Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Panchmel Dal / Pancharatna Dal ( Mix of Five Lentils )

Lentils/Dal form an important part of any Indian meal. Different variety and styles are used in different parts of the country. It means that you can try a different one every day.J Usually served as a side dish, it’s a tasty way to get your protein for the day.

Panchkuti / Panchmel Dal is a traditional lentil dish that was originated in Rajasthan. This tasty and nutritious dish of Rajasthan is a staple in almost every household in Rajasthani cuisine. Though it is generally served with famous Dal Batti, but also goes well with hot steamed rice or with Indian flat bread. Considered as extremely nutritious, a protein packed dish as it contains the goodness and nutritive qualities of 5 different lentils/dals. Panchamel dal is also known as panchratna dal. The word Panch means five and Ratna means jewels.J 

So as the name suggests, it is prepared from five different lentils. Split Urad dal, chana dal, whole masoor dal, split moong dal and toor / arhar dal are commonly used. Other ingredients that make this dish richer in taste and flavor are chopped tomato, cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds, chopped green chilies, turmeric powder, grated ginger, lemon juice and some chopped cilantro. The lentils are first cooked in a pressure cooker till they are soft and then simmered together with other ingredients. 

First time I made this dal when I had small quantity of different dals in my kitchen. I was trying to use all of those together and so was searching for the recipe. I found the following one and tried out. The result was so delicious and aromatic that it has now become a favorite at my home. I have made few alterations, used onion and garlic, though it is delectable even without them. I have used pink lentil / Masoor dal in the place of whole masoor.

If you are in India, then you will get 5 different dals in one packet in most of the popular retail stores. Or you can also try with whatever variety you already have in your pantry. You would love the final product anyway J

Recipe of Panchmel Dal / Pancharatna Dal ( Mix of Five Lentils ) : serves 5 


Mixed Dal / Lentils : 1 cup ( equal amounts of chana dal, green moong dal, masoor dal, Toor / arhar dal, urad dal)

Oil : 3 tablespoons
Asafoetida (hing) : 1/4 teaspoon
Cumin seeds : 1/2 teaspoon 
Red Chilies : 1 ( broken )
Green Cardamom : 3
Cinnamon stick : 1/2 inch
Cloves : 2 

Onion : 1 small one, finely chopped 
Garlic : 1 tablespoon, finely chopped or paste ( you can skip onion and garlic )
Ginger :1 teaspoon, grated 

Turmeric powder : 1/2 teaspoon
Red chili powder : 1/2 teaspoon ( as per your tolerance )
Coriander powder : 1 teaspoon 

Tomato : 1 medium, chopped 

Salt : to taste 
Cilantro : a handful, chopped 

Method :

1. Wash and soak all the lentils in water for half an hour. Now take the dal in a pressure cooker, add 3 to 4 cups of water. Close the lid and let it cook until 3 whistles come. You may cook the dal in a pot or a sauce pan, but it will take lot of time. Once dal is well-cooked, set it aside.

2. Take a big pan, add oil and heat it up. Add cumin seeds, green cardamoms, cinnamon stick, cloves and broken red chili to the pan, wait until they are fragrant. Now add asafoetida. 

3. (If you are using onion and garlic) Add chopped onion, stir it until it is translucent. Add the garlic, cook till the raw smell goes off. 

4. Add ginger, stir and mix it. Now add the turmeric powder, red chili powder and coriander powder. Stir it until oil starts coming out from the sides of the pan. Add the chopped tomato, add salt and cook it until tomato becomes soft. 

5. Once the spices are well cooked, add the cooked dal. Add salt, add water to get the right consistency. Simmer the dal for another 8 to 10 minutes.

6. Check the consistency, check seasoning. Add a handful of chopped cilantro and switch off the gas. Serve hot with rice or Indian flat bread.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Oreo Mug Cake

After a week’s break, I am back with a new recipe of a Mug Cake. World cup ended with a sad note for our family. Because my husband is an old Argentina supporter and I liked Messi because of his innocence look. We got an opportunity to watch the match in a big screen organized in their office and first time I saw my husband so excited. Though my son started with supporting Messi, he changed his mind once Germany won. Because he has to always win! Anyway, besides that life was good in the peak of summer vacation. We had a road trip to Big Sur on Labor Day weekend, enjoyed some breathtaking views, long-drive on US-1 and eating out in different places on the way.

I am going to share the recipe of Oreo Mug Cake. It’s perfect if you have busy schedule and have no time to try any complex recipe. I love the concept of microwave mug cake. Stir a few ingredients in a mug and put it in the microwave for a minute or two and it’s ready to serve. When I tried the mug cake first time, I realized that microwaves can be used for other purposes than heating frozen meals or making popcorn. It’s not so new concept but I came across this easy recipe of making Mug Cake in microwave very recently.  My temptation got stronger when I saw that it needs only three ingredients to make. It's full of chocolate flavor and has a great texture. 

The end product came out really tasty, but not so spongy and not overly sweet. This recipe is flexible enough to be built with other flavor combos. You can make fun additions like chocolate chips, marshmallows or nuts or Nutella spread to the recipe. Or serve it with a topping of peanut butter or chocolate sauce or with a scoop of ice cream. I promise this would be your new favorite mid-night chocolate snack.

Recipe of Oreo Mug Cake : for one Mug cup 

Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 2 minutes, Total time: 7 minutes 

Ingredients :

Oreo cookies : 9 pairs 
Baking powder : 1/2 teaspoon 
Milk : 1/2 cup 
Sugar : 1 tbsp ( If you do not like overly sweet can skip it, I do not add any sugar )

For toppings : Ice cream and chocolate sauce  (or whatever you like )

Method :

1. Crush the Oreo cookies(do not remove the cream of the cookies) roughly. You can use food processor or blender. Or take a Ziploc bag, put the cookies into it. Take a rolling pin and gently press it. 

2. Take a bowl transfer the crushed cookies to it. Add the baking powder and combine well. Add milk and mix the batter until incorporated. 

3. Grease a microwave safe cup with oil or non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the batter into the prepared cup. Microwave for 2 minutes. ( in regular microwave mode )

4. Let it cool down for 10 minutes and serve with a scoop of ice cream and chocolate sauce. 

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chicken Biryani

The dish that I am going to share today doesn't need any introduction. If you ask any Bengali about his/her favorite food, 90 percent chance is that the answer would be Biryani. Some may like Goat Biryani; others may like chicken or egg Biryani. Some will vote for the “shiraz” as the best restaurant for Biryani, others will go with “Aminia”. But they are all crazy about Biryani. Even in abroad, they can travel long distance only to find a good Biryani place. Here in any community program, if the lunch/dinner menu has Biryani, then the event surely attracts more people.

In my younger days, I made several attempts to make Biryani but end result was not good. While I was in Florida, received a recipe of pressure cooked Biryani form one of my friends and was very excited to prepare it. But then what came out of the cooker was almost like khichdiJ. Later I learnt Hyderbadi Chicken Biryani from our cook in Bangalore. Whenever I made this dish, my husband's concern is that it shouldn’t be that rich/oily that restaurant serves. Rather it should be moist and the rice should be soft. I had to agree with him that this tastes better.

For the people who are not so familiar with Indian dishes, let me give a brief introduction about Biryani. It’s a rice-based dish, made with chicken, mutton, fish, eggs or vegetables and spices. Biryani is a Persian dish and was introduced to India from Persia by the Muslims travelers or merchants of the Mughal Empire. It was one of the most popular dishes in the kitchen of the Mughal Emperors. Today I will share the recipe of Pakki Dum Calcutta Biryani. Other popular versions of Biryanis are Lucknow Biryani, Hyderabad Biryani and Bombay Biryani.

There are two types of process in cooking of Biryani. One is Kachchi Biryani and the other one is Pakki Biryani. Kachchi means raw, raw marinated meat is cooked with rice in this type of preparation. On the other hand, in Pakki Biryani the meat is marinated for a shorter time, and cooked before being layered with the rice.  Biryani is traditionally cooked in earthenware pot which gives it a unique flavorThe pot is usually sealed with wheat dough to allow cooking in its own steam and not opened till it is ready to serve.  Biryani is mostly served with boiled egg, mixed salad and with a spicy yogurt based drink called Borhani or Raita. 

Recipe of Chicken Biryani : Serves 3 to 4 

Ingredients :

For Biryani Masla :

Fennel :1/2 tsp
Shah jeera / Black Cumin seeds :1/2 tsp
Cloves : 4
Cinnamon : 2 inch stick
Cardamom : 4-5
Black Cardamom : 1Nutmeg (grated) :1/4 tsp
Mace - 1 floret
Star anise : 1
Black peppercorn : 5-6

To Cook Chicken : 

Chicken : 2 lbs or 800 g, cut into big sizes 
Yogurt : 4 to 5 tablespoons 
Garlic paste : 2 tablespoons
Ginger paste : 1 tablespoon 
Biryani Masala : 1 1/2 tablespoons 
Red chili powder : 1 teaspoon 
Salt : 
Onion : 3 medium sized, thinly sliced 

For Rice : 

Basmati rice : 3 cups 
Salt : 
Black peppercorn : 5-6
Cinnamon : 1 stick 
Cardamom : 2-3 
Clove : 2-3 
Bay leaves : 2 

Other Ingredients : 

Potato : 2 medium sized, boiled and cut into two halves 
Hard boiled egg : 3
Milk : 1/4 cup, warm
Saffron strands : few 
Oil : 4-5 tablespoons 
Ghee / clarified butter : 5-6 tablespoons 

Kewra essence : 4-5 drops ( use it to get authentic taste or flavor or you may skip it too)
Rose water : 1 teaspoon

Method : 

1. To make the Biryani Masala, first dry roast all the spices, till they are aromatic. Let it cool down and grind it to a powder. Biryani Masla is ready. Set it aside 1 and 1/2 tablespoons for use and rest you can store it into an airtight box for couple of months. 

2. Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces. In a big bowl, add yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chili powder and 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Biryani masala. Mix together well and add the chicken pieces to the bowl. Rub the marinade all over chicken pieces gently. Wrap the bowl tightly with a plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Let it sit for overnight or at least 3 to 4 hours.

3. Now take a big pan, add oil and heat it up. Once oil is ready add the boiled halved potatoes and fry them till the color changes to golden brown. Once potatoes are done set it aside. In the same oil add the hard-boiled eggs and fry it till they have brown spot on their surface. Take it out from the pan and keep it aside. 

4. In the same pan, add oil (if required) and add the sliced onions. Fry it till the color changes to golden brown. Add the marinated chicken, stir and cook until chicken is well cooked and oil starts to separate from the spice mixture. Once it is done set it aside.

5. Next step, preparing the rice : Wash and soak the rice in water for 20 minutes. Take a small piece of cloth, then put cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorn in it and tie a knot. 

6. Now take a deep-bottomed  pan, add enough water ( 7 cups ), add the tied cloth, add salt and bay leaves. Once water starts boiling, add the rice. Cook it until rice is 80 % done. Drain away the extra water and spread the rice on a flat surface. 

7. Take a small bowl, add the milk and saffron strands. Mix well and let it rest for couple of minutes. 

8. Layering or final cooking :  Stove-top method : Take a large heavy bottom pan with lid. Add 2-3 tablespoons ghee ( melted ) to the pan. Spread it nicely and add a layer of rice ( using half of the rice) . Then add the cooked chicken, potatoes, eggs. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Biryani Masala and ghee. Now again add a layer of rice and sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of ghee. Add the saffron milk and kewra essence and rose essence. 

9. Put the lid on, seal it with flour dough and let it cook over lowest possible heat. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Make sure the pan is heavy bottomed and keep the flame lowest, so that the rice does not get burnt on the bottom of the pan.

Oven Method  You can use oven instead of stove top for final cooking. For that process, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 176 degrees C and take a oven-safe dish. Add 2-3 tablespoons ghee ( melted ) to the pan. Spread it nicely and add a layer of rice ( using half of the rice) . Then add the cooked chicken, potatoes, eggs. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Biryani Masala and ghee. Now again add a layer of rice and sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of ghee. Add the saffron milk and kewra essence and rose essence. cover it tightly with aluminum foil and  let it cook in the oven for 30 minutes.

 10. Switch off the gas, or oven. Let the dish covered for again 10 to 15 minutes on the kitchen counter top, then mix the rice and chicken gently together. Transfer it to a serving plate and serve with salad.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Skinny Strawberry Ice Cream

When we think about summer, what comes to our mind first is ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet or sundae. Probably we can still smell the taste of ice cream that we used to have during summer vacation in our school life. We could finish several scoops without feeling guilty about calories. There was no worry about how we look in our profile pictures. But now whenever we take full-fat ice cream or frozen desserts, unfortunately we start thinking about how much calories it will add up.

Last few days I was looking for a recipe that an ice cream lover like me could polish off half a gallon with no guilty feelings. But it has to be creamy as well as addictive. Eventually I found the one I wanted. This Skinny Strawberry Ice cream gives you the same sweet and chilled satisfaction that full-fat regular ice cream does. It’s a healthy substitute to those late night ice cream cravings since it adds less than 100 calories per serving. It can become one of your staple snacks this summer!

The recipe is damn easy and needs only 3 ingredients. What you have to do to make this ice cream is just throw all of the ingredients in a blender and make it a puree. Then pour the mixture into freeze and wait until it is done. Last year I made Strawberry Cream cheese PopsiclesBut this simple, skinny, scrumptious dessert is more rich and delicious than the former without using any cream stuff. On the other hand, the recipe is extremely versatile. If you don’t like or get strawberries, can use other berries, banana or mango. If you like chunks of fruits in your ice cream, chop up a few extra strawberries and fold that into the mixture right before you put in the freezer. 

Whenever I think about making ice creaming at home, the very first question arises in my mind is if I would get same consistency that branded  ice creams have, without using ice cream maker. But finally I solved the problem. You have to mainly churn the ice cream base yourself while freezing and need to incorporate a sufficient amount of air bubbles into the mixture. Otherwise it will come out with an icy almost rock hard ice cream. The churning will also break down these unpleasant large ice crystals. 40 minutes after you first put your ice cream into the freezer, take it out and vigorously churn it with a fork or a spoon or electric hand mixer. Return the ice cream to the freezer again, wait for another 30 minutes and repeat the process. Do the same process 2 to 3 times more. You would get smoothcreamy ice cream like texture without using ice cream maker. So go aheadmake and enjoy your homemade skinny strawberry ice cream.

Recipe of Skinny Strawberry Ice Cream : Serves : 4 to 6 

prep time : 10 minutes, freezing time : maximum 2 hrs. 

Ingredients :
Fat free Greek yogurt / hung yogurt : 1 and 1/2 cup
Strawberries : 1 cup chopped ( you can use frozen too ) 
Honey : 2 tablespoons or to taste 

Method :

1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or a blender and pulse until the mixture becomes creamy.

2. Pour the mixture into a freezer safe air tight container and freeze it.  After 30 minutes take it out and vigorously churn it with a fork or a spoon or electric hand mixer. 

3. Do the same process 2 to 3 times more. If you like chunky ice cream, now add hand full of fresh strawberries ( chopped ). Mix it well and freeze for up to one hour. Don't let it freeze for longer than an hour. It will become hard like an ice block. 

4. Scoop the ice cream into individual dishes, add toppings ( if desired ) and serve immediately.

For the vegan version, use coconut milk yogurt in the place of non fat Greek yogurt. 

You can try the same recipe with other fruits too. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thai Basil Chicken

So the long-awaited summer vacation is here. The morning first hour is more relaxing now because no rush to make my kid ready for school. But later part of the day becomes busier to keep him active, taking him for sports and other classes. I had very high expectation that I would be able to spend more time for my next posts in summer vacation. But the way things are going, not sure if I have to scale it down. Looking for recipes which will be easy to prepare and take the snaps without requiring much setup.

Every country in the world has its own food habits that reflect their culture, environment as well as their lifestyle. Thai food always shows the color, the freshness, flavor and the simplicity. They use many kinds of herbs and spices that have health benefits and add good flavor at the same time. Few of the common ingredients used in Thai dishes are Holy Basil, Thai Basil, cilantro, chilies lemongrass, kaffir lime, Galangal, shallots mint. Thai style pays attention on not only how the dish tastes, but also on how good the dish looks and smells. What I love about their dish is strong aromatic components and mix of different spicy tastes. 

You have guessed it right; today I will share the recipe of Thai basil Chicken, which is known as Gai Pad Krapow. It’s one of the most popular street food dishes in Thai land. Whoever loves Thai food knows how common we order this dish when we visit Thai restaurant. It was in my mind for some time, but haven't made this because didn’t realize how simple and easy to prepare this dish. Also didn’t think Thai dishes could be this amazing. From the chopping board to dinner table, it needs only 30 minutes to prepare this lovely meal. The recipe is very flexible. I have tried with Chicken but you can try with Tofu if you are a vegetarian. Other than chicken the same recipe is supposed to go very well if you love pork or Shrimp too. When you make your own food, there are lots of options to tweak them in healthier ways. You can adjust as per your dietary needs or preferences. For example I used low sodium soy sauce. Authentic Thai Basil Chicken is supposed to be made with Holy Basil, but those are not easily available here. So I used Thai Basil. If you don’t find either type of these two basil near your home, you can use ordinary fresh Basil. You may try with cilantro too but the flavor will be little different and the name too.

Recipe of Thai Basil Chicken : serves 3 

Total time : 30 minutes, cook time : 20 minutes, prep time : 10 minutes 

Ingredients :

Chicken : 1 lb boneless, skinless thigh or breast, cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch cubes 
Shallot : 3-4 thinly sliced ( if you don't get shallot, use half of one small red onion )
Garlic : 3-4 cloves, finely chopped
Red bell pepper : 1/2 of a small one, cut into thin 1 inch pieces
Thai chili peppers / Bird's eye chili / green chili peppers :  3 - 4, seeded and thinly sliced 
Thai Basil / Thai Holy Basil : 2/3 cup 

For Sauce :

Fish sauce : 2 tablespoons 
Soy sauce : 1 1/2 teaspoon 
Brown sugar : 1 teaspoon ( optional ) 
Black pepper powder : 1/4 teaspoon 
Oil : 2-3 tablespoons 

 Method :

1. Make the sauce, take a small bowl and add the fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and black pepper. Stir it and mix well together. Set the bowl aside.

2. Take a large cast iron skillet or wok or a heavy bottomed pan heat it up and add the oil. Once oil becomes hot, add shallots to the pan and saute it. Add garlic and the chili, stir it over medium-high heat until onion is translucent. 

2. Add chicken to the pan, saute for couple of minutes until the color changes and chicken is almost cooked. Add the chopped red bell pepper pieces and keep stirring till everything is well cooked.

3. Add the sauce to the pan. Mix well till the chicken pieces are well coated with sauce. Add the basil and stir it well together. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle some extra basil leaves. Serve with steamed rice. 

Note :

You can use chili pepper flakes in the place of Thai chili.
I know, it's called Thai Basil Chicken, but you can make it with regular basil or cilantro.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

I am not very pleased with the pictures that I have taken for today’s post. The decoration was not perfect as I made them in hurry for a party in my friend’s house. It could have been done much better. But since I won’t make them again anytime soon, thought of posting it anyway in the blog. Hope you would still like it.

 I know some of you may avoid cupcakes for its high calories, but I would suggest trying this out in moderate quantity. You will love it for sure. For me, who loves cupcakes and smell of coffee, would be very hard to resist from having it. Today I will share the recipe of Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting. You can call it the recipe of popular Starbucks beverage in the form of cupcakes.

 I love to make cupcakes because they always come out beautiful just like a piece of artwork. You can decorate as your heart wants and make them adorable, pretty and delicious. Though this time I knew I won’t get enough time for decorating it, still it was in my mind since I had a delicious mocha cupcake at a local cupcake shop a couple of months ago and decided to whip up my own version. The base cake is a rich coffee infused chocolate cake and is topped off with a creamy, sweet espresso butter cream. As they were not decadent enough, I had to finish them off with a sprinkle of chocolate dust. Obviously this cake has two delicious flavors, chocolate and espresso, heavenly combination for them who love chocolate and coffee both!  And what we can say about buttercream frosting which is always smooth, melt in mouth texture and dreamy in every sense. It makes the overall taste sinful, decadent and irresistible. The making of these cupcakes are as simple as making the same with any box-mix. Just few minutes of effort but totally worth it.

Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso ButterCream Frosting : 12 cupcakes

Ingredients :

For Mocha cupcakes :

All-purpose flour : 11/2 cups
Unsweetened Cocoa powder : 1/3 cup
Baking Soda : 1/2 teaspoon 
Baking powder : 1/2 teaspoon 
Salt : 1/4 teaspoon
Sugar : 1 cup 
Oil : 1/4 cup
Eggs : 2 
Vanilla extract : 1 tsp 
Coffee Powder : 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder 
water : 3/4 cup

For Espresso Buttercream Frosting :

Unsalted Butter ( at room temperature ) : 2 sticks or 1 cup
Powdered sugar : 13/4 cups
Pure vanilla extract : 11/2 teaspoons
Instant Espresso coffee powder : 2 teaspoons

Method : 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C. Line a standard-size muffin tin with paper liners. 

2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and set it aside.

3. Take a large mixing bowl, add oil and sugar to it and whisk it. Add eggs and vanilla extract and coffee powder and mix well until they are well combined. 

4. Add the flour-cocoa mixture in 3 additions and alternately add water. Mix it well and scrape down the sides if needed. 

5. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin.

6. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of a cupcake, comes out clean.

7. Let them cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make Frosting : 

8. Whip the butter on a medium-high speed for 5 minutes. (You can use a stand mixer or electric hand-mixer.) Scrape the sides of the bowl. 

9. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and mix it well on low speed. Wait till sugar is mostly incorporated before adding more. Once the sugar has been added, increase the speed to medium-high and mix it well for 1 to 2 minutes, until it becomes fluffy. 

10. Add vanilla extract and coffee powder and mix it until it becomes well-combined and smooth. 

11. Frost the cupcakes with butter Knife or pipe the cupcakes with espresso buttercream frosting. Sprinkle some chocolate dust. 

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