Friday, 29 June 2007

Mere sapnon ki... maharani!

Someone who sort of owns a pressure cooker but is too paranoid about explosions plastering her walls with lentils and regaining consciousness a few weeks later in some hospital bed with molten aluminium shrapnel wedged between her eyes (it can happen, right?), thus letting said cooker gather spider carcasses in the cellar, should not be pitied and should not be allowed to whine about settling for semi-firm microwaved lentils.

See, I had one of these cravings for rajma (kidney beans) last week that I could ignore no more and proceeded to attempt replicating the excellent Maharani Dal I had at the Riverwalk Tandoor last month.

OK, "replicate" may be slightly arrogant and furthermore, with the passage of time, tastebuds tend to be assaulted with a pliable memory, so on an absolute scale, I'll be most immodest and admit I was thoroughly pleased with my version, firm dal notwithstanding. On a relative scale, well, it looks like I'll have to go back and eat there some day soon to remind me what theirs was like! And of course, overcome my fear of the pressure cooker!

How to (for 8, don't ask me why I am incapable of downsizing): Soak 1 cup each of rajma, channa dal (split chick peas) and urad dal (black gram) for a few hours or even overnight, then pressure cook them and lightly mash them.

Dice about 3 medium onions, skin and chop 4 large ripe tomatoes and chop 6 green chillis. Grate 1 to 1.5 inches of ginger and crush 6 cloves of garlic. Heat 50g of butter or ghee, and when it starts to sizzle, add 1 tsp each of cumin and mustard seeds and fry until they stop popping.

Add ginger and chilli and fry for a minute, then add onions and tomatoes and cook until soft. Mash tomatoes to get a paste. Add cooked beans with 1.5 tsp each of salt and turmeric, stir well. Add water if necessary to get a thick soupy consistency and boil for about 10 minutes. Before serving, add a splash of cream and sprinkle with some chopped fresh coriander. Best with hot naan, which I was too lazy to make! :)

Variations: Stir cream into gravy for a richer result. Sprinkle a mixture of mint and coriander. Omit kidney beans to get Amritsari dal.

Body Count: 0

I apologize for the recent dearth of posts but I have been biting off more than I can chew these past few weeks and it looks set to continue for another month 'cos believe it or not, I will be away on holiday AGAIN for 2 weeks starting this weekend! This time I'll be drifting off to the other extreme end of France - Arles. Hopefully, that means sunshine guaranteed!

To make up for my long absence, here's something I made a few weeks back but had no time to blog about - Beef Empanadas:

How to - filling: Boil and chop 4 eggs and 2 large potatoes, chop up about 20 black olives and crush several cloves of garlic. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry 500g of minced beef. Add 1 tsp each of oregano, salt, cumin and paprika. When beef is cooked through, add potatoes, eggs and olives. Remove from heat and stir in the garlic. Let it cool.

Cut out circles in a sheet of flaky pastry and put enough of the above mixture to cover a third to half of the surface of each circle. Fold over and pinch sides to create half-moons. Brush with egg (optional) and bake until pastry is golden brown.

Variations: I don't see why this can't be made into a dry pie (less work, heh heh)!

Body Count: 500g beef mince

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Jo bhi bane gobhi...

(subzi subtitle: whatever becomes of the cauliflower.)

Actually, it's "phool-gobhi" ( फूलगोभी), quite literally "cabbage (gobhi) flower (phool)" but if you keep the "phool" and mention just "gobhi" in Indian cuisine, most of the time, people will assume you're talking about cauliflower instead of cabbage.

Months back, Aloo Gobhi (potatoes & cauliflower) reared its pretty little head here, but I didn't provide a decent description or recipe then, and am back to remedy that. I'm no authority, but there are loads of ways to prepare cauliflower with potatoes and they will still be legitimately named "aloo gobhi", but I'll just concentrate on the recipe that I like best, based on this one, with a few tips and tweaks.

How to (for 4): Break up half a cauliflower into evenly-sized florets and boil for about 4 minutes. Flush cauliflower with cold water so that the florets don't oxydise and darken.

I stuck to the first ingredient list, but my spice paste varied according to what I had in the fridge, and goes like this:

several tbsp of desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chopped coriander
1/2 cup chopped green onion
4 green chillis
1/2 tsp grated ginger
4 plump cloves of garlic
about 4 - 5 small spring onions
50ml water

The rest of the steps are just as in the recipe. Notice how they didn't mention salt? Yeah, I always get tricked in this way when making curries! With so many ingredients to juggle, who ever remembers the salt?

Variations: I see the same spice paste working well with cabbage or peas but the name will not be the same...

Body Count: 0


I've never been to Calcutta but by the grace of Google, could not remain ignorant of this intriguing fusion dish called Gobhi Manchurian... I gathered from various sources that seeking an authentic recipe for this will merely set one up for major disappointment, and that the gist of it is to marry Indian and Chinese flavours, so here's my own contribution to the mass of recipes out there:

How to (for 4): Break up half a cauliflower into evenly-sized florets and boil for about 4 minutes. Flush cauliflower with cold water so that the florets don't oxydise and darken (sounds familiar? heh heh).

Make a thick batter with wheat & rice flours (3 parts to one?), salt, turmeric, baking soda and water to get preferred consistency. Heat oil for deep-frying, dip florets in batter and deep fry. Set aside.

Sauce - Finely chop 1 onion, 2 green + 2 red chillis and 4 cloves of garlic, grate ginger to get 1/2 a tsp and snip some green onions to get half a cup. Heat 2 tbsps each of sesame oil and corn oil and fry onion, garlic and ginger until the onion softens and the raw smell of the ginger fades. Add 1/2 cup of ketchup and a few splashes of soya sauce and stir well. Add in green onions.

These cauliflower fritters mollify very quickly, so it's best to eat them fast. I did, however, bake them after deep-frying them, and they stayed crispy though only for a very brief while...

You can serve gobhi manchurian either with the sauce as a chunky dip on the side:

or mix everything together - soggy satisfaction guaranteed!

Variations: Batter - add chilli powder for more zing, cumin for more fragrance, corn flour and/or besan instead of rice flour for more bite. Sauce - fish sauce instead of soya, peanut oil instead of sesame, chopped coriander instead of green onions.

Body Count: 0

Friday, 8 June 2007

Holiday round-up - Krung Thep

..or Bangkok. Why, it could even be called "Landfill" and I'd still be equally smitten with it... sigh.

What is it with Thais? I haven't had the opportunity of getting to know many personally so far but the conclusion I drew from their driving habits is that they're extremely tolerant and trusting and just for that, I'm impressed. Thai readers, please don't try to dispel a myth if this is one! :) In my 3 fleeting days there, so many times I was sure a potential mangled wreck was craving for my attention, but without fail the driver would slow down enough to let the pedestrian or other motorist pass, without really coming to a complete halt or even honking. What's their secret to keeping so cool?!?

Those of you who have been following me from the start would be familiar with my lack of success with driving, or at least with proving that I can drive... my instructors keep telling me to "ANTICIPATE" and Thai drivers must constantly be anticipating the worst of their fellow road users to be the pros that they are at avoiding accidents! :)

But enough for now about how Thais use their roads... funny that it left such an impression on me, especially because I took the Skytrain most of the time! Shame on me, but I completely neglected the touristy things like the floating markets, museums and temples. I'd seen them on my first trip there way back in 2001 with my company at the time, but this time I was alone with my mom and it was her first trip to Thailand. Since she fully relied on me to get from point to point, we ended up doing nothing but shopping and eating - things I wanted to do. :)

Having the upper hand, I made it a point to eat mainly street food. I saw my mom go pale at some of my suggestions (haha) until we chanced upon a vendor selling something she's had before and could not resist - khanom buang:

We revisited this mister on our last night with an empty doughnut box and told him to fill it up, which is why he was practically laughing at us. :)

Thereafter my mom saw what I meant about good food and filth going hand in hand! :) Too bad I was too eager to eat some of my purchases that I forgot to take more pictures, but there are still these to go by:

A lady selling bai toey-flavoured glutinous rice with shredded fresh coconut..

it was a filling snack, but I didn't find it particularly remarkable.

Another lady with her huge array of log chub:

aren't they just so pretty to look at? Theoretically, I know how to make these things, but at the price this lady was selling them, I wonder why anyone goes to all that trouble! For the uninitiated, these little guys are made of balls of mung bean paste shaped to look like fruits, impaled on a skewer, then pricked (if necessary, for texture, e.g. to look like strawberries) and painted with food colouring to resemble said fruits, and finally dipped into agar-agar to get the glazed look. I picture myself losing my temper after painting the 10th, so I wonder how many people were involved in manufacturing all these!

I saw these khanom krok being made, but by the time I managed to find a good angle, they'd put most of them into boxes, so only have this picture of the cavities to account for it:

By the way, these are things we ate in addition to meals, so on our last night after we'd packed our bags, we realised there were lots of things that wouldn't fit into our bags and that we had to eat. That included 4 apples. Ulp. I told my mom to deal with them since it was her idea to buy them in the first place, but then felt sorry for her and knew she couldn't do it alone, so promised to eat 2 on the condition she cut them into quarters for me. :) Already I had to cram 3 jam-filled doughnuts and a can of Calpis, so by the time I tried to down the third quarter of an apple, I thought of the new knives I'd bought for fruit carving and bought time for my oesophagus by doing this:

I could not bear to eat the leaf I carved, but I eventually did.

:) The following picture was not taken in Bangkok, but is related to the above. Party at my mom's place for her birthday and I used the same knives from Bangkok to carve a watermelon and fill it up with melon balls, dragonfruit and starfruit.

It could have been better, but I console myself about this being my first attempt and that I'd got home only an hour before the guests - the Japanese extension to my rather international family - were to arrive. :)

Monday, 4 June 2007

Holiday round-up - Singapore

In my previous post, I mentioned having met 4 bloggers in Singapore, and shall proceed to IDENTIFY them, COMPROMISING PHOTOS INCLUDED!!!!! :)

Heh heh, got you there, didn't I, Keropokman? ;-) This cheerful enthusiastic guy wants neither his name nor face to be known, which is just as well because the only photo I took of him was also with him, and I don't intend to "come out" as yet, so I shall have to respect that. :) I met Keropok together with EastCoastLife, whose face we know but not the name, and ditto about the photos I took of/with her. That leaves me with a picture of what we ate - Nasi Padang:

Errr, for details on what the individual dishes are called, better to rely on Keropok's post. Like the bhel puri in my previous post, I do not know how to make any of the above dishes.

The 3rd blogger I managed to catch specifically told me not to publish his picture, and I'd be more than happy to oblige as he was terribly nice to help take lots of pictures of old buildings for this homesick nostalgic chick and record them on CDs, awww. Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of the food we ate.

I almost did not get to meet No. 4 since he travels often for work, but am glad I did, exactly 12 hours before I was supposed to catch my plane back! It completely slipped my mind to send him a photo of myself beforehand and likewise, I didn't know what he looked like, so when I went to Jaan Toofan -- a small bhangra bar on Boat Quay I practically camped at during this trip, with a waiter only I seemed to think was a dead ringer for Aamir Khan -- looking for someone in a green t-shirt of a less than flattering description (his own, not mine), I did not find him (he either changed his t-shirt or his idea of green is different from mine), but he instantly recognised me, heh heh.. was it because of the kurta churidar I wore? possibly... :)

Alas, even if he didn't mind his face being shown, I have to admit to using a film camera throughout my trip and have not finished the last roll of film. It is appalling how fast film has become obsolete! When taking my pictures, a lot of people asked me where the preview was, and I had to tell them shamefacedly to look into the eyehole, haha..

Although Jaan Toofan dethroned Khazana and Khushi - favourite haunts on my previous trip home in December 2005 - I cannot forgive the band for snubbing my repeated requests for my perennial favourite song (Hum Tumko Nigahon Mein from Garv) so I am taking it out on you by putting it as the first song in my player on the right, heh heh! Sorry!

Next post - I'll backtrack to my trip to Bangkok with my mom, which took place before I met a single blogger. Of course, I did no cooking while there, but I had so much to eat, you'll see what I did in a moment of apple surfeit... later, gators!