January 17, 2017

Kashmiri lamb rogan josh to start the year

Kashmiri Lamb roganjosh

It's been a while since I have been here. When things get busy with illnesses or some difficulty, I tend to draw in and focus my energy on getting through it. You know how it goes, right. With two little kids, it is kind of inevitable.

Everything is fine now and I am coming back gingerly, having been away for so long.

Wreath cookies Hope you had a good holiday season. I had a couple of cookie exchange and here is what I made for one of them - wreath cookies. Regular sugar cookies. Tiny M and I had a lot of fun making it.

He was very interested in helping me, carrying them to the tray, and occasionally tasting little cookies that came from the donut holes of the cookies. I set aside some cookies for them and they colored their own.

When I was at the Farmer's Market last month, I picked some  lamb shoulders with nice marbling. The next day a couple of foodie friends were coming for dinner and I knew I had to make something special with it. I settled on lamb rogan josh without knowing it was one of their favorite dishes.

I got the recipe off the web from one of the blogs. The recipe called for 3 tbspoon of kashimiri chilli powder. I am usually cautious and will taste, but for some reason I forgot to this time. So when it was time to taste, I almost choked. The heat was too much, overshadowing the taste of other spices.

I decided to throw out the entire curry and start all over again. This time settling on a much lesser amount of the chili powder. Maybe our tastes are milder, maybe the kashmiri chili powder I had was too spicy, or maybe both. I will never know. But now I have a recipe that works well.

This recipe has no onion, or garlic. The flavors come from the black cardamom, dry ginger, fennel and asafetida (hing). Use ghee for best flavors. If it feels too much, temper in ghee and use oil for the rest.

The second version came out great and it turned out to be a great evening.

Here is how I did it.

December 06, 2016

Roasted butternut squash and onions

Roasted butternut squash with onions

It is the season you know, for butternut squash. While the offerings in the Farmer's market are dwindling here, but you can still find a good butternut squash for $1 or $2. I have tried it baked, in soup and was ready for something new.

This past week, I was working on a story about an Indian poet and someone commented about his work, "the genius of this music is it has simple individual parts, but when it comes together it is modern and complex."

I would like to say the same thing for this dish by Ottolenghi that has been our companion multiple times. Don't be deceived by the simpleness of the dish. It will be the star of your table and what better time to make it than Christmas dinner.

Some adjustments we did on our end -- instead of chunks of squash and onions, we make them thinner like fries and it can double up as a starter as well. We opted out of the pine nuts, but you can easily toast some and add them on top.

Here is the recipe.

1 medium butternut squash
2 red onions
1/4 cup olive oil
31/2 tbspoon tahini
1 tbspoon lemon juice
2 small garlic cloves - grated
1 tbspoon za'atar
1 tbspoon chopped parsley
Salt and freshly crushed black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F. Cut the squash and onions into long thin strips. Then mix it nicely with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roasted butternut squash with onions
Set it on a sheet and let it roast for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables have cooked through. Let it cool.

For the sauce - mix tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and some water and mix it together.

Roasted butternut squash with onions

Drizzle it over the squash along with Za'atar and parsley.

We served ours with some moroccan chicken curry. Enjoy.

October 29, 2016

Happy Diwali

Happy Diwali to all. May the coming year bring health, happiness, love and peace in our lives.

October 26, 2016

Making rasgullas for Diwali

Indian sweet rasgulla

This year Diwali starts the string of festivals for us. Diwali, Halloween, follwed by Tiny M's birthday, three in one week. To contribute to the sugar high (after all it happens once a year) I decided to to make some rasgullas. It has been a favorite for years and now it's time to make it at home.

Truth be told, I have gone through several rounds of rasgulla making and testing before the recipe was ready to be posted on the blog. So the pictures are all a mix from those several rounds.

In paper, the recipe looks rather simple -- make chana (paneer/indian cheese), make it into round balls and then soak it in sugar syrup and cook till it is ready. But it's easier said than done. The first couple of times it crumbled, the ones in brown sugar were brown and were swiftly made into rasmalai. But this one were soft and spongy. In fact, Tiny M was so excited, he stood up (not sit) on the chair and tasted them.

So this Diwali, it's back to the basics with homemade rasgullas. I hope you have a joyful festive season too.

(makes about 10-12 medium rasgullas)
5 cups whole milk
juice of 1 lemon
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
4-6 cardamoms


Indian sweet rasgulla

Making chana:
Boil milk and when it starts to boil, add the lemon juice till all the milk curdles. Wash it under water, tie it in a cheese cloth and let the extra whey drip.

Making rasgulla balls:

Indian sweet rasgulla This is the fun part or the hard part. Many times recipe calls for adding a tspoon of suji (semolina) to add more firmness, but not mine.

I prefer to do it with plain chana. Now get ready for some hand exercise. Start kneading the chana with your hands till it becomes soft with a dough texture.

Then take a little in your palm and roll it with both hands without causing a break in it. If there are small ones, don't worry, but bigger ones can make it fall apart during steaming.

Indian sweet rasgulla

The kids also joined in the fun of making the cheese balls. The little balls you see were kids handiwork and the big ones are mine.

Making sugar syrup

Boil the sugar with the water and cardamom in a pressure cooker till it disappears and thickens, about 6-8 minutes.

Making rasgullas
Once the syrups is ready, add the chana balls in the pressure cooker gently, taking care that it doesn't disintegrate. Now steam the rasgulla balls in the sugar syrup without the whistle for 6-8 minutes. The rasgullas are ready. Feel it with your fingers, it should be spongy. 

Indian sweet rasgulla
The rasgullas are ready. As they cool, they become more spongy. Chill and serve.

October 20, 2016

Rose sandesh for the puja season

Nolen gurer sandesh

It is a little late, but I hope you had a joyful pujo season. Shubho Bijoya! My parents were here for the pujo, so we had a wonderful time too. We spent time at the local pujo organized nearby; participated in shandi pujo, went to a concert by an artist from Kolkata and ate delicious food.

For pujo I made this rose sandesh. The taste and the smell of rose comes from rose water that I added to the chana or paneer when I was making it. Other than that, there's no other rose flavoring. But you will feel it at the first bite.

My kids have not been too fond of sandesh before, but this time they loved it. Must be the loving hand of the grandparents.

Here is the recipe.

September 26, 2016

Aloo -Begun Diye Chingri Macher Jhol (Shrimp Curry With Potato And Eggplant)

Shrimp Curry With Potato And Eggplant

We were visiting friends for dinner, when one of them turned to me and said, "you know you should have a special place in the blog for all your father's recipe." All my friends know it. My father is a terrific cook. He picked it up a few years ago when he retired and has not looked back.

Vegetables, dals, chicken he can and does cook everything, but I think fish is his specialty. You can look at the the earlier recipes I've posted from his last visits - aloo potol diye chingri macher jhol, or pyanj tomato diye salmoner patla jhol.

This time, when my parents came I asked him what recipe he had in mind for chingri mach this time. He said he was going to make it with eggplants.

The Ann Arbor Farmer's Market has had a bumper of eggplants. Every week, for one dollar, I get a big, fresh eggplant that we then use for bharta, beguni or in macher jhol among other recipes.

So coming back to a special place. I hesitated as his and my mother's influence is in a lot of my cooking. It's little things I have picked up over the years. It may not be his recipe, but it may have some thing that I may have learned from him.
Plus, I have learned my lesson with Aswin's corner. It's not just a corner, it's us. So instead of a place, I let it permeate the overall blog as it already does.

September 18, 2016

Making modaks and a food blogger comes to the rescue

Making modaks with the help of a blogger

This year Ganesh Chathurthi coincided with long weekend in the US. We planned on making a big feast for Ganesha which included idlis, payesam and modaks.

While the first two were easy to make (have experience doing it) the third was a little tricky. Modaks are sweet, steamed dumplings that are made especially for this festival.

Making modaks with the help of a bloggerThe few times I made modals was with my MIL. This time she was not here. So Aswin called her and she gave him the recipe for the filling. For the modak rice outer covers, he looked up a website (vegrecipesofindia) for making the rice flour dough.

When I started making the dough, I was at a loss. The recipe proportions were vague and the steps were not clear. And I ended with this gooey mess.

Time was running out. That's when I remembered Saee Khandekar, another food blogger from my early days of blogging. She is an expert Maharashtrian cook (check out My Jhola ) so I quickly looked up to see if she had a modak recipe.

She did! I did a mental hallelujah and set about making a second batch of rice dough.

With her specific instructions like this, you know you cannot go wrong.
At the slightest hint of rebellion, stir in the rice flour. Don’t worry about the dryness yet. Remove pan from heat and stir continuously. Cover and place back on heat for a minute or two, until the mixture doesn’t smell powdery.
So thank you Saee, the proportions and the descriptions helped.

We had fun making the modaks for neivedyam (offerings to Ganesha) and then eating it. The modaks were nowhere as beautiful as hers, but it was fun sharing this activity with the little ones. We will surely be making modaks again.


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