Nasi Goreng ~ From the streets of Indonesia

Nasi = Rice, Goreng = Fried, the dish literally translates to fried rice. Let’s explore the streets of South East Asia and its glorious cuisine this week 🙂

Day old rice tossed with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), belacan (shrimp paste) and leftover veggies/ meat creates this beautiful umami rich fried rice topped with a fried egg.

One of the most talked about dishes of south east Asia (with several dubious recipes floating online!), the authentic nasi goreng is rather simple- with only stir-fried left over rice and a fried egg, as served in most local eateries across the length & breadth of Indonesia and Malaysia.

But if you want to make it into a complete wholesome meal like I did, just throw in any left over veggie, some protein and you are sorted! But what’s not optional is the kecap manis and fried egg on top😋

Don’t fret if you don’t have kecap manis. Simply reduce dark soy sauce (preferably low sodium) and brown sugar in a pan on low heat until it becomes darker & sticky. Ta-da!
You can add this sweet soy sauce to a host of Asian stir fries😉 Meanwhile you could also check out the Asian aisles of your supermarket or any Asian grocer and get a bottle of this dark and luscious velvety goodness.

Shrimp paste (belacan) gives the dish its umami flavour and elevates its taste to the next level! You can skip it if you don’t have, but do give it a try once. It does smell funky but believe me it really makes a difference in the taste and is actually much subtler in flavour once cooked.

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

200 g boneless chicken cubes

2 portions of cooked rice, a day old (if you don’t have overnight leftover rice, simply cook fresh rice and allow it to cool in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, don’t skip this!)

2-3 tbsp kecap manis

2 tsp chopped Thai red chilies

2 tbsp chopped garlic

1 finely chopped medium sized onion or 2-3 shallots

1 large cup veggies of your choice (I used chopped red bell pepper, beans and carrots)

1/2 tsp belacan/ shrimp paste (you can add slightly more or reduce based on your preference)

2 eggs

Salt to taste

White oil for frying

Method:

Marinate the boneless chicken cubes with 1/2 tbsp kecap manis. Keep aside.

Heat a wok; once smoking hot, add oil and throw in the chopped shallots (or onion), garlic and Thai red chilies. Sauté for a while.

Now add the chicken and spread it in the wok to ensure that it sears nicely. Stir fry for a while until the chicken is nicely browned. Next add your veggies and continue to stir fry on high heat. Adjust the salt according to your taste (remember soy sauce has salt, so go easy).

Add a bit of shrimp paste if you have and mix everything together so that the paste is evenly combined with the chicken and veggies.

Now add leftover rice (preferably short-grained) and the remaining kecap manis and stir fry for some more time. the rice and veggies should look glazed and nicely coated with the sauce.

Meanwhile prepare two fried eggs in a wok (no salt needed).

Serve hot with fried egg, cucumber slices and prawn crackers🤍 Makan time now!

Ayam Goreng Sambal (Malaysian style Spicy Sambal Chicken)

Crispy and tender boneless chicken thighs smothered in Malaysian style spicy sambal. So sedap (tasty) 🤍

Local Malay and Indonesian fares are so deliciously appetising and dangerously addictive that there’s no going back ever once you taste them at the countless mamak shops (street side restaurants)😋

I was craving sambal ayam goreng today, so quickly tossed up some fried chicken pieces in homemade sambal. Hello weekend bingeing !

Try this recipe and get transported to the enigmatic winding streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Ingredients:

For the fried chicken

300 g boneless chicken thigh

1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste

1 tbsp kecap manis (dark sweet soy sauce)

1 tsp vinegar

1 egg beaten

2 tbsp cornflour

White oil for deep frying

For the spicy sambal

5-6 fat cloves of garlic crushed

5-6 shallots

1 lemongrass stalk finely sliced

1 inch piece of fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp turmeric powder)

2 inch piece of galangal (or fresh ginger)

2-3 dried red chilies soaked in hot water (you can add more or reduce depending on your heat tolerance)

1-2 fresh chilies (again add or reduce to your liking)

1 tsp fish sauce

2 tsp tamarind paste (without seeds)

2 tbsp brown sugar (or palm sugar)

Any white (neutral) oil

Method

Marinate the chicken thigh pieces with some salt, ginger-garlic paste, kecap manis, vinegar, 1 beaten egg and cornflour. Keep refrigerated for 30 mins.

Heat some oil in a wok for deep frying. Fry the chicken until nice and crunchy golden brown. Drain and keep aside on a plate.

Meanwhile prepare the sambal by grinding the garlic cloves, fresh turmeric, ginger (or galangal), soaked dried red chilies, fresh chilies, shallots and lemongrass stalk into a paste in a blender or a mortar-pestle if you have patience.

Now heat a wok with oil. Sauté the paste on low heat until the aromatics turn fragrant which may take 12-15 minutes. Now add little fish sauce, palm sugar (or brown sugar) and the tamarind paste (you can make it to your liking by adjusting the sugar and tamarind).


Once the oil releases from the spices, it’s time to add the fried chicken and toss them for a while. Serve hot with your favourite drinks or simple nasi putih (white rice) 🙂

Authentic Kolkata Biryani- Tracing Roots & Bridging Cultures


The classic Kolkata chicken biryani with its juicy tender meat, mild & fragrant spices & succulent potatoes, is inspired heavily by the Awadhi style.

As I write this, fond memories of Arsalan, Shiraz & Aminia just keep coming back🤍 The city’s love for this stellar dish can be experienced through the countless biryani eateries strewn across its length and breadth.

Source: YouTube

The seeds were planted in the mid 1800s when the 10th Nawab of Awadh (or Oudh) was exiled from Lucknow and his properties were seized by the British. He moved with his entourage to Metiabruz in Calcutta, which soon became a cultural mecca thriving with musicians, courtesans, royal kitchen khansamas (cooks), skilled darzis (tailors), et al.

The Nawab was a man of taste and a well known connoisseur of food. He had his royal kitchen khansamas with him who were some of the best of those times- highly skilled, enterprising and always innovating to indulge and delight the Nawab’s tastebuds.

That’s how Awadhi biryani which is cooked in the dum-pukht style reached Calcutta. In dum-pukht style of cooking, the rice and the meat korma is cooked separately and then layered in the pot on which the lid is sealed tightly with dough so that the steam doesn’t dissipate and flavours remain intact.

This ingenious method results in the exotic aromatic juices from the meat to ooze into the rice and potatoes, creating a subtle yet exquisite flavour in the biryani.

All great so far!

But how did the humble (or not so humble) potato and egg come into the picture?

If you ask me, I would say the potato is my favourite thing about biryani. Only those who have tasted Kolkata biryani would truly understand what I’m saying! Undoubtedly, it is the humble soft potato that connects true blue Calcuttans across the globe and sparks debate (at the drop of a hat) about the best biryani joints in Kolkata.

There’s a lot of literature out there discussing the origin/ history of adding potatoes. On researching, most sources lean towards the theory that with the Nawab’s wealth depleting, the purse strings were tightened but being a gourmet, he always enjoyed having his royal meals. So his khansamas began innovating in the kitchen to find ways to satiate him, hence the inclusion of potatoes (and later on eggs) to stay within budget. Click here to read more.

But there’s another side to this claim which states that potato was actually considered an exotic vegetable. According to the great-great-grandson of the Nawab Shahanshah Mirza, as mentioned in an article published by Hindustan Times, potato cultivation was sparse in those days and hence not readily available, making it a luxury produce.

The khansamas simply experimented one day with potatoes in the biryani which the Nawab seemed to relish and approve of, and that’s how potatoes got introduced in Kolkata biryani 🙂 You can read the complete article here

For the chicken biryani, I blindly followed Manzilat Fatima’s brilliant recipe (she draws her lineage from Awadh’s royal family), noting down every single ingredient and technique that went into making this phenomenal dish, which she shared in a YouTube video by Delhi Food Walks🤍 Only exception being the eggs which I added, as I love eggs 😀

Manzilat Fatima’s famous Kolkata biryani recipe


I have tried her recipe for at least 7-8 times now and every single time the flavours simply knock your socks off! There’s no going back now. Watch the video to get her mind blowing recipe or you can continue to read below where I have broken down her recipe in 4 simple steps (for 3 servings):

Step 1

Peel 4 potatoes and fry them in mustard oil. Sprinkle salt, 1/3 tsp turmeric and a little red chilli powder while frying. Add little water, cover and continue to fry them. Keep aside when almost done.

Now heat some more mustard oil and fry 1 large red onion to make barista. Drain and keep aside on a paper towel.

Step 2

Heat mustard oil in a handi (or a deep bottomed pan). Add 4-5 cloves, 6 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom and 2 cinnamon sticks. Fry for a while and add the fried barista again. Throw in 2 fat cloves of crushed garlic and fry for a few seconds.

Now add 2 tbsp hung yogurt and mix well. Add little red chilli powder, 2 tbsp biryani masala (I used Shan Pilau Biryani masala, it’s fantastic!) and mix well. Now add 2 inch grated ginger and fry everything for a while. Add 6 chicken thighs (bone-in) and cook on medium heat for 5-7 mins. Lower the flame, cover and keep cooking.

Step 3

Wash and soak 11/2 cup rice for 1 hour. Drain and keep in a colander. Now boil a pot of water and add 4 cloves, 4 cardamoms and 2 bay leaves while boiling.

Once it comes to a rolling boil, add 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt to taste and the drained rice.

Cook until the rice is about 90% done.

Step 4

In the korma handi/ pan, gently place the potatoes and sprinkle a tsp of kewra water. Next, assemble the rice and pour half a cup of milk mixed with 1 tsp biryani masala on top.

Mix 2 tsp kewra water with saffron strands and drizzle over rice. Drizzle some ghee (clarified butter) and place 2 boiled eggs. I had some extra onion barista which I sprinkled on top. Now place an aluminum foil on top of the handi and seal it properly.

Cover with a lid on top and cook on low heat for 30 mins. Keep a standing time of at least 5 mins.

Chicken Dak Bungalow- from the erstwhile British Raj in India

Recipe no: 3 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series

One of the most mystifying dishes from eastern India, chicken dak bungalow is a colonial recipe developed during the British era in India.

I first tasted this legendary chicken curry at a famous Bengali restaurant Bhojohori Manna back in my teens. Since then I have been quite fascinated by this unpretentious yet wholesome dish made with meat (mutton/ chicken), eggs, potatoes and freshly ground spices!

Dak = Post

Dakbangla or Dak Bungalows were government owned rest houses for the sahibs (British administrative officials) who were traveling for work and needed a place to spend the night. These bungalows were situated mostly along the postal routes in very remote areas and hence the name ‘Dak‘ bungalow.

Source: Wikipedia

Often the officers would arrive late at night or without any notice and the guest house caretakers/ khansamas (cook) had to prepare dinner within their modest means and with what was available locally or could be procured quickly.

There was nothing fancy about the curry but it was delicious and comforting, just what the tired and weary souls of the traveling British officials would be craving.

The dish was mostly prepared with fowl because it was cheap and readily available or maybe mutton sometimes if the budget permitted (or when a goat was hunted on a hunting trip by the guest). Basic spices from the pantry were used which were freshly grounded, some green chilies and potatoes (eggs were added much later) resulted in a mildly spiced curry that was simple and mouthwatering.

There are many resources online with different variations of the recipe, but unfortunately there is no one single authentic recipe of this glorious dish because each dak bungalow prepared this curry based on the availability of resources, time, guest requests and most importantly the skills and whims of the cooks who would sometimes skip an ingredient or add a new spice!

Sadly, due to lack of documentation, most of the dak bungalow recipes are now lost. Whatever little we have today are retrieved from the families of the skilled khansamas and caretakers.

An absolute must have with some hot steaming white rice, if you want to time travel and relish the flavours of yesteryears 🙂

Ingredients:

300 g chicken (bone-in)

4 medium potatoes, halved

2 hard boiled eggs

For the chicken marinade:

3 tbsp yogurt

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp red chilli powder (I used Kashmiri red chilli powder because it has no heat and gives a brilliant colour)

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1 tbsp mustard oil

For the gravy:

3-4 tbsp mustard oil

1/2 tsp sugar

1 large bay leaf

2 cinnamon sticks

3-4 green cardamom

1 dried red chilli

1 medium onion roughly chopped

1 heaped tbsp grated ginger and garlic

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp cumin powder

Salt to taste

2 whole green chilies

1 large cup warm water

Method:

Marinate the chicken with the ingredients listed under marinade in a bowl. Sprinkle some salt and turmeric powder on the potatoes and the boiled eggs. Poke some holes in the eggs so that they don’t splutter in hot oil while frying.

Heat a wok/ kadhai with mustard oil and fry the potatoes followed by the boiled eggs for 4-5 minutes each. In the same wok, add the whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, dried red chilli and some sugar. Sugar helps in caramelising the gravy and lends a beautiful colour.

Now add the chopped onion and fry until golden brown on medium heat. Throw in the grated ginger and garlic and mix well for a couple of minutes until the raw smell disappears.

In a bowl, add the dry spice powders like turmeric, cumin, coriander, red chilli and salt. Mix with little water to form a paste and add it in the wok. Stir fry well for 5 minutes on medium heat.

This is the time to add the chicken to the gravy. Mix everything well and cook on medium heat for 7-8 minutes or until the oil separates. Cover the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes on low heat. Now throw in the potato and add a cup of warm water and let it come to a boil.

Cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes on low heat. Now add the eggs, whole green chilies and adjust the salt/ sugar. Cover and cook for the last 5 minutes or until the chicken is absolutely tender and the gravy looks perfectly done.

Garnish with some chopped fresh coriander and serve hot.

Authentic Chhanar Dalna (Bengali Cottage Cheese Kofta Curry)

While cleaning my bookshelf a couple of days back, I stumbled upon this slightly mildewed Bengali cookbook ‘Randhan Shikkha‘ which translates to ‘cooking lesson’. The book is from the 1950s and belonged to my late mother-in-law who had given it to me knowing my love for cooking and vintage recipes 🙂

A treasure trove of earthy Bengali dishes long forgotten…..

That’s when I decided to dedicate this whole month to recreating uncelebrated heritage recipes from the regional kitchens of India that no longer enjoy the privilege of being talked about, written about or included in the menus of a typical Indian restaurant.

These culinary classics from our grandmothers’ times are slowly getting lost in the age of convenience and fusion food.

So what better way to start the new year than to share some of the most authentic regional recipes starting with what else but Bengali cuisine. After all, Indian food has so much more to offer than just butter chicken, chole bhature, masala dosa or mishti doi!

Recipe no: 1 from my #regionalkitchensofindia series.

Chhana/ Chana = cottage cheese; dalna = gravy/ curry.

Soft pillowy fried cottage cheese (chhana) balls simmered in a freshly made ginger-cumin-green chili based gravy, finished with a big dollop of ghee (clarified butter).

Chhana is not to be confused with paneer. Technically they are made in the same way but chhana is much softer and moister and is kneaded like a dough to make soft balls for kofta curries or the iconic rasgullas.

Looking back I recall my thakuma (grandma) cooking her signature cottage cheese and potato curry on special occasions when niramish (vegetarian) meals meant strictly no-onion and no-garlic. My maa still makes it every year during nabobarsho (Bengali new year) if she’s in town.

The dish probably has its origin back in the times when Bengali Hindu widows were prohibited from eating anything non-vegetarian including onion and garlic, so women prepared a lot of recipes with milk in order to get required protein in their food and since then the recipes have passed down several generations.

The quintessential ‘aada-jeere baata‘ (ginger-cumin paste) is the heart of his curry. The gorgeous aroma of this paste made in the mortar-pestle evokes a sense of comfort and transports me straight to my thakuma’s hneshel (grandma’s kitchen).

Bittersweet memories!

Try out this simple recipe the next time you want some protein-rich vegetarian dish. It is guaranteed to make your tastebuds dance!

Ingredients (9-10 medium sized koftas):

The original recipe calls for homemade chhana/ chhena (cottage cheese), but I used Nanak’s fresh paneer which tastes fantastic and is extremely soft, making it the perfect substitute. For those of you unsure of your chhana making skills or are pressed for time, I would highly advise to get very good quality fresh paneer made from full fat milk.

For the chhana/ cottage cheese koftas:

220 g fresh paneer, crumbled

1 tbsp all purpose flour/ maida

1 tsp sugar

Salt to taste

White oil to shallow fry

For the gravy:

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 large bay leaf

1 large cinnamon stick

4-5 green cardamom

3 cloves

A paste made of 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 green chili and 2 inch ginger chunk (preferably in a mortar-pestle)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder

2 medium potatoes diced in cubes

1/2 chopped tomato

2 whole green chilies

1/2 tsp sugar

Salt to taste

11/2 tbsp white oil

1 tsp ghee (clarified butter)

1/2 tsp garam masala (preferably Bengali gorom moshla)

1 small cup warm water

Method:

In a bowl add the crumbled paneer, all purpose flour, salt, sugar and knead well like a dough for at least 6-7 minutes. Now divide the dough into slightly flattened balls/ koftas of equal size.

Heat oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the koftas on medium heat until golden brown on both sides. It takes about 2-21/2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and keep aside.

In the same frying pan (remove the excess oil, only keep about 2 tbsp), temper the oil with cumin seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms and cloves. Once the spices are fragrant, turn the heat into medium-low and add the ginger-cumin-green chili paste into the pan carefully as the oil may start spluttering a lot. Stir fry for 2 minutes.

This is the time to add the potatoes, red chili powder and turmeric. Keep frying for few more minutes until the potatoes are softer. Now throw in the chopped tomatoes and whole green chilies and continue to fry until the oil separates and the spices are well cooked.

Add some warm water (depending on how you want the gravy consistency to be), salt and sugar and let it come to a boil. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

Now add the koftas/ channa balls into the gravy, a dollop of ghee and a sprinkling of garam masala. Cover and let it simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Switch off the flame and keep it covered (standing time) for 5 more minutes. Serve hot with steaming white rice or ghee bhaat 🙂

Prawn Momo (Dumpling) with Chili Oil & Prawn Broth: A taste of the hills

For as long as I can remember, the last week of the year always meant holidays- waking up late without the alarm bell ringing, lazing around, reflecting on the year gone by and gorging on good food. Over the years the circumstances may have changed but what remained constant is food being part of all the year end celebrations.

‘Momos’ as they are popularly known in India/ Nepal, are these juicy succulent meat fillings wrapped in a thin moist crescent-shaped wrap resembling a dumpling.

I still remember the first time I had momos/ dumplings, I was probably 11 or 12 and quite intrigued but also repulsed by the idea of chomping down a weird looking dough ball that was steamed and not fried. But one bite and god was I hooked! What the neighbourhood street shack sold was more of an onion momo than chicken, which I later realised as I grew up 😀 Nevertheless, I was totally in love.

Since then I have come a long way and have had my share of lip-smacking dumplings from amazing joints in Calcutta, the hills of Darjeeling, Nepal and Bhutan. Nothing is as comforting as freshly steamed momos dipped in spicy chili oil with a bowl of steaming hot clear soup. Nomnomnom….

The Nepalese ones remain my favourite because of their simplicity and use of fresh ingredients. On monsoon afternoons or on cold winter nights like now in Toronto, when my heart cries out for something piping hot, I can only think of momos.

These are so delicate and bursting with flavour, that you would find it difficult to stop as the juices ooze out with every bite 🙂

Ingredients (15-16 medium sized momos):

For stuffing:

14 large prawns deveined & shell removed, finely chopped (not minced)

3 tbsp finely chopped coriander

3 tbsp finely chopped green onion/ spring onion

2 tbsp finely chopped red onion

2 finely chopped green chilies

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 heaped tbsp butter

Salt & pepper to taste

For wrapper:

2 cups all purpose flour/ maida

1/2 tsp salt

Water to knead soft dough

For Chili Oil:

[The stunning chili oil recipe is by one of my favourite food bloggers Nambie. You can find this and more of her delicious recipes on YouTube under Eat Your Kappa]

3 tsp Chili flakes

3 tsp chilli powder/ paprika

1 tbsp white sesame seeds

1 cup olive oil (or any unflavoured oil)

3 large roughly chopped ginger pieces (about 1 inch each)

1 roughly chopped onion

Few sprigs of coriander leaves

2 roughly chopped spring onions

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp sichuan pepper

2 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp aniseed or fennel

1 large cinnamon

1 staranise

Salt & sugar to taste

For prawn broth:

2 tbsp oil

1/2 roughly chopped onion

2-3 large ginger chunks

1 fat garlic clove minced

1 roughly chopped carrot

1 tsp whole peppercorn

1 bay leaf

Prawn shells (of the 15 prawns)

1 chicken bullion

3 cups water

Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Step 1

Start with the broth. Heat a deep bottomed pot with oil and add the bay leaf and peppercorns. Throw in the onion, ginger, minced garlic and carrots. Sauté for a while until fragrant. Now add the prawn shells and stir fry again until they release all the juices. Add 3 cups of water and a chicken bullion and let it simmer on low heat, uncovered and come to a boil. Keep removing the scum from time to time to keep the broth clear. Add salt and pepper and continue to simmer. In about 1-1.5 hours, the broth will be ready. Strain and serve in soup bowls, garnished with chopped green onions.

Step 2

Mix the chopped prawn with all the ingredients listed under ‘stuffing’ in a bowl and keep it marinated for at least 30 minutes.

Step 3

Mix the flour with salt and start kneading the dough by pouring water little at a time to ensure a soft dough. Keep it wrapped in a plastic for 15 mins.

Step 4

While we wait for the prawns and the dough ready to be used, let’s make the chili oil. In a bowl, add the chili flakes, chili powder, sesame seeds, salt and sugar and mix well.

Now heat a cup of oil in a wok until smoking hot and throw in roughly chopped veggies, bay leaves, sichuan pepper, fennel seeds, cinnamon and star anise. Let them fry well on medium heat. Once the veggies have browned and the spices cooked, strain the oil. Add the hot oil in the dry ingredients bowl and mix everything well with a spoon. Finally add some vinegar and viola! Your chili oil is ready.

This is such a life changing recipe by Nambie and you can store this oil for a couple of months.

Step 5

Time to make the momos/ dumplings!

Divide the dough into equal 15-16 portions and roll out very thinly. The wraps should be more thicker on the center but thinner on the outside. Take one wrap and place some prawn mix in the center with a spoon. To seal the momos securely, tap the edges of the wrap with some water on your finger. Start folding and pleating the wrap into your desired dumpling shape.

Line the momos in a bamboo steamer basket or on a steel stand in a deep bottom pan and steam for 15 minutes. You can even make them in your instant pot like I did. I placed a steel steamer basket inside the instant pot and used the steam function for 8 minutes to get the perfect dumplings.

Serve them hot with the chili oil and a side of prawn clear broth.

Step 6

Eat and get lost in the winding roads of the misty hills :))

Boozy Holiday Fruit Cake (Eggless) & a Christmas Nostalgia

Boozy holiday rich fruit cake (eggless) with dried cranberries, dates and raisins soaked in red wine for a month!

Christmas in Calcutta is an emotion. While it may ruffle some feathers, I have to admit that Calcutta is probably the most secular city in India which celebrates festivals like Christmas not out of any religious compulsion but because it’s a delightful celebration of life, something that lifts your spirits.

For those of us who grew up in Calcutta, the festival is synonymous with Nahoum’s rich fruit cake. Surprisingly in December the whole city gets busy in Christmas preps, and the Jewish bakeries and neighbourhood confectionaries start selling homemade plum cakes that are made with rum soaked raisins, dates and candied peels. All of a sudden, Ruma kakima’s sleepy bakery in the dusty bylanes of Free School Street is abuzz with activities.

Nahoum’s will remain my most favourite always- their dense and rich fruit cakes are so moist and loaded with dry fruits. This is my ode to their legendary cakes as i reminisce about the bygone Christmas days of my adolescence when I would patiently wait in a long queue outside the store with my mum just to get my share of treats. That was my Santa moment.

The authentic Christmas plum cake/ fruit cake in Calcutta is prepared with dried fruits soaked in rum for a prolonged period and most recipes are handed down through generations. I have used red wine instead and have also used greek yogurt instead of eggs which is honestly unthinkable in the original recipe. But then sometimes it’s okay to deviate from the original and tweak things here and there just for fun, doesn’t take away anything from the classic 🙂

Ingredients:

Chopped dried cranberries, black raisins, sultanas, pitted dates, candied ginger soaked in red wine (or dark rum) for at least 2-3 weeks (the longer the better)

11/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp each of ground cinnamon, clove and nutmeg

1 tbsp orange zest

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup olive oil (or any vegetable oil)

1 cup brown sugar (preferably) or raw cane sugar (no white sugar)

1 cup greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup of chopped mixed nuts like almonds, pistachios and cashews

Method:

In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 cup brown sugar. Whisk it well for a couple of minutes until well combined.

Now add the yogurt and vanilla extract and whisk again. It will take a couple of minutes to whisk everything to a smooth consistency.

In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Start with 11/2 cup of all purpose flour. Toss in the ground spices, orange zest (make sure to avoid grating the bitter white pith), baking soda, baking powder and mix everything well with the whisk.

Now throw in the flour mixture into the wet bowl and fold with a spatula. No whisking from this point anymore and also ensure that you don’t overmix the batter. The batter is supposed to be dense and heavy.

The last step is to add the chopped nuts and soaked dried fruits into the cake batter and fold again with the spatula. Reserve some of the soaked fruits for spooning on top of the cake.

Line a square baking pan with a parchment paper and pour in the batter. Sprinkle the remaining soaked dried fruits on top and bake in a pre heated oven at 160 degree C for around 60 minutes. Let it cool down completely before serving.

*Some tips*

Always pack the cake tightly in an aluminum foil to store it. This preserves its shape and moisture.

The cake tastes better with time. The longer it soaks all the goodness from the rum/ wine, the better it tastes.

‘Feed’ the cake with wine/ rum by poking holes all over it with a toothpick and then keep it tightly packed.

Could it get any boozier??

Down Memory Lane: Classic Shepherd’s Pie

Truth be told, there’s a lot of debate on the origins of the humble shepherd’s pie- whether it’s Irish or British! There are bits and pieces of history/ folklore surrounding this classic delicacy and there’s no one person or an event that gifted this hearty dish to the world.

Probably somewhere around the early 1800s, peasant housewives in Ireland and northern parts of England came up with the ingenious idea of putting the leftover meat from Sunday roasts to good use by making pies out of them. This clever practice avoided wastages, while families could enjoy something which is not only delicious and new but also filling and inexpensive.

Traditionally, shepherd’s pie uses minced lamb while cottage pie uses minced beef. The ground meat combined with veggies simmered in a rich gravy and topped with creamy mashed potato and grated parmesan results in a dish that is so comforting that it warms your soul.

Feel free to use ground turkey or chicken or even soy meat in case you want alternatives.

Ingredients (serves 2)

For the lamb gravy:

250g ground lamb

1 cup of mixed veggies like chopped celery, carrots and onions

2/3 cup frozen peas

3 fat garlic cloves minced

1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves

1 tbsp dried thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup chicken/ meat stock

2 tbsp Olive oil (or any white oil)

For the mashed potato:

450 gram boiled and mashed potatoes (preferably russet potatoes)

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp sour cream

1 tsp dried parsley flakes

1/2 tsp garlic powder

4 tbsp grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat olive oil in a pot and sauté the chopped carrot, celery, onions along with minced garlic. Once fragrant, add thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Mix everything well.

Now add the ground lamb and throw in some green peas. Stir and let the meat cook until it’s no longer pink.

This is the time to add the worcestershire sauce (key!), tomato puree and the meat/ chicken stock. Cook for a while on medium heat and then cover and let it simmer nicely on low heat until the sauce thickens. Take off the heat once done.

Meanwhile, chop and boil the large potatoes and mash them with a fork. Mix in butter, sour cream, dried parsley, salt and pepper.

To assemble the dish, layer the cooked meat in a baking dish and top it with the mashed potato. Sprinkle the grated parmesan on top and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 mins at 200 degree C. Broil for another 3-4 mins for that beautiful golden colour on top 🙂

Wishing you all a merry Christmas & happy holidays!

Gajar Halwa Tarts

Gajar Halwa Tarts

As a kid I remember eagerly waiting for winters. Marigold blooms, afternoon picnics, cozy blankets & of course bowls of warm & comforting gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding) made by maa.

I would help her peel & grate the carrots in the hope of getting a bigger share than my sis 😀 Those indeed were the days. During winters, we would rush home from school, throw our bags & run to the kitchen to see what’s in store, just in case we were in for any surprises! Truth be told, my sis was least interested, it was more my thing. Nothing gave me more joy than watching maa or our cook whip up something fancy in the kitchen while I eagerly waited for my turn to relish them 🙂

With the winters approaching, I have been craving gajar ka halwa for a while now & thought of following maa’s recipe with a few tweaks here & there & also turn it into tarts. Not only they taste heavenly but look pretty too! Go ahead & try it out.

Here’s the recipe (for 12 tarts):

Ingredients

450 g peeled & grated carrot

2 tbsp each of almonds, pistachios & cashew

60-70 ml ghee (clarified butter)

200 ml milk (I used oat milk)

130 ml condensed milk

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

12 tart shells (I used store bought)

Pistachios for garnishing

Method

Roughly chop 2 tbsp each of almonds, pistachios & cashew & roast them in 2 tsp ghee. Keep aside. Heat 50 ml ghee in a heavy bottomed pan & add about 450g peeled & grated carrot.

Mix well & cook until the colour changes & the carrot looks well combined.

Halfway add 2-3 tbsp ghee again & stir everything well.

After 10 mins add 200ml milk (I used oat milk).

Keep stirring & simmering on medium heat until the mixture reaches boiling point. This is where you add 130 ml of condensed milk & 1 tbsp sugar. Lower the heat & let everything combine well & come together.

Keep stirring for 10 more mins until the carrot no longer sticks to the pan. Stir in half a tsp of cardamom powder & the fried nuts back into the pan & continue to cook until the halwa turns dark orange/ reddish. 

You can have it as it is or make tarts like I did I used store bought tart shells. Fill each shell with the halwa (pudding) after poking holes in the tarts with a fork. Now line them up on a baking tray.

Before going in the oven

Preheat oven to 180-190 degree celsius & bake the tarts for 12-13 mins. Garnish with chopped pistachios & drizzle some condensed milk before serving.

Little cups of heaven 🙂

Shrimp Noodles with Bok Choy & Spring Onions

“Grow up, eat some chilli” as Seonkyoung Longest, the queen of Asian cuisine always says 😀 I followed her recipe to create this perfect street style shrimp chowmein or shrimp noodles with bok choy and spring onions (slightly modified). If there’s one dish I could eat all day, everyday, its got to be noodles. mmmmm !

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Growing up, whenever I was down or upset, my mum would cheer me up with a comforting bowl of noodles. Since then, it has pretty much been my constant soul food as life happened!

Do watch her YouTube channel for this and more lip smacking Asian food 🙂

 

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I have always been an ardent Asian food lover and living in Kuala Lumpur for more more than 5 years now, my love has grown by leaps and bounds. The truth is I have probably only scratched the surface on making or experiencing South East Asian food because its so rich and diverse! I am definitely learning more and more with each passing day.

So go ahead and try out this recipe. Whether you are a college student or a busy working woman, I can bet you won’t find any easier noodles recipe that tastes this awesome 😀

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Ingredients:

10-12 peeled and de-veined prawns/ shrimp (medium size is the best)

A pinch of black pepper

1 tbsp vinegar (any type would do)

1/2 cup chicken stock (if you don’t have, then simple warm water would do!)

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tsp dark soy sauce

1 thai red chilli chopped (lovely flavour yet low on heat)

5-6 fat cloves of garlic, chopped

1 inch of thinly julienne d ginger

3 medium sized diced shiitake mushroom

3 baby bok choy

3-4 spring onions, chopped into 2 inch long pieces

2-3 tbsp white oil for stir frying

A splash of sesame oil

Salt to taste

300-350 g cooked spaghetti or egg noodles (I used angel hair spaghetti)

Method:

Marinate the shrimps with vinegar and black pepper for at least 15 minutes. Heat a wok. Add oil and throw in the prawns to be stir fried for about a minute on high heat (important). Take them out and keep aside.

Add some more oil and heat up the wok again. Add chopped ginger, garlic and red chilies into the wok. Again carefully stir fry them for about a minute (make sure the heat is high and stir continuously). Now is the time to add the bok choy and mushrooms. Keep stir frying as you get the wonderful aroma.

Mix the oyster and dark soy sauce in the chicken stock to make the sauce for our chowmein. Now throw in the cooked (al dente) noodles and the sauce into the wok and keep stir frying. Let everything combine well. Add in the spring onion greens and mix again. Turn off the heat and add a splash of sesame oil for the final wonderful touch. That’s it! Voila 🙂