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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!

 

 

 

Turkish Gram Stew

I am going to call this dish by that exotic name just for fun, though what it is, really, is  my friend Srividya’s spin on the usal curry that forms part of the street food called misal-pav that is so popular in Maharashtra.

It is also lighter and less oily than many an usal curry I’ve had before, so I am really glad that my instinct (Vidya will surely have a good recipe for this, I thought to myself, as I stared at lentils, one Saturday morning a few weeks ago, that I had sprouted over a couple of days but suddenly wasn’t quite sure what to do with) led me to call my young ex-colleague and friend – who is a very accomplished cook-  to ask her for her version of an usal recipe.

What sealed it for me was that for the first time, Indira and Noor actually liked a preparation with this particular type of lentils and I saw that Shri enjoyed the dish too. So, a win-win-win ! Thank you much, Vidya!

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Turkish Gram stew aka Matki Usal Curry

Ingredients
Sprouted moth/matki/Turkish gram- 1.5 cups
2 finely chopped medium-sized onions
2 finely chopped medium-sized  tomatoes
1 and 1/2 tsp of ginger and garlic paste
1/2 tsp each of turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder
3/4 tsp of pav bhaji masala
paste made of (with very little water)-2 to 3 tbsp of grated coconut, 1 tbsp of poppy seeds, 4-5 cashewnuts and 1 green chilli
salt to taste

Method

In a pressure cooker, warm two tbsp of oil and fry the onions till they start to brown, then add the tomatoes and fry till they are quite soft and the water has dried up. Add the ginger-garlic paste now and fry for a minute. Add the dry spices next, fry for a few seconds, then add the paste and fry everything together till the oil starts to appear on the sides. Add the matki, about two and a half cups of water and salt, and pressure cook till 3 or 4 whistles. Let the pressure cooker cool completely, then take off the lid and stir the curry well and let it simmer for a few minutes if it is too thin.

Just before eating, add a little chopped green coriander and serve with hot rice or phulkas or pav.

This dish is delicious with any of those options but if accompanied by pav, serve some farsan on the side and slices of lime for a finger-lickin’-good bowl 🙂

 

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 😊

“This is so good!” Chicken Biryani

Time was, I cooked, I wrote recipes here, and all was well with the world.

But that seems like a long time ago. I’m what they call a corporate slave now, I think, which leaves little time to spend time here, a place  I used to so love being in.

So yesterday evening, when Sandhya, a friend from college, asked on our chat group if I still blog about food, and I replied – with a pang of regret – in the negative, it reminded of those years when writing here was one of my chief pleasures.

And so here I am. Fresh from having cooked a very decent chicken biryani (have always felt that biryanis are not my forte, as a cook), and having made a very decent guacamole, which has been a sort of bucket list thing for me for for the longest time,  never having made that dip at home before.

It helps, though, to have a teen at home who is  interested in food!
Indira had already said to me a couple of days ago, “Can you please make guacamole?” and I just happened to have an avocado sitting in the fruit basket this morning. So while the biryani was in the oven, I googled and found a great recipe for guacamole and Voila! There is now a bowl of really zingy, flavorful guacamole in the fridge! The biryani has been a decent success too, with Indira saying “This is so good!” as she ate the first forkful at lunch earlier today.

Biryani is rather a time-consuming dish to make, but as with most such dishes I think the trick is to break up the process in to steps that can be spread over more than one period of time when one is in the kitchen. So here are the parts that I see here (the first three can be done ahead of time) and which help me see this as something that can be handled without feeling overwhelmed! The ingredients are all in blue, to help make a list to gather all the many ingredients this dish requires. But read the recipe through to the end, for the list grows until then !

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  1. Marinate the chicken (can be done some hours ahead and in fact would make for more tender meat than otherwise)

    Cut 250-300 gms of boneless chicken in to 1″-2″ chunks. Whisk 200-250g yogurt till smooth and then blend in 1/2 tsp of Kashmiri red chilli powder, 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder, 1/2 tablespoon each of chopped fresh green coriander, mint leaves and chopped green chilli (this is optional and skipping it will subtract nothing from the flavor), 1 and 1/2 tsp of salt. Toss the chicken in this marinade and keep in the fridge till you’re ready to cook the meat.

  2. Finely Chop 2 large or 3 medium sized onions, and make tomato puree with 2 large tomatoes after blanching them in hot water to remove the skin.
  3. Make a spice mix by powdering together 1/2 tbsp each of cashew nuts, chironji seeds (there seems to be no ID for this in English, but if not available pine nuts are a decent substitute), poppy seeds, and grated coconut (lightly dry roasted so that it is not wet).
  4. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, soak 1/4 tsp of saffron strands in 1/4 cup of warm milk.
  5. Cook 1 and 1/4 cup of long-grain Basmati rice (wash and then soak the rice for at least 30 minutes before cooking it) in a pot in plenty of water and with a little salt, without covering the pan, till the rice is 3/4ths done. Drain the rice, and leave it aside to cool a little.
  6. Cook the chicken (on medium heat throughout)– In a large cooking pan, heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, add 1 tsp each of ginger paste and garlic paste, and fry for a minute or so. Add the onions, and fry till they are golden brown. Now add the spice mix and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomato puree next, and fry everything together till the oil separates and starts to appear on the sides. Turn the chicken in now with the marinade, along with a 1/2 tbsp of lime juice, and mix well. Cover the pan and cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes or till it is tender. By this point, the yogurt, tomato, onion and spice mix will have cooked down to a creamy-looking sauce with a rich color. Turn the heat off.
  7. In a large enough baking dish, or in a wide, deep pot, layer the rice and chicken as follows – first put 1/3rds of the rice, then spread half of the chicken over it. Layer another third of the rice, then the rest of the chicken, and then the remaining rice. Finish by sprinkling the saffron-infused milk over the top, and 1 tbsp of melted ghee. Cover the pot with a lid (or with silver foil if using a baking dish).
  8. Finish making the biryani by cooking on dum over low heat, or by baking at 180 degrees C for 20-30 minutes.

Leave to rest for 15-30 minutes. Serve. Enjoy 🙂

The usual thing is to eat biryani with yogurt, or a -tomato-onion-cucumber raita.
Perhaps that helps cut the heat of the spices. But this dish deserves to be savored on
its own, I’ve always thought, and needs only glass of wine on the side, really :-).
Plum chutney is another unusual and delicious accompaniment for it,
and adds a lovely dash of color to the plate.

 

 

 

 

 

Zingy Cornbread

Back in November last year, college mate Sudha shared this recipe on the class TG group, after she’d made it for Thanksgiving.

That was great timing for me, because a dear friend was going to visit that weekend and I was looking around for new ideas for a vegetarian starter to serve with the wine.

The very idea of cornmeal appeals to my Punjabi tastebuds 🙂 Which might explain why I’m drawn to and order polenta, or dishes that include polenta, in restaurants time and again, even though I don’t like  very much the way that it’s made !  And, of course, cornbread is one of those American traditions one has read about in so many books, and so, in a way, it didn’t feel like I would be taking on something alien or unknown!

So though I rarely risk trying a new recipe on guests, this time I did, and was so relieved and pleased that everyone loved it!

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

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(this is an improvised version of Chef Ina Garten’s recipe, from the Food Network)

1.5 cups of whole wheat flour and 1.5 cups of plain flour
1 cup of cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 tablespoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 cups of milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
200 gms of unsalted butter (melted)
200-250 gms of grated Cheddar or Gouda cheese
3 tablespoons of minced jalapeno peppers (fresh or bottled)

Combine the first five ingredients in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter and stir into the dry ingredients until the lumps are dissolved. Now add  the cheese (keep about 3 tablespoons aside to sprinkle on the top), and the jalapenos, and leave the mixture at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, for about 4 minutes. In the meanwhile lightly oil or butter a baking dish and turn the batter into it. Smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for about half and hour, till the bread tests done (stick in a knife, or a long barbecue stick, to see if it comes out clean. It should). By this time, the top will have a lovely light-brown crust too.

Let the bread cool in the baking dish and then cut into small squares, and serve. You could drizzle a little olive oil on each slice before serving if the bread seems too dry. Another nice  accompaniment, we’ve found, is garlic-and-chive flavored cream cheese, if you want to use the leftovers at breakfast as we did !

Best eaten a little warm.

 

 

On Identity…

A good week! More Noorspeak this evening, this time on identity.

In response to my routine question -“So how was your day in school/what did you do today”, Noor recounted an exercise their teacher for English set them today. She asked them, it seems, to write what each of them thinks the word identity means to them.

Noor wrote, she says, “That it’s not just who you are physically but who you are mentally too. It’s who you are as a person, and its what name you go by – but the name you make for yourself. It’s to be recognized by something I did”, she said, rather than as someone’s daughter or someone’s mother. It’s how you want to be recognized and it’s the way you act and display yourself to be.

Quite so, I thought. And thus is another strong woman born…..