Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Salmon Paturi on the grill-A Bengali recipe gone cosmopolitan

Its been a hectic two weeks and blogging has been in the back of my mind. I was busy vacationing and had to host a party for 50 people.Last week was back to work and hence its been a while I have posted anything here. Now that spring is here, grilling is back in session. We have enjoyed, chicken burgers, shrimp fajitas with guacamole and margaritas. But my favorite has been Salmon Paturi which my brother-in-law Nilay cooked for us when he came to visit us last year. Paturi is very much like tamales where the main ingredient is cooked with a mustard sauce in banana leaves. Its one of the delicacies served in marraige receptions and in most cases the main ingredient being fish(mainly Hilsa or Bhetki). The main reason Hilsa or Bhetki is used as it has a lot of flavor. Since salmon is readily available here, I have used salmon as it has the same incredible flavor. I have tried it in the past but the flavor always does not come out as expected and the mustard sauce seems uncooked. Nilay added another step to the process and it turned out perfect. So enjoy this with just a bowl of basmati and you would have enjoyed a delectabl but simple meal.
1 pound of salmon cut into 5 long pieces.
1/2 cup mustard oil
1/2 cup yellow mustard
6-7 hot chilli pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp turmeric
salt to taste

  • Soak the mustard for 15 minutes in a cup of water.
  • Drain the mustard and grind it with a pinch of salt and two chilli peppers.
  • Add the rest of the salt, turmeric, 1/4 cup mustard oil and a tablespoon of water to the ground mustard.
  • Cook the mustard in the microwave for 30 seonds. This is an important step as salmon and mustard sauce do not take the same time to cook.
  • In an alumium foil 6 inches by 6 inches long add a little of the paste and them top with salmon.
  • Add some more paste on top of the salmon.
  • Top it with a teaspoon of mustard oil and a horizontally slit chilli pepper and a few cilantro leaves.
  • Seal the salmon by folding the alumium foil in a packet.
  • Repeat the process for the rest of the four salmon pieces.
  • Heat the grill on high and then press the packets on the grill.
  • Turn the grill to a medium heat and let the salmon cook for 7 minutes on each side.
  • Open the foil and serve the salmon with rice.

My next post will be about southern food that I enjoyed in and around Pensacola Florida. I am hoping to reproduce some of the food that I ate there in the coming months.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Rookie Burger that went places

We decided to grill a few weeks back when there were a few days of spring like weather. The gas ran out and I had to wait for another bout of spring to start grilling. It was only last year that I got a grill after 10 summers in this country. Last spring the town I have made my home held a burger contest. I was up against a professional chef and a guy who called himself the Big Daddy of burgers. For a week before the contest, the dinner at home were burgers.Some days it was too spicy, other days it was too dry. After numerous trial and errors, a new burger was born. I called it a Tangy Curry Burger for my American friends, as one thing they know about Indian food is "curry". I am proud to say that I won the second place competing against people who had years of experience behind the grill.

I have cooked this burger with lamb and chicken and in both cases,it turned out real juicy. The Masala Burger has a combination of Indian spices topped with caramelized onions and yellow peppers and a cilantro-cumin yogurt sauce.
Hamburger buns -6
Ground chicken– 1 lb
Chopped onion – 1 cup
Chopped green pepper – ½ cup
Ginger – 1/2 inch
Garlic – 4 cloves
Chilli powder- 2 tsp
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – ¼ tsp
Hot sauce – 2 tbsp
Salt –To Taste
Chopped yellow onion – ¼ cup
Chopped yellow peppers – ¼ cup
Yogurt sauce – 4 tbsp
  • Process pink onions, green peppers, ginger, and garlic in a food processor into a coarse paste.
  • Mix the processed paste with the ground lamb.
  • Add chlli powder, hot sauce, salt, turmeric, garam masala and mix.
  • Make 6 patties.
  • Grill the patties until cooked medium to well done.
  • Sauté the onions and yellow pepper with a pinch of salt until caramelized.
  • Toast the buns on the grill .
  • Top the buns with patties.
  • Top the patties with caramelized onions and yellow peppers and yogurt sauce.

Recipe for the yogurt sauce:

  • Toast a tsp of cumin and grind it.
  • Whisk a cup of plain yogurt with a pinch of salt and a tsp of sugar.
  • Add a tbsp of chopped cilantro and toasted cumin powder to the whisked yogurt.

Its a quick weeknight meal with oven baked red potato fries. The spices and the vegetables in the burger make it juicy. If you want to do a Greek flavored one, use lamb and substiute rosemary and feta cheese for the ginger, chilli powder and turmeric.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

A no fuss Chicken Biryani for a mid week extravaganza

When talking about biryanis , I have seen many people confuse it with pulao. The basic difference between the two-pulao is rice ,meat and spices cooked together from scratch and biryani is where both the cooked rice and meat are brought together and cooked in layers. The Hyderabadi Kacchi Biryani is a slight variation wherein the meat is not cooked before being mixed with the rice.

This recipe is one of those which has been passed among friends.My mother learnt it from her friend Ghosh Kakima who learnt it from one of her Hyderabadi neighbors. It might not have all the spices of the Nizam's kitchen, but its a quick make and it does not require too many ingredients. The parts of cooking involved here is the rice, the chicken and the layers of flavors.This Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani is quick and simple and will make your mouth water from the fragrance of all its ingredients.
For the rice:
5-6 cardamoms
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups water

For the chicken:
1 whole chicken cut into large pieces
2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
1 cup plain yogurt
Salt to taste

For the spice layers:
4 onions thinly chopped
20-30 mint leaves coarsely chopped
4 chili peppers slit vertically
2 tablespoon butter or ghee

  • Combine all the ingredients for the rice and cook it in a rice cooker. Alternately you can cook it in a saucepan.Make sure its partly cooked and not too soft.
  • Whisk the yogurt with the ginger garlic paste and the salt.
  • Marinate the chicken in the yogurt mix for 30-40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile in a pressure cooker, add 1/2 cup of vegetable or canola oil and fry the onions till they are brown.
  • In the hot oil add the chicken, then add a layer of rice with the spices.
  • In the next layer add the chopped onions, mint leaves and green chili with 1/2 tablespoon of butter or ghee.
  • Repeat the step above.
  • Finally add the final layer of rice and top it with one tablespoon of butter or ghee.
  • Shut the pressure cooker lid and cook in high for 8 minutes.
  • Wait for the steam to come out of the cooker before opening it.
  • Stir the chicken and the rice together.
  • Serve it garnished with mint or boiled eggs.
This dish can be a quick weekday meal accompanied by raita. It can be a part of your party as it is quick and easy to make.Please be assured that this is old style cooking -so there is nothing fat free about this dish.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

A black pepper chicken to tingle your taste buds

I mentioned to my mom the other day about this blog and we were discussing various recipes of hers that I have learnt over the past years and even some that I taught her.:) She mentioned various relatives that have visited her over the last month.One of them being Kashi Mama(uncle), one of my uncles who is a true foodie. When I was a child I had heard my Dadu( Grandpa) talk about his older brother, my great uncle who was another food lover. He used to write letters to my Dadu about how many rosogollas he had eaten during a wedding reception. It was not one or two, but he would devour 60-70 rosogollas in one go. Kashi Mama, his son seems to have inherited his foodie genes among his five brothers. He is the kind of guy who welcomes you into his home with open arms and treats you to a sumptuous meal that he has cooked.
Kashi Mama introduced my mom to a tasty
Black Pepper Chicken
which needs only a few ingredients and is very easy to cook. I gave it my own twist to give it more color and flavor.

One pound chicken cut into small pieces
One and half cups of plain yogurt
One inch ginger
Four cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of black pepper
Salt to taste
Two tablespoon milk
One pinch of saffron
Two teaspoon oil
  • Whisk the yogurt.
  • In a bowl mix the chicken with yogurt, salt and black pepper.
  • Marinate the chicken 8 hours or preferably overnight.
  • Grate the ginger and garlic.
  • In a pan heat the oil and add the grateed ginger and garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  • Add the marinated chicken and cook it on low heat until cooked.
  • Warm the milk and add the saffron to the milk and mix it till you get the golden yellow color.
  • Add the saffron colored milk to the chicken and mix it.
  • Serve it with rice or naan garnished with cilantro.

Saffron is a wonderful herb and the most expensive one. It is mostly used in Middle Eastern and Spanish cuisine. The herb has been used in Indian cusine for more than 200o years but has become more popular with the Mughlai Cuisine and is mainly used in pulaos and biryanis. In Indian cuisine the main ingredient used to color the food is turmeric as it is inexpensive and has more antiseptic value. I decided to use saffron as an additional ingredient to Mama's recipe. I also added ginger and garlic for some extra flavor.

Continue reading: A black pepper chicken to tingle your taste buds...