Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yet Another Chicken Sweet Corn Soup



I know!! I know!! Nobody wants to another Chicken Sweet Corn recipe! This is one soup majority of Indians, especially a Bengali can whip up even in their sleep. This soup is synonymous to sore throat, common cold, flu, tonsillitis and when you miss your Mamma in a foreign land. One sip and you are embraced in her warm hug, kissing your forehead and whispering "its gonna be okay".

I can have this soup 365 days a year and will be still begging for more... Fine! its a little exagerration but I just had to drive the point how much I am in love with the THIS SOUP! Interestingly, Lil Sid has developed a strong liking for this soup too. He calls it his "Feel Better" soup, since I invariably make it when someone in the family is not feeling too well.


Chicken stock, shredded chicken, corn kernels, eggs (whites), cornflour and of course some salt and pepper and you are done... And how easy was that!!! Well here is a pictorial representation:


I make my own stock for this soup. 2 pcs of chicken thigh (skinless and bone in. approx half a pound), 6 cups of water, 2 sprigs of green onions (scallions), 2 bruised cloves of garlic, 2 thick pieces of ginger and few peppercorns and a little salt. Boil and then simmer everything for 20-30 mins. Remove the chicken pieces and drain the stock.


Take the poached chicken and shred into bite sized pieces.


To the strained stock, add the corn kernels and the shredded chicken and cook till the corn kernels are soft. I used fresh corn, but frozen corn kernels are just as fine. Also add salt to taste.


In a separate bowl, I whisk up two egg whites and added to the simmering soup, stirring continuously. A beautiful "egg-drop" effect is created.


Of late I love thin, watery soup, but Mom always made the Chicken Sweet Corn Soup thick by adding little corn flour. Since you don't challenge perfection, I follow the suit. I mixed 4 heaped teaspoon of cornstarch (cornflour) to one-fourth cup of cold water and added to the soup. It thickens up instantly. Take off the flame and server piping hot with tonnes of  "chilies-in-vinegar" and soy sauce.



This thick and luscious soup promises to sooth my tired and aching body and soul.

A word of caution: Do not add to much of corn flour. Start with 2 tsp and gradually keep increasing till you reach the desired consistency. I once had a soup which was more like Chicken Sweet Corn Jello!


We had our Chicken Sweet Corn soup with a spicy stir-fried Chicken Chowmein (noodles) and lots of "chili-in-vinegar". Chili-in-vinegar is a very common condiment served in Chinese restaurants across India. Its sad that Chinese restaurants in the US do not serve them. Making it at home is simple enough and I make it every time I cook Chinese styled noodles or soup. In a glass or non-reactive bowl add half a cup of white vinegar. Slice 15-20 potent green chilies (I prefer the Thai ones here) and add to the vinegar. Let it sit for 15 min before serving. Adds a spicy zing to your soups and noodles!



Monday, September 17, 2012

Salmon Dinner with Bulgur Wheat And Tomato Salad




Last four days had been very draining. Lil Sid had constant high temperature, an ear infection and hives all over his tiny body. Neither he could sleep and nor could I. My super energetic kid refused to leave my lap for even a minute. Thankfully, he is on the road to recovery now. He's back to his antics and I heave a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Enchor er Dalna - Tender Green Jack fruit Curry - A Vegetarian Delight

There is a lot more to Bengali Cuisine than Macher Jhol (Fish Curry) and Misti Doi (Sweetened Yogurt). There is a plethora of delicious and healthy vegetarian recipe too. The one I am posting today is called Enchor er Dalna (Tender Green Jack fruit Curry) and is one of my favorite.

Jackfrut is a tropical plant and is widely cultivated in tropical regions of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and South East Asia. Jack fruit is also found in East Africa as well as throughout Brazil and Caribbean nations. The young, tender fruit is called "Enchor" in Bengali and is boiled and used in curries as a vegetable. The ripened, sweet fruit is called "Kanthal" in Bengali and is eaten raw, at least in Bengal. More about tender jack fruit is here.


While savoring a plateful of steaming rice and Enchor er dalna might by a Bengali's dream vegetarian lunch, prepping a Tender Green Jack fruit for its gorgeous curry, is what I call a nightmare. The outer skin is tough and you need to get rid of it. Then, not all the portion in the inside are edible. You need to patiently segregate that and then proceed to cook it. Moreover, your fingers needs to be well oiled, while you are handling a tender jack fruit. The moment you cut it open, a sticky, milky substance comes out, which will give your finders and hands a dirty black stain, will will take at least a week to go. Peeling, chopping and prepping a tender jack fruit is a pain and I was never comfortable doing it, while I was in India. Luckily, I had a maid, who would do all the prep work and I just needed to make the curry. So you could imagine my joy, when I saw that in US you get your tender jack fruit, all prepped up in a can. All I need to open the can, drain out the brine, wash the jack fruit in some warm water and its ready to meet its curry!

Ever since I discovered the "Canned Enchor", I have been making this curry at least once a week. The texture of a tender jack fruit is very meaty and poultry like. Hence its lovingly called "Gaach Pantha" (the vegetable meat!). Tender jack fruit can be cooked in a variety of ways. You can make it rich and special by cooking it in coconut milk, a la Thai style or even in a tangy yogurt based sauce (Doi Enchor). You can make it festive by adding shrimps to it (Enchor chingri). Or you can cook it the Satwik way, sans onion and garlic (Niramish Enchor). The recipe I am going to share today is the most common, everyday way of cooking the Bengali style Enchor er Dalna, using basic Bengali pantry staples.


Heat oil in a pan and temper with Whole Garam Masala troika (Cardamom, Cinnamon and Cloves), Bay leaf and a cumin seeds.


Once the spices stop spluttering add chopped onions and fry till slightly golden.


Add the ginger and garlic and fry till the rawness of the garlic is gone.


Add salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder and cumin powder and fry till the masala is well blended and cooked through. Add small splashes of water to prevent it from sticking at the bottom.


Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes are mushy and blend right into the masala.


 Now add the drained and chopped tender jack fruit pieces and mix well in the masala.


Add cup full of water and bring it to a boil. Then reduce the flame and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. This will ensure that the jack fruit will be infused with masala. If you want more gravy, you can turn off the flame after simmering. But I like it slightly dry, with the masala thickly coating the jack fruit. So I bring it to a boil again and evaporate a little more water. Finish off with a teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter, optional) and a teaspoon of Garam Masala Powder.




Recipe Snapshot:


What I used:
Tender green Jack fruit  - 1 10 oz can
Onion - 1 medium sized, chopped
Ginger - 2" piece, grated
Garlic - 4 fat cloves, finely minced
Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp
Red Chili Powder (or Paprika, if you like it mild) - 1 tsp
Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
Cumin Seeds - ½ tsp
Whole Cardamom - 4-5
Whole Cinnamon - 1 stick
Whole Cloves - 4-5
Bay Lead - 2
Oil (Mustard/ Canola.Veg/ Sunflower) - 2 tbsp 
Ghee (Clarified Butter) - 1 tsp
Garam Masala Powder - ½ tsp
Sea

What I did:

1. Heat oil in a pan and temper with Whole Garam Masala troika (Cardamom, Cinnamon and Cloves), Bay leaf and a cumin seeds.


2. Once the spices stop spluttering add chopped onions and fry till slightly golden.

3. Add the ginger and garlic and fry till the rawness of the garlic is gone.

4. Add salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder and cumin powder and fry till the masala is well blended and cooked through. Add small splashes of water to prevent it from sticking at the bottom.

5. Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes are mushy and blend right into the masala.

6. Now add the drained and chopped tender jack fruit pieces and mix well in the masala.

7. Add cup full of water and bring it to a boil. Then reduce the flame and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. This will ensure that the jack fruit will be infused with masala. If you want more gravy, you can turn off the flame after simmering. But if you like it dry, bring it to a boil again and evaporate a little more water. Finish off with a teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter) and a teaspoon of Garam Masala Powder. The ghee bit is optional though.




Diabetic Platter:
Tender green Jack fruit is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin C and Manganese. However it is mostly made up of carbohydrates. However the good news is, its all complex carb that breaks downs slowly and does not cause blood sugar spikes. It is also an excellent source of dietary fiber and it also had protein. Serve it with brown rice and simple salad for a wholesome meal. Since this curry is just too delicious, keep and eye on your portion!



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Is it a Khichidi or a Biriyani? I call it Hotch Potch; What will you??

Come the monsoons and every Bengali household will have at least one Kichuri or Khichidi meal. Nothing soothes a Bengali soul more than piping hot Khichuri along with Illish Maach Bhaja (Crispy fried Hilsa Fish) and some Tomato Chutney on a gloomy, rainy day.

The Bengali Khichuri is a lot different from its blander North Indian cousin, the Khichidi.

The North Indian Khichidi is a lot lighter and made using minimum oil and spices. Hence, it is usually given to patients in recovery, whose digestive system is not in the best order, Nonetheless, it is very wholesome and nutritious.

The Bengali Khichuri, on the other hand, is a lot richer, tastier and more flavorful and most definitely not very easy on the digestive system.


Khichuri is a one pot nourishing meal made with fragrant Gobindobhog or Basmati Rice and dal (lentil), with or without vegetables. The consistency is soft and soggy but not runny, very much like the Italian Risotto.

Lightly Roasted Moong Dal (dried yellow split peas) is usually the preferred choice of dal for a traditional Bengali Khichuri. However, Mushur/ Masoor Dal (Red Lentils) and Toor/ Arhar Dal (split pigeon pea) are also equally delicious choices for Khichuri.

Moong Dal Khichuri is generally prepared the Satwik way, i.e. sans garlic and onion, but Mushur Dal or Arhar Dal Khichuri has onions and garlic in them.

Oven Baked Potato Wedges
Personally, being the eternal carnivore, I am not too fond of the Satwik style Khichuri, except the Bhog er Khichuri, which I'll definitely share in one of my future posts. My favorite is the one made with Mushur/Masoor Dal (red lentil), onions and garlic.

My this post is the result of an excruciating pain in my lower back and I wanted to cook something quick and nutritious and one-pot for my then 2 year old. The first time I made it, I had added green beans, carrots, cauliflower, sweet peas, chunks of butternut squash, mushrooms, sweet Italian Sausage to the pot of rice and Masoor Dal. I had spiced it up with a Chicken Biriyani Masala. Sam, who is a huge Khichuri fan, was excited at the sight of the big bowl of steaming goodness, sniffed and said, 
"Why is it smelling like Biriyani
What is it? Its looks like Khichuri but tastes somewhat like a Biriyani and it had meat too. 

"Hotch Potch", I replied slyly.

Oven Roasted Zucchini 
Ever since, this had been a dinner staple on the days I am not very well or just plain lazy. Here is how I usually make this.


Recipe Snapshot: Hotch Potch - A Delicious Mishmash of Rice, Lentils, Meat and Veggies



Serves: 3 


What I used:
Basmati Rice -  1.5 cup
Masoor Dal (Red Lentil) - 1 cup
Water - 6 cups

Ground Chicken - 1 lb or 500 gms

Carrots - ½ cup, cut into big pieces
Green Beans - ½ cup, cut into big pieces
Sweet Pea - ½ cup

Onion - 1 large, finely chopped
Ginger - 2" piece, finely grated
Garlic - 4 fat cloves, finely minced

Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp
Red Chili Powder or Paprika - ½ tsp (depending on your heat tolerance)
Biriyani Masala - 1 tsp, heaped (I used Shaan Chicken Biriyani Masala)

Bay leaf - 2
Cardamom - 3-4
Cinnamon - 1" stick, broken
Cloves - 3-4
Cumin seeds - ½ tsp

Oil - 2 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tsp (optional)
Salt






What I did:
1. Wash and soak the rice and dal for 30  minutes.

2. Heat oil in a pan and temper with cumin seeds, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf.

3. Once the spices stops spluttering, add the chopped onions and saute till slightly golden. About a two minutes.

4. Add the grated ginger and minced garlic and fry till the raw flavor of the garlic is gone.

5. Add the salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder and Biriyani masala and fry till the masala are cooked through. approx 45 sec, splashing with little water, to prevent charring.

6. Now add the ground chicken and mix well. Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes, till the chicken is completely cooked through.

7. Next add the mixed vegetables and mix well and cook for another minute or two.

8. Now add the washed rice and dal and mix well with the masala.

9. Add the water and let it come to a boil on medium heat. Once it boils reduce the heat to med-low and cover and cook for 20-25 min, checking in between. You know its done when the rice is fully cooked, the dal is all mushy and majority of the water is gone.

10. Serve piping hot with a dollop of ghee (clarified butter). Ghee is always optional. But it does take the taste a few notches higher.


Notes/Tip: The ingredients of this dish can be added, subtracted, swapped, substituted with anything that your heart desires. You can add any vegetables, any kind of meat or shrimps, or make it completely vegetarian. It will turn out delicious every time.



Diabetic Platter:
Mushur Dal er Khichuri is a wholesome and nutritional meal. It has the perfect amount of carb-protein-fiber ratio for a diabetic. But I would like to tweak the rice:lentil ratio a bit to make it more diabetic friendly. Instead of the usual 1:1 ration, I would use a 1:2 ratio of rice:lentil. Enjoy this scrumptious meal with a some grilled or steamed veggies. I served mine with oven roasted zucchini and baked potatoes wedges.

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