Tasty healthy Pad Thai Noodles

To me its the king of noodles! Pad Thai, with its right balance of sweet, spicy and salty. Its taste and flavor is hard to describe but supremely delicious to chomp down and keep going back for a second helping.

Its the one reason I can’t wait to go travel to Thailand. May be one day I will, and I’ll make a bee line dash to all the street food vendors dishing up the best of this dish. As of now such travel is restricted to my dreams, I can’t even get to my favorite Thai restaurant! So that means its time to stir up that wok and dish up some homemade pad thai noodles! I tried to keep it on the healthier side with the brown rice noodles and low oil… and I think it tastes just as great… give it a try!

A vegetarian version can be made easily with tofu. I would do the same as i do with chicken in this recipe, salt and pepper sprinkle, then toss in flour and saute before adding to the noodles and of course leave out the eggs, prawns and chicken!

353 Calories per serving 6 Servings

Preparation time 15 minutes

Cooking time 15 minutes

1 pack Brown rice noodles

1 bunch Green onions

2-3 cups Mung bean sprouts

2 large Shallots

1/3 pound Prawns (shelled and de-veined)

1/2 Chicken breast

2 tablespoons flour

1 Egg

2 tablespoon oil (peanut / vegetable)

3-4 tablespoons Pad Thai sauce

1 teaspoon Fish sauce

1-2 tablespoon White vinegar

1 tablespoon Dried shrimp paste (optional)

2 tablespoons Sugar

1 tablespoon (or to taste) Red chili flakes

2 tablespoons Ground Peanuts

1 handful Fresh coriander (optional)

2 liters Water

Lemon wedges for serving

  1. In a clean kitchen sink set place a colander and have a large dish with cold water with some ice.
  2. Cut the chicken breast into thin strips, against the grain of the meat. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken and toss it in flour.
  3. Beat 1 egg with 1/4 cup milk and season with salt and pepper till its all mixed up and set aside.
  4. Dice the shallots finely, and roughly cut the green onions into 2 inch pieces and set aside. If you don’t have crushed peanuts put it in a zip lick bag and crush them up using a rolling pin. (Get all your anger out!) Now you are done prepping! This is a fast dish so best to have everything prepped.
  5. In a large pot boil about 2 liters of water. Once the water comes to a rolling boil add the brown rice noodles and give it a stir. Check the noodles every 2 minutes They should be done in 4-5 minutes. You want a bit of a bite to the noodles as you will be stir frying them later too. Under cooking is better than over cooking as a rule!
  6. As soon as the noodles are done dump them in the colander and wash the noodles in cold running water. Then transfer the noodles into the dish that has the ice cold water. This will instantly stop the cooking. If you don’t do this the noodles keep cooking slowly from all the heat that is trapped in them.
  7. In a wok take 2 tablespoons of peanut oil and start cooking on high flame. Stir fry the shrimp for 1-2 minutes, till it turns white. Take them out of the wok.
  8. Now lightly stir fry the chicken pieces till they turn white (2-3 minutes) and take then out of the pan.
  9. In the same oil on high flame, add the shallots and season with salt. Once they are soft (2-3 minutes) add in the beaten egg. Do not stir for 1 minute and let the egg cook. Once its done using the ladle cut up the egg into scrambled pieces.
  10. Lower the flame to half the max and then add the sugar, red chili flakes, fish sauce, pad thai paste and the shrimp paste if you are using it. Give all of it a good stir and season with salt. (I often use the left over chili flakes from pizza take out when I can’t find chili flakes)

11. Add in the noodles and turn the flame to high. Stir the noodles in an upwards to downwards direction so that the sauce that was at the bottom of the pan gets well incorporated with the noodles. Check the salt. If needed add some more of the pad thai sauce and 1/4 cup water.

12. Now add in the white vinegar, prawns and chicken. Give it another good stir. Last add the green onions, and mung beans and 2-3 table spoons of crushed peanuts. Stir once more and taste if it needs any sauce or seasoning. If you like it more sweet, I would use brown sugar at this point. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

13. While its cooking adjust the flavoring if you need to. Throw in extra red chili flakes for the spice and for sauciness if you need to add more I would dilute it with a table spoon of water in a bowl and then add to the wok. (Don’t add any more if the noodles taste as you like it)

14. Avoid over cooking the noodles. It should take not more than 5 minutes after adding the cooked noodles. Dish it out on a flat is dish and sprinkle some fresh coriander, more of the crushed peanuts and squeeze on some lemon juice….. dig in!

Quick ‘n’ easy Lemongrass Chicken

Asian food is by far my favorite cuisine. But that means more than half the world populations food style. While I’m drawn to technically difficult and complex flavors with many different spices there are days when I just want to keep it simple. As my mother says simple flavors may sound boring but it gives the opportunity for one or two things to shine bright and burst out in taste! Here is a dish that did just that, easy and tasted de-lish!

275 Calories per serving 4 servings

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 20 minutes

2 medium Chicken breasts (1 pound)

3 tablespoons Flour

Salt

1 teaspoon Pepper

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tall stick Lemon grass (only the white part, chopped up)

2-3 medium to small Shallots (1/2 cup diced)

1 stick Celery (optional)

3 cloves Garlic

1 Bell pepper chopped in medium sized cubes

1 diced Tomato

2 green chillies

Hand

Handful Basil leaves

1 teaspoon Fish sauce

  1. Slice up the chicken breast into 1/2 inch thick slices. Cut it against the grain of the meat so it doesn’t fall apart.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper to season the chicken. I find a light sprinkle across both the front and back surfaces of the meat is enough to season the meat perfectly. Now toss the meat in flour and let it sit there till the oil is really hot.
  3. In a pan/ wok take 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and heat till its smoking hot. Reduce the flame just a quarter and add in the chicken pieces. Let them turn golden on one side and then turn them over. Chicken cooks really fast. this should take about 5-6 minutes for all the chicken pieces. Try not to crowd the pan. Otherwise the chicken will boil in its juices instead of frying.
  4. Using a slotted spoon take all the chicken pieces out once they turn golden.
  5. Use the remaining oil to saute the chopped lemon grass, shallots, celery and garlic. Season with salt and saute till shallots and celery are soft and lost their crunch.
  6. Add in fish sauce, and diced tomatoes and a dash of salt to season and cook till tomatoes soften.
  7. Either whole or snapped in half, add in the green chilies and the chunks of bell pepper. Cover and cook for 2-4 minutes.
  8. Toss in the chicken pieces with any juices that may have come out while the meat rested. Add 1/2 teaspoon sugar, stir and cook while covered for another 5 minutes.
  9. Serve with a garnish of ripped fresh basil. This will go well with brown rice, cauliflower rice, or on a crunchy bed of lettuce.

Spanish Beef Stew

Last spring we were in the vibrant streets of Barcelona. With it’s beautiful squares and eccentric architecture came succulent and unforgettable eats! I think what I loved about Barcelona was wandering, eating and drinking. Fancy restaurants on the water front serving the best of seafood. Al fresco dining in bustling squares with colorful buildings and tasting the best of Catalan cooking. However the tapas, pintxos and pinchos, with pitchers of sangria and the evening negroni that’s what resides in our hearts. The taste, the memories of sharing it with friends and the smiles of the people who served it.

La Boqueria was all smiles for everyone. From fresh fruits, to seafood and even candy. Best of all were the little shack restaurants in there. As ignorant tourists who didn’t do their homework, we just were drawn by the looks and smells of the food of Bar Pinotxo. Later as we tried to recreate our favorite dish we realized how famous this spot was and the following it had! The owner Juanito has been cooking here everyday for the past 50 years or so and is the most unassuming chef out there…. quietly taking your order and serving it to you.

Since Bar Pinotxo is so far away…. as we dreamily long for the comforting tastes in our state of COVID lock-down… I tried to recreate this mother of comfort food, a hearty beef stew.

I used an instapot to make this dish but you could do this in the oven too. A dutch oven would be awesome but any oven proof dish would work too. Just do the first part of the recipe on the stove top and then move to the oven.

Fell in love with these fresh Maitake mushrooms at the farmers market and decided to add it to the stew

440 Calories per servings 6 Servings

Preparation Time 20 minutes

Cooking Time 50-60 minutes

1.5 pounds Bone in Beef or shortribs

3-4 table spoons Flour

2-3 tablespoon butter

3 Golden beets peeled and cut in large chunks (or any root vegetables)

1/2 pound Maitake mushroom (optional or any meaty mushrooms)

2 sticks Celery chopped

1 large Yellow onion chopped

4 Garlic cloves chopped

2 Large potatoes

1/2 cup Peas

2 Chopped Tomatoes

2 tablespoons Tomato paste

2 cans Beef Stock

2 Bay leaves

1 teaspoon Black pepper

1 stick Cinnamon

4 Cloves

1 teaspoon Dried Thyme

2 teaspoons of Dried Parsley

2 tablespoons Orange rind

  1. Bring meat to room temperature massage the meat with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Then liberally dust with flour to coat the meat pieces.
  2. Get your heavy bottom pan really hot and put in 1-2 table spoon of butter. Iused the instapot all through the recipe. As soon as the butter melts add the meat pieces few at a time so that you don’t crowd your pan. Let the meat sear on one side and then flip over. Idea is to sear the meat on all sides. It should take about 1-2 minutes on either sides. This will lock in all the juices and prevent the meat from getting dry.

3. In the same pan if needed add another tablespoon of butter or less and lower the heat to medium. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cloves, let it sizzle for a few seconds. Saute onions, celery and garlic with a dash of salt. Cover and let them sweat in between stirs. They will become translucent and soften and golden brown.

4. Add in the root vegetables of your choice. Keep the vegetables large and chunky, as the stew will cook under pressure or slow cook in the oven, small pieces will just melt away and disintegrate. Don’t add the potatoes at this time for the same reason!

5. Add in the chopped tomatoes, season with salt and saute till they are softened.

6. Add the dried herbs and tomato paste, stir it in and cover for 3-5 minutes.

7. Add in the beef broth and taste it to adjust the seasoning.

8. Toss in the browned meat and place the instapot on high pressure for 12 minutes and natural release for 10 minutes.

9. Open the instapot and add roughly chopped mushrooms, peas, orange rind and the potatoes (cut in large chunks). Place it on high pressure for another 10 minutes.

10. Enjoy the stew with crusty bread. On a cool day its should warm you up and on a warm day fill you up with flavor. I love the mild orange flavor that the rind infuses in this this dish.

No Bake – White chocolate Raspberry and Blackberry Cheesecake

Desserts, not my forte! Things were about to get messy and gooey but was salvaged by extra cheese!

This cheesecake is not for the ones with a very sweet tooth. It is creamy and has just the right touch of sweetness. For my vegetarian friends this recipe has no eggs, so no animals harmed.

I always turn to Mary Berry for desserts and this time too she delivered! I didn’t have mascarpone cheese in my COVID-19 pantry. Cream cheese mixed with creme fraiche seemed to do the magic. A mix of graham crackers and mint oreo cookies added a bit of zing to the crust. But the true stars of the dish were the fresh berries from the farmer’s market. Sweet and oh so juicy! I really liked how they tasted sandwiched between two layers of cream cheese mix, giving multiple bites of berries in each chomp. The white chocolate brought the sweetness to the cream cheese mix, while the cream and creme fraiche made it smooth and even more creamier. Word of caution, creme fraiche is a bit tart. And the creme can make the whole thing bit liquidy which is why I have more than the usual amount of cream cheese. Just made a taller cake, so no one was complaining!

I like this no bake version because it keeps the cake moist and lets the cheese settle on its own. And of course its zero cook time!

395 Calories Per Serving 12 servings

Preparation Time 40 minutes

Cooking Time 0 minutes

300g Raspberries

300g Blackberries

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon icing sugar (or regular sugar)

1 teaspoon cornflour

12oz of 1/3 fat cream cheese

2 tablespoons of creme fraiche

200ml double cream

200g white chocolate

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 tablespoon lemon rind

150g Oreo and graham crackers

5 tablespoons Unsalted butter

MAKING IT STEP BY STEP

  1. To get the decorative swirl on the top of the cheese cake, crush half of the berries in a food processor with the 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon cornflour. Strain the mix to remove the seeds. Place in a pan and add . Keep stirring on high heat till the sauce is thick and remove from heat (3-4 minutes). Remember it will thicken slightly more once cooled. This step is entirely optional and can be cut out to save time.

2. In a zip lock bag take the crackers/ cookies of your choice and crush using a rolling pin. This is great if you have an eager young helper like I did! Else I would put it in the food processor and get the job done much faster. You want to have an even fine crumb.

3. Cut off 5 tablespoon butter from a stick and leave the wrapper on. Unwrap just the tip and use this to first rub the pan that you will use to set the cheesecake. I use a spring-form pan as its easy to take off. If you have parchment paper you could also line your pan with that and this will help take the cheesecake out neatly.

4. Melt the butter in a bowl in the the microwave at low power. Dump in the cookie crumbs and mix well. Next put this mix in the prepared pan and press down to compact the crumbs using the base of a measuring cup. Once the crumbs are evenly compacted down place this in the fridge till the filling is ready.

5. In a clean bowl transfer out the package of cheese, 2 tablespoons of creme fraiche, 1/4 cup powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Mix with an electric beater. It will turn into a creamy mix.

6. Take a pan with water to simmer and place a glass bowl over it such that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Pour in the white chocolate chips and let it melt. Stir the chocolate while it melts. Once done let it cool for 2-3 minutes.

7. In a separate bowl whip the double cream into soft peaks. Add this to the cream cheese mix bit at a time and fold in the mix.

8. Now add the cooled but molten white chocolate into the cheese mix and the lemon rind. Give it a quick stir.

Add in molten white chocolate

9. Spoon in the cheese cake mix into the prepared pan, onto the cookie base. once half the mix is placed layer on half of the berries in whatever pattern you like. Then layer on the rest of the cheese cake mix.

Pour in the raspberry and blackberry sauce in a ziplock bag. Cut a tiny hole the size of half a pea and place drops of the sauce on the top of the cake in a concentric circle. Using the blunt end of a toothpick starting from the center of the cake draw as if you were connecting the sauce dots. It will make a beautiful swirl. Place any remaining berries on the top. Cool in the fridge for 4 hrs or overnight and then serve it up.

Lemon Herb Crusted Salmon with Cinnamon Cap mushroom sauce

On weeknights with work, the kid’s shenanigans and generally running around in circles, I find myself tested for time. Yet the palette seems as demanding as a five year old child. Insatiable in its hunger for tasty foods. The body on the other hand is standing with the look of a strict headmaster, not letting any yummy goodness pass the nose, let alone the mouth. Thankfully there are some foods that appease the taste buds and are actually good for you. Baked salmon to the rescue!

Not only is it heart healthy, the essential fatty acids are needed to keep your brain cells firing with ideas and activity. These essential fatty acids can’t be made by our body and can be found in fatty fish like salmon. Salmon is stuffed with potassium, iron and vitamin D too! All that healthiness translates to buttery goodness that melt in your mouth. Hallelujah there is justice! Things that tastes good can be good for your body too! I like the fillets, second cut to the top loin. Thick but not too thick, this lets the marinades and flavors seep through the entire piece.

I got extra lucky this week. The mushroom lady at the farmer’s market had these beautiful Cinnamon cap mushrooms. I had no idea what they tasted like but they looked so gorgeous I had to give them a try! I decided to turn it into a sauce over pasta together with the salmon. It turned out crisp, earthy and nutty and super easy to make.

I had a tossed salad with this, so a 3 course meal in about 30 minutes!

Herb Lemon Crusted Salmon

Calories per serving 4 servings

Preparation time 5 minutes

Cooking time 12 minutes

1 pound Salmon

2 teaspoons Garlic powder

2 teaspoons Onion powder

1/2 teaspoon Paprika

2 teaspoons Dried tarragon

1 teaspoon Dried Oregano

1/4 cup Bread crumbs ( I used the Italian style but any would do)

2 teaspoons (one lemon) Lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon Lemon salt (optional)

1 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons grated mozzarella cheese

Step by step cooking

  1. Take all the ingredients (apart from the salmon and olive oil) in a bowl and give it a stir.
  2. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and brush it with some oil or spray.
  4. Place the seasoned salmon skin down on the pan.
  5. Layer on the breadcrumb mix and press it onto the fish.
  6. Bake at 400oF / 200oC for 12-15 minutes.
Press down the crumbs on the fish

Cinnamon Cap Mushroom Sauce

220 Calories per serving 4 servings

Preparation time 5 minutes

Cooking time 10 minutes

The caps and the stalks of these mushrooms can all be used. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp towel to clean. I tried to make them the day I buy them, if I can’t, I find putting them in a box and covering it tightly with cling wrap keeps them really fresh for about a week.

65 Calories per serving 4 servings

Preparation time 5 minutes

Cooking time 10 minutes

1/2 pound cinnamon cap mushrooms

1 tablespoon butter

1 shallot finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic smashed

2 tablespoon dry white wine (optional)

1/2 cup chicken/ vegetable broth

1/2 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon ricotta cheese

Step by step cooking

  1. Melt half tablespoon butter, on medium heat saute the shallots and garlic.
  2. Add salt, cover and let it sweat for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, roughly chop the mushrooms.
  3. Once the shallots turn translucent and garlic turn slightly brown, toss in the chopped mushrooms. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle on the chopped chives.

5. Once the mushrooms soften slightly add the white wine and turn the heat to high. Let the alcohol evaporate, flavor will remain adding a tinge of tartness. Sprinkle on the flour, mix and let it cook.

6. Pour on the broth and and let it boil and reduce to the consistency that you like.

7. Turn the heat off and add the ricotta cheese and give it a quick stir. Wa-la the sauce is done.

I chose to serve the sauce on a spinach and chives pasta.

Prawn Chettinad

I love South Indian food! Growing up in North India, one merely associates South Indian food with idli – dosa or vada sambar… categorizing it as breakfast food or snack attacks! What’s worst it is mostly bucketed as vegetarian food. While all those remain my favorites… through my friends and travels, I have been fortunate to be introduced to a gamut of flavors and mouth watering dishes, from the subtle manga curry to the spicy chettinad.

This is one of my quick fix go to crowd-pleaser! If you have a coffee grinder, then this will be a wiz to make and mouth full of flavor. Today I was in a mood to create a full spread so went on to make uttapams too. But I do think this dish goes best with simple steaming hot rice.

200 Calories per serving 4 servings

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 20 minutes

Lets get cooking!

1 pound prawns (headless and de-veined)

1 medium onion

1 inch ginger peeled

3 cloves garlic

1 large tomato

Handful of fresh curry leaves

1 teaspoon Black mustard seeds

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon ghee

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon Turmeric

Chettinad spice mix

  • 2 tablespoons Coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
  • 6 Dry red chillies
  • 1/2 teaspoon Carom seeds (ajwain)
  • 1 Star anise
  • 2 Black Cardamom pods (only the seeds inside)
  • 1 inch Cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon Fennel seeds (saunf)
  • 6 Black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1 teaspoon Poppy seeds
  • 1/2 inch Mace (javitri)

Step by step, on how to zoom through this recipe

The spice level of the dish can be moderated, just add however much of the mix you want.

It seems de-veining is just a personal choice. In my home we always did it… so I continue to do the tedious task (as I am too cheap to pay for the de-veined ones)! You may find it a bit gritty if you don’t de-vein but you will probably not notice it. I think its a mental thing for me. Knowing that I would be eating the intestines and all the sand the prawn had been eating makes me check that the prawns are cleaned well. Here is some science stuff! I de-vein both front and back, dorsal and ventral side, that is the digestive system and the nervous system!

  1. Take the cleaned de-veined shrimp and toss them with turmeric, salt and set aside. (Tip on how much salt! I like to just lightly season all around surface area)
Digestive tract taken out

2. In a small dry heavy bottom frying pan dry roast all the spices under the Chettinad spice mix. Stir the spices while its one medium to high heat till a toasty aroma of the spices hits you. The mix will be slightly browned and just releasing the flavors. (3-4 minutes)

3. Transfer the cooled spice mix to a coffee grinder and form a powder.

Picture taken from Archana’s kitchen (www.archanaskitchen.com/chettinad-masala-powder-recipe)

4. Take the onions and tomato cut into 4 pieces, transfer to a blender or a food processor or a smoothie maker. Add the ginger and garlic to it and wiz it into a paste. Try not to add any water.

5. In a pan heat 2 tablespoon oil and fry the onion, tomato, ginger garlic mix on a medium flame. Add salt and cover while cooking.

6. Cook till the onions have turned color to a golden color. If the oil dries out add a few teaspoons of water. Cover and cook till the onions are thoroughly cooked.

4. Transfer the fried onion tomato paste into a bowl.

5. In the same pan heat the tablespoon of ghee on medium heat. When hot add the mustard seeds and curry leaves.

6. Wait till the seeds start spluttering. Should only take a minute. Add the prawns and then add about 1/3 to half of the spice mix and give it a toss. The outside of the prawns will get quickly cooked in 2-3 minutes. (If you want it very spicy you can add the whole thing)

7. Add back the onion tomato mix and add 1/2 cup of water to cook the spice.

8. Stir, and cook for 3 minutes covered and then transfer the prawns out of the pan. This is so the prawns don’t over cook. If you don’t add any water the dish is done at this stage.

9. I had to reduce the gravy, to get the thick consistency. (this took another 5 minutes)

10. Dish it up… give me some spicy yum!

Chettinad prawn curry with Carrot, bell pepper, onion and tomato uttapam and left over carrot zucchini sambar

Dum Biryani

As an Indian, and a lover of meat, the first savory dish that comes to mind is Biryani. It is a meal in itself. Long grains of perfectly cooked rice with a warm aroma and fall off the bone juicy flavorful meat. When made well, it needs nothing at all to accompany it, as everything else is just a distraction.

It is the most unanimously loved non-vegetarian dish of the Indian subcontinent, yet full of such diversity that it is a genre in itself. There is Awadhi, Hydrabadi, Sindhi, Kolkata style, and endless more. Making it very difficult to choose just one kind to pick as my favorite to write up.

That’s, where Moms come in! The flavors and tastes I grew up with and still feel drawn to are those of my mother’s Biriyani. Though my family hails from Bengal, where a particular form of Biriyani that has potatoes and eggs in addition to the meat is favored, my mom was always partial to a Kashmiri style.

As traditions go… I have modified my mothers recipe and made it my own. Marrying the Kashmiri styled biriyani with some spices from the Lucknow, Awadhi form. Essentially it falls in the “Pakki” class of Biriyani, which means the meat and the rice are cooked separately and finished together. This works great for the novice or occasional biriyani cook as it give you more control over the final cooking and a perfectly fluffy and flavorful biriyani.

The Kashmiri style asks to cook the meat as a Roghan Josh, I like a bit more complex spices and add the Awadhi spices to the marinade making it bit more aromatic yet keeping the heat levels low enough for my 8 year old to enjoy. Hope you like it!

506 Calories per serving 8 Servings

Preparation time 30 minutes

Cooking time 1 hrs 55 minutes

In the typical recipe it would be cooked in ghee and cream or malai would be added at the final stage of meat cooking. I have replaced this with a bit of a calorie conscious alternatives. I use goat meat but any bone in meat could be used.

This recipe may read long, but I assure you take it step wise… 4 easy steps: marinade meat, cook rice, cook meat and put it in a pot together and cook in the oven! Finger licking!

Ingredients First…

Roghan Josh

1kg Bone in meat (I like front leg of goat. Usually ask the butcher to keep some of the fat on and cut it in large chunks. The seena or ribs attached to the front leg are also ideal cuts to add to this dish)

Ginger garlic paste (green chillis optional) (3 inch ginger and 5 cloves of garlic 2 green chillis)

1 cup Yogurt

Spice mix

  • 1/2 teaspoon Black pepper corn
  • 1 tablespoon Fennel seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 Cloves
  • 3-4 Green cardamoms
  • 1/4th teaspoon Nutmeg powder
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered or 2-3 strands of Javitri fal (Mace)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste

1/4 teaspoon Hing (asafoetida)

2 large red onions sliced

Sonth (dried ginger) powder

2 teaspoon sugar

1 cup low fat milk

3-4 strands of Saffron

3/4 cup Khoya

1/4 cup Chopped slivered almonds

1 teaspoon Keora water

1 teaspoon Rose water

Biriyani Rice

Sela Basmati Rice 1/2 kg (This rice has body and an earthy aroma. But any kind of long grain rice would work)

1 sticks Cinnamon

1 Black Cardamom

3 green Cardamoms

5 Cloves

4 Black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon Ginger and garlic paste

2 teaspoons Ghee

Step by step directions:

Wash the rice 3-4 times and then soak in more than double water while the spice mix is being made. (30 minutes)

While the rice soaks make the spice mix and marinade the meat.

Making the marinade

  1. Take all the dry spices in the spice mix in a coffee grinder and grind the spices for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Beat the yogurt and 1 table spoon of ginger garlic paste into a smooth paste.
  3. Wash the meat and pat dry.
  4. Add the dry ground spice mix to the meat.
  5. Next add the beaten yogurt to the meat.
  6. Season with salt. Then using your hands mix well and let the meat rest for 30 minutes – 2 hours at room temperature or refrigerate over night.

Cooking the rice just right!

  1. Take 4 -5 times the quantity of water as rice and place in a deep wide mouthed pan and place on heat.
  2. Flavor the water by adding the whole spices (included under the rice ingredients) and 1/2 teaspoon of the ginger garlic paste (store bought one can also be used but add less of it as they are usually stronger than freshly made ones)
  3. Add salt to the water. Bit more than usual seasoning, similar to the saltiness of sea water. We will be draining the water after cooking the rice so the excess salt will be drained out leaving the rice seasoned and flavored just right.
  4. Bring the water to a rolling boil.
  5. Add the soaked rice.
  6. Keep a close eye on the rice. Cook it about half way. This takes about 10 minutes since the rice was soaked. The al dente rice will be cooked again with the meat in the “dum” later. Its better to under cook rather than over cook it at this stage.
  7. Strain the half cooked rice in a colander. Set aside.

Making the Roghan Josh

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  2. Add powdered hing and let it sizzle for 30 seconds. There will be a wonderful aroma of the hing.
  3. Next add the sliced onions and saute on a medium heat. Season the onions with salt and cover the onions to let it sweat.
  4. When it becomes translucent add the dried ginger powder. Cover and cook for a minute or two.
  5. Add the marinated meat. If it was refrigerated then its best to bring it to room temperature. Increase the heat to high and cook for 5 minutes and keep stirring.
  6. Now cover and cook for 20 minutes on medium flame.
  7. The juices from the meat will start releasing. Reduce the flame to low and turn the meat from time to time. scraping the bottom of the pan.
  8. Cover and repeat the process of turning the meat till the meat turns a reddish brown color.
  9. Then add sugar and gradually add the water and cover and cook for another 30- 40 minutes, until the meat is tender. Scraping the bottom of the pan every 5 minutes.
  10. In a cup warm the milk to a luke warm temperature. Add the saffron and stir to release flavor and color.
  11. Add half of the milk to the meat.
  12. Grate the khoya and add it to the meat. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes and the khoya turns red melting into the meat and gravy. The gravy is thick. Khoya may be replaced with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.
  13. Toss in the slivered almonds with the khoya.
  14. Add rose water and kewra water and give it a final turn.

Putting the rice and meat together and cooking in “dum”

  1. Heat the oven to 350oF convection.
  2. Take a deep heavy based pan that has a fitting lid. Grease the pan with 1 tablespoon oil.
  3. Place all the Roghan Josh at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Put all of the rice on top of the meat.
  5. Pour the remaining milk and saffron on the rice. Sprinkle on a few more slivered almonds.
  6. If you wish to add the color to the rice. Make a dark orange color in 4 tablespoons of water. And in a separate bowl dilute and make a dark red color.
  7. Now pour the two colors in two separate streaks on the rice.
  8. Scatter 2 teaspoons of ghee on top of the rice. This will add to the flavor.
  9. Mix flour and water and form into a dough. Roll it on a counter into a long thin roll.
  10. Place the dough on the lip of the pan. Place the lid on the dough and pull the dough over to seal it shut.
  11. Place pan in the oven for 30 minutes. The rice will cook in the the steam from the meat and its gravy. This is the cooking in “dum”!

If you like, just enjoy the Roghan Josh as is, with roti or naan bread or a simple leafy salad. Roghan Josh by itself would be 263 calories per serving (8 servings total).

Pear Frangipane Tart

I am mortally scared of baking. I’m more of a ‘a dash of this or a pinch of that’ kind of a cook. So baking is usually a disaster. This was one experiment that did turn out good! It all started with having too many ripe pears at home!

200 Calories per serving 16 servings

Preparation Time 40 minutes

Cooking Time 40 minutes

Ode to Marry Berry

My daughter and I love watching the Great British Baking Show. We don’t necessarily have a sweet tooth but just love watching the nicest and most polite food competition ever! The English countryside and classic baking challenges just draws us in.

I don’t have the coveted Kitchen Aid stand mixer. But do have a food processor! This is the first time I used the food processor for a baking recipe. Loved it! Easy, fast and no mess!

I like quick recipes. This sweet short crust pastry takes 5 minutes in a food processor.

So here is my version of the classic, under guidance from Mary. I cut back on the sweetness and butter a bit to keep the calories in check yet had it balanced to give a perfect crumbly crust and a gooey Frangipane filling.

Crust

100g (4oz / 7tablespoons) unsalted butter (cold)

1.5 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons (25g) sugar

1 large egg

2 tablespoons of finely diced lemon rind

1 tablespoon water

2-3 drops of lemon juice

Frangipane Cream

1/2 cup (125g) unsalted butter (softened)

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup almond meal

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon amaretto

1 teaspoon almond extract

Other ingredients

3 large pears (ripe)

3 tablespoons Guava/ Apricot jam

Handful of Roasted almond slivers

Step by step directions:

Crust

  1. Cut up the hard cold butter in small 1.5 inch cubes.
  2. Add butter, flour and sugar to the food processor with the chopping blade insert. Pulse till consistency of bread crumbs (2 minutes).
  3. Whisk together the egg, water and lemon juice.
  4. Add half of the lemon rind to the egg.
  5. Change the food processor attachment from the chopping blade to the dough tool.
  6. Gradually mix in the egg and lemon mixture at a low setting. In 2-3 minutes mixture will comes together as a dough.
  7. Wrap in cling film and chill while making the filling.

Frangipane Cream

  1. In the unwashed food processor mix the softened butter and sugar using the chopping blade until creamy and fluffy.
  2. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
  3. Little bit at a time add eggs to the butter mix. Mix and scrape sides of the food processor with a spatula. It might look curdled and not mixed well but its ok!
  4. Add the almond meal, flour, amaretto, almond extract and mix. The mix will be homogeneous, grainy and thick.
  5. Finally add the remaining half of the lemon rind and mix for a few seconds.
  6. Chill in the fridge while you roll out the pastry.

Rolling out Dough

  1. Rub butter on to tart pan. I have a ceramic pan of a flan tin. Dust with flour. I like to take the dish over my sink, turn it over and give it a few good strong taps. This gets rid of all the excess flour.
  2. Lightly flour a cool surface, I use my kitchen counter.
  3. Take the chilled dough out and roll out, turning it 90o after each roll. I find this gives me a nice perfect circle and even thickness. I like a thin crust, so I rolled it out to about 1/4 inch thickness or a bit more than that.
  4. Transfer rolled out pastry to the prepared tart pan. Cut off excess dough from the edge of the pan using a knife or your fingers.
  5. Place back in the fridge while you prep your pear.

Pear

I personally don’t like a huge chunk of pear in my slice of tart. So I slice mine. You could keep yours in half too, that looks very pretty!

The quality and ripeness of the pear matters. Mine were ripe and juicy. If yours are on the hard crunchy side I would simmer in sugar water for 5 to 10 minutes. Just till you can easily put a fork in it.

  1. Use a pealer to peal pears.
  2. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds.
  3. Slice length wise about 1/2 centimeter thick. Or just leave them as halves. If you choose to leave as half make sure the pear is not taller that the depth of your pan when placed center down. Trim if needed.

Arrange and Bake

  1. Start heating up the oven to 375oF convention oven (190oC fan). Place a heavy dish on the lower shelf. I like using my pizza stone.
  2. Pour the Frangipane cream into the tart.
  3. Use the bottom of a spoon to even out the cream layer as the mix is quite thick.
  4. Arrange the sliced pears in a circle or layered manner however you like. Pushing it down gently into the Frangipane mix.
  5. Make sure you leave some room between the pears whether sliced or halves. The Frangipane mix does rise as it has the eggs in it.
  6. Place the tart dish on the heavy dish in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. (This gives an intense heat from the bottom cooking the tart base faster)
  7. Move the tart pan to the rack above without the heavy dish. Bake for another 20 -25 minutes.
  8. Test with a knife in a region with just Frangipane. Go all the way through the crust. It should come out clean.
  9. Let the tart cool a bit.
  10. Warm a jam of your choice. I used guava jam, apricot, peach jams would also be great.
  11. Brush the jam on top of the tart as a glaze. Decorate with roasted slivered almonds on top.
  12. Dig in!
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