Monday, March 31, 2014

Butter Chicken ( Murgh Makhani )

Today I am going to post the very well-known but classic Indian Dish called Butter chicken. This rich, buttery and creamy sauce based chicken curry needs no introduction but deserves its worldwide fame. It has become synonymous to Indian curry and to many foreigners, this is the first and safest choice in any Indian restaurants. The original name of the Butter Chicken is Murgh Makhani. While studying the history of this dish, found some interesting information. It was originated in a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Peshawar of undivided India. The person who innovated this moved to India after partition and started his food chain in Delhi. Slowly this group became an Industry and you would find many packaged food with this brand name.

Though every Indian restaurant serves Butter Chicken, there are many versions of this recipe. The process is more or less same though in all versions. First, boneless or with-bone chicken pieces are marinated in a yogurt and spice mixture. Then the chicken is traditionally cooked in a tandoor. If your modern-day Indian kitchen doesn’t have Tandoor, then you can grill, roast or pan-fry the chickens. Finally the chicken is cooked in tomato based thick, rich and creamy gravy. Cashew paste is generally used to thicken the gravy. The Butter Chicken is usually garnished with fresh cream, white butter or with chopped cilantro. It goes well with Naan, Roti, Parathas or with steamed Basmati rice.

Butter Chicken is often mistaken as Chicken Tikka Masala, but these two are not same. In some countries like UK where good number of Indian migrants is there, Chicken Tikka Masala is claimed as a national dish. Though both the recipes look similar, they are quite different. I think, butter is the main difference and it makes the dish bit slick and creamy. After my last post of the recipe for Naan, I was planning to make this Chicken dish, but it took a while to get the authentic taste. I tried 3 to 4 different recipes, but finally this is the one which came very close to the richness of original taste.

Recipe of Butter Chicken : Serves ( 4 to 6 )

Ingredients :

Chicken ( with bone or boneless ) : 2 lbs, washed, and cut into small pieces, preferably thigh or breast pieces. 

For marination :

Lemon juice : 1 tablespoon
Red Chili powder : 1 tablespoon
Salt : 
Plain yogurt ( hung ) or Greek yogurt : 1/2 cup
Garam masala : 1 teaspoon 
Oil ( white oil or mustard oil ) : 2 tablespoon 
Ginger paste : 1 tablespoon 
Garlic paste : 1/2 tablespoon 
Oil / butter / ghee : for basting 

For the Sauce : 

Butter : 4 to 5 tablespoon 
Black Cardamom : 1 
Green Cardamom : 3
Cinnamon stick : 1.5 inch 
Cloves : 3 
Methi / Fenugreek seeds : 1 teaspoon 
Ginger paste : 1 tablespoon 
Garlic paste : 1 tablespoon 
Fresh green chilli pepper : 2 to 3 ( as per tolerance ), slit 
Fresh Tomato puree : 3 to 4 cup 
Red chili powder / paprika / cayenne powder : 1 teaspoon or to taste 
Turmeric powder : a pinch or ( optional )
Cashew nuts : 10, soaked and grounded into a paste
Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves ) : 1 teaspoon 
Sugar : 1/2 tablespoon 
Garam Masala : 1 teaspoon 
Salt :
Heavy Cream : 1/2 cup 

Method :

1. Add the red chili powder, lemon juice and salt to the chicken, mix it well and let it rest for 15 minutes. 

2. In a bowl, whisk yogurt, garam masala, ginger paste, garlic paste and oil. Pour the marinade over the chicken and rub it well. Refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

3. Take a thick bottomed pan, add the butter and heat it up. Add black cardamom, green cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon and saute for a couple of minutes or until they get aromatic. 

4. Add the fenugreek seeds, once they sizzle add green chillies, and ginger-garlic paste. Saute until they get browned and fragrant. 

5. Add the tomato puree, red chili powder and salt. Cook the mixture over medium heat until the mixture becomes thick and oil starts separating from the all sides of the pan. 

6. While tomatoes are becoming thick, grill the chicken. You can use either an outdoor grill or broiler. Put the chicken on skewers and cook on a grill or a preheated oven at 400 degrees F. Do not overcook, it will take about 10 minutes for each side. Baste with butter or oil while cooking. The chicken may be grilled on a skillet or grill pan on the stove top too. For that, heat the skillet and spray or grease with oil. Place the skewers and cook. Turn them and baste with butter or oil until they are cooked.

7. Once tomato mixture is done caramelizing, lower the flame and add the cashew paste. Mix it well together. Add two cups of warm water and bring it to a boil. 

8. Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes and add crushed kasuri methi ( dry fenugreek leaves ) and sugar. 

9. Add the grilled chicken pieces and stir it. Cover the pan and simmer it for about 7 to 8 minutes until the chicken pieces are well coated with the sauce. 

10. Add the heavy cream, add garam masala. Stir it well together and cook for about 5 minutes over low heat. 

11. Check the consistency, check seasoning and add salt or sugar if needed. Turn off the gas, Butter Chicken is ready. Garnish with fresh cilantro and drizzle a little extra cream on top and serve. 

Related Post :  Home-made Naan

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fish Curry with Eggplant ( Flavored with Nigella seeds ) / Begun diye Ilish or Salmon

Hi there, spring is finally here, nice little break for the parents like me who has one-week off from their kid’s regular school routine. Most of the parents must be going on a trip. My friends already started posting their vacation pictures in social networking sites. In San Diego though, we can’t make much difference in weather during spring. But it’s good relief for my east-coast friends from those snow and wind chill days. Last week I was wondering what I will share next. My hands were itching to bake something and share its recipe. But before sharing those, I thought it would be better to post this comfort food that was long due in my draft. Fish curry with Eggplant is one of the regular dishes in my kitchen as well as very favorite to all of us. It’s a bowl, full of deliciousness and takes very little time to prepare. The curry is very thin and light, more like a soup or stew, loaded with fresh flavors. The key ingredients to create this magic are the nigella seeds, green chilies and fresh chopped cilantro apart from fish and eggplant. 

You should serve this dish with some hot steamed rice, because “Mach” (fish) goes well only with “Bhat” (rice) as we Bengali know. We grew up in a community where fish and rice are served twice a day, both in lunch and dinner. So since my childhood I am seeing my mom trying so many dishes with fish, be it some regular curry or some special one with some vegetables mixed.  The most favorite one of these dishes was “begun diye ilish mach” or Hilsh fish with eggplant. Every Bengali is diehard fan of Hilsha or Ilish fish. But unfortunately we don’t get fresh Ilish or Hilsha on regular basis in the place where we live now. So we try the same recipe with sea fishes like Salmon. It’s the best substitute of Hilsha in most of the preparations including this one. Both the fishes are oily, soft and very similar smoothness in taste.  A special note for my Bengali readers is that if you cook this dish with Hilsha then you don’t need to add cilantro. But when I make it with Salmon I would love to cook the following way.

Here is the simple, fast recipe of Fish Curry with Eggplant, hope you would like it :-) 

Fish Curry with Eggplant : ( Begun diye Ilish Mach ) Serves : 4

preparation time : 15 minutes , Cooking time : 25 minutes, Total time : 40 minutes

Ingredients :

Fish ( preferably Salmon or Hilsa ) : 1 lb ( cut into medium sized pieces )
Eggplant : Half of a big eggplant, cut into long wedges
Potato ( optional ) : 1 big ( cut into long wedges )
Salt :
Turmeric powder : 1/2 teaspoon
Oil : 3 + 2 tablespoon
Nigella seeds : 1 teaspoon
Slit Green chillies : 1 or 2
Red chili powder : 1/2 as per tolerance
Cilantro : a handful, chopped 

Method :

1. Wash the fish pieces, wash and pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle salt and turmeric powder and mix it well. Let it rest for 5 to 7 minutes. 

2. In a big pan, preferably nonstick pan, put oil. Heat it up till smoke comes up, lower the flame to medium high and now slightly fry the marinated fish pieces on the both sides. Do not fry it for long time, just 1 to 2 minutes for each side. . Take off the fried fish from oil and keep it aside. 

3.  In the same oil, add the eggplant, saute it. Add salt, stir and cook it until it is brown and soft. Once it is done, take it off from the pan and set it aside. 

4. Add the remaining oil to the same pan. Once oil is hot, add nigella and green chillies to the oil. Once it becomes aromatic and starts to spatter, add the potato wedges. Stir it, add salt and cook it until potato is half done. 

5. Take the red chili powder in a small bowl, add two tablespoon of water and make a paste. Now add the chili paste to the pan. Cook it for 2 to 3 minutes, until oil starts coming up from the sides of pan. 

6. Now add a cup of warm water to the pan and let it boil. Once it starts boiling, add salt and cover the pan with lid. Let it simmer until potato is cooked.  

7.  Add the fish pieces and eggplant to the pan. Cover it again and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro. Check seasoning, add salt or green chillies, if required. Check the consistency of the sauce. Fish Curry with Eggplant is ready, serve hot with hot steamed rice. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake which is also popular by the other name Black Forest Gateau, it's a German dessert, made with chocolate, cherries and whipped cream. A Classic German black forest cake is one of the easiest cakes to make and oh so impressive . Typically Black Forest Cake consists of several layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries between each layer. Then the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, cherries and chocolate shavings. If you want to make it in traditional way, Krischwasser, a liquor from cherries is must added to the cake. But you can make it without alcohol too, which is most often prepared in the Untied States. Same thing with in using the cherries, either you can use black cherries or maraschino cherries, both way I tried and it is equally good.

Last week it was my husband's birthday, I was thinking which cake I could make for him. Then it came to my mind, in our early married days it was the black forest cake, we used to bring from the cake shop to celebrate any occasion. :-) So to revive some good memories revisited the Black Forest. This is not the first one, couple of years ago I tried my first Black forest, so I had little confidence, that it could become a mess but will taste no doubt delicious. And the process of making this cake is not so difficult, rather you can say easier than any other decorative cakes. But you need little penitence and it is better to make it one or two days before you serve. and always chill the cake for 3 to 4 hrs before serving. It tastes better when you serve this way.  I love Cake decoration as well as baking, it is my favorite field, but sometimes, due to my health consciousness, avoid making this frosting stuff, but I am sure this one does have a quite high calorie as it contains no butter, this cake at least seems much lighter than other cakes.

Add caption

Recipe of Black Forest Cake : (for an 8 inch round cake)

Ingredients :

For the Chocolate cake :
1.     Dutch-processed Cocoa powder - 1/2 cup
2.     Boiling hot water: 1 cup
3.     All-purpose flour - 1-1/3 cups
4.     Baking powder- 2 tsp
5.     Salt- 1/4 tsp
6.     Granulated White Sugar - 1 cup
7.     Unsalted Butter - 1 stick
8.     Eggs - 2 ( large)
9.     Vanilla extract - 2 tsp

For the filling : 

1/4 cup Kirsch ( cherry brandy )
Cherry pie filling : 1 can
Heavy Whipping cream : 16 oz.
Confectioners Sugar : 1/3 cup or to taste

 For garnishing :

Maraschino cherries : drained ( a handful )

Semi sweet chocolate : 4 oz  ( for curls or shavings ) 

Method :

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 176 degrees C. Grease an eight inch cake pan with nonstick vegetable spray.

2. In a small bowl, take the cocoa powder and the boiling water and stir them until it becomes smooth. Let it cool down to room temperature.

3. In another bowl, add flour, baking powder and salt and whisk it. Take butter and sugar in another bowl, beat them with a hand mixer or with a spatula until they become light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs one by one and beat until it becomes smooth. Beat in vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat nicely until incorporated.

5. Now add the cocoa mixture and mix the whole thing till it becomes well combined. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake it for about 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes clean.

6. But make sure don't over bake. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Once it is completely cool, remove it from the pan.

Assemble and Frosting : 

7. With a serrated knife, cut the top swelling part off and then cut the cake into half horizontally. To cut the cake into two even layers, use a ruler. Even layers help the cake to be steady. 

8. Drain cherry pie filling in a colander to remove most of the thickened juices. 

9. Sprinkle kirsch over both cake layers. Handle the layers with utmost care. 

10. Chill electric beater and a large mixing bowl. Beat the cream until it thickens slightly, gradually add the sugar and beat just until stiff peaks form. Immediately cover it and refrigerate it. 

11. Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate and refrigerate it until ready to serve. 

12. Place one layer on serving plate and spread its top with 1/2 inch thick layer of whipped cream and put the cherries over the cream, leave about 1/2 inch margin around border of cake with on cherries. 

13. Put other layer on top of cherries and spread the remaining cream on the top and sides of the cake. 

14. Make some decorative swirls on the top and gently press the chocolate curls on the sides of the cake.

15. Decorate the top with drained  maraschino cherries and remaining chocolate curls. Black Forest Cake is ready, serve chill. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Chicken Cacciatore with a twist ( Chicken Curry with Pasta Sauce )

Chicken Cacciatore is a very popular dish in Italy where Cacciatore means hunter in Italian. It refers to a meal prepared in hunter-style with tomatoes, onions, herbs and bell pepper. The basic recipe usually begins with two tablespoons of oil, heated on a large frying pan. Then marinated chicken pieces are seared in the oil for couple of minutes on each side. Finally the chicken pieces are cooked in tomato based sauce. It is often served with a rustic bread or pasta on the side. 

This is my second and last one of the recipes from the joint work with Ragu.  They were looking for new spins on their old recipes. They had some guidelines that I had to follow and the recipe should be simple, easy, quick but creative. But the timeline given to me to complete two recipes was very short and so didn’t have much time to think about being innovative. When I read the recipe of chicken Caccitore, immediate thought came to my mind was to make it like a curry! Though Cacciatore is always served with pasta or bread, my curry is perfect to serve with hot steamed rice. Earlier I heard from some of my friends that you can cook Indian chicken Curry with Pasta sauce. So this recipe should not sound too weird to my Indian readers. I am very happy that I tried out this recipe because the twist gave a new flavor to the dish and everyone in my family loved it.

Recipe of  Chicken Cacciatore with a Twist ( Chicken Curry with Pasta Sauce ) : serves 4 to 5 

Inspired by  Ragú's authentic Italian recipe collection 

Prep time : 20 mins  Cook time : 20 mins Total time : 40 mins 

Ingredients :

Chicken : 2 lb, medium sized pieces 
Lime juice : 2 tablespoon
Garlic Paste : 2 tablespoon 
Chili Powder : 1 teaspoon or as per tolerance 

Oil : 2 tablespoon + 2 tablespoon 

Red bell pepper : a small one or a half (sliced) 
Onion : a small one sliced 
Ragu® Old World Style® Traditional Pasta Sauce : 8 oz 
Salt : as per taste 

Method :

1. Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces.  Add the lime juice, salt, chili powder and garlic paste to the chicken. Toss it and mix it well, and let it sit for 15 minutes.

2. Take a big non-stick pan, add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat it up. Once oil is ready add the chicken pieces to the pan. 

3. Brown the chicken pieces on each side over medium-high heat. 

4. Once done, remove it from the pan and set it aside. 

5. Clean the pan by scraping off the sticky part. Add two tablespoons oil. Once oil is hot, add the sliced onion and red bell pepper. Cook it for couple of minutes until they become tender and lightly brown. 

6. Stir in Pasta Sauce and bring to a boil over high heat. Add chicken to the pan, reduce heat to low and cover it with lid. Stir occasionally, and let it simmer for around 10 minutes or until chicken is soft and tender.

7. Check the consistency, (you can add half cup of warm water if it becomes too dry). Check the seasoning, add salt if required. Stir it well and switch off gas. Serve hot with steamed rice or bread. 

Note : You can try the same recipe with Tofu or with Panner ( Indian Cottage cheese ).

Related Post :

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chili Mac

am very happy to share that Ragú has given me an opportunity to recreate two of their traditional recipes. I am very excited to be part of this joint work with Ragú. They are looking for new spins on their old recipes. They sent a list of recipes and asked to choose two from the list. I have immediately selected the one which my 6 years old son would enjoy and it’s called Chili Mac. Generally the traditional recipe of Chili Mac uses minced beef. Since we don’t eat beef, the obvious choices for the substitute were minced chicken or turkey.  

 Ragú is a very popular brand here in making sauce. always find their sauce rich, thick and tasty which is perfect to make simpler dinners like pasta. This read-made sauce enables you to make something very quick and delicious dish in the middle of your busy schedule. It tastes nothing less than home-made sauce and cuts the preparation time into half. Even my son who is a picky eater loved this sauce and the dish a lot. If you like this dish, you can try their other different sauces to make new fancy and delicious dishes but with less time spent.

Chili Mac is prepared with chili inspired spices and ground chicken / turkey / beef and pasta. It’s made completely in one skillet. It is a Mexican/southwestern type of comfort food and is high on taste and low on the scale of difficulty!  Hence you do not need to buy  those cardboard boxes with the mystery powdered cheese sauce but follow this easy recipe. This may be one of those recipes to grow up and prove “I actually know how to cook now”!

Recipe of Chili Mac (inspired by Ragú's authentic Italian recipe) : Serves 3 to 4 

( Prep time : 15 mins , Cook time : 20 mins, Total time : 35 mins )

Ingredients :

Ground Chicken or Turkey : 1 lb 
Onion : a small one ( chopped )
Garlic paste : 1 tablespoon 
Chili powder : 1/2 teaspoon or as per tolerance 
Ragu® Old World Style® Traditional Pasta Sauce : 8 oz 
Oil : 2-3 tablespoon 
Shredded Cheese  (cheddar or pepper jack or shredded Mexican cheese blend ) : 1/2 cup
Elbow Macaroni : 8 oz 
Salt :

Method :

1. Take a large sauce pan, add water and let it boil. Add salt, add the macaroni and cook it as per package instruction. To avoid the sticky macaroni add few drops of oil, when it starts boiling. 

2. Once Macaroni is well cooked, drain it and save some of the liquid and set aside. ( use if needed )

3. Take a large nonstick skillet, heat it up. Add the oil, once oil is hot add the chopped onion and saute it, until it becomes translucent . Add the garlic and give some stirs. 

4. Once garlic starts to become brown, add the ground chicken or turkey. Stir it occasionally, until it changes the color. 

5. Add the chili powder, add the pasta sauce and give some stirs. Bring to a boil, once it starts boiling reduce the heat to low and cover it. Let it simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. 

6. Stir in macaroni until it is well combined with the meat sauce. Check seasoning, add salt or chili powder if needed. 

7. Add the cheese and turn off the gas. Chili Mac is ready, serve hot with extra cheese.

Related Post :

1Chicken Cacciatore with a twist ( Chicken Curry with Pasta Sauce )

2Garlic Prawn Pasta

3Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta

4. Creamy Kale Pesto Pasta

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Yellow Moong with Bell Pepper

Like many other Indian families, Dal is an indispensable part of the dinner or lunch in our family too. Sometimes we make it light, sometimes it would be thick and hearty. My son will have it like a soup when it is light. There are several types of Dals which can be considered as aside dish too, specifically with bread. Though it looks very simple, you can make very delicious Dal preparation if you add your own innovation. For example, you can add different vegetables or even meats or egg or shrimp. There is little chance that you would go wrong with the flavors and taste.

I did similar experiment when I cooked this particular Dal couple of years back. I used to like bell peppers because it adds both flavors and color to any dish. So whenever I go for grocery, I buy some of them without any serious thought. That way some green and red peppers would be there in my refrigerator always. When I used them with this Dal, did not realize that the end result could be so delicious. This Dal has been highly appreciated by my friends and I guess you will also like it.

The recipe of the particular Dal that I am sharing is called "Flavorful Yellow Moong Dal". This is
the most common one along with other versions of Dal like Toor Dal, Chana Dal, Masoor Dal and Urad Dal. For my non-Indian readers, Dal is known as lentils outside India. It’s a readymade source of proteins for a balanced diet, particularly for those who like vegetarian diet. Most Dal recipes are very simple to prepare. The preparation of Dal always has two steps. First begins with boiling of Dal in water with turmeric and salt, then add fried garnish at the end of cooking. The process of adding fried garnish is called 'tadka'.  Having a pressure cooker would ease the process of cooking Dal and make it faster.

Recipe of Yellow Moong with Bell Pepper : Serves : 4 to 5 

Ingredients :

Yellow Moong: 1 cup 
Turmeric powder : 1/2 teaspoon
Green pepper : a small one ( chopped )
Red pepper : a small one or a half ( chopped )
Onion : a small one ( finely chopped )
Ginger paste : 1 teaspoon 
Garlic paste : 1 tablespoon
Tomato : a small one ( chopped )
Oil : 2-3 tablespoon 
Cumin seeds : 1/2 teaspoon 
Whole dry red chili : one or half ( cracked ) 
Coriander powder : 1 teaspoon
Red Chili powder ( optional ) : as per tolerance 
Chopped cilantro : a handful 

Method : 

1. First lightly toast the yellow moong in a dry skillet until nice aroma comes out and the color of Dal changes to golden yellow but not brown. Once it is done, let it cool down. Wash the lentils until the water runs clear.

 2.  Boil the Dal. There are two methods, one is pressure cooker method. Another one is sauce pan method.

3. For pressure cooker, rinse Dal and put it in the cooker along with enough water ( 4 to 5 cups) , salt and the turmeric powder. The water level should be half of the finger ( 1 cm approximately ) tall above the Dal. Cover the lid and let it cook in medium heat until you hear one whistle. Remove from heat, first let it cool down completely, then open the lid.

4. Another process of boiling Dal, take a deep sauce pan with lid, rinse Dal and put it in the pan with enough water, salt and turmeric. Bring it to boil and then let it simmer until the dal is well cooked. Add more water in the boiling process, if needed.

5.  Once Dal becomes soft and well cooked ( but not mushy ) set it aside.

6. Take a pan or wok, heat 2 to 3 tablespoon oil. Add dry whole red chili and whole cumin seeds. Once they become aromatic and start to spatter, add the chopped onion. 

7. Saute the onion until it becomes soft. Add ginger and garlic paste. Stir it and let it cook until raw smell goes off. 

8. Add the chopped green pepper and red pepper and give some stirs. Add salt and stir it till they become soft.

9. Add turmeric, coriander powder, chili powder. Give some good stirs until oil starts separating from the side of pan. 

10. Add chopped tomato and cook until it the tomato is mushy. Now drop the cooked dal to the pan. Stir everything well and let it cook for couple of minutes. Add water if needed.

11. Check the seasoning, add salt if required. Check the desired consistency. Add the chopped cilantro and turn off the gas. 

12. Yellow Moong with Bell pepper is ready to serve. Pour it in a serving bowl and serve hot with rice or bread or as a soup.