Saturday, September 20, 2014

Lemon Thyme Roast Chicken

My romance with Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes is the gift that keeps giving.  I love his bold flavors, his generously spiced meats and veggies. A master at adventurous pairings, he always surprises my palate. His treatise on food in Jerusalem makes me want to eat my way through the Holy Land. I avidly follow and learn. Adapt and adopt his techniques. He really is my new friend in the kitchen! 

It's chicken time again! It must be a touch of the sun because I think I am warming up to chicken. I do know that this chicken will be one tasty bird as it acquires those Mediterranean flavors after a long soak in lemon, onions and orange juice. I want to stay true to his recipe. I really do. But I don't have some of the ingredients on hand. So with a regretful shrug I substitute. No fresh fennel, some onion in place. No Arak, just Galliano in its place. No oranges, only lemons. Now that I have taken his recipe into my hands, I proceed cautiously.

I clean the chicken. Against my better judgement I decide to leave the skin on as the recipe deems it best. Lemons are thinly sliced. Thyme leaves are stripped off their stems. As I mix the marinade, the kitchen is suffused with aroma of lemon and thyme. Chicken is doused in the marinade and left to macerate for twenty four hours. I forget about it and go about my business.

Serves 4

8-10 pieces Chicken legs and thighs
3 tablespoons Galliano liqueur 
1 cup Orange Juice
3 tablespoons whole grain Mustard
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
4 tablespoons Thyme
3 tablespoons Fennel seed
1 Lemon
1 Onion
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Olive oil

Wash and dry chicken pieces. Trim off visible fat.

Whisk Galliano, orange juice, mustard and sugar.

Strip thyme leaves off the stems and chop roughly. Add to marinade.

Lightly crush fennel seeds and add to marinade.

Season marinade with salt and pepper.

Cut lemon into thin slices.

Slice onion into thin wedges.

Put chicken, onions and lemon slices into a glass container and pour marinade over it.

Drizzle olive oil over chicken.

Cover and marinate chicken overnight.

Heat oven to 450F.

Remove chicken from marinade and place skin side up on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Save the marinade.

Roast chicken in oven for 35-40 minutes till skin is golden brown and crispy.

Pour marinade in a saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer for 5-8 minutes.

Serve chicken with cooked down marinade as gravy on the side.


The chicken tastes best just out of the oven. If you need to make it earlier, then reheat the pieces in a hot (400F) oven for 5-8 minutes.

The original recipe called for fennel and clementines. I love the flavor of charred lemon so that worked for me.

Try to use nonstick aluminum foil. Cooked chicken slides off the foil in a jiffy with very little mess.

The kitchen is engulfed with the delicious aroma of roasting chicken and lemons. I peek at the chicken with much anticipation!! The skin, crisp and caramelized, is studded with mustard seems and fennel. Roasted alongside carrots, the chicken splutters and sizzles. Soon its time to plate up a mound of bronzed legs and thighs. Crisp roasted carrots flank the meat. The omnipresent tomato and parsley salad accompanies our meal. A convivial silence pervades the table as we slice and dice. The chicken is so very moist. A knife seems superfluous as the meat gives easily. Roasting chicken with the skin on, is today's lesson. This recipe gets a vigorous nod of approval. As G stuffs his mouth,  he mumbles that he can't stop eating the chicken. And the carrots too!! I will post the carrot recipe in the near future. It is another keeper!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fish Tacos

How many ways can I make fish tacos? Grilled? Fried? How about a quick saute? My choice of fish is cod. I love the way it flakes, it's buttery texture, the way it cooks. Purists like mahi mahi. None of that for me. The cod in the freezer will be quite adequate. I usually deep fry the fish, as the crunch is well loved in my not-so-eager-to-eat-fish household. This time I exercise great restraint and try a healthier version. Let's see what the verdict will be.

Makes 6

1/2 pound Cod
1/2 teaspoon Ancho Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon Canola oil
4-6 Tortillas
Pico De Gallo (recipe below)
Cabbage Slaw (recipe below)

Wash and cut cod into 1 inch pieces.

Coat cod with ancho chile powder, paprika, cumin, garlic, oregano and salt. Mix well and let fish sit for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a nonstick pan.

Add fish and sauté quickly till done on a high flame.

Warm tortillas.

Top with fish, pico de gallo and cabbage slaw.

Makes 1 cup

2 Tomatoes
2 tablespoons Cilantro
1/2 Red Onion
2 tablespoons Lime juice
14 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Chop tomatoes into small chunks.

Mince onion and cilantro

Mix tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice and salt.

Makes 1 cup

1 cup thinly slivered Cabbage
1/2 Red Onion
1 green Chile
1 tablespoon Cilantro
2 tablespoons Lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Thinly slice onion and green chile.

 Mix cabbage, onion, chile, cilantro, lime juice and salt.

Lunch is a quick affair.  On a sweltering afternoon, tacos chaperoned by una cervesa is a summer's delight. Warm tacos are topped with crusted fish nuggets. A heaping of tomatoes, cabbage and onions go on. Fold the tortilla in half and then take a big bite. Did you notice that you have to tilt your head sideways to eat tacos?? A healthy mess of fish drippings, tomatoes and slaw litter the plate. The dish is literally relished and devoured. Even as G finishes the last morsel, he claims the fried ones do taste better. Succinctly, I tell him to stand in front of a hot wok and perform that enviable task the next time we have tacos. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Soup

I can hear the steady bubble emanating from the pot on the stove. Cupfuls of diced tomatoes mingle with onion and garlic, enveloping the kitchen in a wonderful aroma. These are the tomatoes that get relegated to the fridge. The ones that are beyond the realm of sandwich or salad. A little mushy, a bit too ripe..but still good, don't get me wrong! I have this thing about putting tomatoes in the fridge. Somehow their texture changes. The taste gets altered. But then that's me, my idiosyncrasy. I use the fridge only as a last resort. So the ones in today's soup are the ends, the mushy middles, the slices that don't make it between two slices of bread. 

My bumper tomato crop has me straining at the creative leash! After making chutney, marinara, numerous tomato related curries, frittata, salads and sandwiches..I have almost reached the end of my resources! Consequently a large number of these globes have now been relegated to the freezer. Yes... I just put them into Ziploc bags and freeze them. They are then perfect for a quick sauce, a curry or saute. Though, no salad for these babies!!! Defrosted, they turn into wonderful pulpy messes. I'm up to 8 gallon-sized bags. Fresh tomatoes for me through winter!

These heirlooms I use have completely weighed down the plant. They lie sprawled over Romas, and Big Boys. They are huge, as big as the palm of my hand! When you cut them open, you get yellow/orange flesh riddled with crevices. Perfect pockets for a drop of olive oil or some slivered basil. One slice and a dollop of green chutney on bread transports me to a crowded Bombay street. Two slices and fresh Mozzarella on a brioche bun and I am the happiest soul at lunch. I use one half as a base for burrata doused with olive oil. Heavenly! I can rhapsodize over the pleasures of heirlooms incessantly. But let me finish the meal at hand.

Makes 2 hearty portions or 4 small cups

1/2 red Onion
1 Garlic clove
3-4 cups heirloom Tomatoes or any tomatoes
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Cut onion and garlic clove into small dice.

Chop tomatoes into chunks.

Heat olive oil in a deep pan.

Add onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes till onion is transparent.

Dump tomatoes into pan, stir and bring to a boil.

Once it boil, lower flame and let tomatoes simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing pulp with spoon. 

Puree pulp in a blender.

Pour puree into the pan, season with salt and let it come back to a low boil.

If you think it's too thick, add a few tablespoons of water.

Serve soup hot with crusty bread.


I use heirlooms as I have an abundant crop. Please use any farmer's market fresh tomatoes. The quality of the tomato makes for the best tasting soup. Supermarket tomatoes just don't do the job. Sorry!!!

Blenders work the best with this soup. You could try an immersion blender, by the soup doesn't have a lot of liquid so you WILL wear the soup!!

For a sophisticated version, first blend and then strain the puree.

G says he's looking forward to lunch. The aromas are whetting his appetite. I toast a slice of sourdough to go with the soup. Bowls of soup sit side by side. A spoonful of this thick potion and our mouths fill with an amplified tomato volume. The orange colored creamy spoonful belies the simplicity of taste. I chew on bits of tomato and onion . A hint of garlic and flecks of skin give the soup a bite. The taste of fresh pureed tomatoes is indescribably good and wholesome. Toasted bread sops up soup instantly. Roast beef, mushrooms, Swiss cheese and arugula sandwiches come in a far second. We sip. We slurp. We savor. Sighs of contentment abound. Olive oil, onions, garlic and tomatoes, the fundamentals of life in my kitchen, come together in perfect harmony.  The intense flavor of a just-picked tomato spoils me for any other. I guess a little June spade work yields a big September bounty.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Vegetable Tian

The Hawkes' are visiting us. This is the first leg of their once-in-a-lifetime adventure around the world. They truly are a delight. Enthusiatic, accommodating and willing to eat whatever comes to the table. My delight at seeing empty serving dishes is repeated every night!!! 

Amy and Rob have left very little behind in England. Just a few material things, but lots of family and friends. With nary a worry, backpacks just about filled, they plan to circumnavigate the globe traversing North, Central and South America. Then comes South Africa, where Amy's family comes from, on to Australia and Asia. Have I left out any continents??? Antartica? You can't blame them for leaving out one land mass!! And they blog about their journey too!

They have enthusiastically eaten my biryani, Khau Swe, tacos and steak and potatoes. It's Italian tonight. I make a vegge bake. A tian. That name has fascinated me so!! I can roll it off my tongue effortlessly. Though it sounds exotic, maybe Spanish, a bit Chinese, it really is a form of assorted summer vegetables, robustly roasted. I cut half moons of eggplant and red potatoes. Zucchini circles and tomatoes round off the veggies. I plan to wedge them in a rectangular baking dish. Then an idea strikes. Why not lay them in concentric circles? I start with eggplant, potato, zucchini and tomato, making my way around the baking dish. It take a while, but the result is startlingly lovely. My work of art goes into the oven. When it comes out I will smother it with gruyere.

Serves 4-6

1 big Eggplant
3 small Red Bliss Potatoes
2 Zucchini
3-4 Roma Tomatoes
1/4 cup Olive oil
1 tablespoon Butter
4 Garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
Cooking spray or Butter
1/2 cup grated Gruyere 

Slice eggplant in half lengthwise. Slice the half portion once again lengthwise in half. Cut the halves into 1/5 inch slices.

Cut potatoes into 1/5 inch slices.

Slice zucchini and tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices. If the tomatoes are big, half and slice.

Spritz  a circular 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Or liberally grease dish with butter. Your choice.

Start with the eggplant, then a slice of potato, followed by two slices of zucchini, ending with a tomato slice. Start with an outside circle. End with the inner one. If you have extra pieces of veggies, wedge them in as the circles need to be fitted tight.

Heat oven to 425F.

Peel and cut garlic into a fine dice.

Take thyme leaves off their stems and roughly chop leaves.

Heat olive oil and butter in a saucepan. 

Add garlic and thyme and let then sizzle for 30 seconds.

Pour olive oil over vegetables. 

Season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Scatter gruyere over veggies and dish it out.

My guests come late for dinner. We chat about their incredible day. A stranger in a bar gives them tickets to the US Open quarterfinals!! Another astonishing, heartfelt story about life in the Big Apple. 

The tian experiment does not have too many takers!!  Folks, this is my first attempt!  So the bake gets another life. I arrange the veggies pell mell in another dish. Leftover egg and milk from this morning's French toast gets spiced up and poured over the veggies. Into the oven for 40 minutes and the tian is a tasty golden brown resurrection !!!! Sometimes, once is not enough!


I added 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, a large pinch of crushed red chiles flakes and a slittle salt. Whisked well. poured over veggies and baked for 40 minutes. This addendum is for souls addicted to spice! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Grilled Pita Burgers

Grilling is the Labor Day norm. But since there is a dead bird lying next to the grill I am weirded out!!! Sadly, I take to the indoor grill. I'm sure the meal will taste just fine inside the house. After all I am going to use a gas range ...just like my outdoor gas grill. As an Indian would say"same to same."

Than last time I made these grilled pitas I used ground lamb. I don't think I spiced the mixture enough. This time I use a 50/50 mixture of beef and lamb. I prefer the taste of both together vs just lamb or beef. Though we do love lamb in this house very much. The lamb/beef mixture is heavily infused with cumin, coriander, parsley and chockful of green chilies. I let the meat hang out in the fridge for a couple of days. This way the meat gets well seasoned and oozes spice. 

I use mini pitas as they hold the meat better. And are easier to grill. Faster too. Honestly...I haven't used the larger pitas as I will have to incorporate a huge amount of meat filling. Not a big fan of that! Trader Joes mini pitas make perfectly portioned quite the alliterative way!

Makes 8

1 pound Ground Beef
1 pound Ground Lamb
1 teaspoon ground Cumin powder
2 teaspoons ground Coriander powder
3 green Chilies
1/2 cup Parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Soy sauce
8 mini Pita Breads

Mix beef and lamb in a bowl.

Slice chilies into very fine slivers.

Chop parsley finely.

Add cumin powder, coriander powder, slivered chiles, parsley, black pepper and soy sauce to meat and mix well using your hands.

Cover and refrigerate overnight for best flavor. If you are pressed for time, marinate meat for a couple of hours.

Let meat come to room temperature before cooking. 

Heat an indoor grill plate on high flame.

Use a sharp knife to cut along the edges of the pita in a half circle, to open it partially. Do this carefully because you do not want to make a tear in the pita. 

Divide the meat filling into 8 portions.

Take the filling and spread it inside the pita. 

Press down to close opening and seal pita.

Fill the remaining pitas in the same fashion.

Place the pitas on the grill rack or pan. 

Grill on one side for 3-4 minutes and then flip over and grill for an additional 2-3 minutes. The pitas get golden brown and have hatch marks when done. 

Serve them piping hot as an appetizer or along with a salad as an entree.


The pitas could be cooked on an outside gas or charcoal grill too. Use the same method but cook via low heat. 

There is no need for any oil. Yay!

The pitas look and smell overwhelmingly good!! A crisp exterior holds a succulent, spicy mouthful of ground beef/lamb. I love the contrasting taste of soft and crunchy in each bite. And so convenient to hold! The other hand holds a tall frosted beer, my beverage of choice. Something hot, something cool on a sunny afternoon. These bite size burgers disappear fast. Now that the meal is over I hope to press the men into pest removal mode! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Sunburst of Flavor--Cherry Tomato Frittata

Sometimes inspiration comes from a conversation. Other times it is a book, or just plain necessity. Mine starts when I show my sister Prassy, my burgeoning vegetable patch. She takes one look at the mound of Sun Golds and launches into a description of a frittata she has eaten. As she recites the ingredients, even before she comes to the execution, I know I will make it for lunch. I have all the fixings. Onions, garlic, mushrooms and of course the cherry tomatoes. But I add something extra to the lineup.

A morning expedition to the farmers market results in bunches of verdant green beet and carrot tops. I am loathe to throw them out. I chop a handful of each to add into the frittata. I love the slightly spicy taste of beet greens. Roughly chopped into a stir fry or added to a pullao or pilaf, they give the dish a complex umami taste. Slightly bitter, a liitle pungent and very tasty!! I plan to stir fry them later as an accompaniment to steak and potatoes. BUT I have never cooked with carrot tops before!!! So here goes. I think they will impart a mild carrot flavor to the dish... At least I hope. The lady at the farmers market said she makes a pesto out of carrot tops. Not doing that today! 

Since the contents of the fritatta are at hand, I make short shrift of prep work. It helps to have peeled, halved onions in the fridge. Garlic that's sits on the countertop becomes papery and really easy to peel...I don't know the how of it but it works!!! I usually have a pod that sits at arms length from the knife and cutting board! Cremini mushrooms give the dish that earthy flavor. And of course the beet and carrot tops. I also chop up fresh basil, parsley and mint. Prassy advises me to use goat cheese.... so I do.  In for penny, in for a pound. I reap the fruits of my labor, a huge basket of orange Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. This year I decide to plant just one cherry plant. In spite of  that cautionary measure, the mound piles high every morning.  The mainstay of a frittata goes in...wholesome eggs!!! It's almost lunchtime... I have to get cracking!!!


4 Eggs
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 Onion
3 cloves Garlic
8 Cremini or any other Mushrooms
1 cup Beet Greens
1/2 cup Carrot Tops
2 tablespoons Parsley
8 Basil leaves 
6 Mint leaves
1/2 to 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 cup Goat Cheese
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk well.

Thinly slice onions, garlic and mushrooms.

Wash beet greens and carrot tops. Dry and roughly chop both greens.

Slice parsley, basil and mint leaves into thin ribbons.

Heat oven to 375F.

Place an oven-safe saucepan over high heat. A cast iron saucepan works really well.

Add olive oil. 

Wait 20 seconds, then add onions and garlic and saute till onions have dark brown edges. It should take a few minutes.

Add mushrooms and saute for a few minutes till light brown.

Dump the beet and carrot greens in and stir the mixture for a few minutes till green wilt.

Take the veggies off the heat. 

Stir in the sliced herbs, salt and pepper.

Whisk the eggs and add to the pan. Make sure eggs flow into all nooks and crannies and are spread all over the pan.

Nestle cherry tomatoes into eggs. 

Dot with knobs of goat cheese.

Place pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Shake pan to see if eggs are runny. They should be firm, golden and slightly puffed up. 

Remove pan from the oven, slice and serve the frittata. 


If you do not have an oven safe saucepan you could first sauté the veggies in a pan. Then mix eggs and veggies and pour into a glass baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes.

I love the texture of the frittata cooked in cast iron. The bottom and edges are golden brown and crusty. 

I only used 4 eggs as the recipe is for two helpings. You could easily add more, up to 8 for more substantial wedges.

The frittata emerges with golden brown edges, slightly puffed, oozing goat cheese and plump tomatoes. I hastily cut wedges as the aroma is mouthwatering. These bright yellow and green wedges are slender in weight. My deliberate attempt at cutting calories. But immensely satisfying. And so begins a pleasant lunch for two, on a picture perfect day. Prassy...this might be your inspiration but it is my perspiration!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Roast Chicken Mediterranean Style

I am making a much reviled protein again. Once again I acquiesce to hearty male appetites. They do love chicken and since I am in the minority, chicken usually makes an appearance at the dinner table at least once a week. I think I have mentioned a million times about my aversion to poultry. If I am to make a meal of it, it has to be marinated, saturated, brined, spiced. My chicken needs a twenty-four hour spice bath before I will deem it palatable. If not I usually give it a wide berth. 

An abundance of sumac in the kitchen cupboard reminds me of a roast I have made before. It was consumed enthusiastically as I remember. Yotam Ottolenghi provides the basis for this roast. I pick at his recipe, taking what I like. His call for pine nuts is a complete no-no. I use most of his suggestions, using sumac, roasted cumin powder and lots of lemons. In place of onions I use shallots.  Lots of olive oil and seasonings get added before it sits comfortably in the fridge overnight. Even as I divert from the Ottolenghi recipe, I feel a sense of unease. He really is a fabulous chef. His recipes are innovative, original and mainly vegetarian. The chicken recipe is an exception to his rule. 

I fashion a bed of bread. Chicken lays gently on this bed, dressed with the agents of marination. A generous pour of olive oil coats the chicken before it goes into a piping hot oven. Soon the kitchen is enveloped in the spicy aroma of a roasted bird. Pan seared wedges of sweet potato and a roasted corn zucchini orzo salad round out the meal. Wine is generously poured in anticipation of a hearty dinner.

Serves 4

8 pieces of skinless Chicken legs and thighs
2 Lemons
6 Garlic cloves
1 heaping teaspoon Sumac
1 teaspoon roasted Cumin powder
2 red Onions or 6 Shallots
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Back Pepper
3 + 2 tablespoons Olive oil
thick slices Sourdough bread

Wash and dry chicken pieces.

Slice lemons, garlic cloves and red onions or shallots thinly.

Mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with sumac, cumin powder, salt and pepper till well blended.

Place chicken in a glass bowl. 

Pour olive oil marinade over chicken and massage chicken well so it is well coated.

Scatter lemon slices, garlic and onions over chicken. Toss everything well.

Cover, refrigerate and marinate chicken overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Let chicken come to room temperature before roasting.

Heat oven to 350F.

Arrange sourdough bread on the bottom of an ovenproof dish.

Place chicken pieces on top of bread. 

Scatter lemon, garlic and onion slices over chicken. 

Drizzle with remaining olive oil and roast chicken uncovered for 30 minutes or till done.

The chicken should be served piping hot.

Chicken comes out of the oven golden brown and crusty. Charred lemon slices emit a wonderful aroma. I spoon some chicken onto my plate. Then I take a crusty slice of sourdough, toasted brown, dripping with pan juices. This is my alternate take on chicken and stuffing. And it is delicious. A mouthful of chicken, toasted bread and roasted shallot makes my taste buds long for more. Did I just say this about chicken??? Well....I'll just have to eat my hat along with this tasty bird!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

One Pot Lamb Korma

This recipe is the labor less way to a lamb or mutton curry. Really. Just add all the components into a Dutch oven and let them bubble and toil by themselves. For a faster version, as I do, use a pressure cooker. The latter being a common place cooking device in most Indian kitchens, is a beast not too many people want to tackle. My first pressure cooker came as part of my trousseau, making the journey over the seven seas. The Indian versions manufactured by Prestige and Hawkins, whoosh, splutter and scare. But they are formidable. They get the job done very efficiently and don't cost an arm and a leg like Fagor. Dal cooks in 5 minutes vs 30 minutes on the stove top. Meat braises in 15 minutes, much faster than the 45 minutes in the oven. It's just a question of mustering the courage to master the bells and whistles. 

As a novice in the kitchen, I confess to many disasters involving pressure cookers. I once started the cooker, snapped on the lid and walked away without using the safety valve. Results included splattered dal on walls, ceilings and stove tops. A mistake I sadly replicated a few times. Very tough clean up. Then there was the time I left the pan on a low flame and drove to the airport. That night I had to start dinner all over again.  One time I decided to adapt a lamb recipe that called for the lamb braised in its own juices...foolishly doing the same in my PC. That resulted in scorched lamb and the rubber ring permanently fused to the lid. Today it's still stays firm...but usable all the same. I have been instructed to watch the rings, count the whistles. None of those techniques mean anything to me. I let it whoosh once, lower the flame and cook meat for 15-16 minutes. Meat turns out fork tender, succulent and cooks in a jiffy. This works everytime.

Over the years I have gone through a couple of PCs. The old ones were aluminum. The newer ones come in steel and nonstick versions. They come in many sizes too. I have a couple of small pressure pans I use for dal. The larger one makes a great curry.  An inverted PC converts into a makeshift tandoor. Trust me, it works. In India PCs are used to boil potatoes, cook rice, steam idlis. I could go on, but let me stop as I can't do any of those things. Let me stress on what I do best... Making a mean curry in the fastest time possible

Serves 2-4

2 pounds Lamb shoulder with bones
2 large Onions
2 tablespoons Garlic Paste
2 tablespoons grated Ginger
2 large Tomatoes
1/2 cup whole milk Yogurt
1 teaspoon Chile powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup Water
1 teaspoon roasted Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Garam masala
Cilantro to garnish

Wash lamb and cut into small pieces 1-1/2 inches wide. Leave some meat attached to bones. Remove as much fat as you can.

Peel and cut onion into rough chunks.

Chop tomatoes into small chunks.

Place lamb, onions, tomatoes, garlic paste, grated ginger, yogurt, chile powder and salt in a pressure cooker. Add water and mix well.

Place pressure cooker on a medium flame and bring to a vigorous boil. Affix the lid and cover the vent with safety valve. Wait till the whistle whooshes once, lower heat to the minimum and cook for 15 minutes. Let the pan cool before opening the lid. If you are in an extreme hurry, run cold water on the pan for 3-4 minutes. This works like a charm. 

ASSUMING you are not using a pressure cooker, then place all the ingredients in a Dutch oven, bring to boil, lower flame, cover with a tight fitting lid and braise stove top for 40-45 minutes or till lamb is fork tender. You will have to stir the lamb from time to time and add more water as the lamb braises.

Sprinkle cumin powder and Garam masala and let curry bubble for a few minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with naan or rice.

I have dinner on the table in 20 minutes. Lamb flakes at the touch of a spoon. Onions, tomatoes and spices give the curry body and lots of flavor. I have taken the low road. Purists will scoff. I would love to indulge in a stove top braise if I had the time.  I hum and chant that time isn't on my side. I love my assorted cookers.   a confession---I am terrified of using other peoples devices. On that note I hope I haven't offended any one's PC sensibilities. I am trying to be PC!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Asian Sweet Potato Fritters

Yes. I'm frying again. Can't help it though. The culprit is a recipe from a Thai cookbook I found at the library. Yes...that too. I am a frequent visitor to my local library, which I consider the best resource in our town. I am thrilled with this new book. A revisionist take on simple Thai food that is easy to follow and looks scrumptious. I plan on making a few recipes but time runs away from me and I am forced to return my copy. Then I find the book again, or should I say the book finds me. This time I am determined to experiment. 

The first recipe bowls me over. I do not really get past the first page. I have everything the recipe asks for. But it calls for a deep fried sweet potato. The gods of frying do battle in my conscience and win. I guess I am an easy mark. Please remember my last blog was shallow fried chicken. It doesn't count does it???? That all-round crispy texture only comes from a dip in a hot oil bath!!  The hell with cholesterol. Let's fry some sweet taters.

I make this thick gooey batter chockful of grated coconut and sesame seeds. Another component is an aromatic paste made with cilantro  roots and garlic. Luckily my cilantro leaves have some elongated roots. I hurriedly grind paste. The batter looks insipidly pale. Did I mention it is thick as glue?? I refer to the recipe which alludes to this texture quite jokingly. The author Leela Punyaratabandhu definitely has a sense of humor! I just realized she is a food blogger. Her blog page has the identical recipe posted!!! Talk about good taste!!

Now let me start my version. Potatoes are peeled and cut into chip shapes. My trusty frying pan simmer with a lot of canola oil. I do have a dedicated steel perforated spoon used for frying. What can I say, I live dangerously. The exhaust comes on. Potatoes swirl in the batter. Just like the recipe says, the batter adheres to the wedges. I drop a handful into hot oil. As they sizzle, I doctor some sweet chile sauce with cilantro. And watch the pan.

Adapted from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu 
Serves 4

4 Sweet Potatoes or Yams
1/2 cup Rice flour
3 heaping tablespoons Cornstarch
1 tablespoon dried Coconut flakes
1 teaspoon Toasted Sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked Black pepper
1 tablespoon Aromatic Paste (recipe below) ( optional)
1/3 cup Water 
2 cups Canola oil for frying
1/2 cup Sweet Chile sauce
1 teaspoon Cilantro leaves

Aromatic paste
6-7 Cilantro roots
1 entire Garlic pod
1 tablespoon ground Black pepper

Clean cilantro stems well. 

Peel garlic cloves.

Grind cilantro stems, garlic cloves and black pepper to a paste.

It will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Place rice flour, cornstarch, grated coconut, sesame seeds, salt pepper and aromatic paste in a bowl.

Slowly add water to make a thickish paste.

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into small wedges.

Add wedges to batter. 

Let them hang out in the batter while you heat the oil. Test the oil by dropping a tiny bit of batter. It should sizzle and swim to the surface immediately. Or wait for 4-5 minutes to be sure.

Drop the wedges carefully into hot oil.

They will sizzle and brown in 4-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to turn them while they fry.

Scoop the fries out onto some paper so the oil gets absorbed. 

Dip the fries in Sweet Chile sauce and indulge.


If you do not have cilantro stems and are not up to grinding the aromatic paste, leave it out. You could chop cilantro leaves and some garlic and add it to the batter if you wish.

OMG... these fries are addictive! You taste potato, sesame, some coconut, all in one crispy bite. I can't stop eating them. And it's not yet time for dinner.  They are not going last that long!! I love the flavor of crunchy potatoes dipped in spicy sauce. I look through the book for some more inspiration. Authentic Thai food is a misnomer in my part of the world. Then a long trek to Pok Pok in Brooklyn one evening transports me to Siam. That meal is the closest thing to food I have eaten in Thailand. I do hope this book will take me there.