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Monday, March 31, 2014

Cucumber with yogurt

And here is the last part of the roast beef lunch. This is typically the dahi ka raita we are so used to having with our biryanis and pulaos. The only difference is that I removed some water from the yogurt and made the raita a bit thick, thus naming it yogurt cucumber sauce.


For some of the readers residing outside Pakistan, you would have  Greek yogurt available. For those in Pakistan, it is not much of a big deal and is very easy to replicate in desi-land. (Psssst, residing abroad people, you can follow the next step too, to make the recipe pocket friendlier than it already is).

Take some plain yogurt (we in desi-land get our yogurt from the yogurt shops found easily in every corner of the city). Take a piece of cheese cloth. Wet it and wring out the water. Beat the yogurt to make it smooth. Pour the yogurt over the cloth. Bring the corners together and tie the cloth. Place on a strainer and put the strainer in a bowl such that there is lots of space below it to catch the water. Leave in the refrigerator for an hour or two. 

If you are impatient like me, press the yogurt in the cloth to remove water, until the yogurt of desired consistency is left. If you let water drip out itself, you can use the leftover water in cakes or pancakes. If you press out the water, I'd rather not use it in anything, because after all it sounds gross. 

The yogurt in the cloth would be thick like Greek yogurt. You can use it in the recipe mentioned.



Recipe

Ingredients

500 gm yogurt (remove water as mentioned above)
1 - 2 cucumbers, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp green coriander, chopped finely
1 tsp dried mint leaves, rubed into a powder
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill thoroughly before serving. Simple and easy. Happy cooking!!! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Creamed Spinach

The desi way to prepare spinach is to boil it for a long time, drain it, mash a bit and then use it in any recipe you want. Mostly Spinach is cooked with mutton (palak gosht) in desi-land or sometimes with potatoes (aloo palak). Some people also cook it with cottage cheese (palak paneer). Creamd Spinach was my first try on making something from steamed spinach.


I served creamed spinach with Roast Beef. The spinach is steamed and then mixed in a bay leaf infused white sauce. Frankly, spinach leaves didn't taste bitter, even though they weren't boiled for hours. I make white sauce regularly, but this is the first time I infused it with bay leaf. The recipe is adapted from Nigel Slater's recipe.

Spinach needs to be washed thoroughly to remove the dirt. Since spinach grows near the ground, the leaves carry a lot of dirt. It takes time for the leaves to be clean, so you have to wash the spinach patiently.


I used half the quantity of the spinach mentioned in the recipe. I also just eye balled the ingredient quantities for white sauce. Creamed spinach is supposed to be served hot, but I served it slightly warm, mostly because it was ready before other ingredients. A thin skin had formed on top, but a little stirring got rid of it. 

Creamed spinach is a classic dish served with steaks (which was my original plan, but had to be tweaked midway during the cooking). A mouthful of meat accompanied with creamed spinach is an indulgence like none else.


Recipe

Ingredients

500 gm spinach
300 ml milk
1 small onion, roughly sliced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
50 gm butter
50 gm flour
50 ml cream
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
A pinch nutmeg powder

Method

Remove stems from spinach leaves and wash thoroughly in a colander. Put in a large stainless steel pot. Add 2 tbsp water. Put the pot on low heat. Cover the pot and let the spinach cook slowly. In around five minutes the spinach will be limp and bright green. Remove from heat and  put in a colander to cool and drain.

Heat the milk with onion, bay leaf and cloves. Just before boiling, remove from heat and leave to infuse. Infse for at least 1 hour.

Melt butter on low heat. Add the flour and mix to make a thin paste. Slowly whisk in the milk. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cream and mix. Add salt and pepper.

Squeeze the spinach leaves to remove excess water. If needed put the leaves on a paper towel to remove water. Chop the leaves roughly and add to the white sauce. sprinkle the nutmeg and mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve warm.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

Continuing from the other day, next on the table were garlic roasted potatoes. Potatoes are a very versatile food, that complement almost every dish in the world. When you are out of ideas for cooking, there is always something that can be done with potatoes.


In this recipe, potatoes are baked in the oven. I used a very small quantity of garlic, as I do not like the garlic flavor to be overwhelming. When these potatoes were done, there was just a slight hint of garlic. If you like you can increase the quantity of garlic according to your taste. The potatoes can be cut in form of slices, fingers or just halved or quartered. Quartered ones are easier to pick with a fork (if you are using one).


Recipe

Ingredients

750 gm potatoes, peeled, halved or quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic paste (I used just 1/2 tsp)
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 200C / 425F. Put potatoes in a bowl. Add all ingredients except green coriander. Toss potatoes around until thoroughly coated with oil and spices. Place potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 45 min to 1 hr.

Turn over the all the potatoes at least twice during baking. It will ensure that potatoes are equally browned on all sides. After 40 min, check potatoes for doneness by inserting a skewer of fork. Remove from oven when potatoes are cooked through and browned to desire.

Sprinkle green coriander before serving. Serve hot as a side with Roast Beef , or serve as a snack with a mayonnaise or sour cream dip.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Roast Beef

One day I planned on making steaks in lunch. I had cut some beef (from sacrifice during Eid-ul-Azha) after researching what a steak cut should look like. It was waiting for the right weather, and the right marinade to be turned into succulent steaks. Then I planned the sides: Garlic Roasted Potatoes, Creamed Spinach, Cucumber with Yougurt. (Will be posting the recipes soon - all updated)


I researched again, looking for steak recipes. Most recipes included only salt and pepper, but what good is mere salt and pepper when you are trying something the first time, right? So some more search and I found a Moroccan marinade, tweaked a bit to suit my taste and used it to marinate the meat.

Then next part was to look for methods to cook steaks on stove top or oven, and found many methods where steaks were seared on stove top on high heat in a pan and then finished cooking in the oven, again on high heat. Everything was right upto this point, but - there is always a but - when the steaks were pulled out of the oven, the meat was cooked but hard.



Now, most bloggers said that if meat was cooked in oven for long time duration, it would become rubbery and hard. So the meat went into the cooker, cooked for around 10 minutes, to cook the meat soft. And those well planned steaks became something like roasted beef. I would have put them again in the oven, but lunch was getting late, and we had to make do without the another round in the oven for a couple of minutes.

If I try this recipe next time, I would cook the meat first in the cooker, and then pop it in the oven to add a glaze to it, and eat genuine roast beef. Steaks, most probably, are not my cup of tea.


Recipe

Ingredients

3 tbsp olive oile
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic paste
Salt, to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
500 gms boneless beef

Method

Put all the ingredients and meat in a bowl. Coat the marinade thoroughly on meat. All the meat to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Heat some oil in a pressure cooker. Put the meat and the marinade. Cook meat over, stirring until it changes color on all sides. Add some water and close the cooker. Allow the meat to cook for 10 minutes after cooker starts whistling. Open the cooker and check if the meat is tender. If it isn't cook for another 5 minutes.

When meat is cooked, reduce all the water. Meanwhile preheat the oven at 200 C/ 400F. Grease an oven proof dish. Place the cooked meat in the dish and pop in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until the meat startes to brown on the edges.

Serve hot with lemon slices and the sides mentioned above.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Thukpa

Isn't Thukpa a cute name? The first time I read the name, I wanted to try it just for the sake of making such an exotic sounding dish. Thukpa comes from Tibet and is a soup. Even though winters are now officially over in this part of the world, still soups are a good companion in the breezy evenings or for the unfortunate people falling ill due to changing weather.


This soup is spicy, but the spices can be adjusted according to taste. This is a very versatile kind of soup, where you can add or remove ingredients and it will still taste delicious. The spices are tantalizing, reminding of all the things good and sunny. And the best part is, none of the ingredients are alien to our desi taste buds. 

I always use less garlic than specified in the recipe (or sometimes no garlic at all) as I don't prefer the overpowering taste of garlic. I also used chicken cubes instead of using authentic chicken stock, because that is the easy way, but real chicken stock always tastes better. I have a description of how to make chicken stock in the recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup.


Recipe

Ingredients

1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
Green chillies, to taste
1 small onion chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup cabbage, chopped
Salt, to taste
Red chilli powder, to taste
3 cups chicken stock
Green coriander, chopped
150 gm noodles (I used shell macaroni)
2 eggs

Method

Boil noodles/ macaroni as per packet directions and set aside. 

Beat eggs with salt and black pepper and make an omelet. Cut the omelet into thin strips. Set aside.

De-seed green chillies and cut into thin slices. In a pressure cooker, heat oil. Add garlic and green chillies, cook for 30 seconds. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the tomatoes and cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. Add salt and red chilli powder (if desired). Cook until aromatic. Add the chicken stock. Close cooker and cook for 1 minute after the first whistle. Open the cooker and taste the soup. Adjust seasoning as desired. Add the green coriander to the soup.

Take a bowl. Place the noodles in the bowl. Pour soup over the noodles and garish with omelet strips. If desired, sprinkle some chopped green coriander on top. Serve hot.

Note: I added partially boiled carrots to the soup to add a little crunch. You can add boiled chicken, carrots and other veggies to make this soup heartier.