Our favourite Chicken Curry made easy in the Instant Pot!

Today we are getting personal. Like, sharing our treasured family staple chicken curry recipe, personal! I mean, if this is not personal, I don’t know what is? 😉

All you need to do is use your imagination and visualize that I have invited you to my home and you’ve come for a meal and you relished the most nurturing, delicious loving chicken curry that you will ever have (apart from the one your mom cooks, ofcourse!) Except, you are the one doing all the hard work you know – the cooking and cleaning up afterwards! haha

Oops! you just got a tiny glimpse of my evil side 🙂

Whether you intend to pack this for travel (think, summer vacations and Indian railways, if you have grown up in India) or you plan serve it to guests, this chicken curry is such a crowd pleaser! Now I cannot mention Indian railways and not get a little nostalgic here.

Carefully packed Masala Chicken (the dry-ish version of this recipe) with some lacchha parathas, sliced onions and fresh green chilli peppers on the side. Let’s just pause at this thought and cling to it for a few moments, shall we?

As a child, I would look longingly at other passengers having their meals in stainless steel trays served on-board the Indian Railways and wonder why life was so unfair and why I couldn’t eat that stuff!

Years later, I tried one of those meals. (I had to try it at least once!) and all I can say is that I am glad my parents didn’t let me eat it 😉

As a side note, I have added this to the list of good parenting skills you realize about your own parents only after you become a parent yourself:).

Our Family’s Favourite Chicken Curry recipe

This chicken curry can be made two ways. The recipe stays exactly the same, the only difference being, how much curry you want. If you want curry, like how I did this time, follow my recipe. If you want to have a dry version, you’ll have to cook everything in a heavy bottom pan and add water sparingly. Just enough to not let it stick to the bottom. You’ll let the chicken cook completely this way.

A fair warning: Now I know some of us do not like the idea of bones in chicken but, I would level set your expectations. The bones add to the flavour and you will just not get the same taste without bones. If you do, however, decide to make it boneless, I would recommend using chicken stock in place of water. Also, you will need to reduce the cooking time substantially (like 3-4 minutes).

Also, if you skimp on the chilli powder or not use it at all, please note that the colour will be yellow (from the turmeric) and not red at all (like in my picture). It is pretty obvious because there are no tomatoes or anything that can add a red colour to this dish other than the chilli powder.

Making this simple by dividing into 3 steps:

Step 1. Marination
Step 2: Prepare Masala & Cook the Chicken Curry
Step 3: Resting

Step 1: Marination

Ingredients for Marination:

Chicken drumstick and thigh with bones, skin removed – 1 kg; medium sized pieces, washed and patted dry. If using frozen pieces, you should thaw the chicken overnight in the fridge or in the microwave
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Ground Coriander: 1 tsp
Ground Cumin: 2 tsp
Kashmiri Chili powder (Or Cayenne Pepper: 1 tsp or as per your spice tolerance
Thick Yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt) : 1/4 cup
Salt : to taste
Mustard oil 1 tbsp

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl., Marinate overnight in the refrigerator or for 3-4 hours at the minimum. 

Step 2: Preparing the curry:

Ingredients for the curry:

Mustard Oil: 1 ½ Tbsp
Black Cardamom: 1
Cloves: 5
Bay leaves: 2
Cinnamon stick: 1 inch stick
Green Cardamom: 3 pcs, lightly pounded
Onion: thinly sliced, 2 cups, loosely packed (About 2 medium sized)
Salt: to taste
Sugar
Onion: thinly sliced, 2 cups, loosely packed (About 2 medium sized)
Salt: to taste
Sugar: 1 tsp (optional)
Medium sized potatoes – 3, cut into halves
Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Deghi Chilli Powder: ½ tsp (add kashmiri chilli powder if you do not like the heat but still want the colour)
Indian or Thai Green chilli peppers : 3-4
Cilantro (Coriander leaves): a handful, to garnish

Method:

  1. Turn on the Instant pot [IP] to sauté mode. Once “Hot”, add 1 1/2 tbsp mustard oil
  2. Next, add the black cardamom, cloves, Bay leaves, cinnnamon stick, lightly pounded green cardamoms. Stir for a few seconds.
  3. Add the thinly sliced onions, a tsp of salt and a tsp of sugar. Fry until it turns golden brown. If it starts sticking to the base, use water to splash and ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot, scraping with the spatula (Takes about 8-10 mins)
  4. In the IP, Add 1 tbsp garlic paste + 1 tbsp ginger paste. Mix until raw smell goes away (about 2 mins)
  5. Add 1/2 tsp Deghi Chili powder (to bring a little heat and colour. You could skip this if you do not want the heat)
  6. Add the marinated chicken and continue cooking for another 8-10 mins on high heat sauté setting, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Make sure nothing sticks at the bottom and always. I always have a glass of water to the rescue. Sprinkle just a little bit of water to prevent it from burning. If the heat seems too high, adjust the heat to medium.
  7. Add the potatoes. Continue to cook for another 2 mins
  8. Next add 1 ½ cups of water (more or less as you prefer)
  9. Cancel saute mode. Turn on manual mode for 8 mins and NPR (Natural Pressure Release).

Step 3: Resting

  1. When the curry is done, Add a few whole green chillies and simply let it sit for an hour before serving.
  2. Just before serving, garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
  3. Enjoy with rice or Nan as you please.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!:)

Sweet Potatoes w/ Pancetta, Rosemary and Mandarins.. Let’s get the party started!

Sweet Potatoes with Pancetta and Rosemary

A few weeks ago, I had a couple of these sweet beauties (sweet potatoes) lazing around. It was a Friday and the kids were in school, which meant, I could give my full attention to creating something with all of my senses fully present. There was no yelling, no interruptions and I had time to myself. If you have little kids at home, you know exactly what I am talking about! And if you don’t, then just take my word for it!

Going back to my story about the beautiful sweet potatoes… I opened my fridge for inspiration. I often do that before I start cooking. I stare at the produce and most days that is how I get inspired!

It’s like a party with a special guest list .. you know, the ones which say ‘By invitation only’ ! I opened the chiller and stared some more. Pancetta! There was a light bulb moment! And.. the idea of inviting Pancetta to this party got me super excited!

Now I also needed something earthy to match the meatiness of the pancetta while serving as a bridge between the sweet potatoes and the meat. I began a quiet search for this next guest. And there it was. The fresh rosemary stalks beautifully intertwined together with the confidence one has when they are the party starter!

I started prepping the ingredients, super excited but I got a certain uneasiness that I was missing out an important guest on the list. I needed something a little refreshing and zesty to lift it all up and make it fun! Just then, the mandarins said ‘hello, is it me you are looking for?’! (Sorry, I just couldn’t help it!)

The preparation was done and now we needed some music because what’s a good party without great music and dancing?!

This is an excellent party starter .. perfect for an appetizer or just by itself as a snack when you are in the mood for something delicious! Also, you can always make it vegetarian by removing the Pancetta, using ghee (or Oil for a vegan version) and topping it with some fried cashew nuts!

So, without further ado, let’s get the PARTY started!

Sweet Potato with Pancetta & Rosemary with hints of mandarin!

Total time: 30 mins
Preparation time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

Pancetta : 1 store bought packet or 4 oz or 113 gms (I used 1 4 oz packet of Boar’s Head brand diced uncured Pancetta)
Garlic: 2 cloves of garlic – sliced or if you prefer, you can chop it finely
Onion: ½ cup of finely chopped onions (I used yellow onions)
Ghee or any oil of your choice: 1 tsp
Salt
Pepper: to taste
Rosemary: 2 stalks, washed, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
Dry Chilli flakes or freshly chopped Thai red chilli peppers – 1. Just a hint of spice is needed
Sweet Potatoes: 2 cups of medium diced sweet potatoes (As a ballpark, I used around 2)
Mandarin: Juice of ½ a mandarin + Zest of 1 mandarin
Fresh parsley: a small handful, Finely chopped, as garnish

Preparation:

  1. Finely slice the garlic, if you are lazy like me and you love garlic. Otherwise, mince it finely.
  2. Finely chop the onions to yield ½ cup of onions. I used yellow onions. You could try with red onions, shallots. They would all go well.
  3. Wash the rosemary stalks. Pat them dry. Now remove the leaves from the stem and finely chop them.
  4. Peel the sweet potatoes. And cut them into medium dice.
  5. Take the zest of a mandarin. Cut it into half and juice ½ the mandarin. I challenge you to not juice the other half directly in your mouth and get some of that zesty orange juice stuff all over your face.

Method:

  1. Heat a flat, heavy-bottom pan. I would recommend using something which has a broad surface area that can be used for cooking.
  2. Add the pancetta and mix it around until it renders fat and turns nice, brown and crispy.
  3. Now remove it from the pan. If the oil left behind is enough, you don’t need to add any more oil. If not, you could add a tsp of oil or ghee. I used ghee because I love ghee.
  4. Add the garlic and stir it around until it releases aroma. Do not brown it.
  5. Next add the onions/shallots or whatever you are using. If you are using fresh Thai chilli peppers, finely chop them and add them together with the onions. Season with salt & pepper and sweat it. Go for a translucent colour without browning.
  6. Next, add the rosemary leaves and the diced Sweet potatoes. Season again with salt and pepper. Cook this covered for the next few mins on medium-low heat to get them cooked through but remember stirring them every few.
  7. Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, add the zest and keep heat to medium and just let the edges turn a little brown. Now deglaze the pan by adding the juice of ½ a mandarin. It will sizzle and who doesn’t love a good sizzling sound! Combine the flavours and remove them into your serving dish. Now top it with the Pancetta and a little bit of fresh parsley and you are good to go!

Notes:

  • If you choose to make a vegan version of this, do not include the pancetta. Use coconut oil or any oil of your choice and instead you could add some dry roasted, crushed peanuts as a topping to replace the Pancetta.

Cooking in the backyard: Thai style Tuna Fried Rice

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Thailand, a country full of little family-owned café’s. These little café’s are usually set in a comforting, home-style environment. Here you’ll experience what I call ‘cooking in the backyard’. It is also how a lot of traditional homes are designed with a wet kitchen in the backyard. You’ll often see the young school going teenager lending a helping hand to his or her parents. During rush hour, the kids even help with the cooking. It’s inspiring to see these young chefs cook with such exuberating confidence.

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I stand there watching, as the man on my side of the counter passes a white slip over to the Cook. The Cook, a lady probably in her late 40s, has a very pleasant disposition. She smiles at me as she gently heats up the wok while taking a quick glance at the white slip of paper. She’s probably done it a thousand times over and over again. She looks like she could do this with her eyes closed.

As the wok heats up, she takes some garlic and chillies and gently pounds them using a mortar and pestle. The mortar and pestle is always by her side. She is extremely organised with each ingredient placed less than an arms distance away, just where it should be. She always has a big icebox next to her where all the chilled meat is kept. She opens it just a bit, takes out the required portion of the meat and closes it again until the next order comes in.

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An artist in her own right, she knows how to play with her tools – the mortar and pestle, the wok, the ladle and the fire. She uses the fish sauce, sugar, soya sauce, pepper and other herbs and spices to tell her story. She fires up the wok, turning and tossing the ingredients, adding them one after the other, all in good time, adjusting the heat as she deems appropriate. Within minutes, she creates food that is a treat to all your senses. A modest melamine plate in basic white, with or without patterns is placed right next to her. She plates her food and places a few slices of cucumber and a slice of lime, all in such an artistic manner.

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As the plate makes its journey from the wok to my table, my eyes see the color coordination including the Thai green chillies and the freshness of the lime. As it is placed in front of me, I get the smoky aroma that creates a suspense that I want to unfold, almost immediately. As I take the first bite, I know it has touched all my senses and a memory has just been formed.

 As the lady moves on to the next white slip where the orders are scribbled, a quick rinse and a scrub is all it takes to have her Wok ready to create the same brilliance all over again for the next waiting customer.

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Here is my version of a Thai style Tuna Fried Rice, a dish I had for many lunches during the years that I lived in Thailand.

For the printed recipe, click here.

Serves: 3

Ingredients:

Pre-cooked and cooled Thai Rice (preferably cooked the night before): 2 ½ cups
Red Onion: 1 Cup finely chopped
Thai Green chillies: 4-5, chopped fine (This makes it very spicy, adjust to your own tolerance)
Garlic, lightly pounded: 3 cloves
Olive Oil: 1 tbsp
Canned Tuna flakes in EVOO (use any other similar variety): 150 gms, oil drained.
Spring onions (Scallions), finely chopped (green parts): ¼ cup
Fish sauce: 1 Tbsp
Dark soya sauce: 1 tsp
Worcestershire sauce: 2 tsp
Black Pepper powder (coarsely powdered): ¼ tsp (or adjust to taste)
Salt: a pinch

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How I did it:

  1. The rice needs to be precooked and cold. This is important to ensure the grains of rice are separate and not lumpy when making the fried rice. When cooking the rice for fried rice, put a little less water than you would do normally.
  2. Heat a wok. When the wok is hot, add oil to it.
  3. Add the lightly pounded garlic. Reduce the fire and let the garlic cook for a few seconds without getting burnt. Add the chopped onions and green chillies. Let it soften while stirring continuously. Onions will change colour to a beautiful pink. Approx 3 mins on low heat.
  4. When the onions turn pink, add the cold and precooked rice and a tiny pinch of salt and increase the heat to high. Using the back of a ladle/spatula, push the rice towards the centre of the wok, removing any lumps while mixing it with the onions.
  5. Now add the tuna followed by all the sauces and the black pepper powder. Bring it together on high heat.
  6. Add the chopped spring onions. Give it one last good stir and serve it immediately with some sliced cucumbers and wedges of lime.

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Notes:

–        Fish sauce is quite salty. I would suggest that you add half the quantity of fish sauce first and adjust the taste as per your liking.
–        In my opinion, a fried rice cannot have the same texture and taste if it’s cooked with freshly cooked or hot rice. Therefore, try to cook the rice at least a few hours in advance.
–        If you don’t have spring onions, replace it with some finely chopped fresh coriander leaves or cilantro. That little bit of green is essential to provide a little freshness to this simple fried rice.
–        I had to cook for my 4 year old son, so I added the green chillies right in the end. If not, I would have added them together with the onions, or lightly pound them together with the garlic in the very beginning. Go ahead and do whatever suits your situation. If you are making this for kids, omit the green chillies.

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary

‘I don’t know what to cook tonight’ – a dilemma many of us face on a day-to-day basis. Every time, ok almost every time, you think of making dinner, you probably end up saying that to yourself. I do! A close friend has just initiated a group on Facebook by precisely that name – ‘I don’t know what to cook tonight’. She is a great cook herself and there are already some interesting recipes being shared there. Do hop on over there and join us:)

The first post in that group also happens to be a Rosemary Chicken. To see her recipe, check out the group. I promised to share to share my version as well, so here we go.

One warm, humid night in October last year, I made this absolutely juicy and flavourful chicken dish for the nth time. I took photos of the process, almost making the recipe dummy-proof. In case you are thinking how brilliant my memory is, just hold on to that thought. The reality is – it isn’t! The place where I live, is warm and humid practically most of the year 😉

Roasted Chicken with rosemary

So let’s rewind back to October 2012, I took out my [then brand new and now almost hammered phone], and clicked pictures of the making of this dish. Honestly, there are times when I really couldn’t be bothered with how the photograph turns out. And there are these other times, where I can go to any extent to get the photograph I want.

This Chicken is great for a weeknight meal, though you’ll need to do the marination before hand. 2 hours would be great but 1 hour will give you good results too. There’s no long list of spices for the marination. And other than the rosemary and the chicken, it’s ingredients which you’d most likely have in your pantry. The marination is an important step to give this dish that depth of flavour. The process of searing and then roasting at the right temperature is important to make the chicken juicy and packed with flavour.

For the printed recipe, click here.

Here’s how I did it :

Serves: 2-3
Marination time: 1-2 hours
Cooking time: 5 minutes for Searing + 20 minutes for roasting

Ingredients:

Chicken thigh (Boneless) : 230 gm each x 2 pcs (approx)
Dried rosemary herbs : 1 tbsp
Fresh rosemary stalk (optional) : You can skip this if you don’t have. I just added it while roasting because I had them this time : 2
Minced garlic : 1 tbsp
Olive oil : 1/2 tbsp to marinate + 1/2 tbsp for searing the marinated chicken.
Lime juice : 1 tsp
Coarsely ground black pepper powder : 1/4 tsp
Salt : to taste

Method:

1. Using a knife, make slits on the Chicken pieces. Marinate the Chicken for 1-2 hours with the above ingredients reserving 1/2 tbsp of oil for searing the Chicken. Make sure you rub the ingredients into the slits of the Chicken so that the flavours can go deep into the meat.

2. Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

3. In a skillet, heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. When the oil is hot and on high heat, sear the marinated chicken pieces on both sides for about 1-2 mins on each side. The idea is to give a golden brown colour to the chicken without completely cooking it.

4. Line a baking tray w aluminium foil. Place the seared chicken pieces on the aluminium foil and set it to roast for 20 minutes.

5. Remove from oven. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. We usually have this with some stir fried vegetables and a pasta or a pasta with vegetables in it.

Note: I have made this with Chicken breast meat as well and it tastes just as good. If using Chicken breast, roast for 15 minutes only or it will become very dry.

Step by Step

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Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander sauce

Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander Sauce
Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander Sauce

There are 2 kinds of people in this world: Those that love Salmon. And those that don’t. That’s probably true of most things, but I couldn’t come up with a better opening line. So, there you go!

I happen to be the former and so is little V. I hereby declare my eternal love for Salmon. R, on the other hand, doesn’t quite get what the fuss is all about! But we [V and I] find a way to work around it. We just make him eat it. 😉 And he does.

We especially love the crisp skin of the Salmon. The skin absorbs a bit more salt than the rest of the fish and that makes it even more desirable. When there’s Salmon on the dinner table, all else doesn’t quite matter, does it? 🙂

I have made this countless number of times for V and it’s quick and easy to make. If you are a Salmon lover like me, I won’t need to sell the recipe to you because you will probably love it anyway 🙂

In it’s simplest form, all you need is some crushed garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil marinade with the salmon. Pan fry (with minimal oil) and you are done. In this version, I added a slight variant – fresh coriander leaves or cilantro. If you have a particular dislike for coriander, feel free to omit the coriander leaves.

We usually have this Crispy Salmon for dinner on a weeknight when I don’t want to spend too much time cooking. This goes well with a simple vegetable pasta or just plain rice and stir fried vegetables.

To print the recipe, click here.

Crispy Salmon with garlic coriander sauce

Serves: 2
Total time taken: Under 30 minutes
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 7-8 minutes

Ingredients:
Salmon fillet with skin on (about 250 gms)
Garlic cloves: 1-2 (adjust to taste)
Fresh coriander leaves – a bunch. Discard the roots.
Black pepper powder: a tiny pinch
Juice of ¼ of a lemon
Zest of ½ a lemon
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Sea salt: to taste

How I did it:

1. Squeeze the lemon juice and zest on the salmon fillet. Sprinkle sea salt to taste. Put a little less than required as we will also season the sauce.

2. Prepare a quick blend of the garlic, coriander leaves including stalk but not the roots, a tsp of olive oil and sea salt.

Preparing the garlic-coriander sauce.
Preparing the garlic-coriander sauce.

3. Rub the prepared coriander, garlic sauce (the marinade) on the salmon. Sprinkle a dash of black pepper powder. Let the Salmon marinate for about 15 minutes.

Rub the Marinade on the salmon.
Rub the Marinade on the salmon.

4. Heat a pan. Add the remaining olive oil (2 tsp). Make sure the the oil is hot before placing the salmon fillet in it. This step is important to prevent the fish from breaking and disintegrating.

5. Place the salmon fillet, skin down first. Reduce flame to lowest. Cover and let it cook for 5 minutes.

Heat a pan. Add olive oil and place the marinated Salmon, skin down. Cover & let it cook for 5 minutes.
Heat a pan. Add olive oil and place the marinated Salmon, skin down. Cover & let it cook for 5 minutes.

6. After 5 minutes, turn the salmon for another minute. Do not cook on this side for long as the salmon will start to overcook.

Turn the Salmon over and cook for another minute.
Turn the Salmon over and cook for another minute.

7. Serve w lemon wedges.

Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander Sauce
Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander Sauce

Happy Mother’s Day and Seabass Curry with Mustard and Tomatoes

Family reunions are a very special event and one that I always look forward to. And when we reunite, a sense of dé·jà vu sets in. No matter how old I grow, I become that little girl that my parents nurtured. I feel like I am ready to take on the world and pursue my dreams, knowing that if something goes wrong, I will always have their unconditional love and support to get me through it all.

That is perhaps the reason why the most secure place in this world is still in that warm and affectionate embrace of my Mother.

Many a times we have disagreed and quite vocally so.
She is a bad listener, I often complain.
Yet, she is my best friend. A soul mate.
She hears without listening. She speaks without speaking.
Her eyes tell a story. The story of her life.
A life of sacrifice. A life of giving.
A strong woman in the inside and so fragile outside.

I can never forget an incident from the time I was thirteen.

I waited outside my school for hours but Ma didn’t show up. Upset and angry, I mentally rehearsed the conversation I planned on having with her when we meet. Instead, my Uncle appeared. We were headed in a different direction. When I enquired about Ma, he quietly whispered ‘She is in the hospital’. My heart sank.

She had met with a very serious accident. The image of her lying on the hospital bed with one leg completely covered in plaster and tubes all around her haunts me to this day. She was in immense pain. She looked at me and all she said was “Don’t cry, I am fine. Remember to have your dinner. I will be home in 3 days.”

At one point, the doctors wanted to amputate her legs. She refused. She demanded to be transferred to another hospital. Thanks to the doctors, her will power and fighting spirit, she averted the amputation. For her family. And most importantly, for her children.

After a painful 3 months in the hospital, she finally returned home.

Like a baby, she had to learn to stand and walk all over again. At times she would break down saying she will never be able to stand on her feet. And the next moment, she would get up fumbling but trying harder than ever before.

Many months later, she walked. Slowly but surely. And she hasn’t stopped since.

It’s Mother’s day on the 13th of May. I dedicate this post to my Mom, who means the world to me and my family.

Today’s recipe is a family fish curry which was handed down from my grand-ma but every woman in our family has her own version of it. This is my Mom’s.

Seabass Curry with Mustard and Tomatoes

Serves: 6-8 (depending on your appetite 😉

To print the recipe, click here.

For frying the Fish:
Seabass: 1 kg cut in slices (Traditionally, Rohu is used to make this curry). I had about 8 pieces excluding the fish head. head. (Alternatively, you could use Rohu)
Mustard powder: 2 tablespoons
Garlic paste: 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric: ½ tsp
Whole wheat flour (aata): 1 ½ tbsp
Salt: to taste
Mustard oil: 2 tbsp, for frying

For the curry:
Black mustard seeds (rai): ½ tsp
Dry red chillies: 2
Tomatoes: 1 big, ground to a paste. ½ a tomato chopped finely.
Garlic Paste: 1 ½ tsp
Turmeric: ¼ tsp
Red Chilli powder: ¼ tsp
Mustard powder: 4 tbsp
Chopped tomato: 1 small
Green chillies: 2
Warm Water: 3 1/2 cups
Salt

1.     Take ¼ cup warm water to mix together 6 tbsp of mustard powder (2 for frying the fish and 4 for the curry). Leave aside for 5 mins.
2.     Rub 1/3 of this mustard paste along with garlic paste, turmeric, flour and salt (see ingredients under ‘for frying the fish’. Let it rest for 15 mins.
3.     Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a flat nonstick frying pan. Once the oil starts smoking, remove from heat. Let it cool for 30 seconds. Then add the fish pieces frying it on medium heat until it turns slightly brownish. The fish pieces will also cook in the curry later so do not overcook the fish.

4.     In a non-stick kadhai / deep bottomed pan, add 1 tbsp mustard oil. Once the oil starts smoking, let it cool off a bit before adding the black mustard seeds (rai) and the dry red chillies. (Note: I added the dry red chillies but took it out once it was done before moving to the next step as I was also making it for my little one. If not, leave the dry red chillies in and continue to the next step).
5.     Add garlic paste. Fry for a minute on low heat.
6.     Add tomato paste, turmeric, red chilli powder and salt. Fry on low-medium heat until the tomatoes are fully cooked and form one mass. (about 7-8 mins).
7.     Add the remaining mustard paste. Cook for about 2 mins. Do not overcook the mustard as it can turn bitter.
8.     Add 3 ½ cups of warm water. Bring it to a boil. Let the curry boil on low-medium heat, covered, for another 7-8 mins. Adjust salt if necessary.
9.     Gently slide in the fish pieces and the chopped tomatoes into the curry from the sides. The curry is supposed to be of thin consistency. Adjust water to your liking but always add hot water to make sure the cooking process doesn’t slow down.

10.  Continue cooking uncovered on low heat for 5 mins before turning it off. (I added the dry roasted red chillies at this point).
11.  Let it rest for about 10 mins before serving. This step will make sure that the fish pieces absorb the curry.
12.  Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Notes:

  • I cooked this with ‘Sunrise’ mustard powder. It is quick and hassle free. The only downside is that it isn’t so easily available. I usually stock it up when I go back home. You can use other commercially available Mustard powders. If you have a powerful grinder, you can use that to make fresh mustard paste. Soak 3 tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds + 3 tablespoons of black mustard seeds for 30 mins in warm water. Add the mustard seeds, 2 green chillies and salt and grind to a paste.  Do not grind for too long as it can make the mustard paste bitter.
  • Back home, this is usually made with Rohu. I prefer to make this curry with Seabass as fresh Seabass is easily available here. It has less bones and tastes great!

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.

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.

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 🙂