Jun 29, 2016

Vikas Khanna's Classic Lamb Curry

Vikas Khanna classic lamb curry recipe beef goat indian punjabi mutton easy simple authentic

From the award winning Michelin starred Indian chef, restaurateur, and cookbook writer Vikas Khanna comes this recipe for an authentic North Indian style lamb curry. Lamb is simmered until tender in a rich gravy infused with traditional aromatic spices. So easy to make, everyone will think you're an award winning chef when you make this too!

Mr Khanna on one of his cookbooks looking Sexy & Alive!
I found this recipe on one of Vikas Khanna's numerous and rather derelict websites here. I'm not sure why Mr. Khanna has so many ill written and poorly maintained websites as his cookbooks are very well written and organized. Anyway, Mr. Vikas is originally from the Punjabi metropolis of Amritsar and has now been catapulted to culinary super stardom and Michelin starred fame for his amazing restaurant Junoon. He also made People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" list in 2011, has cooked for President Obama at the White House, been a guest judge on Australian Masterchef, and still does appearances frequently on talk and cooking shows.

On perusal of this recipe on Mr Khanna's website I noticed it had no garlic or ginger. I can't imagine a traditional North Indian meat curry without garlic or ginger so I added a bit. Other than that I've just rewritten the recipe in simpler form. The liberal use of spices and manner of preparation are typically Punjabi and the resulting dish is truly authentic. I usually start the marination for this dish the morning of or the day before the evening meal or dinner party I wish to serve it at. Then with less than an hour's cooking time your curry is ready to go. This super easy recipe also works well with beef, mutton/goat, venison, or water buffalo. If you are new to making curries or are an "old pro" this is a great recipe to try!

1kg/2lbs lamb or mutton, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee
5 green cardamoms/elaichi, bruised with mortar and pestle
3 cassia leaves/tej patta
2 inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon stick)
1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
3-4 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped finely (optional, omit for less heat)
1 large tomato/tamatar, diced finely
2 C water or stock/shorba
Grind to smooth paste for marinade:
1&1/2 C yogurt/dahi
3 onions, chopped roughly
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
1 TBS Kashmiri mirch (or 1&1/2tsp paprika plus 1&1/2tsp cayenne powder)
1 TBS coriander/dhania
1 TBS cumin/jeera
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
2 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind all ingredients listed under marinade to paste in mixie, food processor, or blender. Coat all meat pieces with marinade. Allow meat to marinate for 4 to 6 hours in the refrigerator sealed in an airtight container.
 2) When ready to cook  heat oil with for 5 minutes in a deep heavy bottomed skillet, stock pot, or pressure cooker. Add green cardamom/elaichi, cassia leaves/tej patta, and cassia bark/dalchini to hot oil and fry for 2 minutes.

3) Add meat and marinade to frying spices. Stir well and cook for 4 minutes. Add diced tomato and chopped green chilis/hari mirch and allow to simmer for 4 more minutes.

4) If you are cooking young Kashmiri lamb add 2 cups water or stock and allow to simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes or until meat is tender.  If you are cooking a tough Nepali goat like I am you'll want to use a pressure cooker and add enough water or stock so that meat is just covered. Seal pressure cooker and allow to steam for 5 to 6 whistles or until meat is tender.
5) When meat is cooked to desired tenderness salt to taste and serve with rice, naan, or rotis.

Helpful hints:
This recipe also works well with beef, mutton/goat, venison, or water buffalo. Simply adjust cooking time accordingly to the meat used

Jun 27, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Mangos, Aam

"Aam" is the Hindi and Urdu word for mango and this is definitely mango season! This juicy stone fruit is one of the most economically and culturally important tropical fruits across Asia. Mangos were originally found in the the foothills of the Himalayas, Burma, and Bangladesh. The mango was domesticated thousands of years ago and are now grown in most tropical and subtropical countries worldwide. Mangos are the national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines as well as the national tree of Bangladesh.

A young mango tree in full bloom.
Mangos are a member of the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, and grow into huge evergreen trees which can grow to ninety feet tall and thirty five feet across. They are also particularly long lived as some specimens still produce fruit after 300 years.

The flowers are borne in multi branched panicles and are both male and bisexual. The flowers are small, creamy white or light yellow and have a mild fragrance reminiscent of lily of the valley. 

Depending on growing conditions and variety the irregularly rounded or somewhat oval shaped fruits can be up to eleven inches in length and weigh up to five pounds each. Mangos are attached by a pendulous stem on the broadest end of the fruit. A mature mango tree can produce 2,000 to 2,500 fruits per year and some cultivars produce a double crop yearly. There are well over a thousand named cultivars of mangos in the world today. The flavors and textures vary from mild and peach-like with buttery flesh to harsh and fibrous with a resinous or turpentine-like taste.

Alphonso mangos
The most popular mango variety for eating fresh in South Asia is the "Alphonso" cultivar you see in the above photo. The Alphonso mango's skin is a distinctive rich yellow with a peachy blush and it's flesh is very pulpy and sweet. The most common commercial cultivar you'll see in western countries is called "Tommy Atkins."

My favorite variety are these little unnamed mangoes they bring up from the southern region of Nepal called the "Terai" and the northern Indian state of Bihar. We have friends who live in Terai and they send us crates of these from their trees when they ripen in late Summer. They are small, fitting in the palm of your hand and range in color from blue green to brilliant red. Despite their small size they have that fruity-floral nectarine flavor I love and the perfect balance of tart to sweet. Their flesh is firm but buttery.

Mangos they are enjoyed many different ways in South Asia. Green mangos are made into spicy, sour, and hot pickles with are a favorite accompaniment to meals. I've already talked about "amchur" which is a souring agent made from dried green mangoes. Good old American Tang even comes in a delicious mango flavor in South Asia too. Mangos are used to make chutneys, lassis, kulfi, a form of preserves called "murabba," curries, and all sorts of goodies. Mango jams are quite lovely and dried or frozen mangos are fine but I'd recommend avoiding canned mangos. Like lychees, mangos do not can well and lose all their fruity floral flavors in the process.


Jun 24, 2016

Singin' In The Rain!


Downpours Daily!
I'm singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin'
I'm happy again

The neighborhood vacant lot is now a buffalo wallow, mosquito & frog fest.
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for love

Look out there bathing beauty that might be a gator or a shark on your left1
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I've a smile on my face

The kitties are happy and keeping dry on Ms Dawg's towel.
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Just singin',
Singin' in the rain

Last but not least a ginormous rainbow!

Yes, the Monsoon has begun!!!!

And Mr Shah Rukh Khan (India's biggest movie star) personally wishes you a blessed Ramadan from his family to yours. (Ok, so I stole this off a Western Union ad.)

Jun 21, 2016

Chicken Rezala

rezala chicken recipe simple indian historicl

Although quite decadent and delicious, this is one of the easiest recipes you could make for a posh event. Famous within the Muslim community of Kolkata, Rezala is a creamy chicken dish made with aromatic cardamom, saffron, and kewra essence in a velvety sauce. A truly regal Mughal dish from a bygone era.

When the Nawabs of Awadh and descendants of Tipu Sultan were exiled in Bengal they took their royal chefs with them. Thus Mughlai cuisine was formally established in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) and mingled with Bengali tastes and flavors. Bengalis like their dishes a little on the sweet side so traditionally this recipe is enriched with a pinch of sugar as well as a slurry of coconut milk and ground cashews. Cashews are a bit too sweet for my Kashmiri family's tastes so I've replaced them with poppy seeds and coconut cream. I've also replaced the sugar with a little flour to reduce the sweetness and keep the yogurt from splitting. (In case you like a little sweet in your savory dishes I've given the measurements for the sugar and cashews though.) As with most Bengali dishes, Rezala has a thin gravy and is best enjoyed with rice. Do try this dish to experience the influence of nawabi (princely) finesse on rustic Bengali cuisine.

1kg or 2lbs chicken, skinless and cut into 8 pieces
1 TBS cooking oil
2 TBS ghee
2 cassia leaves/tej patta
5 dried red chilis/lal mirch
7 cloves/laung
1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
8 green cardamoms/elaichi, bruised in mortar and pestle
4 black cardamoms/kali elaichi
10 black peppercorns/kali mirch, whole
pinch of saffron strands (optional)
2 tsp kewra water (optional)
10-12 dry roasted almonds (optional for garnish)
Grind to smooth paste for gravy:
3/4 C yogurt/dahi
1/2 C onions, chopped roughly
1/2 teaspoon flour/maida or sugar/chinni (this will keep the yogurt from splitting)
1 tsp salt
1/2 C coconut cream
Grind to smooth paste for marinade:
1/2 C yogurt/dahi
1/2 C onions, roughly chopped
2 TBS ginger/adrak paste
2 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
2-3 green chilis/hari mirch
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper, ground
1 tsp cumin/jeera, ground
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania
1/2 tsp mace/javitri
1/2 tsp nutmeg/jaiphal
1 TBS white poppy seeds/khus khus (or ground cashews/kaju)
3-4 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped roughly (omit for less heat)

Here's what to do:
1) Grind all ingredients listed under marinade to a smooth paste. Coat all chicken pieces in marinade mix and place in sealable airtight container. Allow chicken to marinate for 30 minutes up to overnight in the refrigerator.

2) When ready to cook grind all ingredients listed under gravy to smooth paste and set aside. Heat oil and ghee in deep heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai and fry cassia leaves/tej patta, dried red chilis/lal mirch, cloves/laung, cumin seeds/jeera, green cardamoms/elaichi, black cardamoms/kali elaichi, and black peppercorns/kali mirch.

3) Remove pan from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes add the smooth paste for gravy from step 2 to pan with fried spices and stir well. Return pan to heat and bring mixture to simeer. Allow gravy mixture to simmer for 5 minutes.

4) Add chicken pieces with marinade to simmering gravy mixture. Allow chicken mixture to simmer covered over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken pieces are cooked completely. You shouldn't have to add any liquid to this dish, the chicken should cook covered in it's own juices to intensify the flavors.

5) Turn off heat and stir in saffron strands if using. Allow saffron to steep in dish for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with kewra water and dry roasted almonds if using just before serving with rice, naan, or rotis.

Helpful Hints:
Never cook chicken in a pressure cooker as the extreme heat will make the texture rubbery.

Wajid Ali Shah, 10th and last Nawab of Awadh
"Cast by providence for the role of an accomplished dilettante, he found himself a misfit for the high office to which he was elevated by chance. Wajid Ali Shah's character was complex. Though he was a man of pleasure, he was neither an unscrupulous knave nor a brainless libertine. He was a lovable and generous gentleman. He was a voluptuary, still he never touched wine, and though sunk in pleasure, he never missed his five daily prayers. It was the literary and artistic attainments of Wajid Ali Shah which distinguished him from his contemporaries."

Dr. G.D. Bhatnagar, Awadh Under Wajid Ali Shah

Jun 19, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Lychee, Lichee, Li Zhi, Litchi

These beautiful fresh fruits are called lychee, litchi, liechee, liche, lizhi or li zhi, or lichee. Lychees are native to China but now cultivated in tropical and subtropical climes all over the world. Fresh lychees are a common summer sight in markets all across Asia. Their juicy white pulp is famed for it's floral fragrance and delicately sweet flavor. 

Lychees have a history of cultivation going back to 1059 AD in China. Fresh lychees were so prized by the Chinese Imperial court they formed a special courier service utilizing the fastest horses to deliver them from the country side. Lychees were first described and introduced to the West in 1656 by Michal Boym, a Polish Jesuit missionary who drew the above print. 

The lychee tree, also known as Litchi chinensis, is an evergreen member of the Sapindaceae family. It thrives in warm, frost free climates with high summer heat, abundant rainfall, and intense humidity. The tree can grow as high as sixty feet and prefers slightly acid yet well drained soils. Their are a wide range of lychee cultivars available to suit warmer and slightly cooler temperature ranges.

Lychee trees have distinctive laurel-like leaves to help them shed water easily. The blossoms grow in clusters of ten or more and are distinctively fragranced. Fruits mature in 80–112 days depending on climate, location, and cultivar. The fruits' bumpy, leathery inedible skin is green when immature, ripening to red or pink-red. The skin turns brown and dry when left out after harvesting or when placed in refrigeration.

Fresh lychees are really unique in flavor. They sort of taste like a blend of fresh peach, kiwi, strawberry, mango, and a light floral note I can't quite place. Some people say they taste like grapes. While they do resemble grapes in texture lychees are unlike any grape I've ever tasted. Unfortunately, when canned they lose their lovely almost perfume-like fragrance and flavor and don't really taste like much of anything.

Other than eating lychees fresh out of hand, Pierre Hermé's signature "Ipsahan" macarons are my favorite way of enjoying lychees. Early in his career the famed French pastry chef came up with this divine combination of lychee, rose, and raspberry for the upscale boutique Ladurée.  Ladurée still sells this amazing combination of pink macarons sandwiching rose buttercream and raspberries with a single fresh lychee in the center. The velvety red rose petal with a single dewdrop aside a single perfect raspberry still adorns the top of this culinary icon. Pierre Hermé continues to experiment with this amazing Ispahan flavor combination in cakes, ice cream, parfaits, and even a buche du Noel. Bibi tried making a recipe for an Ispahan flavored poundcake with fresh lychees and raspberries folded into the rose infused batter. Bibi regrets to inform you that lychees do not bake well either. They collapse into viscous, beige, and bland puddles which unattractively ooze out of your poundcake when sliced. I guess I'll just have to fly to the nearest Ladurée or Pierre Hermé's to get my next Ipsahan fix. Paris, Dubai, or Tokyo?

Jun 16, 2016

Puhtzah Ghanduh Tool (Kashmiri Green Onions and Eggs)

In Kashmir, "putzah ghanduh" means green onions and "tool" means eggs. In this recipe mild spring onions are braised until succulent with tender bits of egg omelet and a wallop of fiery Kashmiri mirch. The result is a deliciously Kashmiri rendition of the humble egg omelet in a richly savory and spicy manner. Traditionally this dish is served for lunch or dinner with heaps of steamed white rice. 

This is one of my husband's signature dishes so he will be doing the cooking today. (Most Indian men are very good cooks.) This is also the last of the spring onions until Fall so I'm posting this now. It's an easy dish to make with the simplest of ingredients but it's really hard describe the process of making it. Therefore I'm letting pictures do most of the talking!

The only similar dish I can think of that Westerners would be familiar with is "egg foo yung." Although this is definitely a uniquely Kashmiri dish the bits of omelet in a savory sauce are very Chinese in flavor to me. Once again pairing eggs with rice seems a bit odd to me but it works perfectly with all that eggy richness contrasting with fiery red Kashmiri mirch sauce and the pungent yet mild spring onions. Despite the heat from all the Kashmiri mirch this dish has been a hit with every guest we've who has eaten at our home! 

1/2kg or 1lb green onions
3 TBS cooking oil
3 eggs
3 TBS Kashmiri mirch (no substituting here)
1 tsp turmeric/haldi
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Clean green onions thoroughly. With the low sanitation and sandy soil we have here in Nepal this requires a 20 minute soak in salted water.

2) Quarter and slice green onions into two inch strips. Rinse the strips in fresh water twice and set aside.

3) Heat oil in heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai for 7 minutes. While oil is heating beat one egg with two teaspoons of Kashmiri mirch, try to make sure there are no lumps.

4) Fry egg and Kashmiri mirch mixture in heated oil. Try to make a thin omelet by spreading the mixture with a spatula.

5) Flip the omelet over and fry until thoroughly cooked. 

6) Repeat this process with the other two eggs and set the mini omelets aside.

7) Place washed and sliced green onions into hot oil in same pan with two teaspoons salt. Stir and allow to simmer for five minutes. The onions will soften and release fluid. 

8) Add one heaping tablespoonful of Kashmiri mirch plus one teaspoon turmeric to simmering onions. Stir well and allow to cook for three minutes.

9) Tear the mini omelets into one inch pieces and add to onion mixture in pan.

10) Add two cups of water to omelet and onion mixture. Stir gently and bring to a simmer. 

11) Allow mixture to simmer until liquid has reduced to about a half inch in pan. Onions should be tender and sauce will thicken a bit. Salt to taste and serve with heaps of steamed rice.

Helpful Hints:
Use the best quality Kashmiri mirch you can find as that's the big flavor component in this dish.

Ramadan blessings to you and your family,

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