Dal Chicken (Curried Chicken with Lentils)

I’m done with summer, even though it seems reluctant to let go of me.

I remember the time when I was younger and actually looked forward to summers. But back then summer meant time away from school, and going off on holiday with the family. Summers were also not as beastly hot as they are now, the sun a lot gentler on the skin and when SPF 15 and a sun-hat did the job, though my mum seems to recall that I regularly suffered from sun-strokes every summer like clockwork.

We have of course no one to blame but ourselves as we’ve learnt. The excesses of generations before, taken forward by ours, caused enough havoc before we came to our senses and tried to stem the damage we had done to the environment. Global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, the earth’s coat for many seasons, and CFC’s became words we grew acquainted with… but is it all too late? Sudden changes in temperatures around the world and what can only be called freaky weather patterns started emerging worldwide. Unexplained snowfall in areas that had never seen snow and sharp peaks in temperature around the world have become commonplace. The polar ice sheets are melting at an alarmingly rapid pace and we realise that we are hurtling down the road to extinction with brakes that no longer work like they used to and worse still, with a gaping hole in our gas tank.

In short this summer’s been beastly! A good thing for beer companies and the government if you ask me, both of who make a pretty packet out of our misery. One could always try drinking fresh fruit juices, but with inflation at its peak, and at a dollar for one decent juicy orange, it’s not within everyone’s reach. So water is at the end of the day your best bet, even if you have to buy the bottled options, the only down side is that it doesn’t come in flavours 😉

Summer also means eating light, especially during the day, but then there are those occasions when the body and mouth craves something more substantial. So one night I thought I’d rustle up one of my favourite meals…

Dal Chicken or Curried Chicken with Lentils.

Dal Chicken garnished with spicy potato straws and peanuts

This dish can be made with red meat or with chicken and has three different dals (lentils) as its base. I’ve used split and hulled red lentil (masur dal), split and hulled moong dal and split and hulled black gram (urad dal… which is cream in colour once its black outer coat is removed).

Here are the ingredients –

500gms chicken on the bone (cut into pieces)

3/4″ piece of ginger (minced)

4 – 5 cloves garlic (minced)

juice of 1 lime (+ extra to finish the dish)

(marinade the chicken in the ginger, garlic, lime juice mix and keep refrigerated overnight)

1/4 cup masur dal

1/4 cup yellow moong dal

1/4 cup urad dal

(wash and soak the above dals overnight – then parboil and reserve)

1 medium onion (sliced fine)

1/2 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sambar (sambhar) powder ( you should get this in stores that supply Indian spice powders)

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala (1/4 teaspoon while frying the spices and a 1/4 teaspoon at the end to finish off the dish)

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

small sprig of curry leaves

2 green chillies (deseed if you don’t want it too hot)

2 small dried or fresh bay leaves

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon + salt

2 teaspoons chopped fresh coriander

1 heaped teaspoon ghee (clarified butter)

pinch of dry mango powder (aamchur powder)

This dish involves quite a few steps but it’s well worth the effort, and makes for a soul satisfying meal.

Start by frying the sliced onions in the oil till they start to caramelise. Add in the curry leaves and the chopped tomatoes, with a pinch of salt and fry on high for 30 seconds, then reduce to low and simmer covered for 10 minutes till the tomatoes completely break down. Add the bay leaves and the powdered spices and fry them on low (lowest flame) for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now add the chicken, one piece at a time, and turn up the flame a notch so that the chicken gets browned just a bit. Add the marinade, and a cup of warm water and bring the chicken to a simmer before turning down the gas to low. Cover and cook the chicken for 12 – 15 minutes before adding the pre-boiled dals, the chillies and a teaspoon of salt. Top with another 1/2 to 3/4 cup of warm water, cover and cook for at least 20 minutes (If you want your curry thinner you may want to increase the quantity of water to a cup or so).

Now add the balance garam masala, 2 teaspoons chopped coriander, a rounded heaped teaspoon of ghee or clarified butter (you can omit this if you like, but it makes the dish taste so much better), a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of dry mango powder (optional).

Allow the dal chicken to rest for at least one hour if not more before you re-heat and serve, this allows all the flavours to come together.

Serve the Dal Chicken garnished with potato straws or plantain chips on a bed of white rice alongside a light refreshing salad.

Oh…don’t wait for me… Go right ahead and dig in!

Smoked Chicken Noodle Salad with Lychees and Sesame Seeds

I’m in the mood for nice light lunches… errrr… brunches, especially since it is the weekend.

What else can you do when its blazing hot outside and the rain clouds are nowhere in sight, but to make yourself a pitcher-full of margaritas or pour out a nice cold beer, pop a movie into the DVD and eat something light and tasty.

I was thinking salad… a noodle salad. Now I must say that I prefer my noodle salads cold rather than hot, especially when the temperature outside is hovering dangerously close to the 40° C mark… and when lychees are in season.

Oh yeah… you heard me right. Lychees… yummm

I had contemplated keeping the salad vegetarian, but then a rather delicious breast of smoked chicken called out to me and begged to be added. And I couldn’t refuse. Tossing in a plump but rather spicy green chilli, which I deseeded.

Here’s the list of ingredients for this super-delicious salad –

150gms smoked chicken breast (sliced thin)

2 medium to large tomatoes (remove the seeds and the pulpy insides)

7 – 8 lychees (remove the seeds and tear into halves or quarters depending on the size of the lychees)

1 medium spring onion – sliced fine

1 large chilli (deseeded and sliced)

2 teaspoons white sesame seeds + extra for topping

1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds (for topping)

80 – 100gms noodles (precook the noodles till just done –  i.e. boil, drain and then toss them in a tablespoon of sesame oil and a few spring onion greens)

4 – 5 small cloves of garlic (minced)

For the dressing you’ll need –

1 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon chilli soy

 1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

 pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon demerara sugar

pinch of white pepper powder

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing and chill for 10 – 15 minutes before using.

Combine all the elements of the salad except for the noodles and the dressing.

Just before plating up, mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the dressing into the chicken salad and toss. Plate up the noodles. Spoon over the smoked chicken salad, drizzle over some more of the dressing and sprinkle on 1 – 1 1/12 teaspoons of white and black sesame seeds.

We, The Women Of This Generation, Can End Female Genital Mutilation Worldwide – #GayeCrispin #SayNØkay2FGM

Came across this link on GreatPoetryMHF’sWeblog and just had to share it. Do visit the link below and sign up to try and stop this horrendous and dangerous practice. Together we can make a difference.

We, The Women Of This Generation, Can End Female Genital Mutilation Worldwide – #GayeCrispin #SayNØkay2FGM

I was also quite shocked when I found out a while back that FGM is still practised among certain groups of people in my own country, India, and I hope the U.N. Resolution prompts governments such as the Indian government among others to make definite and focussed efforts to stop this practice.

Tuna Melt with Mustard on Homemade Bread

There’s nothing better than breakfast seated at an open window, letting the cool early morning breeze caress you while you watch Parakeets, Bulbuls, Sunbirds, Koels and a couple of Eurasian Golden Orioles, squawk, chirp, screech and coo make the most of it before the merciless summer sun comes blazing down on them forcing them to beat a retreat into denser foliage.

Oh! Who am I kidding!

Okay the part about the birds is true, and so is the part about the early morning breeze coming in through my windows. But I’m not so much a breakfast as I am a brunch person. I’ve tried, honestly I have, but I’ve been this way since I was a kid. The only way I ever did eat breakfast was if my mother was sitting right there at the table with me, watching me down my glassful of milk and shovel down my cereal/porridge and eggs with toast or whatever else was on the breakfast menu for the day. My mum was a firm believer in the adage, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper” and she staunchly follows it till date.

But now that I’m all grown up (or so it says on my driving licence) and no longer live with mum, I get to choose my meal times, which usually consists of coffee, and more coffee with the occasional fruit at breakfast, followed by numerous little meals during the day. Leisurely brunches however remain my favourite and most preferred mealtime, which is where this post is headed. And on the menu today is a favourite, the classic Tuna Melt Sandwich.

Now would you believe it if I told you that I had my first Tuna Melt when I visited Canada on work way back in the early 90’s. Yeah, it was that late, and it was love at first bite. Lusciously creamy, the portion thankfully not all that huge, I definitely went back for seconds.

My first stop on that particular trip started off with Montreal, a city I fell in love with because of its beautiful architecture, not forgetting the delicious escargot I ate at a delightful French restaurant, one of my favourite places on some of those evenings when I had to dine alone, with just a good book for company. It is strange though that I can’t seem to remember the name of the restaurant, though I distinctly recall the face of the sommelier… typical eh?

But before I digress, No… the Tuna Melt wasn’t on the menu at the French restaurant, but was from a deli near my office… packed to go. And it was heavenly!

Here’s my take… spiced up… but of course.

I used a 200gm can of tuna chunks in light olive oil, flaking it with a fork, adding 2 teaspoons of yellow mustard seeds which I lightly pounded, to release their flavour, and about a 3/4 teaspoon of black pepper. To this I added 1 1/2 tablespoon of mayonnaise (try and make your own if possible, but you can also use a good store bought variety), and a heaped tablespoon of butter.

Next chop and add two small spring onions and a green chilli (seeds and all) to the tuna mix, and one medium tomato, from which I removed the inner pithy part including the seeds and chopped it up fine. Season with some salt (according to your taste), 10 – 12 capers roughly chopped, and a good squeeze or two of lime juice. Finishing it off with some chopped flat-leaf parsley… Yum!

Oh those tart and delicious capers!

p.s. Do not over-mix the tuna, as you want the tuna to be flaky and not turn into a pâté.

Another important aspect of a good tuna melt is the bread selection, and I used my Spinach, Sundried Tomato, Cheddar and Oat loaf for this recipe, slicing the bread quite thin and toasting the slices on both sides, on a pan till they turned crusty and brown.

Let the bread cool a little before piling the tuna mix onto it and top it all with any cheese that melts (I used Mozzarella) as generously as you can. I used about 150gms over four slices, sprinkling on some black pepper and snipped up spring onion greens.

Transfer the toasts onto a parchment lined baking tray and bake them in a preheated oven at 210° C, turning on the grill element for a few minutes, but keeping an eye out because you don’t want those luscious snowy blanketed toasts with their pepper and green onion toppings to get browned and/or burnt.

So I finally sat by my window, with my delicious Tuna Melt Open Sandwiches, juice and coffee on the side, and watched the birds who were still frolicking around since the sun hadn’t yet reached its zenith, and took a nice big bite of stringy Mozarella topped mustardy tuna goodness… Then closed my eyes and thanked God for everything I’ve had the good fortune to experience and enjoy.

And yes before I go, I have to thank the beautiful and extremely talented Dolly at http://allaboutlemon.com/ for nominating me not just for another Versatile Blogger Award but also for a Beautiful Blogger Award which I shall be passing on soon. And then as a special treat Dolly also passed on something she and her daughter designed themselves… a beautiful badge that says “You are Loved” which I’ve posted on my page. Do click on it and it will take you over to Dolly’s blog which many of you may have visited. But if you haven’t… You Must!


Potato and Cauliflower aka Aloo Gobi Parathas

I’m constantly griping about my weight and I don’t agree that it’s a woman thing.. to gripe about weight, that is. It’s a ‘Me’ thing.

So I love all kinds of fried food, potato chips and crisps included (especially the kind with extra salt and vinegar) and butter, though I have cut down on the last named item a bit.

Oh the sacrifices ones taste-buds have to make in the name of healthy eating! 😉

I’m waiting for the weather to turn, and the rains to start and I’ll put on my walking shoes and start my 3km walks which will build up to 5kms and more and be happy. My bad knees don’t quite let me run, not on concrete or tarred roads anyway, and the walking track laid out in the park near my house is full of the ambling sort swapping daughter-in-law stories or tales about the stock market. Little has changed in the world… and then there’s the tattooed, bright blue streaked haired waif who breezes past in a brisk clippity-clop kind of walk, like she’s practising for the 50km at the London Olympic Games. And the heavy-set ma’s-in-law stop as do the paunchy men… everyone looks on, in envy… almost.

But back to food and I’ve decided to go Indian today and dish up some parathas (or stuffed Indian fried flat-bread). Parathas are of course right up there with my favourite things, but I don’t make them very often. I could bake them of course… but then, I like them the way they’re meant to be eaten, with a liberal dose of pure ghee (clarified butter) and with some yoghurt (or dahi as we call it) and some pickle (achar) on the side. I also love experimenting with different kinds of fillings in the parathas; potato (aloo), radish (mooli), pea (mutter), cauliflower (phool-gobi), paneer (cottage cheese) and even minced chicken or beef. This time I combined two of my favourites, potatoes and cauliflower or Aloo Gobi, combined them with onions, chillies, garlic and a bunch of spices, then roasted them on the tava or griddle pan before frying them in ghee.

Here’s what you need to make these parathas –

For the dough –

2 1/2 cups Whole wheat flour (+ extra while kneading and making the parathas)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup whipped yoghurt (dahi)

1/2 cup water (at room temperature)

For the filling –

1 1/2 cups grated cauliflower (raw)

1 large potato (boiled and roughly chopped)

1 medium onion – minced (I used a white onion)

5 – 6 cloves of garlic – minced

2 green chillies (chopped)

1 teaspoon salt

8 – 10 curry leaves – chopped

3 tablespoons chopped coriander

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

large pinch of chilli powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

pinch of garam masala

1 teaspoon caraway seeds (shah-jeera)

pinch of dried bishops weed (ajwain) (optional)

2 tablespoons oil

a squeeze of lime juice

And lets not forget the ingredient that brings it all home

The ghee or clarified butter for frying. I generally use about 1/2 tablespoon ghee per paratha but you can reduce the amount if you like, or use a vegetable oil instead (sunflower oil would be ideal).

Start by boiling the potato and roughly chopping it while still hot. Then grate the cauliflower. Keep the potato and grated cauliflower aside while you sauté the onion in vegetable oil into which you’ve added caraway seeds and bishops weed. Add the garlic, curry leaves and chillies and sweat them down before you put in the spices. Fry the spices on low (adding in the salt), till the oil separates and immediately add in the cauliflower. Allow it to cook for about a minute before adding the potatoes. Mash the potato up a bit and finish with the chopped fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime juice.

Take the veggie filling off the heat and leave it aside to cool while you get started on the dough.

To make the dough I’ve used yoghurt, vegetable oil, salt all mixed together, along with some water and the flour. Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the yoghurt and oil mix, and fold the flour into the yoghurt, adding a little water at a time until a dough forms. Knead the dough for about 10 – 12 minutes until soft and pliable. Cover the dough with a damp tea-towel and keep it aside for about 30 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, give it a quick knead and divide it into equal sized balls. I didn’t want a very thick paratha, preferring to keep the casing for the filling thin and crisp rather than thick, and I managed to get 11 parathas out the dough. And guess what… the filling too was just perfect for the parathas, not a teaspoon more.

Roll the dough ball in your hands and pat it down. You can either use a rolling pin to roll it out just a bit (about 3″ in diameter) or flatten out the dough ball using your fingers to create a little receptacle for the filling. Place the filling into the dough and pinch it shut, folding over to seal the opening shut. Flatten the filled dough-ball, dip it in flour to coat it well and roll it out with the rolling pin to the thickness you desire… I wouldn’t recommend exceeding 3 – 4mm. Heat the griddle pan till hot, then turn down the heat and place the paratha on the pan, roasting it on one side and then the other for about 2 minutes per side or till you begin to see light brown marks appearing on the parathas. You’ll need to do this a couple of times each side, turning then over to ensure that the parathas get evenly roasted.

Add the ghee, smearing it around, first on one side, then flip the paratha over and smear the ghee on the other side, raise the heat up a notch. Press the paratha down with the back of the spatula, and fry the parathas till they take on a lovely golden hue.

Serve the parathas piping hot with some plain yoghurt…

Back to Basics… Ham n Bean Soup

Pease porridge hot, Pease porridge cold

Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old

Some like it hot, some like it cold

Some like it in the pot, nine days old

Do any of you remember that little ditty?

… I used to shudder every time I heard it.

At first I thought it was because I couldn’t imagine having a pea porridge. Green peas floating in thick green oatmeal would come to mind, the taste undistinguishable. 

I love oatmeal porridge though… hot, with milk and loads of sugar. A few raisins, and plenty of nuts thrown in for good measure. I also love soup, even pea soup served hot with croutons and chopped up crispy bacon bits on top and just a tiny swirl of cream. But I am most definitely a hot soup person. Vichyssoise or cold Gazpachos don’t do for me what hot soups do.

So yeah… I would shudder at the thought of peas porridge, especially served cold, and most definitely nine days old. But someone did like it back in the day, liked it enough to write a little poem about it that lasted centuries because it was so unique. I wonder if any poems about ‘hot soup’ would have survived that long 😉

Speaking of peas, I really like the Black Eyed Peas, together and in their singular solo artist avatars as well, especially Will.i.am and Fergie with her particular brand of zany rambunctiousness. And then there’s the bean of the same name, the Black Eyed Pea, delicate tasting, versatile, as much at ease boiled and tossed up in a salad as they are curried, or served as an accompaniment along with some fried chicken. They have soul those little beans, rounding up a meal, making it complete and filling up the empty space in your belly. A tidy helping can bring comfort like nothing else can, and when you put this little pea or bean in a soup you know you’ve hit a homer. 

I like my soups rustic, wholesome, full of good stuff which is why I decided to post his recipe. I’ve used ham in this recipe and chicken stock, but you can eliminate both of them and use a vegetable stock instead if you want to keep it vegetarian. What makes this soup really full of flavour is the layered cooking technique. Adding a few ingredients at a time, and sautéing them or cooking them down to release their flavours, before adding in the next lot of ingredients. You can choose to add the stock a little at a time as well, but I have done so in two basic lots, which helps the elements of the soup come together.

I also used a lightly smoked ham for the soup instead of a more heavily smoked variety since I wanted the flavour of the ham coming through with just a wee hint of smokiness, and it really worked well.

 This is what you’ll need –

1 cup ham (cut the fat off the ham, chop it separately and reserve)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

1 tablespoon freshly milled black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1” stick of cinnamon

1/2” piece ginger (minced)

4 medium size cloves of garlic (minced)

2 green chillies (de-seeded and sliced)

3/4 cup chopped zucchini

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/3 cup chopped French beans

1 medium potato cubed

2 cups sprouted black eyed peas

3 large tomatoes (puréed)

1 small onion (minced)

Couple of mint leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 litres chicken stock

1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated) + extra

All that veggie goodness…

You’ll need to soak a little less than a cup of tiny black eyed peas (I used the smaller variety) in water for at least 4 – 6 hours. Then drain, wash well and place them in a covered dish to sprout. I let it sprout for well over 24 hours.

In a large pot, put in your EVOO and ham fat and fry it on low till the fat melts. Add in the ham and fry for 2 – 3 minutes. Then add in the chopped carrots, onion and black pepper, frying them on low for about 3 – 4 minutes.

Now add the cinnamon, paprika, parsley, oregano and cumin powder and toss lightly, before adding in the cubed potatoes. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, adding in the black eyed peas and the tomato purée. Allow it to simmer for an additional 3 -4 minutes before adding a litre of chicken stock (I used home-made chicken stock but you could use the packaged variety as well). Bring the soup the boil, then reduce the flame down to low and cook the soup covered for about 45 minutes.

Add in another litre of warm chicken stock at this stage and bring it up to a boil before adding in the chopped zucchini, French beans and salt. Reduce the flame down to low again, and cook the soup for another 45 minutes to an hour, till the peas are cooked through and all the flavours have amalgamated. Mash up some of the veggies with the back of a slotted spoon, or you could purée some of them if you like and add them back into the soup. I chose to use the back of the spoon method since I wanted to retain my veggies mostly whole.

Turn off the flame, add in some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano`and a few chopped mint leaves and mix well.

Serve the soup hot, garnished with some more Parmigiano-Reggiano… and if you like some more chopped up ham.

I’m a happy soul, I am! 🙂

‘The Conspirator’ and ‘Terrine de Foies de Volaille’ or Chicken Liver Pâté with Bacon and Orange

I finally saw ‘The Conspirator’ on DVD, and while I know that it probably wouldn’t have run for more than a week or two at the most, and to mostly empty houses, it is a film I would most definitely recommend. In some way the film reminded me of ‘Amistaad’… (a young lawyer taking on a seemingly impossible case), and like ‘Amistaad’ a brilliant cast of lead actors turned out amazingly controlled yet heart-wrenching performances.

The film unfortunately wasn’t released in India (I guess because it bombed in the States as well) and if it wasn’t for my cousin who happened to pick it up I would never have seen it either, and would’ve missed out on Robin Wright’s sublimely controlled performance as Mary Surratt, the only woman convicted for her (alleged) role in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

As I just mentioned the film failed miserably at the box office, but then again the box office is merely a measure of popularity and not a gauge by which to measure quality cinema. Do see it if you haven’t and let me know what you think…

So… I’ve been away from blogging for a bit, which means I’ve had a fair amount of catching up to do, and that means catching up with what my fellow bloggers have been up to. For instance Annie, An Unrefined Vegan has a virtual vegan potluck going on (what a treat!), and Ramona from Curry and Comfort has been thrilling everyone with an amazing variety of posts… (that girl is soo amazing)… and then there’s Barbara or Smidge as she’s also known as from Just a Smidgen who baked an exquisite Lemon Meringue Rose Petal Cake that I couldn’t take my eyes off and Carol Anne aka Rock Salt who has made me right on curious about sampling Haggis… whether I finally do or not is another question altogether… but yeah I’m curious. And everyone else across all the other blogs I follow including the amazingly talented Dolly (adollyciousirony) from all about lemon, to my new blog friends, Johnny from Feed the Piglet and Peri from Peri’s Spice Ladle who’ve both nominated me for a Leibster Award apiece… my 3rd and 4th Leibsters respectively, which I promise to pass along soon… but not today. Meanwhile here’s a BIG thank you to Johnny and Peri for their generosity of thought and spirit…

Which brings me to today’s post which is all about liver… chicken liver… chicken liver pâté to be more specific, or as they say en française, ‘Terrine de foies de volaille’.

I love a good pâté, and while pâté de foie gras may have its epicurean admirers and critics alike, I prefer the more subtle and not so fatty terrine de foie de volaille or quite simply chicken liver pâté. I’m also quite fond of duck liver pâté with its rich almost nutty flavour and have sampled a fairly decent pork liver one as well.

Why, I even ate a mushroom pâté once… though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where the liver was located on that baby 😉

But on a more serious note, whenever you mention the word pâté nowadays you’re usually greeted with mixed reviews and responses. But here in India most of the chicken breeders I’ve seen have large barns housing their chickens with feed scattered liberally around. So I guess I can say with a fair degree of certainty that no force feeding was involved in the making of this pâté. What did get involved though was a nice bottle of Remy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac. Some to cook the livers in, and then some more, blended in with the pâté, along with the zest and juice of an orange.

Decadent!

Here’s a list of the ingredients –

850gms chicken livers (this recipe also works for up to 1 kilo of chicken livers)

150gms back bacon

1/3 cup unsalted butter (I used white unsalted butter) (if you eliminate the bacon add another 1/4 cup or so of butter)

1/2 medium sized onion (thinly sliced)

4 small cloves garlic (minced)

1 large sprig marjoram (approx 1 tablespoon marjoram leaves)

2 bay leaves (I used dried but you can use fresh leaves)

1 heaped teaspoon pepper (freshly crushed or milled) + extra if you like

4 cloves

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1/4 cup cognac or whiskey (and then some…)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt (according to your taste)… I used 1/2 during the cooking process and 1/2 while pulsing the liver in the food processor

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

And now to the fun part

Clean the chicken livers well, removing the sinews, leaving them as whole as possible. Then wash and drain them thoroughly.

Zest and juice one orange.

Meanwhile chop up the bacon. Reserve both the livers and the bacon for later use.

Bring the butter to room temperature, mince the garlic and slice the onion.

In a large pan, toss the bacon with a tablespoon of butter to release its fats and cook till the bacon begins to crisp up, then add the onion and garlic and sauté on low, before adding in the bay leaves, cloves and the marjoram.

Immediately add in the livers and the orange juice and cook the livers for about 4 – 5 minutes, adding in 2 tablespoons of the cognac, till they begin to turn pink on the inside. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves and the cloves and allow the livers to cool, covered, for about 8 – 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon lift the livers, bacon, onions, garlic and marjoram out of the pan and into the food processor, and pulse, adding in the rest of the butter, a little at a time along with the rest (plus some ;-)) of the cognac, the orange zest, parsley, pepper and the rest of the salt. Keep pulsing until smooth.

Transfer the pâté into a bowl or into ramekins, cover with cling film, pressing it down onto the surface of the pâté, and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours until chilled and set (I prefer letting it sit for at least 24 hours).

I decided to freeze some for later, so I bottled it, poured in some melted butter over the top of the pâté. Covered the mouth of the bottle with cling wrap and put it straight into the freezer.

Enjoy the pâté spread as lavishly as you like on crackers or on thinly sliced bits of toast.

I also sliced up some of my Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato, Cheddar and Oat Loaf, toasted it… and served the pâté up along with some lovely home-made wine that my brother had gifted me a month ago.

Have a wonderful Sunday!


Spinach, Sundried Tomato, Cheddar and Oat Loaf and a cheer for Barack Obama

Finally!

Yes finally there’s a political leader with more to him than just talk. Coming from a country which still clings on to a relic left behind by its erstwhile colonial rulers who back in the day were known for their prudishness, I’m ashamed to say that we in India still largely follow many of the laws laid down by the British who ruled us more than a century ago. And even though the British themselves have evolved and moved on with the times, we haven’t kept pace. One of those archaic laws is the one that criminalises homosexuality, making it an offence punishable with imprisonment. That this law exists, even though it’s largely on paper, is often used by greedy cops to extort money from young men seen roaming together or sitting in close proximity, whether straight or gay, or by parents of gay men or women who refuse to bow to extreme societal pressure by getting married to persons of the opposite sex and chose to come out instead. A 2 judge bench of the High Court in Delhi sought to decriminalise section 377 of the Indian Penal Code a couple of years ago, a step in the right direction. But the law still exists in the statute books as of date. The matter now before the Supreme Court of India, with various individuals and religious organisations coming together in opposition.

Which brings me to North Carolina’s anti gay marriage stance and the Constitutional Amendment which effectively denies any and all legal rights to same-sex couples, and the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, sticking his neck out in an election year and making clear his support for equal rights to all people, including marriage for same-sex couples.

Whether it was Joe Biden’s earlier endorsement of the same which compelled him to take a stand as some may say, or whether he as a father of two young children growing up in a world which sees hatred and bigotry growing by the day, chose to lead by example rather than sit atop a fence, Barack Obama came good and stood up to be counted.

Jesus, I believe my dear Mr. Obama, would certainly approve.

To all those right wing red-necks who believe that Jesus was western, white, and vindictive, I’d simple like to point out that they are wrong. Jesus came from the Middle East, was probably olive-skinned and had dark brown hair, was born and died Jewish. There is no record of him celebrating his birthday, though he faithfully celebrated the Passover in keeping with his Jewish roots, and to all accounts he was forgiving, kind and loving. A man who didn’t cast stones, embraced ‘harlots’ and ate at everyone’s table. Yes, I am a Christian, and that is the Jesus I believe in.

And continuing with all things wholesome… here’s my bread for this week… A Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato, Cheddar and Oat Loaf

I haven’t baked a loaf of bread in a while and I seem to have developed a fondness for bread which is chock-full of things that are… good for ya!

This is a pretty dense loaf and I was worried that all the water in the bread, including whatever was in the spinach (though I did squeeze it out dry) may cause the loaf to collapse, but it held its own and I was quite pleased with the end result.

I would ideally have preferred to use Feta in this recipe instead of the Cheddar cheese I ended up using, but I couldn’t find any on the day, so…

Here are the ingredients –

Step 1 –

3/4 cup instant oats

1/2 cup AP flour

1 cup hot water

1 teaspoon salt

(Mix these ingredients well and leave standing for 20 minutes)

Step 2 –

1 cup + washed and finely chopped spinach

3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes (bottled in olive oil and garlic)

3 tablespoons EVOO

1/3 cup grated Cheddar

4 cloves of garlic (minced)

Step 3 –

15gm fresh yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3 1/2 cups AP flour + extra for dusting, kneading etc

3 tablespoons instant oats for topping

1 egg mixed with a tablespoon of milk (for brushing over the loaf)

Activate the yeast and add to the Oat mixture (from Step 1).

Slowly add in the AP flour, a little at a time, mixing well as you go. Finally add the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, cheese and the EVOO and mix well, so that the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes until a smooth dough forms.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl, and cover with cling film or a damp towel. Allow the dough to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Mine more than doubled in 1 1/2 hour.

Knead the dough again on a well floured surface, shape into a loaf and place it into the loaf pan. I pinched the top a little bit. I still had a little bit of dough left, enough to make 4 Buns.

Allow the dough to rise again for an hour, slash the top of the loaf with a sharp knife, brush on the egg-wash and sprinkle on some instant oats. Preheat your oven for 20 mins at 230° C. Once the oven is hot, reduce the temperature to 200°C, place the loaf in the centre of the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.  Let the Loaf cool in the pan before turning it out on to a wire mesh to cool completely. Slice into it only when the bread has cooled thoroughly (about 40minutes to n hour after you take it out of the oven).

The buns I baked at 230°C for 25 minutes.

This bread makes a great sandwich with some ham and cheese. And is a wonderful accompaniment to a big bowl of soup or a delicate stew.

Have a wonderful and enlightened weekend! 🙂

Spice on the Go… Quick n Easy Pickled Prawns

I recently got a earful from a friend. Actually it was both ears full and all the space between ’em.

“If you aren’t going to send anything my way, how about posting something spicy and super-quick” she grumbled in mock irritation. I’ve known her too long for her to be mad at me over the phone 😉

“Something I can whip up even when I’m deadbeat” she said at the end of her little tirade on how selfish I was. She was looking for an add-on to her meal she told me, something in the nature of a condiment that would lift up the meal she had delivered to her house on week-nights. Packed in an insulated and compartmentalized ‘tiffin’ box, her dinner usually comprised a dal (Indian dish of lentils), rice, rotis (flat bread) and a vegetable or two, which she ate more out of compulsion than desire. Coming home from a work day that never seemed to end, negotiating traffic and crowded trains to get back to what she called a “mundane meal” she ate with distaste. Having take-out at lunch everyday was bad enough, and her stomach often rebelled.

So I was on the spot and I had to redeem myself. I know what it’s like to work the 9 am to 11 pm routine, coming home exhausted and irritated, peering into the fridge to see if there was anything in there which would perk me up, only to find bottles of sauces and cartons of juice. The weekends would come and go in a blur, and when I wasn’t trying to get out of the city for a breather, I had a zillion different chores that needed doing. Shopping for food though part of my ‘To Do’ list often got shelved.

I thought I should do something for her which would keep. Something which would be enjoyed over many, many meals. And then my fisherman got a batch of prawns in one morning, and I leapt up and reached for the curry paste.

I had ordered large prawns from the fisherman for another dish I had in mind but his idea of large didn’t quite meet mine. Or perhaps these prawns were destined for piquancy. More medium sized, some bordering on small, I immediately knew they were going to be pickled. A recipe that was quick and easy to fix… spice on the go. Bottled, this pickle keeps well if kept in a cool and dry place. You can even store it in the refrigerator.

So here it is. No soaking of red chillies in vinegar, none of the de-seeding and grinding that pickles usually involve. Quick n Easy Pickled Prawns.

We Indians love our pickles and chutneys, from the sweet mango murabbas, to the mild water-pickled raw baby mangoes I ate with bowls of steaming congee whenever I visited my grandmother in Goa… to the fiery hot pickles made with ground red or green chillies, with mustard seeds and other spices, cooked in copious quantities of oil, not a drop of water daring to find its way to contaminate the spicy treat in any way.

Summertime was pickling time, back at my grandmother’s place. Rows of sliced mangoes, carrots, aubergines, cauliflower, and different kinds of salted fish drying out in the sun. There were meats too… dried and cured, and mixed with a mélange of spices, then cooked, cooled and bottled. The weather was gentler in those days and the longer the pickle sat, the better it tasted.

This pickle is a simple one, made with a purpose. All it took was a couple of spoonfuls of curry paste, some spices, oil, and the prawns which was my key ingredient. I made the pickle a month and a half ago and left it sitting, all bottled up, waiting for its flavours to develop. You can of course eat it immediately as well, since the vinegar I used was well-cured home-made vinegar. But it does taste way better when it’s left to its own devices for a while. 

Here are the ingredients –

1 kg medium sized prawns (shelled, de-veined, washed, drained and then patted dry)

5 heaped tablespoons curry paste (I used a paste that said ‘hot n spicy’ ;-))

1/4 to 1/3 cup palm vinegar (I used more but it really depends on whether you like the flavour)

2 tablespoons of granulated demerara sugar

1 level tablespoon salt

4 cups sesame seed oil (1 ½ cup to fry the prawns and 2 ½ cups to cook the curry paste and prawns) … many people prefer to use mustard oil but I love the nuttiness of the sesame oil which adds a surprise element to this pickle

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

1 tablespoon minced garlic (almost to a paste – 4 large cloves should do)

A sprig of curry leaves

 Method –

Fry the prawns on high for 1 to 1 1/2 minute. Drain them well and reserve.

Meanwhile heat the second batch of oil, put in a sprig of curry leaves and flash fry, remove the leaves and discard them. Turn the flame down to low before adding the mustard seeds, toss them in the oil and immediately add the curry paste. Cook on low for about 20 – 25 minutes till the oil separates and the curry paste is well cooked.

Now add in the prawns, raise the heat up a notch and cook them, for roughly 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar, salt and sugar and cook for about 4 – 5 minutes. Turn of the heat and leave the curried prawns to cool. Do not cover the dish with a lid as you don’t want any water caused by the rising steam to fall into the pickle.

Once the curried prawns have cooled completely, transfer them into clean, sterilised glass bottles, making sure that there is at least 1 cm of oil floating on top of the curried prawns. Cover the top of the bottle with a piece of muslin or a double piece of cling wrap and keep the bottle/s in a cool and dry place for at least a month before eating.

These pickled prawns are best enjoyed as an accompaniment to a simple meal of rice and dal.

I sent some over to my friend, along with the recipe and she ate it with buttered bread :-). I suppose anything goes when you’re hungry. 

It’s not Blurry any more… and a Couple of Blog Awards

It started getting blurry a while back. Yeah… old age can bring great misery if you don’t smack it on the back, sit it down, pour it a nice stiff Scotch on the rocks and make it your best bud… Or at least your drinking companion till the bottles don’t run dry 😉

I have presbyopia. Nothing to be alarmed by. It’s just one of those things that guarantees you admittance into the 40+ league of which I’m a proud member. It sort of says, “Yup, you’re here, like it or not… so suck it up and put those darn glasses on a cord around your neck please”.

I started wearing reading glasses about a year and a half ago, more off than on and suffered the consequences of not having them around my neck when I’ve needed them most. I read a lot and my laptop works as office, library and entertainment centre rolled into one on most days. Then one morning the old glasses stopped working like they were meant to. The distance between the screen and my eyes crept up to 30 inches or more and started increasing steadily. The font on my phone was set to max and was still a blur. I’d wake up, brush my teeth, fix my coffee, and on days when I did get the newspaper pick it up, and just look at the headlines and the pictures. Not that I was missing much by not going through the fine print anyway… So I did away with the morning paper.

But there was still the laptop to negotiate, and I couldn’t do away with it. So I hauled myself off to the ophthalmologist for a check-up and yeah, no surprises there, my number had increased. Now I have new glasses and with them on, the writing on the screen’s pretty clear. The doctor did add that I have great distance vision (for someone my age) and absolutely no other issues with my eyes. So my glasses are perched halfway down my nose as I write this, the frames a dark sap green.

Which brings me to another thing I’ve been putting off for ages… passing on Blog Awards that my fellow bloggers have been generous enough to nominate me for. In my defence I guess I could say that I’ve been in a state of flux over the last few months, that I’ve been travelling and that I simply haven’t had the time. But I shouldn’t procrastinate any longer. After all I owe it to the kind people out there who’ve nominated me to pay it forward at the very least.

And now on to the first thing about Blog Awards which is thanking the Bloggers who’ve nominated me and linking back to their sites. So I’d like to thank Kate from http://thecosycreative.wordpress.com/ for her Easter surprise when she nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award last month.

And Jen from http://lovefoodcookfood.com/ who nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award also in April.

 

Thanks Kate and Jen for your thoughtful gifts 🙂

Now… to be honest I’m a bit confused about the rules of the Kreativ Blogger Award since I couldn’t find them on Kate’s blog… and that just means one thing. Ditch the rules and enjoy the award, which is precisely what I’m going to do, and pass it on to a few great blogs that I’ve had the good fortune of visiting.

Oh…by the way… there should and would have been more nominees per award, but I’ve not been active with follows, something I hope to remedy soon. But I’d rather not procrastinate any longer, these awards are just itching to go out. So in the spirit of paying it forward, I’ll nominate three blogs per award.

And they are –

For the Kreativ Blogger Award

1.http://arignagardener.wordpress.com/

2. http://keepinitkind.com/

3. http://whataboutthepie.wordpress.com/

And the nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award are –

1. http://stirandstitch.wordpress.com/

2. http://perisspiceladle.com/

3. http://filingawaycupcakes.wordpress.com/

Do drop by all these incredible blogs… They are well worth not just a visit… but a ‘Follow’ as well, if you aren’t already following them.

Have a great weekend… and yeah I suppose I ought to try knitting myself a nice, happy, multicoloured cord for my glasses just so that I manage to keep my number in check. I doubt the binocular look would be flattering… not on me.

Have got to learn to knit first 😉