Category Archives: Easy One Pot Cooking

Different-Delicious-Pan-fried Chicken

I love that the girls coax me every once in a while to try and cook something new. Recently, it has mostly been about chicken.

Ever since we bought this little book with interesting chicken recipes, we’ve tried 3 or 4  every few months. Of the lot that Noor selected some weeks back that she wanted me to try and make, this is the one that seemed easiest to tackle for a weeknight dinner.

And what a great choice it has turned out to be- so versatile, quick and easy, and flavorful and delicious too. It is great as a snack by itself; as a filling for tortilla wraps, as a side dish with rocket or another green salad; and as a star, very filling ingredient if one wants just a large bowl of salad for a meal.

Here’s how I’ve adapted the original recipe –

Delicious Pan-fried Chicken

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400 gms of boneless chicken breast, cut in to filets
For the marinade:
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp of red wine vinegar
3-4 large cloves of garlic, crushed well or finely grated
2 tsp of red chilli flakes
2 tsp of dried oregano
rock salt/Himalayan salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a small mixing bowl, and turn out in to a large shallow bowl. Toss the chicken filets gently in it, cover with cling film and leave in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours. Take the bowl out of the fridge and leave on the kitchen counter for 5-10 minutes just before you’re ready to fry the chicken.
Gently heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a grilling pan, place the chicken pieces in the oil, and fry on both sides for a few minutes on medium heat till the meat is cooked thru and starts to turn a nice brown color. Cool and store in the fridge if you’re going to add the chicken later to a salad, serve fresh and warm if you want to have this on the side with some  salad.

Substitute honey for maple syrup, balsamic vinegar for rice wine vinegar, thyme for orgeano; maybe add a few thin slices of ginger root to the marinade instead of the garlic. Any which way, this is a winner with lots of warm, delicious flavor.

P.S. If you use this as a filling for tortilla, add a few slices of  quickly-stir-fried red bell pepper, and perhaps some guacomole on the side as the original recipe suggests. I personally prefer adding 2-3 rocket leaves to the wrap; I find the crunch of the greens complement the soft and juicy chicken nicely.

Chicken, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Spinach Risotto

The husband is a man of the fewest words. Nor, in general, is he given to praise of the fulsome kind.

Much cause for quiet but exultant happiness then, when the day after a meal one noticed he enjoyed very much (from how the pan got wiped clean; 20 years do teach one to accurately read the signs), he said, “Thank you, that risotto yesterday was really very nice, and the rice was cooked just right. I know it took a lot of effort and it was really very good. Though I wish you’d made more, I was hungry after dinner”.

That last part – not sure if that was part of the pat on the back or feedback for the future. Either way, noted and filed for next time….

Such are the moments sweet memories are made of 🙂

It began with Noor patiently, persistently asking me over several weeks- “So when are you going to make risotto?” And though it was long in the planning because I kept forgetting to buy the cooking wine and to make the stock ahead, finally with a good recipe and some experimentation – the spinach picked from the pots on the terrace was a last minute impulse -it all worked out well, with a pleasing Saturday evening of cooking with all hands on board followed by a good dinner.

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Chicken, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes Risotto

2 cups of arborio rice (about 300 gms)
750 ml – or a little more – of vegetable stock, kept heated
1 and a half wine glasses of white cooking wine
2 small onions, finely chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
100g freshly grated parmesan
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped (can be skipped)
A small handful of baby spinach, finely chopped
2/3 cup of pan-fried or grilled chicken, thinly sliced

Warm a large pan and melt 1 tbsp butter. Add the olive oil, heat just a little, then add the garlic and onions and sauté for a few minutes on low heat till both are quite soft. Now add the rice, turn up the heat a little, and fry for a couple of minutes till the rice begins to look translucent.

Add the wine, and keep stirring, till all the liquid evaporates. Sprinkle over the salt, turn down the heat to a simmer and begin adding the stock gradually, one or two ladles at a time and stir it in thoroughly, almost continuously, till all the liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladleful (this part does take time, so this is where one puts all hands available on the job one after the other).

Add stock till the rice is cooked soft but retains a very slight bite. If the quantity of stock runs out before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.As the rice begins to approach the “done” stage – you will know this from tasting a grain or two – mix in the sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and chicken.

Turn the heat off, and gently stir in the remaining butter and the Parmesan. Cover the pan and let the rice sit for a few minutes. This, says Jamie Oliver, “is the most important part of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy like it should be.”

But serve soon, serve hot- cold risotto is not as much fun and there is no reason not to eat this dish quickly, it is that good 😊

Easy-as-anything, Guacamole

It’s been another one of those days when I wonder why I’ve never made what I made today, ever before.

Guacamole has for the longest time been something I’ve wanted to try my hand at, but never got around to actually making.  It took an express wish/command from the teen two days ago “Can you please make guacamole?!” and a serendipitously-there avocado in the fruit basket, to get me to finally give this a shot.

And boy am I glad I did! No more store-bought stuff, yay! The fresh version is just SO much nicer, so zingy and bursting with flavor!

Here’s my take on this Alton Brown recipe here

Mash the flesh of one avocado with the juice of a small lemon, 1/4 tsp each of salt, freshly ground cumin (this is important for flavor, I think), and cayenne. Then add  a quarter of a small onion that’s been very finely chopped, a quite ripe tomato that’s been seeded and finely chopped, 1 tbsp of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves, 1 small, minced or grated clove of garlic, and a little more lime juice if needed. Mix everything well, and let sit for at least half an hour for the flavors to combine, before serving.

And there you have a pretty bowl of guacamole dip – so simple to make, I’m wondering what I’ve been doing all these years when I bought those expensive jars!

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Bisi Bele Huliyanna-or, Zingy Khichdi

Technically, this dish is a kind of khichdi, in that it is made with rice and lentils that are cooked together. But, oh, what a difference to the typical khichdi which is often very lightly – though always fragrantly so -spiced and, when not being served to a baby or an invalid (since it is easily digested), is served with an accompaniment such as kadhi, or a vegetable dish on the side.

Bisi bele bhath, or bisi bele huliyanna – hot lentil sour rice, in the Kannada language – however takes the concept of khichdi to a whole another level, packed as it is with flavor and heat. A generous amount of ghee, tamarind juice, and of course the signature spice mix that makes this dish – the result is a  delicious, all-in-one dish that needs no accompaniment except some papad, and maybe some yogurt to balance the heat.

bisi bele

This is Indira’s favorite khichdi, and I’ll always be grateful to my dear friend Harshini for introducing us to this dish soon after we first met Kiran and her in France 17 years ago. Through all these years, the advent of two children, a move back to India and much else that has changed in life, it has remained a family favorite. And I love that Harshini’s version of it is one of those easy, one-pot recipes that I so love!

Bisi Bele Huliyanna

1/2 cup of a small-grain rice variety such as kolam or sona masuri
1/2 cup of arhar daal
(pigeon pea lentils)
a handful of green beans, washed and chopped in to 1″ pieces
a 1″ piece of ginger, washed, peeled and grated
2 small tomatoes, washed and chopped in to large-ish chunks
2 medium onions, chopped in to large-ish chunks
3/4 tsp of turmeric powder
2 tablespoons of ghee
1 and a 1/2 or 2 tablespoons of thick tamarind pulp (to be prepared by soaking 1 tablespoon of   tamarind flesh in some hot water for 30 min or so)
1 level tablespoon of bisi bele bhath powder mix
salt to taste

Wash the rice and daal thoroughly, and soak together – in enough water to allow for the grains to remain covered even after they swell a little – for about 3 hours. Then drain the water, and combine the rice and lentils will all the other ingredients in a pressure cooker. Add 3 cups of water, and cook till 4 whistles of the cooker. Let all the steam escape, then open the cooker and carefully turn out the khichdi  in to a serving bowl. The consistency to look for is of a really soft, thin rather than thick khichdi  (you will be able to move the serving spoon easily through the cooker or serving bowl, sort of like through a smooth and runny porridge).

Serve quite hot, with deep-fried papad. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Chocolate-y Goodness

choc oat bars
Or so Noor termed these granola bars that, despite the obligatory oats, are saved from being just only healthy by a reasonable amount of chocolate chips !

Delish Mint-y Potatoes

I love the sheer simplicity of this dish as I much as I do the dish itself. Which, luckily, is one that the girls and Shri like a lot too. Noor, in particular loves it and her eyes light up when I say I’m going to make this for their lunch box for school!

This is another dish that I learnt to make from the young chef in the kitchen of our farm stay in Sikkim some months ago. In addition to the dish itself,  I was so glad to learn the little trick he told me about adding the salt to the oil, instead sprinkling it over the potatoes. That surely makes a subtle but important difference to the taste.

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Here’s how he made it –

Mint-y Potatoes (for 4-6)
5-6 medium sized potatoes
a handful of mint, washed, dried and chopped fine
2 tablespoons of oil
salt to taste

Pressure cook the potatoes or cook in boiling water. Allow to cool, then peel and cut them in to large chunks. Take care not to over do the cooking, as you want chunks that are firm to the touch rather than soft or crumbling.
Now warm the oil in a shallow frying pan large enough to hold the potatoes in a single layer, and add the salt to it. Let the salt turn color to a very light brown. Now add the potato chunks and the mint together, and saute together till the potatoes start to acquire a slightly crisped look and color. Take off the heat and serve while still warm, ideally.
These potatoes are great by themselves, or with paranthas. A light dish, and there’s so much flavor here from the mint that is not obscured by any spices. I might even serve this as a side dish with a big leafy green salad.

Kuttu ki Khichdi or -Warm Buckwheat Groats Salad

A day of happy discovery! While rummaging through one of the kitchen cabinets this morning, as I looked for sunflower seeds, I found the box of buckwheat I bough a while ago at Dorabjee, my go-to supermarket. And since I was still wondering about what I could cook for today’s lunch, I decided I’d make buckwheat crepes and went ahead and opened the box.

Only to discover that the box contained not buckwheat flour, but the groats! Which threw me for a bit, since I had no idea what to do with what was in the box! Imagine my relief then, when I saw this recipe printed on the inside of the box….which is how this khichdi came to be made today by two people in two very different parts of the world! But more about that in a bit.

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As I cooked this dish, it quickly became obvious that the inspiration for this must surely be sabudana khichdi. And as the ingredients started to come together, as they do for that other dish – the aroma of cumin seeds and chopped potatoes pieces frying in some ghee, followed by the peanut powder as it was sauteed a little along with some chopped green chilli- my anticipation grew.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The result was a really tasty dish, a satisfying and healthy alternative to sabudana khichdi. The latter is a dish we all love, but the base- the sabudana – is admittedly not a food that packs a whole lot of nutrition, while buckwheat’s benefits include it’s gluten-free nature.

Later in the day, I messaged Priti, my friend who first introduced me to buckwheat flour almost three decades ago, to tell her about this recipe “find”. She was intrigued by it as well and since it was still early in the morning for her where she is in the U.S., she went ahead and made this dish for breakfast! And I was so glad to hear her family enjoyed it too.

A cuppa on the side; that’s all this dish needs to make it a great start to the day !

Kuttu ki Khichdi
A cup of groats
A 1 inch piece of ginger, sliced fine
3 tablespoons of peanut powder
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced small
1/2 a teaspoon of jeera seeds
2 small green chillied, chopped fine
1 teaspoon of unrefined sugar
1 tablespoon of ghee (go ahead, cheat, add a little more!)
chopped coriander leaves for garnish
juice of 1/2 a lime (optional)
2 cups of water (OR – 1 and a 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of yogurt, well blended)

Soak the buckwheat for an hour, then drain and rinse a few times in water, and keep aside.
Heat ghee in a frying pan. Add the cumin seeds and when they crackle, add the diced potatoes and fry gently till half done. Now add the ginger and green chilli, and saute for a minute. Add the ground peanuts next, saute for a minute, then add the buckwheat, stir everything together well and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the sugar, the salt and the water, stir and cover the pan. Simmer the mixture over a low flame and cook, covered, till all the liquid is absorbed and the groats are cooked. Take the khichdi off the heat, stir in the coriander leaves and lemon juice, and serve warm. Yum! The peanuts and potatoes (and the ghee!) give this dish it’s appeal. The goodness of buckwheat is a happy bonus 🙂

Thayir Sadam/Tempered Yogurt Rice

This very simple dish has been one of my favorite ways to eat rice since my childhood days when I first fell in love with Tamilian cuisine in – of all places – Bokaro, the town in eastern India where I was born and lived until I was 16. Some of my earliest memories are of eating steaming hot sambaar, idlis, and sometimes thayir sadam, in the home of  our neighbors the Ramachandrans, whose daughter Aparna was my dearest friend when we were both 4 or 5, and in whose home I therefore often ended up eating my meals after she and I had played together.

So it was disappointing when Indira and Noor did not like it much at all when I made this dish some years ago when they were much younger. But that was then, I thought to myself, as I decided to give it another try last week. Surely their love of both the main components-rice and yogurt- would make it acceptable in their lunch boxes?And I would not go by the recipe in a book this time, I figured, but get it instead from someone who I could go back to till I got it right! So I asked my Tamilian colleague Radha one lunch hour last week  to give me a step-by-step download on how she and her mother make the dish in their kitchen.

A good decision,as it turned out, because Radha gave me some useful tips as well and the result was two very satisfied girls, and some more children who liked it too (“Ameya and Vrushi loved it !”, said Noor, and “Yes, Zara and Munira loved it too!”, said Indira).

I did make one significant change to Radha’s recipe – she suggested adding some pomegranate seeds (a tablespoon or 2) at the end but since Indira doesn’t like this fruit at all, I substituted it for lentils since I seem to remember having come across this version of the dish over the years.

Tamilians usually eat this dish at the end of a meal – they say it helps with digestion and cools the stomach after all the spicy food that comes before – but I can eat this any time!

dahi rice

Thayir Sadam/Yogurt Rice

Cooked Rice – 1 cup
Yogurt (not too sour, especially if you’re going to make  and keep the dish for an hour or more before serving it) – 1/2 cup
Milk (for a creamier taste, use 100% rather than low-fat) – 1/2 a cup
7-8 curry leaves
1 green chilli, finely chopped OR 1 dried red chilli, broken in half (optional)
1 or 1  and a 1/2 tablespoons of chana daal (split black chickpea lentils), soaked for at least a couple of hours  OR urad daal (skin less black gram lentils)
1/a teaspoon of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds
1/2 a tablespoon of sunflower oil or ghee
1/2 a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
Salt to taste

Drain the lentils and keep aside. Whisk the yogurt a little, to dissolve any lumps, then add the milk and blend the two well. Put the rice in to a mixing bowl, and mash a little (if you don’t mind doing this with your hand, you’ll be rewarded with a really soft, creamy thayir sadam). Now add the yogurt and milk mixture along with the salt, and stir it all together thoroughly.
To finish – in a small tempering pan, heat the oil/ghee, add the mustard seeds and wait till they splutter. Now add the curry leaves, and after a few seconds the lentils, and fry everything over low heat till the lentils are really quite soft to bite in to. Half-way through, add the ginger so that it’s fried a little by the time the lentils are done. Now add the green chilli, the asafoetida, fry for just a few seconds and then pour the whole mixture over the rice. Add the coriander also, now, and then mix everything in well.

Radha and another Tamilian colleague – our accounts manager Venu who, like many Tamilian men, is a great cook ! – tell me this dish is best eaten cold, so they each suggested leaving it in the refrigerator for some time before serving. Personally though, I prefer eating it at room temperature.

With a quick-to-make dry vegetable dish such as beans poriyal or cabbage poriyal on the side, this makes for a soothing, simple and delicious meal, full of gentle but distinctive flavor.

A tip about the rice – long-grained rice will not do justice to this dish. Use a short-grain variety such as the ambe mor of  Maharashtra,called mango blossom in English. Another thing, about the yogurt-milk mixture – if the dish is going to be kept for several hours before eating, as is the case when it’s prepared to carry as “tiffin” for a long-ish train journey or for a picnic, then use less than a quarter cup of yogurt, and make up the rest of the cup with milk. This is done because in warmer places, the milk will curdle and form yogurt by the time the dish is eaten, thus avoiding a too-sour taste that would result from more yogurt than just a few spoons at the start.

Some interesting trivia (source-wikipedia) about this dish – “In the state of Tamil Nadu it is so popular that this food is one of the chief offerings to the God in many Shiva and Vaishnavite Temples which is later distributed as ‘prasadam’ (blessed food) to devotees. Here this is called by a different name ‘dadhiannam’/ “dadyodanam” (Tamil script:ததியன்னம்/ தத்தியோதனம்) Sanskrit दधि dadhi=curd + अन्नं annam = cooked rice.”

Amazing Granola !

A recent email from the husband began –“This recipe looked interesting.If you find all the ingredients, could you please make a small batch?”

Umm hmmm. If he’s asked, I thought, which he does not very often, then I must treat this as only a rhetorical question 🙂 Anyway, just the thought of making something which meets my “is it healthy” test, and that would possibly add to the list of breakfast options for the girls to carry to school,was motivation enough.

granola

As it turned out, Indira and Noor had this today with vanilla ice-cream, for their after-school snack and Shri snacked on it yesterday too in the evening. Any which way you eat it, this granola is as delicious as it’s full of goodness. Here’s the recipe (a very popular one, it turns out) that Shri sent to me, from  Megan Gordon’s “Whole-Grain Mornings”, with just a couple of minor tweaks i made to adapt it to what I had in my kitchen, and to my oven.

Apricot-Pistachio Granola

1.5 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or plain table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots (about 10)
1/8 cup diced crystallized ginger

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Add the vanilla, olive oil and maple syrup and stir to combine. Next, preheat the oven to 160 degrees C and line a  baking tray with baking paper or a silicone mat. Turn the mixture out onto the baking paper ,spreading it in an even layer. Bake until fragrant and golden brown, for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to ensure the granola bakes evenly. When it’s done, it’ll have a nice, toasty aroma and look (and will firm up some more as it cools).

Remove from the oven and let cool completely, and then stir in the apricots and crystallized ginger once the granola has cooled. Store in an airtight container for 3 to 4 weeks or refrigerate for up to 6 weeks (if refrigerating, keep the apricots in a separate sealed bag and add them as you enjoy your granola so they don’t become hard and dry,says the original recipe).

Try it, and enjoy ! Breakfast, snack, dessert – this is oh-so-versatile ! Next time, I’m going to use less of the pistachios, and possibly skip the ginger, to cut the sugar and fat load here. I don’t think the granola will suffer for it, the maple syrup, cinnamon and cardamom add enough magic here !

Tangy Chicken Kheema

Though this was a fairly regular dish in my mother’s kitchen – I remember that my father loved it, and so was always telling my mother how to improve it !- it’s one I never learned to cook from her. And now, after all these years, when I asked her for the recipe last week, she said she couldn’t quite remember how she used to cook it, since she hadn’t made it in the longest time. Googling , though not my prefered route- since I like to cook anything the first time from a recipe in a cookbook I trust or from someone whose cooking I like- seemed the only option, since I didn’t find the recipe in any of my cookbooks either. So I was eventually quite pleased to find two recipes that seemed very interesting, though quite different to each other. The first, which I found on a really nice blog called Aaplemint, is the one I tried out yesterday, and the results were good enough for Noor to go “AWESOME!” when she tried the kheema at dinner time.  Indira was not too impressed, though she did finish the portion I insisted she eat.But that was okay this one time, because it’s Noor who’s been coaxing me to make kheema ever since she tried some when I ordered a plate of kheema-pav at a food court in a mall some months ago.  And in any case I’m going to try and impress Indira with the other recipe I found, by Sanjeev Kapoor, called “Lagan ka Kheema” as I suspect that the result of that one will have the richness Indira sometimes likes in Indian chicken dishes.

Until then,  here’s my version of the recipe I found on Aaplemint (thanks, Chef d’Aaplemint!), with some changes [pic to follow].

Tangy Chicken Kheema

400 gms Chicken Mince
3 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of ginger and garlic paste
Puree of three  tomatoes (remove the skin after blanching the tomatoes)
3 small cinnamon sticks
5-6 black peppercorns
2 whole black Cardamom
3 green cardamoms
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp garam masala
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp Cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste
2 tablespoons chopped coriander

In a large, flat heavy-bottomed pan -which will allow the kheema to cook evenly- heat the oil and fry the whole spices – cinnamon, cardamoms, peppercorns and  bay leaves – till fragrant. Add the onions and fry till they begin to brown. Now add the ginger and garlic paste and fry for another minute or two. Add the mince next, and cook till you feel the mince is almost done and any water in it begins to dry up (approx. 10-12 minutes). Add the tomato puree now and the powdered spices, and fry everything together till the tomatoes are well absorbed, the mince well cooked and the oil begins to separate and appear on the sides of the pan. About 10 minutes before serving, add the lime juice, and the chopped coriander leaves as a garnish just before serving else the leaves can sometimes turn blackish if added too early.

We ate this yesterday with slices of a delicious French multi-grain bread that we buy at our local deli. But it would be equally nice I think with some brun-pav, that simple but excellent and versatile Iranian bread which is as good with so many Indian curries as it is for making great garlic bread !