South Indian Curry Leaf Rice (Karu vepillai Sadam)

Curry leaves have always been an integral part of Indian cuisine, especially in the cuisines of Southern India. Though the world is slowly waking up to the benefits of this herb, it still remains underutilized and practically unknown in many other parts of the world.

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Highly aromatic, curry leaves are also referred to as ‘sweet neem leaves’ as these are not bitter unlike the ordinary neem leaves. It is a much valued medicinal herb in Ayurveda and is believed to have anti-diabetic and cholesterol-lowering properties.

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Since curry leaves do not stay fresh for a long time in the refrigerator, many people tend to use it in the dried and powdered form but these are less aromatic than the fresh leaves. In Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine, these leaves are usually added to hot oil to release the oils and impart flavour to the dish.

Now I am a huge fan of curry leaves, not just because it is such an inherent part of Indian cooking but also because I like the flavour these leaves impart to the whole dish. In the past few months I have been playing around with these leaves in my kitchen trying to use it in different ways especially in my style of fusion cooking. While I was researching on the Web and learning more about curry leaves, I came across this traditional rice dish which is quite popular in a few South Indian states. Now there cannot be a better way to showcase the flavour of these leaves than this dish and I couldn’t resist trying out the recipe myself.

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South Indian curry leaf rice or Karu vepillai sadam (as it is traditionally known) – pungent, aromatic and mildly spiced from the roasted curry leaves, red chillies, peppercorns, fenugreek, coriander and asafoetida.

I came across this recipe here.

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Ingredients:

1. 4 cups white rice; washed and soaked
2. ½ tsp mustard seeds
3. ½ tsp urad dal (vigna mungo/dehusked black gram)
4. ½ tsp chana dal (split bengal gram)
5. ½ tsp cumin/jeera seeds
6. 2 red whole dry chillies for tempering
7. ½ tsp turmeric powder
8. Cashew nuts roasted for garnishing/peanuts also may be added
9. Salt to taste
10. 2 tbsp sesame oil ( this oil makes a great difference to the taste )
11. 1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the curry leaf spice blend:

12. 1 ½ cups washed curry leaves firmly packed
13. 8 whole red chillies
14. 1 tsp pepper corns
15. 1 tsp coriander seeds
16. 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
17. Tamarind , size of a small marble
18. Asafoetida/hing powder

Method:

1. Cook the rice in salted water till just done, drain and keep aside. It’s important not to get the rice mushy or overcooked.
2. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil and roast the curry leaves till dry and lightly crisped up; remember to do this on low heat or the leaves will burn.
3. Cool the leaves and grind with the rest of the ingredients under spice blend. It might get a little pasty due to the tamarind; just add a few drops of water which will help bring all the ingredients together.
4. In a wok or large pan, heat mustard oil, crackle the mustard seeds and then add the lentils, dry red chilli, cumin, cashewnuts and turmeric. Add the ground curry leaf spice blend and mix well for a minute. (If you prefer less heat, add only half of the curry leaf spice mixture).
5. Add the cooled rice and stir through till well mixed.
6. Serve hot with raita/yoghurt dip.

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And a little reminder…the first anniversary cookbook giveaway ends on so make sure you have participated by then. Get the details here.

Carrot Barfi – A Guest Post from ‘At the Corner of Happy and Harried’

This month, so far, has been a whirlwind one filled with so many happenings and events, both personal and professional. Usually the guest post goes up in the first week of every month but I have not been able to do the same till today.

My guest blogger for this month is Anjana and her space is At the Corner of Happy and Harried. Anjana’s was one of the first blogs I followed when I started out; her simplicity, clean but colourful photography and amazing recipes drew me to her blog. I am so happy that she was keen on taking up my request and has bought us this gorgeous looking Carrot Barfi.

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All that I am going to do now is enjoy this delicious Barfi and I guess you must also be doing the same.

In Anjana’s words….

I am sharing a quick and delicious sweet treat using carrots. It is extremely common in Indian cuisine to use sweet vegetables in desserts. Carrots, beets and pumpkins end up being made into halwa, kheer or barfi. Somehow, using vegetables in desserts makes it feel less indulgent, right?!

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This is a very quick recipe and can be made with very little ingredients. If you’ve read my blog, you would know I am all about easy recipes. The carrots give it a lovely natural orange colour, making it extremely attractive to adults and kids alike.

Ingredients:

(Makes 8 squares)

1. Ghee – 3 tbsp
2. Carrots – 2 – 2 ½ cup, grated or chopped finely
3. Milk – 1 cup
4. Cardamom powder – ½ tsp
5. Sugar – around ½ cup (or as per taste)
6. Salt – a pinch
7. Golden raisins – 2-3 tbsp (optional)
8. Toasted almonds or cashew nuts – for garnish

Method:

1. Heat ghee in a large pan. Add the grated/chopped carrots and sauté on medium heat for 4-5 minutes.
2. Now add milk, cardamom powder and ¼ cup sugar and cook the carrots further.
3. When most of the liquid evaporates, taste and add more sugar, golden raisins and a pinch of salt. I ended up using slightly less than ½ cup of sugar as I like the barfi to have the natural sweetness of carrots.
4. The sugar will introduce some more liquid. Stir constantly and cook it further till fairly dry. The barfi is done when the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and starts to come together. It will also have a lovely sheen to it.
5. Remove from heat and spread the barfi onto a greased plate/flat dish and flatten to 1/2 inch thickness. Top with toasted almonds or cashew nuts. Cool slightly in pan and refrigerate till set.
6. Cut into squares using a greased knife and serve. The barfi will be set, but with a soft, melt-in-the-mouth consistency. Refrigerate any leftovers in a closed container.

Notes:

• I have cooked the carrots in milk as this makes the barfi creamier. If you are vegan, use vegan butter instead of ghee, and water or milk substitutes instead of regular milk.
• For an even easier recipe, use sweetened condensed milk instead of milk and sugar.
• Use beetroot instead of carrots to make beetroot barfi. Beets may need more milk as it takes longer to cook.
• The recipe can be easily scaled up for a large party or gathering.

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I hope you guys enjoy this quick, delicious and fairly healthy dessert. It is fancy enough for special occasions and quick enough to be made on a busy and regular weekday.

Tuna Fusilli

The excessive use of technology in today’s world especially in our children’s lives….there has been much debate about this topic already. Apart from the scientific research studies, our everyday life and relationships stand testimony to the destructive nature of excessive technology use. Still most of us refuse to accept it or do anything about it.

I have entered into much debate, sometimes heated ones, with other parents regarding this, desperately trying to get the point across that you need to spend more time with your children than thrust a gadget into their hands so that we are not disturbed at the end of a tiring day’s work.

Believe me, I have nothing against technology; my whole career depends on it. In its own space, it is extremely useful and I cannot think of a life without it. My child knows enough about gadgets and technology to fit into this society in spite of not being a ‘glued to the iphone/ipad’ child.

Recently, I came across an article by Renee Robinson which captured the essence of what I have wanted to say to each parent. Renee has written it beautifully in the form of a letter to her sons on why she says ‘no to electronics’. Do take a moment to read this article as no one could have said it better than her.

Today’s recipe is a pasta dish – one that my boy loves to eat. It’s an easy, one-pot meal packed with delicious flavour and perfect for weekday dinners. Today’s working parents struggle to eat right on weekdays and this tuna fusilli helps you dish out a great meal within minutes leaving you less stressed out with more time to spend with your loved ones.

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A Curtis Stone recipe, this pasta dish is all about the tuna. The rich, meaty flavour of tuna goes well with pasta, throw in some veggies and you have a balanced dish on hand. I have used the Coles brand canned tuna but you can use just about any brand or even fresh tuna if you have some on hand.

Try and get your hand on fresh thyme if possible instead of the dried ones; the flavour is lighter and more refreshing. So, here’s the way to prepare tuna fusilli with crushed tomatoes, green beans and flavoured with fresh thyme and chilli flakes. The perfect one-pot comfort meal!

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Ingredients:

1. 200 gm fresh green beans, trimmed, cut crossways into 5cm-long pieces
2. 500 gm fusilli
3. ½ cup olive oil
4. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
5. 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6. 2 large, ripe, red tomatoes, chopped finely
7. 4 large sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed
8. 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
9. 2 x 150gm canned tuna (I used Italian style tuna but any type would do)
10. Salt, to season
11. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

Method:

1. Blanch the green beans in salted water and keep aside.
2. Cook fusilli in boiling water according to packet directions. Drain and keep aside, reserving 1 cup water.
3. Heat half the oil in a large pan and add onion and garlic, cook for 1 min or until tender. Add tomatoes, thyme and chilli flakes and cook for 3 mins, or till the tomatoes have softened and turned mushy. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and salt.
4. Add reserved pasta water, beans and remaining oil to the tomato mixture. Add pasta and tuna and toss to coat, gently breaking up tuna with a spoon into large bite-size pieces.
5. Serve hot.

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And this sparkling brut was a special release as part of the 150th year celebrations of St. James Anglican Church of which I am a member of.

And to end, hope you have taken part in my blog’s first anniversary giveaway. If not, head over to this post to do the same. It is an international competition so make sure to invite your foodie friends too!

The Joy of Turning One + a Giveaway

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear spice adventuress, happy birthday to me….

The Spice Adventuress has turned one…and I am on cloud nine! Yay……

The past one year has been the most tumultuous but the best phase of my life, or rather a close second (the first was when I became a mother). Leaving behind family, friends and all things familiar to migrate to a new country, set up home yet again and start a blog…..

I know many of the fellow bloggers would identify with me when I say, starting a blog was like my destiny…it was not a planned event, it just happened. And nothing has bought me more joy and happiness than watching my blog grow from strength to strength.

Initially, this space was just a hobby but then it has grown into my career today. ‘The Spice Adventuress’ has opened so many different avenues for me, some of which I thought impossible till last year. An opportunity to become a journalist for a leading Indo-Aus magazine, to write for many websites and also the opportunity to work with several different companies and brands.

There have been many trying moments when I doubted myself and my ability to carry this forward. Sometimes, I went into the ‘comparison mode’ when I would compare myself with other successful bloggers; this only led to despair and dejection. But somehow, my will to succeed and my readiness to work hard have bought me out of each difficult moment. It wouldn’t be wrong to say, I have worked my butt off the past year and I know I will continue to do so for many more years to come.

Blogging has also introduced me to so many people, helped me find new friends and fuelled my desire to learn about new cultures and cuisines. I take a moment here to thank all my readers, fellow bloggers and friends – the kind words of support and encouragement that each one of you have given me has made this journey worthwhile.

And before we get to the giveaway part, I would like to share another bit of great news that has re-affirmed the faith that my blog and culinary career was meant to be…..it might have been an accident from my perspective but I believe it has been a part of God’s plan for me all along the way.

I recently won the #bonus prize hosted by The Good Guys in association with Breville Australia. It was held as a Facebook competition a month ago and this is the prize pack I won…speechless and totally blessed!

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To say that I have fallen in love with these gadgets would be an understatement. I am awestruck; the quality is amazing and I am not saying this because I won it. If you are planning to purchase any of these kitchen appliances, then you definitely need to check out Breville and if you live in Australia, then Good Guys is the place to go for the best deal. Once again, not promoting anyone here but I am truly impressed.

Now it is time for the giveaway!

As a token of thanks to all my readers and subscribers, I am giving away a cookbook, ‘ASIAN cooking companion’. This book is a comprehensive and reference guide to the different Asian cuisines, ingredients, equipments and techniques. There are plenty of recipes to choose from, both traditional and modern fusion.

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This book will be a delight for those who are interested in Asian cuisine but not really confident to cook it at home. With detailed explanations of the different utensils, cooking techniques, preparation of ingredients etc…,this book is a beginner’s delight. And if you are already a pro, then this book offers you a range of recipes to choose from.

There is an entire section dedicated to sushi, selection of ingredients, preparation techniques and quite a few innovative ways of making sushi at home. But for me, the best part of the book is at its end…a selection of basic sauces, pastes and spice marinades to stock up your pantry which will make cooking Asian food a breeze.

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Ok…so the rules are simple; all you need to do is ‘like’ my Facebook page and subscribe to my blog using your email id. And after you have done both, please drop me a comment below with your name so that I know you have entered. The competition will run for two weeks and the winner will be announced on 25th September, 2014. This is a worldwide competition as my subscribers are from all across the globe.

So put on your lucky caps and take part in this special giveaway. And don’t forget to invite your friends too.

Italian Lamb Stew in Red Wine

How much, of your personal self/life, do you share on your blog? Is there a limit? Should there be a limit?

A debatable topic and one that lurks behind the back of every blogger who brings a piece of her self to her blog. It’s the same with me too and I often wonder if my readers are really interested in knowing that extra bit of my life, my thoughts.

When I started first on this blog, I didn’t write much or rather I was hesitant to write about several topics which are very much a part of my life and personality. But as the blog evolved, my dormant love for writing got awakened and I started using this space as an extension of myself. I still have reservations on what to write and what not to for fear of being misunderstood.

Earlier, I knew most of my readers at some level but as the numbers grow, it almost becomes impossible to know each and every one personally. And hence, I have tried to keep my writing as general as possible.

So, this question is to all my readers out here….do you really read the stuff that I write or just skim over and go to the recipe. I know a few of you do, but I really would like to know if most of you do. Do you think I should just continue the way it is now or are there changes that you would like me to bring to this space. I love what I do and am unapologetic about it, but I would still love to hear what all of you have to say…an occasional reality check is necessary.

Staying on the topic of misunderstanding, Italian cuisine has been a fairly misunderstood one till recent times. All that the common man knew was pizzas and pastas when the cuisine offered much more than that.

This lamb stew incorporates classic Italian flavours, very moreish. I made this a couple of times during fall and winter; the rich robustness of the dish is perfect for the cold weather. With the rest of the world approaching fall, this stew seems to be the perfect dish to share.

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The dish is an easy one to make but slow cooking is the best technique to go here. If you have a slow cooker, use it by all means.

Italian lamb stew – succulent, fall-off-the-bone lamb pieces coated with the tangy sweetness from the red wine and ripe red tomatoes, flavoured with herbs and the juicy tartness from the olives. Rich, robust and moreish!

And remember, plenty of freshly baked bread to mop up the gravy.

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Ingredients:

1. 1 kg lamb (on the bone), cut into medium-sized pieces
2. 1 cup unbleached wheat flour, for dusting the lamb pieces
3. Salt, to season
4. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
5. ½ tsp dried oregano
6. ½ tsp dried rosemary
7. ½ tsp dried thyme
8. 2 dried bay leaf
9. 1 red onion, chopped finely
10. 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
11. 2 cans crushed tomatoes
12. 3 sprigs fresh parsley
13. ½ cup red wine (any good cooking variety)
14. 6 green olives
15. 6 black olives
16. Olive oil, to sear the lamb pieces

Method:

1. In a bowl, mix the flour with the dried oregano, thyme and rosemary; season with salt and pepper.
2. Dust the lamb pieces in the flour to coat lightly and keep aside.
3. Heat a deep bottom pan, add a bit of oil and sear the lamb pieces in batches till browned all over; keep aside.
4. In the same pan, add bay leaf, onions and garlic. Saute till translucent.
5. Then add the red wine and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes to burn off the alcohol.
6. Add the crushed tomatoes and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Add the lamb pieces, mix well and add water if necessary. Cook covered for 40 minutes on low heat.
8. Open and add the olives and parsley. Check seasoning and continue to cook on low heat for another 10 – 15 minutes or till the lamb is soft and done.
9. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley leaves.
10. Serve hot with bread.

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Stir Fried Chicken with Lime Leaves and Garlic – Guest post for Something is Cooking

Asian stir fries are really simple to prepare, quick and perfect for weekday dinners. Most people tend to overload stir fries with many ingredients which actually detract from the main flavour of the dish. For a good stir fry, you must use only a handful of ingredients and let the flavours shine through.

This chicken stir fry recipe featured in Adam Liaw’s cookbook, Asian after work, is perfect for those rushed weekdays when cooking really becomes a chore. You can even marinate the chicken and freeze it over the weekend which enables you to dish up this stir fry in under 15 minutes.

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The marinade incorporates classic Asian flavours – salty, sweet and nutty. The crispy texture and the citrusy notes from the lime leaves work well with the smokiness of garlic lifting the flavours of the fried chicken – pair it with a simple vegetable fried rice and you have a true Asian meal in no time at all.

Today’s recipe is a guest post for Shalzz of Something’s Cooking. I have known Shalzz for over a year now…and what I like best about her is the joie de vivre she brings to every conversation. An army wife with a career in IT, she has a very balanced approach to life which enables her to touch base with her love for writing and cooking.

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Shalzz loves Asian flavours so this one’s for you dear…stir fried chicken with lime leaves and garlic.

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Ingredients:
1. 4 boneless chicken thighs, cut into thin strips
2. 8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3. 10 kaffir lime leaves, veins removed and shredded
Read more

Bhuna Murgh (or…Chicken wings marinated with spices and cooked in a rich, dark, aromatic gravy)

Cooking is a form of self-discovery for me. Every time I prepare a dish, even if it is something that I have made innumerable number of times, I try to find a piece of me within the dish, a memory, a friend, a conversation, anything that allows me to form a personal bond with the food I am making.

Over time, this is how I realized that cooking or food is not just a passion I have, it allows me to explore my personality in deeper ways than I thought possible. It allows me to reflect on the goods and bads in me, people and relationships in my life etc… It allows me to cherish what I have and gives me the strength to let go of the negatives. In short, food allows me to experience and understand ‘the real me’.

Ever since the inception of this blog, food has become more than just cooking and eating. It has fuelled my love for travel. Today, I take time to research, read and understand the history behind a dish, the region that a particular food comes from, the cultural practices of the land where the dish originated, the farmers who bring us the food…..in short; I seek the story behind each dish or recipe.

It is the same with today’s dish…Bhuna Murgh.

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The term ‘Bhuna’ refers to a cooking technique in which a medley of spices are roasted and gently fried in oil along with the protein or vegetable and then cooked in its own juices. Traditionally, the technique was used for preparing meats but today, it has extended to all kinds of ingredients. The slow frying of the spices brings out the oils which flavours the whole dish.

There is a small town called Bhuna in the state of Haryana (North India) but not sure if the dish could have originated there. If any of you know more on this, do write and let me know.

Often a dry dish, it is traditionally prepared in metal pans with lots of stirring involved which really draws out the flavour from the spices. My version is a slightly quicker one more suitable to present day households. I used the Indian pressure cooker to flash cook the chicken till 70% done and then opened it and cooked on slow heat for the gravy to thicken up and coat the pieces well. Alternately, you can use the slow cooking method alone.

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Instead of boneless chicken pieces, I have used chicken wings for this recipe – a cut that is so much more affordable and has a lot more flavour in my opinion.

So here’s the recipe for Bhuna Murgh – chicken wings marinated in a medley of flavourful spices and then cooked in its own juices with a bit of tangy yoghurt and plenty of aromatics; rich, dark and delicious!

Recipe adapted from Bong Kitchens

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Ingredients:

1. Bhuna spice blend:
• 6-7 whole dry red chillies
• 3 tbsp whole coriander seeds
• 6 cloves
• 2 tsp cumin seeds
• 2 black cardamom pods, cracked open
• 1 tsp black peppercorns
• 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
• 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
• 1 inch cinnamon stick

2. 1 kg, chicken wings – trimmed, cleaned and drained
3. Vegetable oil
4. Salt, to season
5. 1 cup red onion, finely chopped
6. 5 garlic cloves, freshly grated
7. 2 inch ginger, freshly grated
8. 2 bay leaves
9. ¾ th cup plain beaten yoghurt
10. Chopped coriander/cilantro leaves, for garnish

Method:

1. To prepare the spice blend, dry roast the whole spices on low heat till you get the aroma (remember, if it smells acrid, it is burnt). Spread on a parchment paper to cool; do not leave the spices in the pan to cool as it continues to roast in the residual heat. Pound in a mortar and pestle or grinder and then add the powdered spices to complete the blend.
2. Clean the chicken wings and pat dry. Take half of the prepared spice blend and add to the wings along with 1 tbsp oil and salt to season. Rub well into the chicken pieces and leave for at least 1 hour or longer if time allows.
3. Mix the remaining spice blend into yoghurt, beat well and keep aside.
4. Place the pressure cooker or a wide, deep pan on medium heat and add 3-4 tbsp oil; brown or sear the chicken wings in batches and keep aside.
5. If necessary, add 1-2 tbsp oil, add the bay leaves and then sauté the chopped onions along with garlic and ginger till light brown.
6. Turn to low heat and add the beaten yoghurt mixed with the spice blend; stir continuously to avoid the curds from splitting and cook on low heat till you notice oil clearing and the mixture turning deeper in colour.
7. Add the chicken wings, season with salt if necessary and cook for 1 whistle. If using a pan, add the wings and cook till 75% done.
8. Open the lid and cook uncovered till the gravy thickens up and coats the chicken pieces well.
9. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
10. Serve hot.

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Beef Stroganoff

My first experience of Russian cuisine was aboard an Aeroflot flight. We were on holiday in India and missed our return flight back to Dubai. Since there were no available tickets for the next few days on a direct flight, we decided to take an indirect route – from Kerala to Mali Island and from Mali to Dubai via an Aeroflot tourist flight.

The roundabout journey was nothing short of an adventure for me, then a gawky 13 year old. All through the journey, I fantasized of all kinds of adventures happening to us courtesy the innumerable Nancy Drew books I had devoured by then. Well, there weren’t any major adventures except for the ones in my head and to cut a long journey short, let me get to the part of the Russian food.

Aboard the Aeroflot flight, amidst a bunch of Russian tourists (who could not stop raving about my mum’s silk sari), I had my first taste of Russian cuisine; more precisely, Beef Stroganoff. And my opinion…..yuck! It’s so bland. Little did I know at that age, that airlines food anyway tastes bland irrespective of the cuisine.

Fast forward many many years later, I started seriously learning and experimenting with foreign cuisines especially ones I had pushed away earlier. And the first name that came to mind was Russian and the beef stroganoff. I realized that the abundant usage of spices had influenced my taste buds so much that I was ready to believe that food which did not use many spices was bland. But then, I tried stroganoff a couple of times in a few restaurants in Madras and I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of flavour in it minus any heavy spices.

Australia produces the best beef in the world; there is so much flavour in the meat itself that makes it perfect for this beef stroganoff recipe. A traditional Russian dish that has seen many variations over the years, beef stroganoff has an interesting history as told by Tanya on her blog (she is of Russian heritage).

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So, here’s beef stroganoff – a classic Russian dish; tender pieces of beef and rustic brown mushrooms coated in a rich, earthy gravy flavoured with cream and spiced with freshly milled black pepper.

Recipe Courtesy – Adapted from a recipe by Samantha Jones

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Ingredients:

1. 4 tbsp olive oil
2. 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
3. 250 g brown mushrooms, halved
4. ½ cup plain flour
5. 700 g lean beef stir-fry strips
6. 1 cup homemade stock
7. 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
8. 2 tbsp light sour cream
9. Salt, to season
10. Freshly milled black pepper, I used a generous amount as stroganoff loves black pepper

Method:

1. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large non-stick pan over a high heat.
2. Meanwhile, mix flour, salt and pepper in a bowl and lightly coat the beef strips in the flour.
3. Sear the beef strips in two batches and keep aside.
4. Add 1 tbsp oil to the same pan, add the mushrooms cooking for 4 minutes or until tender, and set aside.
5. Add 1 tbsp oil to the same pan, add onion and cook for 3 minutes.
6. Return the beef pieces to the pan and add in stock and Worcestershire sauce; bring to boil.
7. Reduce to low heat and allow to simmer till the beef has cooked well and the sauce has thickened enough. Check in between and add more stock if necessary.
8. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.
9. Remove from heat and stir through sour cream.
10. Serve hot with steamed white rice.

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The tweeting bug seems to have bitten me too. If you are on twitter, drop in and say hello @vanyadhanya.

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Byron Bay Guacamole – A Guest Post for Simplify.Create.Inspire

The modern Australian cuisine is a true representation of the multicultural camaraderie of this country. The culinary influences of other cultures are a marked feature of the food here and when combined with the beautiful produce of this country puts Australia at the top of the gourmet world map.

The same goes for today’s recipe too. In his book Mercurio’s Menu, Paul Mercurio writes about his visits to Byron Bay where he was introduced to Russian garlic. This experience inspired him to come up with the ‘Byron bay guacamole’ in which he used jalapenos and Russian garlic to spice up this much loved Mexican dip.

Now, I couldn’t find Russian garlic in the area where I live but came across some beautiful ‘single clove garlic’ at the farmer’s market in Dandenong plaza. Also known as solo garlic or pearl garlic, this is my first experience with this type of garlic. Smaller in size with purple striations, I found it has a milder ‘garlicky’ taste and has a beautiful smell especially when roasted.

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I would strongly recommend using a mortar and pestle to make this guacamole. I prepared mine using this beauty from Kitchenware Direct.

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And this dish is a guest post I did for Holly of Simplify.Create.Inspire. To describe her in a nutshell, a mother, a blogger, and an ex-prison officer now studying to be a psychologist (wow!), Holly’s blog is all about her journey through life staying in touch with her creative self. So hop over not just for this amazing recipe but also to get creatively inspired.

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So, here’s the recipe for Byron bay guacamole – creamy avocado chunks infused with the sweetness of roasted pearl garlic and spiced with rustic smoky jalapenos.

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Achari Bhindi (Okra with Indian Pickling Spices)

Pickles are, perhaps, the most revered condiment in Indian cuisine. An age-old technique which began as a means to preserve excess food, today pickles hold a very important part of our cuisine.

There is a ginormous variety of pickles in Indian cuisine today and every household seems to have a favourite one too. Unlike other regions of the world, the Indian pickles are slightly different in that a large variety of spices are used to maximize the flavour. All kinds of ingredients are used to prepare the pickles – vegetables, fruits, seafood, meat, the list is endless….

Today’s recipe is not that of a traditional pickle but uses the delicious spicy, tangy, chatpata (for lack of a better word!) masala incorporated in the pickle. Using the pickle masala as a base for the dish is such a genius idea as the flavours incorporated in this masala is not just tasty but extremely well-balanced. Saves a whole lot of time; it is as if you are using a pre-packaged masala where you throw all the ingredients into a pan and the dish is done.

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You can use any type of pickle masala for Achari Bhindi. I like the spicy, tangy ones so used the masala from mixed vegetable pickle. The idea of using pickle masala can be extended to just about any ingredient including seafood and meats.

So, here’s a recipe for Achari Bhindi – the medley of aromatics and spices and the nuttiness of the mustard oil coats the shallow fried okra beautifully. A winner dish!

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Recipe Adapted from maayeka

Ingredients:

  1. 500 gms baby okra (also known as bhindi or lady’s finger)
  2. mustard oil – 3 tbsp
  3. 1 ripe red tomato, chopped
  4. 2 green chilli, slit
  5. ½ tsp mustard seeds
  6. ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  7. ¼ tsp cumin seeds
  8. ½ tsp fennel seeds
  9. ¼ tsp nigella seeds (also known as kalonji)
  10. 1 ½ tbsp pickle masala (add less if you require less heat)
  11. ½ tsp turmeric powder
  12. Salt, to season
  13. 1 tsp lemon juice

Method:

  1. Cut off the top ends, wash and pat dry the okra. Since I used baby okra, I left it whole.
  2. Heat mustard oil in a pan, crackle the mustard seeds and then add fenugreek, cumin, fennel and nigella seeds.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and green chillies.
  4. Add the turmeric powder, okra and season with salt. Mix well.
  5. Cook on low heat and turn only occasionally so that the okra remains dry and not gooey and slimy.
  6. When almost done, add the pickle masala and mix through.
  7. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.
  8. Serve hot.

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