Wednesday, December 17, 2014


It isn't Christmas time without a family session of kulkul making. Kulkuls? What are they? These are small curlicues, fried and rolled in sugar syrup. Made to warm a true Goan's heart. Christmas in a Mac household is a veritable oil, flour and sugar explosion. Besides kulkuls, they make rose de coque, dodol, nankatais and of course, marzipan. Fried or baked, it doesn't matter. This December calorie laden feast is a sweet lover's delight. And a dieter's nightmare. 

I make this gnocchi shaped curls every year. And every year my ma in law tells me they are too soft. Too fat. Of course, she always says they taste good!! She speaks the truth. One year I fry them on a too high flame turning them dark brown. This year I fry them too fast, so they aren't quite crisp as they should be. Like Goldilocks, I am still test the waters. Making them is a family affair. I just love the convivial atmosphere, the banter and the arguments that hover like a blimp!! We chip away at the dough with divided tasks. I make balls, and the rest of them roll and curl.  My brother gives me a gnocchi maker which is the perfect tool for making kulkuls. In the past we have used combs (unused of course!) and forks. They use one gnocchi maker and forks, so we have an assortment of thin and thick curls. No matter. It's the taste that counts. Having merged two recipes, this dough comes together easily as a chewy sugar and coconut fritter.

Makes about 50 small curls

250 grams Flour
1 tablespoon Butter
1 Egg Yolk
A pinch of Salt
3 tablespoons Sugar
3/4 cup Coconut Milk
2 cups Canola oil to fry kulkuls

Sugar Syrup
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tablespoons Water

Mix flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor.

Add butter and pulse a few times. Flour should resemble small peas.

Add egg yolk and pulse a few times.

Add coconut milk and pulse again to combine. The dough should come together as a loose ball.

Empty dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead till smooth.

ALTERNATELY... Mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a knife or use your fingers. Add egg yolk and mix. Add coconut milk gradually and gather the dough together with your hands. Knead till smooth.

To make the kulkuls you can use a gnocchi maker, a fork or an unused comb with teeth close together.

Keep a sheetpan nearby to place the formed curls.

Pinch a piece of dough that is the size of a marble or a large pea. You will get a feel for it as you make them.

Press dough on device and flatten using your thumb. The dough should be like an elongated coin. Next roll the flattened dough away from you. The curl should overlap. Try to make these curls as tight as you can. 

Place formed curls on a sheet pan. 

Delicate gnocchi curls at the top--Fat fork curls at the bottom.

Heat 1 1/2-2 cups canola oil in a frying pan or deep pan. Test hot oil with a bit of dough. The dough should spring to the surface on contact with hot oil.

Fry 3-5 curls at a time, moving the curls constantly as they fry. You might have to lower the flame if they start turning dark brown. When done, the kulkuls should be golden brown. Drain kulkuls on paper towels. Keep aside while you make the sugar syrup.

Heat sugar and water in a pan over medium heat for 5 minutes till slightly thick.

Put fried kulkuls in a bowl and drizzle sugar syrup over them, stirring so syrup covers kulkuls. 

Cool and nibble. Or bite. Enjoy!!

I fry as they roll. I drizzle on the sugar syrup. The curls take on a frosted look as the syrup dries white and snow-like. Fat and thin kulkuls are spread so invitingly. Oohs and aahs resound as these frosty tidbits make their way into our salivating mouths. This labor intensive foray is a treat for all of us. Over the years I have attempted other Goan Christmas treats. This one stays strong. It speaks to me of family and togetherness, wrapped up in a tiny curl.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Cake

It is not going to be a doorstop. Nor is it a hurling stone or a shot put ! My cake redoubtedly is a much lighter animal. Fruit cakes have such a bad rap. Almost everyone I know has dismal memories of a dark heavy slice. I too have one where an aunt sent me a cinder block that came with a sourdough starter. It was one of those chain presents. Both items were quickly relegated to the garbage bin. 

Mum made this cake religiously every December. She remembered to macerate the fruit in November. Assiduous in her measurements,  she made sure her helpers, the younger generation, worked as per her instructions. Golden brown cakes came out of the oven smelling heavenly, brandy fumes overpowering raisins and currants! Her cakes didn't remain table side too long. We demolished them enthusiastically. I make her recipe every year. Or shall I say, I attempt to!  I almost always forget to macerate citron peels in liqueur. This year candied peel is macerated on Monday. Caramel made on Tuesday. Flour sifted on Wednesday. Baked on Thursday. A tale of Christmas cake made Solomon Grundy style..

Makes 2 9-inch cakes or 4 mini loaf pans

250 grams Sugar
250 grams Butter at room temperature
5 Eggs at room temperature 
250 grams Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 1/2 teaspoon Cinammon powder
1/2 teaspoon Clove powder
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg powder
2 cups mixed Candied Peel
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
1/4 cup Brandy
2 tablespoons slivered Almonds(optional)
2 tablespoons Walnuts pieces(optional)
1 cup Sugar (to be caramelized)
1/2 cup Water

Butter and line two 9-inch cake tins with parchment paper. OR generously butter 4 mini loaf pans.

Put candied peel and raisins in a nonreactive pan. Pour brandy over peel, stir and let peel macerate for at least one day or up to seven days.

Heat 1 cup of sugar in a pan. Watch carefully as sugar caramelizes and turns dark golden brown. Lower flame and add 1/2 cup water and let sugar bubble on a low flame till melted and slightly thickened. You can make the caramel the day before as it needs to be cool before you add it to the dough.

Sift flour, baking powder, cinammon, clove and nutmeg. Keep two tablespoons aside in a bowl.

Separate eggs. 

Heat oven to 300F.

Cream butter and sugar till fluffy.

Add egg yolks one at a time. Beat well.

Add the sifted flour a little at a time. 

Beat egg whites till stiff.

Add caramel to flour mixture beating slowly till it is all mixed in.

Gently fold in egg whites with a spatula.

Sprinkle remaining flour over candied peel and stir to coat.

Add peel and nuts to cake dough, mixing gently.

Divide dough between cake tins or loaf pans. Tap pans gently to remove any air pockets.

Place tins or pans on a sheetpan and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Turn sheetpan around half way through baking.

Poke with a skewer. It should come out clean. Take cake out of the oven.

Cool pans on rack for 5 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges and invert pans onto cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely before storing them in a tin or wrapping in foil.

You could cut a slice while its piping hot, but it will crumble a bit. It tastes perfect if you could wait an hour. 

My kitchen is mess, with flour spatters, egg shells, a multitude of dirty bowls, spatulas and beaters. But the aroma is divine. The mandated cooling period is completely ignored. I can't wait to slice into a steaming loaf. I have a little trouble unmolding the loaves as I havent used parchment paper. Do as I say, not as I do!!!! I scrape the crumbs from the sides of the pans. Moist, sugary, golden brown crusty bits go from knife to my mouth. No hockey puck here. An ethereal, light as a feather cake. Not quite like Mum's, but its the next best thing.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

French Onion Soup

Winter weather means soup. So usually lunch is a parade of easy ones. Nevertheless, a treat for whoever's home! That is an euphemism for my other half!! We do love a bowl of steaming soup. Today's lunch special is French Onion Soup. 

My niece cleans out her kitchen before leaving the country and gives me a bunch of onions. Growing up we had this soup often.  This time I am going to make the traditional version. Onions, butter, flour, broth and some sherry. Pantry staples in everybody's kitchen. I hope! Butter makes the soup better. You could use olive oil, but then you wouldn't get crisp, brown edged onion slice. I cut thick slices so we can bite into onion. I do not want thin slices that would melt into a pot of simmering broth! Homemade chicken stock works best. I usually have some in the fridge. Boxed stock is a lifesaver. Use it. This week I have leftover turkey stock... One bird, another name, the stock is the same! Don't forget the gruyere toasts! Can't make FOS without crunchy croutons that soak up the broth and melt into the soup.

Serves 2

2 medium-sized Onions
3 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Flour
3 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Sherry
2 slices regular sliced Bread or 4 slices of French Bread
1/2 cup grated Gruyere

Peel and cut onion in half. Cut 1/2 inch thick slices crosswise.

Melt butter in a deep sided pan.

Scatter onion slices in butter and let them cook till they are golden brown. Stir onions from time to time.

When the onions are deep golden brown, sprinkle flour over onions, stir well and let the flour cook for 15-20 seconds. You could lower the flame at this point. You do not want the flour to burn.

Add stock to onions and let it come to brisk boil. 

Season with salt and pepper.

Let stock bubble for 10 minutes. 

Add sherry and let soup simmer while you make the croutons.

Heat the broiler to high.

Divide gruyere between the two slices of bread. Mound cheese on bread and press down to adhere.

Broil for a 20-30 seconds till cheese has melted.

Set the croutons in soup bowls. 

Ladle hot soup over croutons. Enjoy!

Roshni's onions are put to good use. Fortunately she chose not to take her onions to India where she currently is! Last year the price of onions soared sky high in Bombay. My ma-in-law was constantly telling me about the exhorbitant price of onions. So I packed a few bags of onions as a gift for her! Got many laughs out of that gift!!! Onions really are one of the holy trinity of Indian onion, no gravy. No curry here. Just a rich brown oniony broth, chockful of thick slices, accompanied by gooey gruyere. A heavenly lunch!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Apple Cranberry Pie

And the season of eating begins, inaugurated by a perfectly bronzed turkey. Anointed by a succession of sides. Ending on sweet notes. This coma-inducing meal leads straight to the couch! The road to perfection is fraught with hurdles. The hustle and bustle that predates this expansive meal exhilarates and confounds! Lists are written, only to be scratched off and rewritten. Sloppy shopping results in exhaustive repetitive grocery store ventures. Then I gain a handle. Things fall into place.

We start early in the morning. Tom Turkey has been marinating for a few days. Corn bread for stuffing, has been baked. We vacillate between new and old recipes. This year, it's a bit of old and a lot of new. Shauna makes goat cheese and butternut squash crostini. She then makes sweet potatoes the Smitten Kitchen way. I make a corn bread and kale stuffing. We make a corn and roasted poblano pudding. Of, course there has to be buttery, creamy mashed potatoes. Gravy from scratch. And freshly made cranberry relish. Dessert indulges the chocoholics with a tart. And a wonderful apple cranberry pie made by Shauna. The table is laid. Wine is decanted. Rehan makes a crisp charred lemon cocktail. It definately puts everyone in a good mood!

Serves 6

3 pounds Apples (6 heaping cups)
1/2 cup dried Cranberries
1/3 cup Maple Syrup
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Zest
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon 
3/4 cup light Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Arrowroot 
A pinch of Kosher Salt

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup cold Butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup cold Vegetable Shortening (Crisco), cut into small cubes
5 tablespoons Ice Water

2 tablespoons Butter
1 Egg

Start by making the crust. Add flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a processor. Pulse twice.

Drop cubed butter and vegetable shortening over flour and pulse till flour looks like peas. It should take 10-15 pulses.

Sprinkle ice water over flour and pulse till mixture comes together in a ball, about 5-8 pulses.

Dump dough onto a floured surface and gather into a ball.

If you do not have a processor, place flour in a bowl. Drop butter and shortening into flour and work the mixture with two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips till flour resembles peas. Add water and gather the dough together.

Flatter dough into a disc and wrap in Saran or a plastic bag and refridgerate for an hour.

Let dough sit for 5 minutes before you roll it out on a lightly floured surface.

Roll dough gently to fit a 9 inch pie plate by folding dough in half, then quarters and lifting it on to the pie plate. 

Trim the edges with a knife. Gather trimmed pastry leftovers into a ball.

Make indentations in the pie crust with a fork along the edges of the plate.

Heat oven to 400F.

Refridgerate pie plate while you make the filling.

Peel, core and slice apples. You should have 6 cups.

Place apples in a bowl and add all the filling ingredients and stir.

Take pie plate out of the fridge and arrange apple slices on crust.

Dot with small bits of butter.

Gather scraps of leftover pastry and roll. Using a pastry cutter or freehand, trace and cut out as many leaves as you can to cover the filling. Shauna traced out a large turkey freehand and surrounded the turkey with leaves. Feel free to use the leftover pastry in any design. You need to cover the apples, leaving some open spaces to let the steam out as the apples bake.

Beat egg lightly.

Paint crust with egg wash.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or till crust is golden brown.

Eat the pie hot, warm or at room temperature. It's good in every which way!!!

We all pay the price for our gluttony. I read a Frank Bruni article about overindulgence. After demolishing  a large part of of the bounty, I can safely add a disclaimer that a huge repast is not limited to Italians. There is one resounding complaint from the maker of this pie. Not enough leftovers!!! This, said by the person who's freezer bag contains the remains of this meal!!! To the dessert chef the spoils!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kashmiri Lamb Curry or Aab Gosht

A hiatus does wonders for the mind. It's even better for my taste buds. The past few weeks have been a blur, but one item stands out, like the light that blinds you. Makes you close your eyes and focus. A few of my trusty experimenters have stated their difficulty in finding past recipe posts. I guess they havent noticed the header at the top of the page, loudly proclaiming itself---RECIPE COLLECTIONS.. Folks, this is my version of a recipe index. All that I have labored to create has been itemized and posted. So now all of you know where to go. Jen, ChunChun, Christine... All it takes is a click!!!

The season starts. And by that I mean the cooking one, not the seasonal kind. Turkey day will be here soon enough. But before the turkey is bronzed, my first visitor is my daughter. And with her arrival comes a food request list longer than my arm!!! Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled to cook for her. To satisfy all her food fancies. Happy to have her back at our table. And so the season of goodwill and good food begins. 

Request no#1 is any kind of mutton or goat meat. It's hardfor me to say goat meat as I have called it mutton all my life. Traditionally, mutton is aged lamb. So a conundrum it is... Tomaato/tomato. Let's leave it at mutton for her sake. I schlep to a recently discovered butcher in Queens to buy a ton of meat. This butcher's mutton has the taste of meat from home aka Bombay. It's a ride out there, but well worth the effort as the mutton cooks up bone tender. I have Keith Louis to thank for this meaty discovery!! Then I race home to cook for her. The curry is supposed to be tomorrow's dinner, but an impending snowstorm brings her home earlier.

Aab Gosht is a Kashmiri delicacy. The meat is cooked along with chana dal, mint and spices till it falls off the bone. The pressure cooker does its job quite adequately. I mash the chana into the gravy to thicken it. Some coconut milk and lemon juice to finish and I have a creamy mutton curry Shauna will love.

Serves 4-6

2 pounds Lamb stew or cubed Goat meat 
1 cup Chana Dal
2 Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic Paste
1 teaspoon grated Ginger
3 tablespoons Coriander Chili chutney OR 1 cup Coriander and 3 Green chilies ground              into a paste
20 Mint leaves
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 2"Cinnamon stick
6 Cloves
10 Peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon Cardamom powder
1 cup Coconut Milk
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Fried Onions and Mint Laeves to garnish

Wash meat and drain well.

Soak chana dal for 4-6 hours. OR place dal in a saucepan cover with water and bring to a boil. Take off the fire and let dal sit for 1 hour.

Cut onion into small dice.

Roughly chop mint leaves.

Place meat, ginger, garlic paste, onions, mint, coriander chilie paste or chutney, salt and oil in a pressure cooker or heavy bottomed saucepan.

Cover with water and bring to a boil. Pressure cook meat for 16 minutes. If you are cooking the meat stovetop, cover meat with a lid, lower flame and let meat cook for 1-1 1/2 hours or till done. Check water level and add more if needed.

Once the pressure cooker has cooled, open lid and place meat on high flame and let the gravy thicken. It should take 15 minutes or so.

Now add coconut milk and lime juice and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes more.

Place cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns in a spice grinder and pulse till they are a fine powder. Add cardamon powder to masala and pulse a few times to incorporate. 

Sprinkle this masala over mutton and mix in.

Serve mutton garnished with fried onions and mint leaves.

I wait eagerly for my baby to come home. Traffic confounds her, prolonging the journey. Grey clouds fill the skies outside. But my kitchen shines bright, suffused with the joy and anticipation of our family meal.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Roasted Blistered Carrots

These carrots are addictive. They come of the oven, browned and blistered, spicy and  crisp-tender. More like a large French fry. And how we love them. I am considering them as an appetizer after watching the family pick away at a plateful. You might've seen them as a side with roast chicken in another blog post. I find they go equally well with lamb or fish.

I do like to make them with small white and orange carrots from the farmers market.  They come in adorable twisty shapes, not the usual straight and narrow. I have a bee in my bonnet about buying carrots with their tops intact. The prepackaged, scrubbed clean little itty bitty ones are not quite the carrot I have in mind. This is the carrot that's been in the ground of late, the green frilly tops calling me, I'm fresh!! Thankfully, I and only I have to live with this pet peeve! 

I halve the fatter ones, leaving the slim ones intact. I use a limited spice palate as I want the carrot flavor to be the dominant one. Coriander and fennel seeds give the carrots a nippy flavor without heat. Carrots get a quick coating of spices and oil. A really hot oven turns these little ones into brown blistered babies!!!

Serves 4

8-10 Carrots
1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
1 tablespoon Fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Olive oil

Heat oven to 400F.

Wash and scrub carrots well. 

Cut carrots in half lengthwise. 

Blitz coriander seeds and fennel in a coffee grinder till they are coarsely ground.

Mix seeds, salt, pepper and olive oil in a bowl.

Line a sheetpan with nonstick aluminum foil.

Drop carrots into spice mixture and stir so all carrots are well coated with spices.

Arrange carrots on foil and put in the oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, checking occasionally at the end. Once the carrots are easily pierced with a knife, remove from oven and serve.

Carrots emerge with blistered skins and crispy tips. The spice coating has turned golden brown, giving the carrots a nice crunch. Roasting allows their natural sweetness to come through. I watch as the plateful of heaped carrots steadily disappears. This vegetable has gone from being an also-ran, to a rock star!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ball Curry

There is kofta curry and then there is Pam's ball curry. A difference? It's not just semantics! It's a question of regional spices, Goan flavor and importantly, following stalwart advice of her mother-in-law! So I do the same. The recipe, written on a scrap of paper years ago, now encased in a protective plastic sleeve, sits in a bulging binder. Hastily written, I almost always have to decode the scrawl. Even as I read I can hear the Mini's voice telling me how much coriander to use. How I must add Bassein vinegar for that authentic taste. How the masala should be ground fine. Who is this voice of authority you ask? She was ma in law's gem in the kitchen. Minnie Mai is the culinary enchantress, who turned out potato chops, burnt curry, rechaad fish, chili fry....I could go on and on with this litany of Goan goodness, for thirty years in Pam's Bombay kitchen.. She also makes authentic Chinese, mouthwatering sev poori and the best caramel custard. Let me not forget her legendary chapattis at breakfast. I give much deserved credit to my mother-in -law for teaching Minnie the art of homestyle Goan food. Now retired, she now spends her days cooking at leisure for her family.

With Mini's voice in my ear I gather provisions for ball curry. Some beef, cilantro, chilies, coconut and onions. All these within easy reach in my kitchen. Alas, I have no Bassein vinegar, having put my bottle to good use. I do have some malt vinegar, which I am told by Pam, will work adequately. There is something therapeutic for me, in making meat balls. I love the squish of meat between my fingers. The aroma that arises is intoxicating. When I grind fresh spices, I can hear Mini telling me to make sure the masala should be one smooth paste. That I should fry the balls gently in a little oil. That I should always taste the gravy before eating.

Serves 4

Green Masala
1 cup Cilantro
2-3 Green Chiles
1/2 cup grated fresh Coconut
1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Poppy seeds
1" piece Cinammon
3 Cloves
1 large coin Ginger
4-5 Garlic cloves
1 pound ground Beef
1/2 cup fresh Breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Malt Vinegar
1 large Onion
4-5 Curry Leaves
3-4 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 cup Water or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Put green masala ingredients into blender and grind till smooth. Add water, a little at a time as needed. Scrape masala out of blender and rinse blender out with water. Save water to add to the gravy.

Divide masala in half.

Break up the beef into a bowl.

Add half portion of masala to beef.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs, salt and malt vinegar over beef.

Squish beef with your hands so everything is well mixed and it takes on a greenish patina.

Roll beef into smooth balls and keep aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil, preferably in a nonstick saucepan. 

Add balls to hot oil and cook till light brown and crusty. They do not have to cook all the way through. Drain onto paper and keep aside.

Peel and cut onion into small dice.

Heat 2-3 tablespoon of canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat.

Splutter curry leaves in hot oil.

Scatter onions over oil and sauté till translucent for a few minutes. They should not brown.

Add remaining half of masala into oil and sauté constantly for a few minutes. 

Slowly add water from the blender as well as the 1/2 cup portion to masala to make gravy. Salt and bring to boil.

Drop balls into bubbling gravy, cover and let balls cook for 7-8 minutes.

Remove lid, raise flame to high and let gravy cook down till thick.

Serve ball curry with rice or chapattis. 

 A recipe from the past is forever enshrined in my collection. To know that we eat what our grandparents did, is always a connection forged. Often Pam regales me with her mother in law's culinary stories. She has taught me well. With every bite we go back to that happy place. Voices from the past encourage me walk this path again and again. I do, with joy in my heart and my treasured recipe binder in hand.