chillies: 15
Sweet Basil leaves: 1 cup
Coriander seeds: 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Shrimp paste: 3 tsp

How I did it:

Dry roast the cumin and coriander in a pan on low heat. This may take about 3-4 mins. Let it cool.

Finely slice the galangal (or Thai ginger) and shallots. Wash the Thai garlic thoroughly. If using Thai garlic, you can keep the skin. If using any other garlic, peel the skin first.

Smash the end of the lemon grass stalk with the back of a knife (white in color). Finely slice the white portion, discarding the green stalk.

Using a mortar and pestle, finely pound the dry roasted coriander and cumin seeds. Take it out and keep aside in a bowl.

Now pound the galangal and kaffir lime rind until smooth. Add the finely sliced lemon grass and green peppercorn and pound.

When done, add the green chillies, pound well until a smooth paste is formed. Next add the garlic and shallots and pound thoroughly. Finally, add the shrimp paste, sweet basil and pound until the mixture forms a fine paste.

Notes:

  • For a vegetarian version, skip the shrimp paste.
  • Alternatively, you could grind all the ingredients in a food processor instead of using the mortar and pestle. Though, I believe that the aromas and flavors that come out in pounding cannot be replicated by a food processor.

Spicy Tomato Chutney

It was a very special day. Two weeks ago, K, a very close friend, had a beautiful baby girl.

K & I have known each other since high school. Although we spent only 2 years together, the friendship that we shared was one that will be with us for a lifetime.

As little school girls, we would talk endlessly about anything and everything under the sun! I don’t know what inspired us to talk about so much, but we just did. We were always running out of time but never out of conversation.

We had so many things in common, including the guys we liked;-) But, nothing, not even that mattered.

When I left for Bangkok, K & I decided that we’d keep a diary & write about our new lives. This was the pre-internet boom era. Overseas phone calls were simply unaffordable!

Six months later, we exchanged our diaries. When we look back, we laugh about it. As a young girl embarking on a strange new world with no friends in a foreign land, that diary was the only friend I had for many months.

Two decades later, I am on the phone with her again. It is the night before she is due to be admitted in the hospital for her baby’s delivery. She is anxious about one of the most important milestones in her life – just how I was was on the night before V was born. Emotions flow. As we continue talking, I know that of all the conversations we have had since I have known her, this one will be etched in our memories forever. I know that tomorrow the moon will  be a little bigger, a little rounder, a little shinier, to welcome the most beautiful baby to this world…

Moving on to today’s recipe..

Spicy Tomato Chutney:

A flavorful Chutney made by roasting tomatoes, ginger and garlic together and spicing it up with chillies (fresh and dry) along with other spices.

To print this recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

For roasting:
450 gms tomatoes (roughly 5 medium – big tomatoes)
Garlic: 5 cloves
Ginger: thick 1 inch pc
Mustard oil: a drizzle for roasting

Other ingredients:
2 dried red chillies: roasted in a pan until the outside is dark (about 3-4 mins) – use only 1 if you don’t want it to be too spicy.
Fresh green chillies: 3 (use less if you don’t want it to be too spicy).
Coriander leaves: chopped 1 1/2 – 2 cups
Onion: 1 cup chopped (roughly 1 medium sized)
1 tsp of roasted cumin powder
Lemon juice: 1 tbsp
Mustard oil: 1 tbsp to add to the chutney
Black salt: ½ tsp
Regular Salt: to taste.

How I did it:

  • Pre-heat oven at 250 deg for 15 mins.
  • Roast the tomatoes, ginger and garlic with a drizzle of mustard oil in the oven at 250 deg or higher for 20 mins until the tomatoes start to turn brown-black.

  • Dry roast the dried red chillies on medium-low heat in a pan (3-4 mins), stirring continuously. It should get darker. Once it cools, roughly break the dry red chillies with your finger tips into smaller pcs.
  • When the tomatoes are done, remove the skin of the tomatoes. Mash the tomatoes and the garlic with the back of a spoon/fork. Chop the roasted ginger. Add to the mashed tomatoes & garlic.
  • Next, add all the remaining ingredients listed above including the dry red chillies prepared above.
  • Combine everything with a spoon. Spicy Tomato Chutney is ready.

Enjoy this Spicy Tomato Chutney as a side with Roti and Jungli Mutton or as a side with any other meal.

For a less spicy Chutney:
The green chillies & red chillies in the proportion used make it very spicy and I love it this way. If you don’t like spicy food, tone down the chillies or remove the seeds first before adding them. Use 1 dry red chilli and 1 green chilli.

Spiced Raw Banana or Plantain Kofta | ..and a cup of joy!

Hello World!

Last week, my post on Avocado Chutney got Freshly Pressed! I was overjoyed and anxious, all at the same time. For all of you who visited this space and liked what they read, a BIG Thank You and a warm welcome!:-)

Starbucks: a cup of joy & a hint of guilt

I am not employed by Starbucks nor related to them in any form, living or dead. These are the personal views of someone who has spent a lot of guilt $ here over the past decade.

I know there are lots of people out there who’ll probably stop reading this post right about now as they are about to realize: I  ♥ my latte! What’s the fuss about anyway? Could it be that extra buck I spend here vs. the not-so-glitzy local café? Or is it that bright smile from the lady over the counter at 9 am, when you wish you were in your pajamas snoozing but you’ve just about managed to drag yourself to work? Or that extra attention you get when they know exactly what you want from a mile away?  Perhaps, the warm and earthy ambiance draws me to itself, giving me a dreamy sense of ‘coffee in the woods’. Or their effort to more than make up for something they’ve grossly messed up! I don’t have the answer, but there’s something about that cozy space which gives me a cup of joy!

I am not all that naive. I do a reality check every now and then. The verdict is out. One latte a week. Two, if I’ve done a good deed during the week.

But, how do I avoid the other twenty seven times I see the twin-tailed mermaid looking back at me? Inviting me for my cup of joy? I am determined. But, as days go by, my determination fades. I miss the Siren and the warmth and joy she brings…

I give in.

And history repeats itself… 🙂

Today’s recipe is a traditional recipe made in many homes across India – mainly in the states of Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal. I have made a couple of versions of this curry at home but this is my favorite! Raw Bananas / Plantains are boiled, mixed with spices, and made into table-tennis ball like shapes which are then deep-fried (known as kofta). Alternatively, they can be made into patties for a less-oil version. The curry is made with a combination of onion, tomato, ginger, garlic and dry spices together with almond paste for a subtle sweetness. The koftas are then soaked in the curry and with a little garnish, this dish is all yours to enjoy.

Raw Bananas and Plantains are used interchangeably by many. Both belong to the Banana family, though plantains are generally tougher and therefore take a little longer (up to 10 mins extra) to boil. I have used both and both work just fine.

Spiced Raw Banana Kofta (Kache Kele ka Kofta / Kachkolar Kofta):

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click  here.

There are 3 steps to this recipe –:

I – Raw Banana / Plantain balls (koftas) OR raw banana patties/tikkis – The choice is YOURS!
II – Preparing the Curry
III – Serving this dish

Serves: 4
(Makes about 10-12 koftas/tikkis/patties)

Step I – Raw Banana / Plantain Koftas / Patties:

Ingredients:

(Makes 10-12 pcs)

Raw banana or Plantain – 2 pcs
Potato – 1 small-medium sized
Onion: 3/4 cup, finely chopped
Ginger: Grated 1 tbsp
Green chillies: 2 – chopped fine (adjust to your own spice tolerance level)
Chilli powder: 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder : 1/2 tsp
Aamchoor powder: 1 tsp (available in Indian stores)
Coriander powder: ½ tsp
Cumin powder: ½ tsp
Salt: to taste
Regular cooking oil: for deep frying koftas (a lot!) OR pan-frying patties/tikkis (2-3 tblsp in a non-stick pan)

How I did it:

  • Cut each raw banana or plantain into 3 pcs – roughly 1.5″ – 2″ per pc, with the skin intact. Throw away the edges.
  • Boil the raw bananas in a pot of water, almost covered with water. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric while boiling. Cover and let it boil on low-medium heat until done. Boil for approximately 25 mins and check. Pierce with a fork to check if it has softened. When it’s done, the fork should go through easily.

Plantain usually takes about 35-40 mins to boil as they are tougher whereas medium sized raw bananas should be done in 30 mins. They should be cooked soft but not mushy / overcooked.

  • When done, run it through tap water so that it cools down. Remove skin. It should come off very easily.
  • Meanwhile, boil 1 potato. Peel and keep it aside.
  • In a deep bowl, mash the raw bananas using your fingers or a spoon. Add the boiled potato and mash it too. Ensure it is mashed well.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients and combine together.

I love this dish and can’t wait for an occasion to have it! At the same time, the koftas are traditionally deep fried and that doesn’t suit my every day cooking. So, I make patties when I have it for regular meals. On special occasions, I make the deep fried koftas.

For Koftas:

  • To make the koftas, take table tennis ball sized portions of the above mixture in your palm. Give it an even round shape. Depending on the size of the bananas / plantains used, you can easily come up with 10-12 pcs.
  • Next, heat sufficient oil in a deep dish or kadhai to deep-fry the koftas.

Make sure the oil is hot before you start frying. You may need to heat the oil on medium heat for up to 2 mins. Put only 1 pc at first to make sure the koftas don’t break while frying. If you feel that the banana mixture is too mushy, you can add 1-2 tbsp of besan (chickpea flour) in the mixture to bind it. To avoid the koftas from sticking to one another, space out putting the koftas by 30 seconds so that they are a little fried before the next one comes in. Do not overcrowd the kadhai / frying pan.

For Patties (Tikkis):

  • To make raw banana patties, take the same portion of the banana mixture as for the kofta (a table tennis ball size). Make a nice round at first and flatten it. Use your palm and fingers to give it an even patty-like shape.
  • In a non-stick pan, heat 2-3 tblsp of oil. Add the patties and let it cook on low heat until cooked. Turn over to make sure it is cooked / browned on both sides

This can also be served as an appetizer along with some coriander & mint chutney. I’ll leave the chutney recipe for another day.

Step II – Preparing the Curry:

Ingredients:

Cinnamon : 1 thin stick
Bay leaves: 2 small
Cardamom: 2-3 (pods only)
Whole black pepper: 6
Any cooking oil: 2 tblsp
Almonds: 7-8 pcs soaked for at least 10 mins in hot water. Remove skin. Add a little bit of water to grind to a thick but smooth paste.
Onion: 1 cup – Finely  chopped (1 medium sized)
Ginger paste: 1 tblsp
Garlic paste: 1 tblsp
Tomatoes: 1 medium sized – Ground to a paste.
Green chillies – 2 whole (optional)
Salt: to taste

In a bowl, make a thick paste of the following dry spices by adding very little water:
Coriander powder: ½ tsp
Cumin powder: 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder (optional): 1/4 tsp

How I did it :

  • Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan/kadhai. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cardamom pods and whole black pepper. Fry for about 30-40 secs on low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Add chopped onions. Fry on low-medium heat until brownish.
  • Add ginger and garlic paste. Fry for another 1-2 mins, until combined well. If it starts to stick on the bottom, sprinkle a little bit of water and scrape it off, blending it into the masala.
  • Add the thick spice paste prepared with coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric & chilli. Continue frying for another 2 mins.
  • Add the tomato paste and salt. Fry until the tomatoes are fully cooked and the masala becomes a lumpy mass, darker in color than how it started. It should also look glossy as the oil starts to surface on the masala. (approx 12 mins on low heat).
  • Add the almond paste and continue for another 5 mins. The almond paste should have combined well with the rest of the masalas and the favors integrated well to make our curry.
  • Once you have achieved that, add about 400 ml of water (preferably, boiling water as it speeds up the cooking process). Once the curry starts boiling, cover and let it boil on low-medium heat for another 10 mins, stirring occasionally. Check for salt and spices. At this point, you can add the whole green chillies, if you wish. The curry should be thicker in consistency at the end of this process.
  • Turn off the heat.

Step III – Serving this dish:

Ingredients for Garnishing:

Red chillies: 1. Remove seeds and cut in thin strips
Fresh cream: 2-3 tsp
OR
Coriander leaves chopped: a handful

How I did it:

    • Start preparing to serve this dish about 10-15 mins prior to actual serving. Use a serving dish that is flat so that the koftas can be placed without overcrowding.
    • In the serving dish, place the koftas/tikkis/patties.
    • Heat the curry prepared above to make sure it is piping hot! Turn off the heat.
    • Pour the hot curry over the kofta. Be careful not to spill over as the curry should be very hot at this point. Make sure that the koftas are almost submerged in the curry. Let the koftas soak for at least 10-15 mins, covered.
    • If you find the dish is not warm enough when you are ready to eat, microwave it for 1-2 mins immediately after soaking.
    • Once the soaking is complete, garnish with fresh cream and thin strips of de-seeded red chillies. Alternatively, you could garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
    • Enjoy the koftas with steamed rice.

Too little soaking and the curry doesn’t go inside the koftas. Too much soaking and you’ll have very crumbly koftas. Therefore, the process of serving this dish is very important to make sure you serve the the koftas that you’ve worked so hard to make!

If the bananas were boiled nice and soft, soak them for 10 mins before serving. If bananas feel hard after you’ve mashed and made your koftas, soak for up to 20 mins before serving.

Junglee Mutton: Holi special

Around this time of the year, every year, I am overwhelmed by nostalgia. It is Holi (the festival of colors).

I close my eyes as I travel back in time to the shelter of my parent’s home.

Life is beautiful.

It is the eve of Holi. I have been waiting for this day and so have my other little friends. Ma is busy preparing sweets and savories – ‘gujiya’ and ‘maalpua’ are a tradition. Papa has bought abeer (colors for Holi) and a pichkari (water gun) to be shared by the four kids in the house. The evening is spent in making the crucial decision: which clothes have we outgrown and are ready to discard this Holi?

As night falls, a bright day of color, food and pure bliss beckons.

Sunrise brings along with it great cheer. We’ve never been happier to wake up early and probably the only time in the year before Ma wants us to wake up. She has to finish cooking before the festivities begin. Ma is a little nervous. She needs to make sure that there is enough food for all visitors.

It is mandatory that the first thing to do before stepping out of the house is to give ourselves a good rub with generous amounts of oil to prevent our skin from getting stained with the colors of Holi. Though secretly I always wished the color stains remained, at least for the next day or two. It was the mark of a Holi, well played.

A knock on the door… and a world of color, water, fun, friends, food and madness begins!

A swarm of people knocking on every door, their faces daubed with bright colors. Red. Blue. Green. Yellow. Pink. Buckets of water splashed all over… and today, that only brings smiles to people’s faces. The crowd echoing in one voice “Holi Hai”!! (It is Holi). The gujiyas, maal puas and dahi vadas do the rounds as do namkeen and mithais (savories and sweets) from every home. Uncles and Aunties from around the neighborhood gather, all in festive spirits. They are an extended family. We smear their faces with color and they do the same along with countless blessings and much love. It is one day where happiness knows no bounds.

At some point in the day, the children and adults part ways for their own celebrations. We loved that part just as much as the adults did.

This day knew no squabbles. Only mended friendships, love and laughter..

As if customary, we almost always ended this colorful, hot day with a dip, a jump, a splash in the big reservoir in our neighborhood. We spend hours there. Basking in the glory of the day gone by. Almost in oblivion. Probably creating a memory which will last us a lifetime…

Junglee Mutton:

Ma always prepares mutton on this special day. It’s a tradition that has been followed in our family for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried to keep the tradition, though this is not the traditional family recipe. In due course, that shall be shared too.

Junglee Mutton, as the name suggests, is a recipe from the wild! A recipe predominantly in the kitchens of the royal families of India. As the name suggests, this dish was prepared in the wild by shikaris (hunters) when out in the wild, hunting. Originally, made with wild boar, these days it is prepared with mutton.

I thank Raja Shailendra Singh of Chandapur for introducing me to this wonderful preparation of mutton during my first trip to Lucknow. This is my humble attempt to recreate a dish that I absolutely fell in love with from the very first bite.

Do not go by the simplicity of this recipe and the lack of exotic ingredients. If you love mutton and like it hot & spicy, this dish is all yours!

To print this Recipe, click here.

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

Mutton: 600 gms
Dried hot red chillies: 15 – 20 pcs (yes, you got that right!)
Salt: as per taste
Mustard oil: 2 1/2 tbsp
Water

A heavy bottomed pot / or a kadhai

How I did it:

Wash the mutton. Make sure there are some bones as they add to the flavor of the dish. Add salt and a tbsp of mustard oil and leave it for an hour or so in room temperature.


In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the remaining mustard oil to a smoking hot temperature. Make sure you bring the oil to smoking point. Let the smoke come out. Remove from fire.

Add the marinated mutton into the pot. Cover and cook. Stirring in between every 5 mins on medium-high heat. After 15 minutes, add the dried red chillies.

Add water throughout the cooking process, a ladle at a time, making sure that the mutton remains moist – neither boiling nor dry. Adjust the heat, if necessary to achieve this. This is important to make sure the final dish is moist and well cooked.

Cover and continue cooking following the method above until mutton is soft. It took me almost 2 hours to cook this dish. Serve hot with Roti.

Note:

I used about 750 ml of water, adding a ladle at a time and cooking with the pot covered most of the time. You may need more or less, depending on the heat used.

To a refreshing 2012: Avocado Chutney

After a 3-month hiatus, I am back to the blogosphere with plenty of good wishes for a belated but very Happy & refreshing 2012 to all. I hope the year has been good so far and you are looking forward to the rest of the year.

In the beginning of the year, a friend said that 2012 is a year of change. I made fun of him then, but I get a feeling – he is going to be right.

For me, 2012 kicked off in a memorable way. V started school this year. Play school – but a school nevertheless. He was excited about going to school and that was a good sign. I really didn’t expect him to be shy. I was more worried about the other kids as my little one can be too friendly at times and this goes beyond the social norms of what is acceptable as friendly. How do you teach your little ones to behave in the most “adult” like ways. Shake hands (don’t hug someone you just met 5 minutes ago… because that’s socially frowned upon). At the same time, we hug our kids at every opportunity we get. I tell him not to give instructions to other kids (the poor guy is just doing what he is told) because we should let other people be & honestly because it’s not what is expected of a kid his age. Other kids have their own parents to instruct them! Ironical, isn’t it?

I often wonder about the true meaning of the word ‘parenting’. I wish it were as simple as providing the best environment for our kids to turn out to be the smartest in every sphere of life – it is not. Is it us trying to be good parents or is it our kids teaching us how to be good parents – instinctively through their innocence? They inspire us to introspect. They make us want to be a better person – someone they will feel proud to have as their Parent.

It goes beyond the relationship shared between our children and us. It is also a constant reminder of our parents’ journey to get us to where we are today…

Leaving you with that thought and looking forward to your views, it’s time to talk about the refreshing Avocado chutney.

This one doesn’t have a very long history. When we were growing up in India, Avocado was something I’d never seen or heard of. However, I am told that it is readily available now, at least in the metros. This version of the chutney originated in my big sis’ home in Vancouver & it’s traveled a long way since. It’s been shared with friends and has become a part of their daily meals as well.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here.

Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:

Avocado: 2 (approx 300 gms)
Onion: ½ medium sized finely chopped
Ginger: 1 tsp (optional)
Garlic: 1/2 tsp (optional)
Green chillies: 2-3 finely chopped
Coriander leaves: 2 heaped tbsp chopped
Lime juice: 1 ½ tbsp
Roasted cumin powder: ½ tsp
Salt: to taste
Mustard oil: 1 tsp (can be replaced with Olive oil)

How I did it:

When you buy avocado from the market, you will most likely need to leave it outside the fridge for 2-3 days to ripen. This ensures that the avocado is soft and easy to mash. You can feel the softness by pressing on the outside. Once it is ripe, store it in the fridge. As a word of caution, do not leave it out for too long !

Now cut the avocado from the middle, as shown in the picture. Pull out the halves by twisting the 2 halves in opposite direction. Next, scoop the avocado out from the skin using a spoon. If the avocado is ripe, it will come off quite clean.

Using the back of a fork, mash the avocado in a bowl. I have used a blender to do this job but I prefer using the fork because the pulp is so soft that blending in makes it into a paste. I like its buttery and nutty texture and using a fork preserves that texture.

Now add the chopped onions, ginger, garlic, chillies, coriander leaves, roasted cumin powder and salt.

Finish it with lime juice and a drizzle of mustard oil for that extra zing! Mix all the ingredients with a spoon. Adjust the seasoning as per your taste.

Notes:

  • Avocado tends to brown very quickly and lime juice helps to maintain it’s vibrant color. Prepare this dish closer to the time when you want to eat it or the avocado may turn brown.
  • I like the taste of raw ginger and garlic in the above proportions. If you do not like the taste of raw ginger or garlic, you can skip it or alter the proportions.
  • If you do not like the flavor of mustard oil, use olive oil instead. I used olive oil for my little one when he was younger. Now he’s gotten used to the flavor of mustard oil too 😉

Enjoy it as a side with any meal!

Spicy Tofu / Paneer cubes with lime leaves (Tahu Goreng)

What I needed:

Garlic – few pods
Change of clothes – 1
Shower essentials (tap, soap, etc.)
A small stool
Mop – 1
Patience – in abundance

You may or may not need the above items – I did.

While I was preparing this dish, I had my 2 and a ½ year old inquisitive son (V) on my case. He seems to have already developed a strange affinity for the kitchen. He already narrates & demonstrates his own recipes and all of them end up seasoned with salt and pepper:)

At first, I struggled to find the right spot to photograph my ingredients. Just when I thought I sorted that one out, V dashed in super excited looking at all the food and equipment and wanted to help (they always want to help!). He was tasked to peel garlic. Instantly, he loved the task he was assigned. He felt like a grown up. He was proud to help me as if I had bestowed upon him, the biggest responsibility of his lifetime. He got on with the task which meant, I got on with mine. To my surprise, he did a pretty neat job with the garlic!

I made some progress with the tofu dish. I was satisfied.

If only, 2 and half year olds could sustain their happiness by peeling garlic! My happiness was short-lived. When we started cooking, little did I know that I was just going to witness a tantrum that will become worthy of an honorable post on my blog.

I washed my hands to start cooking. V saw me. Of course, he wanted to do it too! Under normal circumstances, I would carry him to ‘make him taller’ and let him wash his hands by himself. I really wanted to get on with the cooking, so I put a stool for him to stand on and wash his own hands with the expectation that he would be engaged in his own little venture for some time. Ten minutes later, he still wanted to wash his hands! I explained that we should not waste water (logic usually works!). I attempted to distract him. I tried to entice him with his bath toys and all the fun he could possibly have in the bath. Nothing worked! He was focused. Like most kids his age, he knew what he wanted! What followed was a 1-hour episode that resulted in leaking underpants and a pee trail that went from the living room to the bedroom. Thankfully, the kitchen was spared.

In the end, I lifted him up and took him to the shower. I thought that could help because honestly, nothing was helping. Instead, he got more agitated. His tantrums peaked. He was uncontrollable. I reminded myself constantly of that one single virtue every parent should have, patience.

I poured water on his head against his will in the hope that it will cool him down. Suddenly, there was silence as the water splashed on his head, straightening his hair, running through his eyes and face. He looked calm and he was not crying. What seemed like a never-ending ordeal had finally come to an end.

I could finally get back to making and clicking my Spicy Tofu cubes.

Our helper, D, makes this Indonesian/Malay recipe. This is my version of it. D usually deep fries the tofu and I have a natural aversion for anything deep fried in my regular cooking. In addition, it makes the tofu cubes lose all the moisture from inside. So, my version has stir fried Tofu / Paneer.

To print this recipe, click here.

(Serves 3 to 4)

Ingredients:

Firm Tofu: 250 gms
(Alternatively, you could use Paneer and follow the same recipe. I make it interchangeably and it works just fine).
Dried red chillies: 20 – 25 depending on the size of the chillies
Garlic: 3 pods
Galangal (or Thai Ginger): ½ inch pc
Kaffir lime leaves: 6, torn
Long / String beans: 6 cut into 2” long pcs
Sugar: ½ tsp
Salt: to taste
Oil: 3 tbsp

How I did it:

Cut the dried red chillies into 2. Shake it off so that the seeds come out. Throw the seeds away. Add hot water enough to soak the red chillies and microwave it for 15 seconds. You can also soak it in hot water for 10 minutes. This will soften the dried red chillies. Now wash the chillies under running water gently rubbing it and removing any seeds you can. This step is important to ensure that the chilli paste does not become overly spicy.

There are many varieties of Tofu available in the market. Use the “firm” tofu to make this dish. If you use tofu that is soft or silk tofu, the tofu will crumble. If you do not have tofu and assuming you have paneer (or Indian home made cheese), use that instead. Cut the tofu / paneer into 1” cubes. Rub some salt on this Tofu and keep aside.

Pound garlic using a mortar and pestle.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a non-stick pan. Add the tofu cubes and lightly fry it until gets a light brownish color. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the pound garlic. Stir fry for 30 seconds on low heat. Add the sliced onions and sugar. Soften the onions on medium heat stirring frequently (approx. 5 mins). Add the chilli paste (about 3 tbsp) and salt. Cook the chilli paste on slow heat until the oil separates. This may take up to 10 mins. Once done, add the Galangal to this mix. Stir for another 2 mins.

Add 1/3 cup water to moisten this paste. Next, add the long beans and cook it on medium heat stirring occasionally. If it is dry, add some more water (3 – 4 tbsp). Remember that the long beans should be crunchy and not overcooked.

Now add the pan fried tofu / paneer cubes along with the torn kaffir lime leaves.

Combine everything together to ensure that the tofu / paneer is uniformly coated with the chilli paste. Stir for another 5 minutes on low heat.

Serve with rice. As this dish is high on heat, I prefer to have something cooling along with it like mix vegetable clear soup and an everyday cucumber/tomato light salad.

Destination: Bangkok [Vegetarian Thai fried rice or Khao Pad Chae]

August 1996, New Delhi.

I had left Delhi under very chaotic circumstances. No, Delhi did not get more chaotic, but my life on that day most certainly was! The courier company had screwed up my package with the air tickets. Apparently, they had sent it to Bombay! My dad was in Bangkok at that time and I was to fly to Bangkok at midnight. I could see the world conspiring against me.. It would be meaningless to take the next flight as I was flying just a day before my Uni entrance exams. I retired into my room after a very stressful day of angry phone calls and a never ending wait…

Bang! Bang! Bang!

I woke up rubbing my eyes.. Some one was banging on the door! It’s only 10:30 pm for heaven’s sake! Let me sleep, I mumbled..

I opened the door somewhat pissed off. It was my uncle. He had just returned from work. The tickets had arrived! But, it was 10:30 pm. I hadn’t even packed! I was leaving the country!  This can’t be happening!!

In the next 10 minutes, my mother dumped my essentials into a bag and we were on the road. It was a good 30 minutes drive to the airport. I went in to the check-in counter while the rest of my family waited outside the airport. It was closed. I pleaded, I almost cried. It had worked in the past. And, it did, again! A staff came back, opened the counter for me. Before I knew, I was through immigration!

My family was waiting outside the airport not knowing whether I am flying or not.. And I was running inside the airport with no sense of what was going on. I was going where I was meant to go, worried that my family must be waiting outside. In those days, we didn’t have mobile phones. I was desperate to send a message across to my family, that I am flying off.. and a hug.. and a good bye.. In all the rush, I saw an airline staff just before boarding the flight. There was something about her which made me trust her.. or may be I did not have any other option. I asked her if she could page my uncle to let him know that I am flying off. She agreed. I came to know the next day that she did:)

That evening, as the flight took off, I was sad. I was leaving my country for a long long time without saying good bye to my family and close friends…

I was out of the airport in Bangkok, all alone, expecting to see my Dad. But, there was no one. Not for the next 10 minutes. Not for the next 30 minutes. I decided to call him using a public telephone. And suddenly it hit me! I had no money!!! Nothing at all. Not even a coin to make a phone call. In all the mad rush of last night, everyone forgot about money! I asked someone for help, all in sign language. This stranger gave me a coin and told me how to use the phone, all in gestures. I could not have asked for more!!

Thanks to the time difference and chaos, my Dad wasn’t aware that I had eventually boarded the flight last night! In the next 30 minutes, my Dad arrived and I was on the way to my new home…

And now.. for today’s recipe. This one is my mom’s favorite! She is a vegetarian and one that loves all her veges nice and crunchy! If you love your veges, you’ve gotta try this out!

To print this recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

String Beans: 2 to 3
Carrot: 1/3 of a medium sized carrot
Capsicum: 1/4th of a big capsicum
Cabbage: roughly 5 to 6 leaves
Thai / Chinese green leaves: 4 to 5 leaves. I used Xiao Ban Cye (you can use any other locally available greens)
Thai Garlic (or any other garlic) – 6pcs if using small Thai garlic. 3 if using the bigger garlic
Thai Chillies: 2 red and 2 green (tone this down if you don’t like it extra spicy)
Lime leaves: 3
A Bowl of cold pre-cooked rice
1/2 medium sized Onion (optional)
Vegetarian oyster sauce – 1 tbsp
Light Soya sauce – 1 tbsp
Oil – 1 1/2 tbsp
Wok
Sliced cucumber for garnishing
2 chopped chillies with 3 to 4 tbsp light soya sauce (in case the 4 chillies were not enough like they weren’t for me!)

How I did it:

Cut the long beans, capsicum and carrot into 2″ long pieces. Carrots should be cut into thin and long pieces. Roughly cut the cabbage and green leaves into big chunky leafy pieces. Pound the garlic and chillies together in a mortar and pestle.

In order to make fried rice, as far as possible, use left over rice from the fridge. When freshly cooked rice is used, it does not turn out the same way as freshly cooked rice tends to stick together into lumps.

Heat a wok. Once hot, add the oil. When it gets smoky, add the pounded garlic and chilli mix into the oil. Stir fry for 30 seconds. If using onions, add sliced onions at this point. Let it turn translucent. Next, add the carrots and beans. Continue to stir on high heat. Reduce heat for 1 min to let the beans and carrot cook.

Now add the cabbage, green leaves, capsicum and the torn kaffir lime leaves. Increase heat to high. Add the soya sauce. The smoke adds a nice flavor to this dish. It is important to stir this continuously to avoid the veges from getting burnt. This may take 30 seconds to a minute.

Once the veges are crunchy and cooked, add the bowl of cold rice, basil leaves and vegetarian oyster sauce. Stir continuously and on high heat. Check for salt and add more soya / vegetarian oyster sauce, if needed. Combine all the ingredients (on high heat). This may take up to 1 minute depending on the heat.

Serve with sliced cucumber and chopped chillies with soya sauce. The vegetables lose their crunchiness if kept cooked for long. So enjoy it immediately after cooking! 🙂

Prawns with coconut milk and spices (Prawn Malai Curry)

October 2003

A close friend ‘D’ had a sudden craving for Prawns. Not just any prawns. It had to be Prawn Malai Curry. I didn’t really know how to make it. But the sheer opportunity of making something new excited me. I was more than happy to cook, if only I knew how.

In less than 24 hours (from what I recall), I got the recipe from his mother straight into my inbox. This is D’s grand mother’s recipe. This is an authentic Bengali recipe and one that I have made many times now! Thank you aunty!

The part I enjoy most is the involvement & enthusiasm everyone has in making this curry. Talk about team effort! Over the years, this has become a ritual and I look forward to it..:)

D get’s the prawns. The biggest and freshest available (though to this day my husband ‘R’ argues that the prawns he gets sometimes are the same size..:P) D and R don’t sleep the night before. They drive down to a particular seafood wholesale market at 3am where one can find the freshest catch of the day. It is a wholesale market where the fresh catch comes in before it is sent to other shops / restaurants in the city. Some of the biggest King prawns I have ever seen! One needs to buy in wholesale.. So, most of the time this dish is cooked – it is a BIG feast ! The only exception to this festivity is when it’s a last minute plan or a feast is somehow not possible (a rare possibility!)

Step 2 is the cleaning up.. And that is R’s forte. After the prawns come home, R spends a good amount of time cleaning it up thoroughly! You do realize that when I wake up… lazy… all of this has already happened ! D & R really go all the way to make it happen. I see the fresh and clean prawns… waiting so eagerly to be soaked in the most amazing coconut cream curry ever!

This is one of my most treasured recipes simply because it is one recipe that has no age or spice boundaries… It has been loved by my 2-year old son as much as it has been appreciated by Indians and by non-Indian friends alike.

To print this recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

King Prawns: 500 gms – the bigger the better! (smaller prawns are also fine) – The prawns in this picture are from the local grocer.. which reminds me haven’t had a feast in a while!
Onion paste: 1 medium sized onion ground to a fine paste
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Garlic paste: 1/2 tsp (this is my personal preference and not part of the original recipe. you can ignore it if you like)
Coconut milk: 1/2 cup. I vary this depending on my guests’ spice tolerance level. If I want a more authentic and spicy taste, I stick to 1/2 cup. However, sometimes I add more coconut milk when I need to tone down the spice.
Turmeric Powder: 1/2 tsp
Chilli Powder: 1/4 tsp or more depending on your spice tolerance level
Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala Powder: 1/4 tsp
Cinamon stick: 1/2 inch
Dried Bay leaf: 2
Sugar: 1/4 tsp
Oil: Use a neutral oil (I use a blend of Canola and Sunflower oil)

How I did it:

  • Wash, de-vein, clean prawns. I like to remove the head and the vein but leave the tail behind. Put 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and sprinkle a little bit of salt on the prawns. Mix this gently and keep it in the refrigerator until the Masala is ready.

  • Use a heavy bottomed pan to cook this curry. Add oil. Once hot, add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, sugar and cumin seeds. Let the cumin seeds crackle for about 10-20 seconds. Add the onion paste. Fry this until it turns brownish and sticks together as lumps. Do this on low heat to avoid burning. This may take 10 to 15 mins.

  • To this fried onion paste, add the ginger paste, garlic paste, turmeric, chilli powder and salt. Fry this for 1-2 minutes until it is cooked and blends in with the masala.
  • Take out the pre-marinated Prawns and add it to the masala now. Stir this to ensure that the prawns are coated well with the spices and the prawns turn a nice pink/brownish color. (2 to 3 mins).

  • When the prawns turn pinkish, add the coconut milk. If you are using thick coconut milk like I did, you should add 1 cup of warm water along after adding the coconut milk. This curry is about your preference of coconut and spices. Remember that we have added sugar earlier, prawns are naturally sweet and coconut milk is also sweet. I strongly suggest you go slow on the coconut milk and taste it before adding more coconut milk. If the gravy is thick, add hot water into this to bring it to the right consistency. I alter the quantity of coconut milk and water to suit the palate of my guest.

  • Add some garam masala powder (a spice mix readily available in an indian grocery store) to this curry now. Let it cook on medium heat for another 7-8 mins until the coconut milk is cooked and comes together with the curry. Prawns cook really fast, so make sure you don’t overcook them.

Goes best with steamed white rice 🙂

Walnut Brownies… and a new beginning.

As a child, I have been absolutely averse to anything sweet in my food. Yes, absolutely anything sweet with the only exception of sugar in my tea. People often wondered how I never craved for chocolate and I often wondered what was there to like it in the first place? My mom used to make Indian desserts which everyone in the family relished. I never understood how and why.

One day, magic happened 🙂

During my pregnancy about 3 years ago, something changed. It changed my life forever – in a good way. I experienced a new taste, a new flavour so divine. Something, I had never experienced before. It was the same sweet flavours that I detested earlier. And here I was … loving it. Relishing every bite… with a mmmmmmm….. an out of the world experience! I finally discovered my sweet tooth. It was strange… a whole new experience awaited me. It was like discovering a part of me which I had written off long ago. Almost every lunch during those nine months, finished with a brownie and a smile like never before..:)

So, here is my favourite dessert of all – walnut brownies.

This is Nigella Lawson’s Walnut Brownie recipe from her book “The Domestic Goddess”.

I made half the size and therefore halved the ingredients and used a smaller baking dish.

For a printer-friendly recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

1 2/3 cups of soft unsalted butter
13 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups chopped walnuts ( I added a little more because I love walnuts!)
Original baking dish size recommended: pan measuring 13x9x2.5 inches. As I made 1/2 the size, I used a smaller baking dish.

How I did it:

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C. Line the sides and the base of the baking pan (preferably square) with aluminum foil.
  2. Melt butter + chocolate together. Use a heavy bottomed pan and extremely low heat to melt this mixture. I used a plate with the above mixture and let the steam melt this mix. Let it cool down slightly before you mix it.
  3. Measure flour into a separate bowl and add the salt in it. Keep aside.
  4. Beat eggs, vanilla and sugar together. Whether you are using an electric mixer or doing it by hand, remember to beat it in one direction only. If you are doing this by hand, it will take about 15 mins to get the right consistency. Do not over beat until the mixture becomes fluffy. The idea is to beat everything well and combine it together. After beating it well, you will notice that the color of the mixture will change.
  5. Once you are satisfied that the above mixture is well beaten, add the slightly cooled chocolate & butter mixture into the mixing bowl where you’ve already beaten the egg, vanilla and sugar. Combine it together.
  6. After mixing the above, add the walnut and the flour. Add the flour slowly bit by bit, mixing it together. It helps to use a sieve for this purpose as it controls the amount of flour going in and gives you enough time to combine the ingredients together and avoid forming any lumps.  The purpose is to bind it together into a smooth mixture – not over-beat it.
  7. Transfer the above mixture into the baking dish prepared.
  8. Bake for 25 mins. When it’s ready, the top should be dry and the inside dense & gooey.
  9. Once done, remove from the oven immediately; let it cool naturally. Don’t leave it inside the oven once it is done. I have done that once and my brownies were a little dry from inside… Remember it cooks even during the cooling process.
  10. Enjoy! 🙂