Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bengali Five Spice Chicken (Inspired by Antara's Achari Murgh)

Bengali Five Spice Chicken 

(Inspired by Antara's Achari Murgh) 





This week our star is Antara of ' Antypasti ' I met Antara in my initial days of blogging It was my first Kolkata Food Bloggers' meet and it was great fun to meet this vivacious person. She runs a travel cum food blog and to me it is quite apparent that she loves the landscape and food from the North East region of India which is very fascinating for someone such as myself who has neither been to the land of the Seven Sisters and has practically no knowledge about the cuisine from North East except for the fact that one gets excellent pork in Meghalaya and as I have learnt from her blog and other food enthusiasts that the entire region makes excellent pork dishes.

Having said that the only time I have been to the North east was way back in 1996 as a child and what I remember is staying at a family friend's house where the grandmother of the house made some excellent dish out of squash which is a type of vegetable.

Anyway moving on to our star of the week. I had initially decided on her Pork curry which was extremely simple and which reminded me of the chicken curry that my friend Elizabeth from Mizoram had prepared for me a long time ago.She is my college friend and when she was studying in Kolkata I had the good fortune of visiting her in her hostel where she made this lip smacking chicken curry and I was extremely surprised when she shared the recipe which hardly contained any spice at all and yet it remains one of the tastiest chicken curries that I have ever tasted. Antara's pork curry is exactly like Elizabeth's chicken curry and so initially I had decided on that but then I am traveling to Delhi for a trip and so I had to opt for some other dish and the Achari Chicken caught my attention mostly because it uses the Bengali five spice and I have never used Bengali 5 spice to make chicken curry and this intrigued me greatly and so I quickly adapted the recipe to suit the ingredients I had at home and the result was lip smacking chicken curry which vanished in no time.



To be fair the way I prepared it makes it appropriate to be taken with Rice  but then you can always adapt this to suit your requirements. I wanted it really hot and used a lot of yellow chili power which happens to be my latest obsession.

Do take a look at Antara's Foreign Returned Achari Murgh .

Before I begin let me assure you that the Bengali five spice varies from home to home and while some use cumin seeds others use a local spice 'Rahuni' which has its own unique flavour

400gm chicken with bones (preferably from the leg an thigh)
1 tbsp Bengali five spice( An equal amount of mustard seeds ,Fenugreek seeds, Rahuni , Kalonji and Fennel seeds)
2 tbsp mustard oil (I used spice mustard oil since I always keep a jar of homemade Spice mango mustard oil 'Aaam tel' at home but otherwise the normal mustard oil would do)
1 tbsp smooth ginger garlic green chili paste (I used 2 hot green chili)
2 heaped tsp yellow chili powder or Paprika or Kashmiri red chili powder
Salt as per taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp whisked curd
Pinch of turmeric
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

Marinate the chicken with the curd  ginger garlic chili paste  freshly crushed black pepper and salt for 2 hours. Heat the oil and when it reaches its smoking point reduce the heat and add the 5 spice and once they splutter add the chicken and seal its juices on high heat for 1 minute stirring it constantly and then add the yellow chili powder and a bit of water and cook  covered on low heat till the oil separates taste an a salt if required and add the finely chopped cilantro and enjoy it with hot steaming rice.

Tip

Reducing the heat once the oil reaches its smoking point ensures that the spice does not get charred


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bengali Fish Fry


Bengali Fish Fry 




There are some incidents which stay with you for a reason. Today I shall share one such experience that I have had which stayed with me for quite a while.

Before I begin this post let me be  clear about the fact that I am no Progya Debi (an author of Bengali cook books) though I have been told that she has probably not shared any recipe for fish fry. My point is that the recipe I am sharing is not the last word on Bengali Fish fry and even though I would like to think that I am credible I cannot prove it till I make you taste it.

There is a reason that I have shared the above information. In my very early days of blogging I had shared a recipe for Bengali fish fry. Now this was particularly special for me because this was the first time that I had cooked for 24 people and in all it was a successful lunch cum dinner which left me elated and so the very next day I shared my joy in the form of sharing the recipe for fish fry which my aunt had share with me. This is a person whose culinary expertise (mostly Bengali) I greatly respect and so I keep using her recipes. She is my mother's brother's better half and I personally adore her cooking an detailed techniques.

What happened next over the internet an left me with a bad taste in my mouth for quite a while. A certain person upon reading my recipe had felt that the amount of ginger garlic paste that I had used was too less for the number of fillets and was kind enough to point it out to me.

I must admit that I have learnt cooking from women who mostly eye ball all ingredients (they give detailed instructions on which such as  if one fries fish too much when using it in a curry the fish does not absorb the flavour of the curry)  That being said I had quickly learnt that giving accurate measurement is a must since many of my readers might not feel comfortable without exact measurement  Having said that let me assure you that unless an until its a bake pastry or cake when you measure with your eyes you more or less know how much ingredient you are using This comes with practice

Now this recipe ha been handed down by my beloved aunt whose mother had shared it with her so it qualifies for a family recipe but like I have mentioned before its not the final word on fries

Now let me be clear that  rational criticism is something that I always welcome For instance a good lady ha pointed out to me that fish if over marinated becomes mushy. I checked over the internet an remembered my own experiences with fish and realized that this actually stands true.

Now my critic insisted on just not letting go with the amount of ginger garlic to be used. I believe that too much ginger garlic paste can mar a dish by giving it an unnecessary sharp taste .And then I realized that we were just about talking in the air because I had  mentioned the number of fillets I was using but had not mentioned the weight Over the course of a year an a half I have become much more accurate and today I use a measuring scale at home for proper accuracy. The point is at that time I had asked my fish seller to make 22 fillets out of 1 kilogram Bhetki fish an this time I had purchased 1 kilogram of Bhetki but ended up asking him to make thick fillets an ultimately he made 16 out of 1 kilogram of fish

The conversation had in the end turned to senseless boasting where my lovely critic mentioned how he or she had spent so many years in a kitchen and how a 'Thakur (they are cooks who are invite to cook for families for sapecial occassional) had taught him or her to cook etc etc an all of this is illogical because of the following reasons :-


  1. Unless and until one quotes a reliable source which is usually a published book these petty arguments about food is just as pointless as my cats' (I have 5 of them )  opinion on the quality of fish 
  2. Taste is always and always subjective When I share a family recipe it is understood that this is how my family has made it and enjoys it so when you say 'I feel this is wrong' you are directly insulting my family :) . I myself might dislike a lot of techniques that many bloggers use but making sure I point that out to them is indecent That being said if I feel something is really illogical I woul make it a private joke with people close to me.
  3. While the smell of fish should not make you feel uncomfortable so washing it well is really important when I use a fish such as Bhetki it will smell like Bhetki and trying to cover it completely takes away the purpose of using the fish.
Anyway I shall move on to my recipe . It is not as spicy and hot as the ones one generally gets in shops which sell chops an cutlets in Kolkata. I quite obviously think its very tasty which is why I am sharing this recipe The original recipe uses finely chopped coriander leaves but upon my friend Poorna's suggestion I made it into a paste and it intensified the flavour which I like better.Now egg is ideally a better binder but since my grandmother is allergic to eggs I had to make them without eggs Besides my aunt's mother's recipe does not actually include eggs though many recipes for Bengali fish fry does.

Serves 4 to 5 people 

9 fillets (Bhetki/Tilapia) weighing 370gm in total
2 tsp thick smooth garlic paste (Garlic paste can be smooth and watery or thick and smooth,  I used a number of garlic cloves to make it thick an smooth)
Juice of half Tbsp ginger paste 
Paste made from Half a small onion + 2 green chili + 2 tbsp roughly choppe corianer leaves 
Salt as per taste 
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
Juice from Half a very small lemon

Cups which hold 200ml liquid

1 cup gram flour
1/2 cup rice flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp hot mustard oil

3  cups bread crumb

Mustrad oil for frying 

Marinate the fillets for about 1 hour to 2 hours maximum an then make a smooth batter by first mixing the gram flour , rice flour and then the ginger garlic paste , salt and then add water bit by bit to create a smooth but thin batter. I usually need about 3/4th cup water because if the batter if too thick it does not coat the fish well and the coat keeps coming off from the fish  Once everything is mixed well heat 1 tsp mustard oil and add this to the batter. This helps in giving a smoother batter and helps the fish fry become more crunchy.

Now take the bread crumbs on a plate and take a fillet and pat it well so that the bread crumbs stick to it and then put it in the gram flour batter and coat both sides and put it back on the plate containing the breadcrumb and make sure you coat every inch with breadcrumb and fry in mustard oil on low to medium heat till golden brown on both sides.

Important tip :-


  1. If you use high heat while frying the fish easily becomes blackened on parts which is unwanted. 
  2. I always make  breadcrumb at home by slicing 1 pound bread in strips. I preheat the oven to 180 C and then toast the bread for 8 to 9 minutes on each sides till well browned an toasted and then I crush it in a grinder
  3. If in a hurry you can crush rusk biscuits to use instead of breadcrumbs
  4. Make sure you keep changing the oil when there is some residue at the bottom of the wok. In my experience this prevents the fish from crisping up. I do not know why this happens though.

Enjoy this lovely snack with some Bengali mustard base condiment (Kasuni)  onion rings 









.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Bengali Scotch Eggs (Dimer Devil)

Bengali Scotch Eggs (Dimer Devil






I have this particular fascination with family recipes especially one that has survived 2 generations. When my fellow blogger and friend Pritha told me that she has some family recipes for chops and cutlets handed down by her grandmother to her aunt and mother, I was immediately excited with the prospect of family recipes. I knew that I had to get my hands on these recipes. For me, a recipe is a treasure and a recipe which survives 2 generations or more automatically becomes a part of history and culture and slowly heritage.




Pritha is an extremely dedicated person who sticks to her culinary challenges which she takes up every other month. Not that she doesn't keep preparing lip smacking dishes all round the year but every other month she takes up a challenge of creating  one recipe after a other for a particular time span on a theme she chooses.

I completely stuck to the recipe except for using coriander leaves aka cilantro rather than parsley leaves  .

Here is a little tip for you guys. In the recent past a very experienced lady who is part of the facebook Food group Ranna Bati brought this to light that the term Garam Masala is a very generalized term which makes so sense when it comes to Indian cuisine due to its vast range of cuisines. For instance a Punjabi would use Bay leaves and Black cardamom in his garam masala while a Bengali usually sticks to cinnamon, green cardamom , cloves and for special occasions there is the additional mace and nutmeg and usually we Bengalis do not grind our Garam Masal for most dishes  . Now in many of my previous recipes I myself have used the term 'garam masala' without specifying the spices used.

In this recipe's context since its Bengali when I was making the mince meat filling since I had halved Pritha's recipe I had used 2 green cardamom, 2 cloves , 1/4th inch cinnamon . I dry roasted it and then used a mortar and pestle to make a finely ground powder.

So go check out her recipe here : Dimer Devil

Here is a tip which might help you :

When you fill the cavity of the egg whites with the mince meat and then use a bit of mashed potato to coat the egg make sure the coating of potato is not too much because if you make a very large oval shaped Dimer Devil to be fried when you fry it , chances are that the coating of batter would break on both the sides.

I would suggest serving the dish with the classic 'Kasundi' (Bengali Mustard condiment) and in its absence any mustard condiment is the ideal choice for the condiment.






Friday, February 6, 2015

Spinach Oats Chicken


Spinach Oats Chicken 





Quite honestly I feel food tastes best when it is cooked in butter, clarified butter, bacon fat or duck fat or anything which is actually far from healthy but then on a daily basis after the last morsel of that ghee laden pilaf gets over after 2 days of revelry you have to go back to eating healthy. 

Now different diets work for different people and for me a low on carbohydrate high on protein diet works best but then there are those times when you feel you crave a bit of carbs and so here is one which is not only extremely tasty but is extremely healthy and filling.

For the dish a good pot of chicken stock is an absolute must though. So before you begin make sure you have chicken stock at home. The easiest way to make it is to save the chicken bones every time you buy chicken and then the day you make the stock just throw in the bones with water and along with a few cloves of garlic, an onion, bayleaf , salt and whole peppercorn and simmer for about 2 hours or so adding a bit of water from time to time making sure that it never comes to a boil .

Remove the scum which will form on your stock.

Coming back to the recipe this serves 2 or 1 depending on how hungry you are :-

1/2 cup of oats
250gm of spinach leaves
500ml of chicken stock
2 large cloves of garlic
1 ripe red chili or Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt as per taste
Half a chicken breast weighing 200gm

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and blanch the spinach leaves in it for 3 minutes and then make a smooth paste of the spinach leaves with the garlic and chili and keep aside.

Make 2 to 3 pieces of the chicken breast and just simmer  the stock and chicken for 2 minutes and then cover and let the chicken rest in the stock for 7 minutes. This should yield the softest chicken ever. Shred this and keep aside.

Strain the stock and add 300ml of the stock to the oats with a bit of salt and simmer stirring frequently till it almost seems cooked and then add the spinach paste and simmer stirring continuously till it starts bubbling and splattering and just add the shredded chicken before serving and you have a bowl of goodness which is extremely filling.



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sachertorte

Sachertorte 





I am not quite sure why Valentine's Day is celebrated. Well most people would say that it is a day to celebrate love. Well my question is shouldn't love be celebrated everyday. Ah! love you wicked wicked emotion. While I was growing up this Valentine's Day craze was there everywhere in India. What I observed was that, it was more an exchange of gifts day or 'buy me expensive gifts say' than anything else.

Do I sound unromantic? Of course I do. Well I am not too sure about the romantic aspect of love. Its been overdone everywhere but love in general excites me.

For love is love which does not change when change commands it to change. To me the most pure kind of love that I have seen is either between a person and his infant (when they  grow up sometimes it becomes difficult to love them all the time, love them nonetheless but there are those times when one would love to send them back to whoever possible for a few days , just an observation) or a person and his pet. Its easy to love infants because they symbolize innocence in the best way possible and for those who have pets or have had pets , they might just  recognize this emotion when I tell them that a pet remains an infant for their entire life with a kind of innocence that evokes nothing but love and this love does not change even years after they pass away. I dedicate this year's 'Valentine Post' to my friend Devyani who loves people (both four legged and two legged) effortlessly.

When it comes to expressing love,  if one must , I am quite old school and so a classic gift of a box of chocolate candies and roses are my love poison but anyway moving on to our Valentine recipe,  this recipe is how I expressed my love for my mother on her birthday. Its classic has a long history behind it and with a good recipe to follow  if this doesn't express one's love I don't know what will.





Imagine a slice of rich dark chocolaty cake coated with this unbelievably thick creamy silky chocolate layer and there is a layer of apricot jam to break the monotony of chocolate. Well its the famous torte from Vienna , which is so good that it has had a legal battle fought over it. Well the legal battle was fought for its rightful ownership and was later settled out of court so that you get both versions in Vienna. There is the 'Original Sacher Torte' available at Hotel Sacher and then there is Euduard Sacher torte sold at his patisserie.




I have followed the recipe given in  Larousse Gastronomique and the result is superb. The magic lies in that chocolate coat. The truth is that when the source of one's recipe is so reliable then the process of making a dish becomes much more easy.

Now, for the apricot preserve you may use a bottle bought from the store but I love making things from scratch and so I made a batch with dried apricot. If you plan to make it at home make it a day ahead.

Recipe for apricot preserve : Source  : Adapted from BBC Goodfood

350gm dried apricot (The turkish variety which has no seeds)
1 litre 50ml water to soak the apricots overnight
Juice from Half a lemon
400 to 500gm sugar

Soak the apricots overnight and in the morning they would have plumped up. Now bring everything with the water to a boil and reduce it to a sticky consistency. Takes about 15 minutes on medium heat and then add the juice from the lemon and sugar and bring to a boil , remove scum and boil on medium heat using a masher to mash the apricots and cook till it sets. Takes about 15 minutes to 20 minutes.

Now for the main cake. I have followed the recipe to a tee except for the amount of sugar in the icing which I reduced by 50gm from Larousse Gastronomique with perfect results so I would suggest that you do not tweak it except if you want to reduce the amount which is really not worth it.

Before we begin let me share a very important tip with you. This Torte heavily relies on chocolate and so the quality of chocolate plays a massive role in its taste . I would suggest that you use a premium brand of cooking chocolate which is at least 70% dark.


For the cakes :-

125gm sifted flour
200gm dark chocolate (70% dark) chopped into little pieces
150gm Vanilla castor sugar made at home by adding a bit of vanilla bean to castor sugar in an air tight container and leaving ti for 7 days.
125gm melted butter
10 egg whites
8 egg yolks
Drop of lemon juice
Two 7inch to 8 inch cake pan

Whisk the egg yolks to make it pale and fluffy consistency and add the castor sugar and whisk it to a ribbon like stage and add melted chocolate and whisk well and then add the melted butter and whisk again to create a smooth silky consistency and keep aside.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Prepare your pans by lining the pans with butter-paper.

Now whisk your egg whites to stiff peaks and add 1/3rd of the whipped egg whites to your egg yolk chocolate mixture and fold it as quickly as possible and then add a sprinkle of the sifted flour and folded in quickly and add the remaining whipped egg whites and fold it quickly and then keep sprinkling the flour and folding it in. Divide the batter in the 2 pans (8 inch pans)  and bake till a nice dome is created and a skewer comes out clean for about 25 minutes to 30 minutes.

Let the cakes cool down completely. Cut off the domes . Spread 175gm smooth apricot preserve on one cake and place the other disc of cake on top and let it set.

Now make your icing :-

150gm 70% dark chocolate
250ml heavy cream
150 gm castor sugar
1 whole egg
Pinch of Vanilla beans

Bring the cream and vanilla to a boil using the  bain marie aka double boiler method and add the chopped chocolate to create a smooth ganache . Whisk the egg in a seperate bowl and add 2 tbsp ganache and whisk well and put back the egg whisked ganache to the main pan of ganache andf whisk really well. let the mixture cool down and begin decorating your cake.

Put a coat on the cake and put it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes bring it out and put another thick coat and then set in the refrigerator for another 10 minutes and then lastly put the third coat making sure you use up all the chocolate ganache and let it set for a good 3 hours or more.

Now if you want to write Sacher on the cake which I think is optional just melt some chocolate and use a clean thin stick to dip it in the chocolate and write it.

Keep the cake out of the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.




Very Important tips :-


  1. If you do not have two pans of the same size just half the recipe and bake one cake at a time which is what I did. 
  2. Make sure that the big bowl in which you whip your egg white is completely clean without a trace of fat in it else it would not whip. So it must not get any trace of egg yolk. 
  3. You must keep it at room temperature for a good 30 minutes before serving else the cake will remain hard.

This is part of Kolkata Food Blogger's ongoing event for Valentine's Day :-



Monday, February 2, 2015

Bacon Wrapped Chicken (Anwesha's Recipe)


Bacon Wrapped Chicken (Anwesha's Recipe) 





This week our (Kolkata Food Blogger's)  star is Anwesha who runs this beautiful travel cum food blog, Peanutsontheroad.
I personally have a strong believe that she or he who travels is always a blast to talk to because you can never run out of conversation with travelers who have so many stories to share and Anwesha despite having a very busy schedule takes out time to document her travels and once in a while shares a few foolproof and delightful recipes.

She is a researched with IIT Kharagpur and is an avid traveler and food enthusiast.

When her week approached I had initially decided on one of her recent recipes of mince meat stuffed buns but then again I went on reading her recipes one after the other and suddenly I was confused between the Bacon Wrapped Chicken, Meat Ghugni and Fish Cake.



I had initially made her Fish Cake but adjusted it to my needs my replacing the flour with mashed potatoes , omitting the cheese and mostly using milk instead of butter but then just as I was about to start writing my experience I saw that one of our other members has already made written and raved about the Fish Cake and I instantly felt joyous because it meant I was going to make the Bacon wrapped chicken.



Ah Bacon, well as a bacon lover this dish is an absolute delight. And its difficult to go wrong with a tangy apple filling inside succulent chicken breasts wrapped with crisp bacon.

I mostly stuck to her recipe which you can take a look here : Bacon Wrapped Chicken




I am not writing the  recipe because like I said , I mostly stuck to it.

Here is a helpful hint though :-


  1. When you are wrapping the bacon around the chicken make sure it just about wraps it and bacon does over overlap its own layer because then the layer of bacon beneath the layer of bacon outside won't crisp up. 
  2. Once baked let the bacon wrapped chicken rest for a good 10 minutes because then the chicken beneath the bacon will become absolutely juicy and succulent without a trace of dryness. 
  3. Using granny smith apples (greenapples) gives a delightful tangy taste .



This is part of :-