Butter Croissants and Coffee

One of the most best aromas on a beautiful morning

Samosa Chaat

Snack a little

Seekh Kabab

Try something different!

Decadent Chocolate

Do not forget to indulge once in a while

Steamed goodness

Various cooking methods bring variety in your palette

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Blanquette de Veau - Veal Stew

I picked up some veal stew meat on one of my trips to the grocery store. With the cold weather outside, I felt like having something warm and comforting for dinner. I looked up a few veal recipes on Epicurious and elsewhere on the web, and I decided to go with the Blanquette de Veau. It's a French dish which basically means veal stew. The rule is to keep it as 'white' as possible, so refrain from any green garnishes. Also it's traditionally served with rice to soak up the gravy. Its a little bland for an Indian palette, so I was worried if Bee would like it. But to my relief, he loved it!! I did make a few changes to the original recipe though, which I will mention in notes below. I brought a slight Kerala twist to the stew, which not only brought good flavor, but also made it slightly more simpler. This took me roughly 2 hours to prepare from start to finish.

Veal - roughly 1 lb. or 1/2 kg, cut into 1 inch pieces
Garlic - 2 cloves
Yellow or white onion - 1/2
Cloves- 10
Carrots - 2
Leeks - 2
Potato - 1
Cremini or button mushrooms - 20 pieces
Pearl onions - 10
Lemon - a wedge
Butter - 3 + 3 tbsp
Flour - 3 tbsp
Thick coconut milk - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste

For bouquet garni:
Parsley (flat leaf) - few sprigs
Thyme - few sprigs
Bay leaf - 1
Black peppercorns - 20

Cut veal into 1 inch pieces (mine was store bought so it was pre-cut).
Note: if you get veal with bone, save the bone for using in the stock, adds a lot of flavor.
Add the veal pieces in a pot and cover with water and bring to a boil. You will notice a lot of scum forming on the top. At this stage, drain the veal and wash off all the scum. Put it back into the pot.
Prepare a bouquet garni by taking a piece of muslin cloth (i used a sterilized medical gauze, wink!) - and wrapping the parsley, thyme, bay leaf and black peppercorns in it. Tie it into a knot. Add this to the pot with the veal. Take a quarter of an onion - pierce cloves into it. Wrap this in another muslin cloth. Add it to the pot as well. Now fill it with water to cover the meat and some more for the vegetables too.
Note: If you have a veal bone, add this now to make a more flavorful stock. Alternately, you can also use chicken/beef/vegetable stock, or bouillon cubes.
Slice the garlic cloves and add it to the pot. Now bring the pot to a boil on a medium heat.
While its heating up, meanwhile, we're going to chop the veggies and add them to the pot one by one. Cut the carrots into bite size chunks, slice the remaining quarter of onion, dunk them into the pot. Wash the leeks and cut off the green part. We're using the white portion of the leeks only. Slice it and it goes into the pot. I cubed a potato as well and added it.
Note: In the traditional recipe, potatoes aren't used. But some use potatoes as a side to the stew. I wanted to add the Kerala stew twist to this, so I decided to add a potato in.
Add salt to taste. When it has started to boil, bring the heat down to almost low. Cover and cook for 1 hour and 15 mins. This is slow cooking so the veal is cooked until tender.
Note: Some like to cook the vegetables separately and then add it after the veal is slow cooked. That way, the vegetables will still have a slight crunch to them. I wasn't too worried about that, and mine didn't turn to mush either. I wasn't using a stock, so I wanted the vegetable flavours to form the stock. So it's all good!
While the veal is cooking, slice the mushrooms and peel the pearl onions. It is also a good point to get the rice started too.
When the veal is tender, strain the veal and vegetables and reserve the stock. Bring the stock back to a boil and reduce it further to about 2 cups. While the stock is reducing, it's time to saute the mushrooms.
Heat up a frying pan and melt 3 tbsp of butter. Heat the butter until the foam subsides. Add the mushroom slices and pearl onions. Saute for about 6-8 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked and still have a good crunch. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over it.
Note: Keeping with the 'white' theme of the stew, white pearl onions are traditionally used, but I used the red ones, no biggie!
Now in a saucepan, prepare the roux. I've explained this in my fish fry in white sauce recipe, but here it is again. Heat the saucepan and melt 3 tbsp of butter. Add 3 tbsp of flour to this and whisk it. Allow it to froth and turn golden brown. The flour will be cooked in a minute or two. Now slowly pour in the reduced stock, whisking constantly as you're pouring it, to avoid lumps. You will see that the stock will thicken into a gravy.
Note: The traditional recipe, asks for a dollop of crème fraîche (fresh cream) to be added at this stage. Two large egg yolks are beaten in a bowl. Half a cup of the gravy is slowly beaten into the yolks to temper it (warm the yolks to prevent curdling). The egg yolk mixture is slowly whisked into the gravy pan, removed from heat and whisked until sauce has a creamy consistency. Lemon juice is added and seasoned with salt and pepper.
I avoided this complex step above, and used my Kerala stew twist again. I had half a cup of thick coconut milk leftover from last week's beef curry. I tempered the coconut milk by whisking in a little gravy into it. Then added it back into the gravy (prevents curdling of the coocnut milk). Add the veal and vegetables and sauteed mushrooms. Cover and let it cook for another 10 minutes so everything is combined.
Note: Some people put the veal, vegetables and mushrooms on a plate and pour the gravy over it. Some combine it. I chose the latter option.
Serve with a cup of steamed rice and enjoy! This also stores well, reheats well and makes great leftovers!

Check out my other recipes that uses roux:
Julia Child's fish fry in white sauce
Shrimp and veggie pasta casserole
Canneloni Florentine

Chicken Liver Fry (Kerala style)

This dish is a family favorite! This is my mom's recipe and I've loved it every single time she made this since childhood. My sister and I would fight over the last bits all the time. My mom used to make it in an old cast iron skillet, so the spices and onions get nicely caramelized, with crunchy powdery liver bits stuck to the pan. Gosh that's the best part! Back in Saudi Arabia, we loved having this with Khubuz and Laban (thick buttermilk). It's a dry dish, so if you're having it with rice, kachiya moru is an excellent accompaniment to it. You'll be sure to lick your plate clean :)

My mom knows that my sister and I love this a lot, that every time we come over to visit, she will make sure that this dish is made at least once. And sometimes, she will even make a huge batch for us to take on our flight back!

Chicken liver, I guess is an acquired taste. I love it because I've had it many times as a kid. The hubby on the other hand found it revolting at first. He does like it now (he better! coz it's one of my favorite dishes of all time so I'm gonna keep making this a lot!!) It does taste amazing especially with all the spices, but the key is to overcome the fact that you're eating an animal's organs. I can understand it, because I can't get myself to eat deep fried goat brains among many other organs, though I've heard that they taste pretty amazing too.

Check out the tub of chicken livers I got at the grocery store. Reminds me of ice cream. Would be a wierd flavor for ice cream though.. lol!

I apologize for the so-so photographs, they were taken with my phone. I could'nt bring myself to get the camera out and plate the dish nicely, because it was late and I couldn't wait to eat it as soon as it was ready haha!

Chicken Liver - 1/2 kg
Red Chilli powder - 4 tbsp
Coriander powder - 2 tbsp
Pepper powder - 1 tsp
Homemade garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Onions - 2 to 4 large, sliced
Ginger - 1" piece chopped
Garlic - 3 large cloves chopped
Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste


Clean chicken liver using a dash of salt and vinegar in water. Remove any excess fat.
Put the liver in a deep pot (I use my 3 liter pressure cooker pot). Add the chilli powder, coriander powder, pepper powder, garam masala and turmeric powder. Pour just enough water to cover the liver. Cook it on medium heat till the water dries up. Add salt when it's about to dry. (Note: Do not add salt in the beginning because this will harden the liver)
Now in a skillet or frying pan, heat oil and fry the onions, ginger and garlic. Season with salt. When the onions have browned, add the cooked liver to this and combine well.
Serve warm with rice and moru or yoghurt. They make delicious leftovers!

Be sure to check out my recipes for:
Moru Kachiyathu
Homemade Garam Masala
Easy Khubuz

While writing this post, I did google to see if a chicken liver ice cream exists (I know bacon ice cream exists, so why not!) Surely enough, a restaurant in Estonia does serve one:
Chicken liver ice-cream with gorgonzola cream, praline, celery & potato crumble
Chicken liver ice-cream with gorgonzola cream, praline, celery & potato crumble - Picture of Ribe, Tallinn
This photo of Ribe is courtesy of TripAdvisor

And a molecular gastronomer in South Africa made Chicken Liver and Bacon Paté Ice cream:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bread Upma

I haven't even heard of bread upma until the day I made it. My hubby suddenly had a craving for it, and told me about this dish that used to be very popular in Tamil Nadu during his childhood. Before chaats from north India became popular and invaded the snack scene in south India, these were a regular item in most tea shops. Nowadays, you can never find this in a restaurant menu. So he asked me to look it up and make it for him. I went through a few bread upma recipes online and mostly followed Preethi's.

Bread - 6 to 8 slices
Ghee - as required
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Green chilli - 1, chopped
Ginger - 1/2 inch, minced (optional)
Tomato - 2, chopped
Vegetables of choice - like crumbled potato, green peas, carrots, beans, chana (garbanzo), chopped and cooked. You can also add cooked ground meat.
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad Dal - 1/2 tsp
Chana Dal - 1/2 tsp
Cashewnuts - handful, broken
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Tomato puree or water - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves - minced (or coriander chutney) - to taste
Lemon juice - to garnish

Toast bread pieces on a skillet with ghee. (You can skip toasting the bread, but I felt this step made the dish really tasty!) Cube them into bite size pieces. In a wok, heat ghee and splutter mustard seeds. Add chana dal, urad dal and cashewnuts. Stir well so that they fry evenly. When they brown, add onions, ginger and green chilli. Fry till onions turn translucent with salt. Then add tomatoes and fry till they mush up. Then add cooked vegetables and combine. Add turmeric powder, asafoetida, red chilli powder and garam masala. Sprinkle some water or add tomato puree and cook for a few minutes. Finally add the cubed bread pieces and combine well. Garnish with cilantro chutney and squeeze a bit of lemon juice. Serve hot.

Sesame Ginger Chicken & Chinese pantry list

I've been wanting to make Chinese food at home, just like the ones I had in Chinese restaurants as a child in Saudi Arabia. My first attempt was a Szechuan chicken recipe, because the hubby and I like spicy food. After hunting down the main ingredient for the heat - sichuan peppercorns, aka prickly ash from a chinese grocery store, I was all excited about trying this recipe from another blog, which I shall not name. It called for 2 tablespoons of the peppercorns. After toiling in the kitchen for a few hours, we finally sit down to eat. First bite, we felt it was way too sour. And then the sensation, started to come in. This is not heat that we're familiar with, such as in hot chillies. This was a very wierd feeling that we've never felt before. It has a very numbing effect, a very prickly tingling sensation - I can't really describe it. But we just couldn't take another bite. The whole thing went straight into the trash - this is very rare in my house! The first time since I've moved to the US. For a while I did not have the confidence to try cooking Chinese again, because it felt too foreign to me. Now I'm stuck with a huge bag of those sichuan peppercorns, and have no idea what to do with it. I don't have the heart to throw it out, but I guess I will eventually.
Few months later, I was watching the cooking channel on a weekend, and decided to try another Chinese chicken dish, but doesn't call for peppercorns. It's called the sesame ginger chicken, and this one turned out to be amazing! I stocked up on the essential ingredients for Chinese food.

Here is a list of must-have ingredients in your pantry if you want to get started on Chinese food:
  1. Low sodium soy sauce: I used to buy regular soy sauce before, but I feel the low sodium ones are better in making chinese stir-frys. The regular one is much more salty and strong - maybe good to use a few drops in soups.
  2. Toasted sesame oil: When I used to make fried rice or noodles, I used regular sesame oil that you would get in Indian grocery stores. Turns out "toasted" sesame oil, makes all the difference, and give the food that unique "Chinese restaurant" aroma. I bought a bottle that had hot peppers infused in it. I used the exact amount in this recipe and it wasn't hot at all, at least not by Indian standards - not even a small tingling sensation on the tongue for me.
  3. Rice wine: I bought a cooking rice wine from the asian aisle in my local supermarket.
  4. Rice vinegar: Many recipes call for rice vinegar, including many stir-frys. Do not confuse it with rice wine (at least I tend to).
  5. Hoisin sauce: This is a sweet Chinese barbecue sauce. Again, tastes amazing in a lot of recipes, including noodles.
  6. Sweet chili sauce: This is a great dip on its own with spring rolls, but it also adds a nice sweetness to many Chinese dishes.
  7. 5 spice powder:  This would be like the Chinese "Garam masala", and like garam masala - the spices can vary in each household. The one I got contains cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, white pepper and licorice root. So it's definitely more than 5 spices, but that's the name they give it. Other versions can also contain Sichuan peppercorns, but thankfully mine doesn't.
  8. Oyster sauce: This is made from real oysters, and it gives a very pungent smell. Another sauce similar to this is Fish sauce. Many people use it directly in soups, or in dipping sauces. I'm still not that bold, and would rather use it within the cooking process, because the smell is too strong for me. Whenever I see oyster or fish sauce, I always recall the first time my sister opened up my bottle of fish sauce and took a whiff of it. Her face contorted and she wailed "Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!" and placed the bottle as far away as possible from her. I will never forget what she said next: "Why would you use such a stinky ingredient in your food? This smells like somebody's underwear used for 5 days and then left to rot!". My eyes are rolling with tears and I still can't stop laughing as I type this. Maybe after you read this, you won't feel like buying this, but if you use the same amount as the recipe asks for, it will taste good, I swear. Also, I think oyster sauce is a lot less pungent than fish sauce (which uses fermented fish).
  9. Sambal Oelek: This is a ground chili paste (different varieties of chillies). In the US, you will only find that of the brand Huyfong (it has the rooster symbol on it). The same brand also makes a chili-garlic paste. I sometimes use that too. I guess you can use any red chili paste you can find in your local store.
  10. White pepper: This is more milder than black pepper. If you can't find it, you can substitute with regular black pepper.

Now onto the recipe.
Credit: Kelsey's Sesame Ginger Chicken
Click here to watch the video of the same recipe.

2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (i used chili flavored)
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 green bell pepper, cut into small pieces (optional)
4 tablespoons Chinese Shoaxing rice wine
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sambal chili sauce
1 tablespoon Thai chili sauce
1 lemon, zest and juice
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Scallions (spring onions), thinly sliced on an angle, for garnish
Fried Rice, for serving (or steamed rice)

For the chicken marinade: In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken with the sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce and pepper. Toss to coat, cover, place in the refrigerator and let sit 1 hour.

For the stir-fry: Remove the chicken from the fridge. Add 1 cup cornstarch to a shallow baking dish and dredge each piece of chicken, shaking off any excess.

Fill a Dutch oven or wok with enough oil to completely submerge the chicken pieces. Heat over high heat until glossy and the temperature reaches 375 degrees F. Deep fry the chicken until golden brown, about 3 minutes, adding your chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding and to keep your oil from dropping in temp too much. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bell pepper (capsicum) if desired and saute for a two minutes. Next, add the rice wine, hoisin, oyster sauce, soy sauce, honey and the chili sauces; bring to a simmer.

In a glass measuring cup, mix the remaining 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 3/4 cup very cold water (make sure you water is cold to avoid lumps!), whisking until combined. Add the mixture to the sauce and simmer for an additional minute, until the sauce thickens. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Add in the fried chicken and toss to coat with the sauce. Add the lemon zest and juice. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.

1. Toasting sesame seeds:
Heat a small pan on low-medium heat. Put around 2 tbsp of white sesame seeds and constantly toss so that the toasting happens evenly. Stop when it turns golden brown and transfer to a cool plate.

2. Original recipe called for only 1/4 cup of water to add with cornstarch to the sauce. That will make the sauce too thick to just coat the chicken pieces, and it will be very dry (good as an appetizer). I needed some more gravy (side with fried rice), so I added about a cup of water. You can adjust as per your liking.

3. I had half a bell pepper in my fridge, so I tossed it into the chicken. This is often used in most Chinese stir frys. Original recipe does not call for it.