Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fish in Hot Garlic Sauce

I am posting a Chinese recipe after a long time; earlier posts include this Burnt Ginger Rice, Sizzling Sesame Noodles and Vegetables in Hot Garlic Sauce. This is the first time I have cooked fish Chinese style; though we love Oriental cooking a lot and enjoy trying new dishes when we eat out, Chinese cooking at home is usually a last minute idea and so restricted to pan fried noodles and a vegetable stir fry. This time though I planned Sunday lunch to incorporate some nice sole I had at home. Once I decided to cook it Chinese style, making a vegetable fried rice to go with it was easy business.

The fish was marinated in lime juice and then patted in cornflour and fried. The sauce was extremely easy too – finely chopped ginger and garlic, oyster sauce and red chilli paste went into it and it was thickened with cornflour. The fried fish was put in at the end and finished with vinegar and freshly crushed black pepper. The whole dish took me about 25 minutes to cook from start to finish.

I usually don’t fry fish, so this was a first for me – but it wasn’t greasy like I expected and needed to remain in the hot oil for just under 4 minutes. This dish is definitely a crowd pleaser – the oyster sauce gives it a nice consistency and the fresh ginger and garlic add great flavor.

Fish in Hot Garlic Sauce

Fish fillets - 300 gms
Cornflour - 4-5 tbsp
Onion - 1
Ginger - 1 " piece
Garlic - 3-4 cloves chopped finely
Green chillies - 3-4
Oyster Sauce - 2 tbsp
Red chilli paste - 1 tbsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
salt to taste
Chilli vinegar - 1 tbsp
Freshly crushed peppercorns - 1 tsp
Oil - 3 tbsp

1. Clean and pat dry fish, cut into 2 " pieces and marinate with lemon juice and salt for about 10 minutes
2. Heat sufficient oil in a wok, roll the fish pieces in 3 tbsp cornflour and deep fry for 2-3 minutes. Drain and keep aside
3. Finely slice onion, garlic and ginger; slit the green chillies
4. Dissolve 2 tbsp of cornflour in one cup of water. Mix the oyster sauce, sugar and salt with one cup of water
5. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a wok, add the onion, green chillies, ginger and garlic and stir fry for a minute
Add the red chilli paste fry for one more minute, then the oyster sauce mixture and bring to boil.
6. Add the blended cornflour and cook for 2 minutes till the sauce starts to thicken.
7. Add the fried fish pieces and cook for a minute more, adding some more water if needed.
8. Stir in vinegar and the crushed pepper ; serve hot with Chinese Fried Rice.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pumpkin & Bean Casserole

Another lovely one pot meal from my trusted Good Food 101 Healthy Eats. As I have said before, the recipes from this book make for quick and healthy weekday meals, at the same time very delicious. There is this Egg curry which is made with spinach, a lovely chicken casserole , a delicious Lemon Chicken & Cauliflower Pilaf each one had that "something different" factor about it which helped break the monotony of our everyday meal.

This casserole recipe has black eyed beans cooked with pumpkins into a lovely stew kind of consistency with herbs and spices and then baked with a lovely topping. The original recipe called for a breadcrumb, walnut and herb mixture, but I couldn't resist going for a mashed potato topping which one usually finds in a cottage pie recipe. Also, I have done the bread crumb topping before for this dish and we found it turned out too dry for our liking....I know I'm probably doing something wrong, but right then the mashed potatoes beckoned! ;) Unfortunately, I didn't take a photograph of the finished dish after it was baked with the lovely crust.

So, if you have been wondering what to do with those black eyed beans in your pantry besides the usual Indian dishes we make; or if you have a hunk of pumpkin sitting in the fridge and don't want yet another bowl of soup - try out this recipe. Some bread on the side to go with it and you are all set.

This casserole of goodness goes to that wonderful event My Legume Love Affair (MLLA) which is the brain child of Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and this month's edition has come back to her blog after being hosted by many enthusiastic members of our food blogging community.

Pumpkin & Bean Casserole
(adapted from BBC Good Food - 101 Healthy Recipes)


2 cups cooked black eyed beans (chowli/lobia/karamani)
(Soak approx. 1.25 cups of dried beans in water overnight, drain the water and cook in fresh water in a pressure cooker or on the stove top till tender)

2 tbsp olive oil
Onions - 2 chopped
Garlic cloves - 4 finely chopped
Green chillies - 2 , finely chopped
2.5 cups fresh tomato puree (the original recipe called for passata, you could use store bought tomato puree)
1 " stick cinnamon
3-4 cloves
400ml white wine
400 ml vegetable stock (I used a stock cube dissolved in 400ml warm water in which the beans were cooked)
350 gms pumpkin (kaddu/sitafal/sigappu pushnikai), peeled and cut into 2 " cubes.
red chilli powder - 1 tsp
salt to taste

For the potato topping:
4-5 big potatoes, boiled and mashed (I ran them through a potato ricer)
2-3 tbsp milk
salt to taste
freshly crushed black pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the onions and saute for 10 minutes till lightly browned. Add the garlic, green chillies, red chilli powder, tomato puree, wine, vegetable stock, salt and pepper and bring to boil.
2. Reduce heat, simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes. Add the chopped pumpkin and cook for another 15 minutes.
3. Pre heat the oven to 180 C, add the beans to the pumpkin and tomato gravy and mix. Transfer the entire pan into a large baking dish or two smaller ones.
4. You can now opt to cover the casserole with the original recipe's suggestion of a crumble mixture (breadcrumbs, walnuts, herbs and oil) or my choice which was a mashed potato topping.
5. Combine the ingredients for the potato topping together and then spoon the topping over the beans casserole carefully, taking care not to press down too hard.
6. Bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes till the topping is golden brown on top. Serve with warm bread.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Parripu Payasam for Janmashtami - Lentil & Coconut Milk Dessert

For those of you who celebrate Janmashtami or Krishna Jayanthi – hope you have a joyous celebration! I am not a very ritualistic person, so celebrations at our home are usually more about having faith and giving thanks and rather than adhering to the actual rituals to the T. The story of Krishna’s birth tells us that he was born at midnight, so celebrations in Tamil Nadu usually happen the evening before…..but yesterday being a working day and today being the holiday in the North, it was more convenient for us to do the small pooja this morning.

I was glad I decided to do that, since I could spend all that time with my 4 year old daughter and answer every question of hers – from the garland of flowers, to polishing the silver lamp, to making the cotton wick, pouring oil into the lamp, drawing the rangoli, making the small “padhai” or Krishna’s feet leading from the door to the pooja room, telling her how I made the glass painting of Krishna. I guess rituals like these are more about family traditions for us and bind us together in yet another way….atleast for me it brings me closer to my family as much as it does to God.

The traditional offering for this festival that I remember when I was growing up, was “seedai” – small round balls of rice flour dough, delicately spiced (as well as sweetened) and deep fried to crisp, crunchy balls. None of that today, no time to make and nowhere to buy near our home – this is when I miss Grand Sweets in Chennai! And of course, there has to be white butter – the Makhan Chor’s favourite – and milk as well. We had freshly churned butter at home but that was more coincidence than planning! My daughter and I both enjoy eating “white” butter on our toast and I manage to collect enough cream over 3 weeks to get a bowlful.

Since hubby was working and I wanted to have the pooja before he left, I made a simple Parippu Payasam for the neivedyam. Payasam refers to a milk based sweet which is made in South India – also called Kheer in the North. It is usually a creamy dessert made with milk which has been thickened and sweetened and has either vermicelli or sago or rice added to it with raisins and other dryfruits.

Parippu Payasam is quite different in that it is made with lentils (mung dal) which have been roasted and then cooked till soft and then finished with jaggery and coconut milk. What made this version even more special was that I made it with jaggery which I had brought back with me from my last field trip to the cane fields of Uttar Pradesh. I was presented a box of jaggery “mithai” – basically very good quality jaggery which was cut into squares and had loads of almonds and pistachios in it. I had never seen anything like that before! There was no way I was going to have it the way it was recommended by the kind gentleman – “100gm everyday like a sweet - good for health”!

So, I used it to sweeten the payasam – the dry fruits were a nice addition, I would have usually just fried raisins and cashews in ghee and added it to the payasam, but the almonds and pistachios gave a nice crunch to the creamy consistency.

Parippu Payasam

1 cup moong dal split
1.5 cups thick coconut milk
1 cup grated jaggery
1 tsp elaichi powder (cardamom powder)
1 tbsp raisins and cashew nuts
1 tsp ghee

1. Roast the moong dal for about 5 minutes on a low flame till it gives out a nutty fragrance taking care it doesn't burn.
2. Cook the dal in a heavy bottomed pan in about 4 cups of water (just enough) till soft and can't hold its shape.
3. Then add the grated jaggery to it and half a cup more of water if needed so that it melts.
4. Put in the coconut milk and cook on a very low flame for about 4-5 minutes, taking carre it doesn't split.
5.Meanwhile, fry the raisins and cashewnuts in ghee and then add to the payasam along with the elaichi powder and remove from heat.
6. Serve warm or cold.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Bread & Butter Pudding

Foibles - we all have them don't we? The dictionary defines the word as " a minor weakness or an eccentricity". And who indulges our foibles better than family and friends? My mother knows I love thick, well set curd and always made sure (still does) that I am the first to "cut" into the curd bowl at home. When we came back from vacations she would rush to the neighbour's house to borrow some "starter yoghurt" so that there would be curd for me by the end of the day. The friend who loves pink in any shape or form - I always keep an eye out for something she may like. My best friend has started picking up coaster sets from the places she visits, knowing that I like collecting them.

The husband of a dear friend in Delhi loves butter and cream - so much so my friend had stopped keeping any butter at home until recently when having children meant that she couldn't go without. The combinations he could come up with were quite creative to say the least - butter in tea, a dollop of cream on his cold coffee..... So when I was wondering what to gift him for his birthday, I remembered my friend telling me how as a child, he enjoyed having bread and butter with sugar. Something which even I remember my Dad making for me when I was a little girl.

This bread and butter pudding seemed perfect for him - its a recipe I have made many times in the past 10 years and has never failed to please. One of the times I made it for a potluck, an acquaintance commented how the taste took him straight back to his Ooty boarding school days. I don't remember where this recipe is from - probably one of those Good Housekeeping magazines and I have adapted it over the years to make it perfect for our taste...its simple, hardly takes an hour from start to finish and is absolutely delicious! I made this recipe this time, in two batches - one to gift and a smaller one for my daughter - the second batch had a little less milk-egg mixture to soak and looks drier than it actually is. But it is quite creamy and very satisfying.

So, go ahead, indulge yourself or your loved one - give into your foibles!

Bread & Butter Pudding
Bread - 2 slices
Butter - enough to butter the 3 slices generously
Eggs - 1 plus one egg yolk
Milk - 300ml
Castor sugar - 2 tbsp
Demerara sugar - 2 tbsp
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Raisins & sultanas - 2 tbsp each
Cinnamon powder - 1/4 tsp

1. Butter the bread slices and cut each slice into quarters. Arrange the slices, buttered side up, in a shallow oven proof dish.
2. Sprinkle the raisins and sultanas on top.
3. Mix the eggs, castor sugar, milk and vanilla essence and strain if there any "bits". Pour over the bread, sprinkle the cinnamon and demerara sugar and soak for 15-20 minutes.
4. Pre heat the oven to 180 C and cook the pudding for 45 minutes till the custard is set and the top is a nice golden brown.
5. Serve warm or cold.