Category Archives: Quick Meal Ideas

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.

Mint-y Pea Fritters with Yogurt Dip

This was one of those born-of-necessity cooking adventures.

On a rainy, quite chilly Sunday some weeks ago, I decided we must eat soup for dinner.

So far, so good. There were some sweet potatoes that needed to be used up, so I peeled and chopped those up and got going with the soup. But then I began to wonder what I could serve on the side. Pizza did not seem like a good idea beause of the cheese overload, and we’d eaten pasta more than a couple of times already the previous week. And I had this vexing (to the family, since I kept asking them for ideas about what to cook) notion that the meal must include some green vegetable.

So I eventually asked Noor to google soup accompaniements and one of the first suggestions she seemed to come across was zuccini fritters. Interesting ! I thought, not having made those ever and pleased at the thought of trying my hand at something new and different. But then I quickly realized there was no zuccini in the fridge. In fact, there wasn’t very much of any vegetable in the fridge, and it was the kind of lazy day when I could not bear the thought of going out to shop.

Necessity being the mother of invention/experimentation, and with the bag of frozen peas the only source of veg at hand that afternoon, I decided to google to see if peas might lend themselves to fritters instead; and lo and behold, I discovered to my amazement that pea fritters are indeed a thing!

The rest, as they say, is history. I eventually came across this particular recipe that I decided to go with because I was equally intrigued by the dip- another first for me- and I am so glad I did. The dip made the dish, and the fritters have become a welcome addition to my repertoire of veg dishes.

Here’s my version of this easy-to-follow recipe (thank you “gourmandeinthekitchen”) –

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Mint-y Pea Fritters

2 cups of green peas (if frozen, thaw and boil, as with fresh, for just 3-4 minutes. Drain well)
2 eggs
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp of chopped fresh mint leaves
zest from 1 large lemon
50 gms of drained feta cheese, or a little more
1/4 cup of chickpea flour
salt and pepper to taste

Coarsely mash the peas with a fork in a large bowl and mix in all the ingredients, taking care not to squash the peas too fine. Add the chickpea flour at the end. Set aside for five minutes, then divide the mixture in to equal sized balls – about 8-10 – and flatten each with your hands in to discs (don’t make these too thin as you will pat them down some more as they fry).

Heat 2-3 tbsp of cooking oil over medium heat in a frying pan that will hold 4-5 fritters at a time. Place the fritters carefully over the oil, and fry slowly till they are cooked, a little crisped, and a nice color on both sides.

To make the dip while the fritters cook- in a ½ cup of Greek yogurt, stir in 1 tbsp of  freshly squeezed lemon juice, some freshly chopped mint (about 1-2 tbsp), 1/4 tsp of rock salt or Himalayan salt (adds a distinct something, IMO), a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and about 1/2-1 tbsp of olive oil (you could make the dip ahead and refrigerate, to help the flavors infuse nicely).

Drain the fritters to remove excess oil, and serve while still warm with the dip.

Et voila!  There’s a colorful, pretty, quite tasty plate here!

 

 

 

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.”

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 !

Prawn Fry – a recipe by epicurious Indira

That portmanteau word in the post title describes Indira pretty well as far as food is concerned, though of course not wine as yet.

About a month ago, she came home one evening from the park and came to me in the kitchen with an excited air about her. “Mama”, she said, “I went to Munira’s house for a few minutes and there was this really nice smell coming out of the kitchen. I asked if they were cooking prawns and they said yes ! So I stood and watched for a little while…”. She then proceeded to tell me exactly how the cook in Munira’s home made the prawns and ended by saying that she’d really like me to make prawns like that one day.

Well, I will do that for lunch tomorrow (we’ve done a small test run with 2 prawns the last time I made prawn curry) when I’ll also take a picture to post here. I am quite charmed by the idea that this blog now has a recipe that I’ve learned from Indira!

250 g of cleaned and deveined prawns (washed and patted dry)

a pinch of turmeric

salt and lime juice to taste

2-3 tablespoons of sunflower oil

Combine the salt and the turmeric in a shallow bowl. Toss the prawns gently in this mixture and keep aside for ten minutes. Heat the oil and shallow fry the prawns for just long enough so that they are a very light golden color all over. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the prawns and serve.

That’s quick, easy and tasty. Thank you, Chef !

Chicken Yakitori

This is the girls’ favorite thing to take away from the Asian fast food restaurants here. Like the nutmeg and honey flavored chicken tikkas, I love how simple to make this Japanese grilled chicken is and that there is no added fat.

Some recipes I found online use mirin and sake in equal proportion instead of only sake, as in this one here. But some sites also mention that sake can substitute for mirin and this was good to know because I was able to find only sake in the supermarket.

The yakitori we had today for lunch didn’t taste quite the same as what we are used to buying, but it wasn’t bad either. And it passed that crucial test – when I asked the girls as they ate  if this is something I should make again, they both said, (busy chewing) “hum hum!!” and “I love it !”

But, as they observed too, a little less ginger and probably just a touch more sugar would improve the taste.

Chicken Yakitori (adapted from here)

1 pound chicken breast fillets without the fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake or dry sherry
1 tablespoon chives (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon of cornstarch combined with 1 teaspoon of water

6-8 bamboo skewers

Combine the soy sauce with sake (or dry sherry), ginger, sugar and chives in a bowl. Add the cornstarch and mix. Put the chicken pieces in this marinade and toss well.  Refrigerate for about 1 to 2  hours, turning over the pieces a couple of times during this time.

Preheat the grill to 220 degrees C. Take the chicken pieces out of the marinade – save it for glazing – and thread them on bamboo skewers. Grill the chicken, glazing it with the marinade a couple of times and turning it  over till it is evenly cooked.  Serve with  hot soy sauce for dipping if you like.

Broccoli,Baby Potato and Tomato Salad

Yesterday, when I realized suddenly that I did not have as much time to cook dinner as I had initially thought, I decided to make this salad on a whim, to go with grilled pesto and onion toast.

I kept the broccoli florets quite small and since the salad also had the girls’ favorite tomate marzounette (a type of small-sized tomatoes that have an oblong shape and are grown from a variety native to San Marzano in Italy) they ate it without comment.

I haven’t combined them before, but potatoes and broccoli do seem to go well together. I can even see this salad as part of a more formal meal, with baby potatoes in place of the regular sort for a nice touch.

Broccoli, Potato and Tomato Salad

steamed broccoli florets

boiled, peeled and diced potatoes (the potatoes should be firm, not overcooked) OR boiled and peeled baby potatoes

cherry tomatoes, sliced in to halves (or quartered lengthwise if the tomatoes are the marzounette variety)

Put the tomatoes, the broccoli and the potatoes in to a large salad bowl. Add some olive oil, toss the vegetables lightly in it, and leave aside for an hour.

Just before serving, sprinkle some sea-salt and lime juice and mix the salad.

Light, colorful, GOOD ! Definitely one to make again.