Stir Fried Chicken with Sichuan Peppercorns, Chillies and Cashews

I hate eating alone. It has always been a depressing task to eat alone and I have noticed that I eat less, do not enjoy my food and also eat crap when I am alone.

I remember noticing this habit of mine during high school, especially during the exam times when I used to study late and had dinner at a different time to my younger siblings. Within a few days of eating alone, my mom noticed that I wasted much of the food and started looking dull and deprived. Initially, she blamed it on the studies (oh well! Only I knew the truth of that) but soon she realized that it is my dislike of eating all by myself that led to this. And from then, she made sure that she sat with me every time I ate at a different time to the rest of the family.

Today, I am a mother but this has not changed a thing. I still hate eating alone even if it is the everyday lunches when the others are at school or work. In spite of being aware I must eat well and healthy, I tend to backslide a lot when I am eating alone. The whole process is a depressing one for me and I try to nullify the damage as much as possible by watching television or videos to accompany me for lunch.

And this habit of mine has always made me ponder the thought of how interwoven food actually is with our souls. It is not just a means of sustenance; it has the power to affect our souls in the deepest manner possible. Food shared with loved ones transcends every other joy on earth and according to me, happiest are those who sit down together for a meal every single day.

For us, on weekdays, it is dinner that is shared and eaten together – the most joyous time of the day (especially for me, after long hours of being alone). Amidst endless chatting, laughing, fighting, teasing and sometimes even crying, we enjoy the meal with a real sense of togetherness and as a family.

And for this very reason, dinner is always the well-thought of and prepared meal of the day. Most of the dishes posted on my blog are also eaten by the family at dinner.

This stir-fried chicken with Sichuan peppercorns, chillies and cashews is what I prepared for dinner last week. A dish from the Sichuan province of China, this one is flavourful and fiery.

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The star of the dish is the Sichuan peppercorns which is an integral part of any recipe from the Sichuan province of China. Unlike other parts of China like the Cantonese or Hunan region, the food of the Sichuan province is high on the heat scale. This is mostly because of the bone chilling wet and clammy climate of the region which enables the residents to have a high tolerance for spicy foods.

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You can of course reduce the heat by cutting down on the Sichuan peppercorns and chillies but then that would take away the soul of the dish. In spite of the peppercorns, this stir fried chicken does not have a numbing heat, instead it has a rich depth and flavour that makes the heat bearable.

I wouldn’t recommend this dish to those who run away at the sight of chillies. This is not a subtle dish, it packs in a punch and is bold in terms of flavour.

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So, let’s get cooking stir fried chicken with Sichuan peppercorns, chillies and cashews paired with a simple egg and red bell pepper fried rice.

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Ingredients:

1. 500gm boneless chicken thigh
2. 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
3. Salt, to season
4. 2 tbsp chilli oil
5. 2 tbsp cornflour
6. 50 gm cashewnuts
7. 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8. 1 inch ginger, finely chopped
9. 8 dry red chillies
10. 4 tbsp chilli garlic sauce
11. 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
12. 2 tbsp sugar
13. 2 spring onions
14. Vegetable oil

Note – If you cannot get Sichuan peppercorns, then increase the quantity of dry red chillies and use. And for chilli oil, I infused red chilli flakes in vegetable oil and used it; you can also get the same in Asian stores or takeaways.

Method:

1. Marinate the chicken with cornflour, salt, chilli oil, Sichuan pepper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2. Heat oil in a pan and shallow fry the chicken pieces; drain and keep aside.
3. Remove excess oil and roast the cashewnuts in the same pan and keep aside.
4. In the same pan (add more oil if necessary), sauté garlic and ginger for a minute. Add dry red chillies and sauté for one more minute on low heat.
5. Add chilli garlic sauce, cooking wine, sugar and mix well.
6. Add the chicken pieces and cashews; mix to combine.
7. Remove from heat and garnish with spring onions.

Note – It is important to check seasoning after adding the sauces and adjust accordingly.

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Achari Mushrooms (White Button Mushrooms sautéed with aromatics and Achari spice blend)

Now, there are tons of recipes floating on the cyber culinary world with the pre-fix ‘achari’. For those who aren’t aware, achari or achar refers to pickle in Hindi. The Indian pickles, unlike the Western counterparts, are an indulgence of spices and these very spices are used to flavour other dishes too, which have ended up being labeled ‘achari’.

You might have read the ‘achari okra’ recipe that I had posted on the blog a while ago. In that dish, I used a spoonful of the pickle itself to add flavour to the okras. But in today’s dish, achari mushrooms, I made the achari spice blend and this was used to add flavour to the white button mushrooms.

The achari spice blend is a flavourful and fragrant medley of mustard, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, carrom, dry chillies, dry mango and nigella (the seeds, not the diva!)

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It is an extremely versatile blend that can be used for flavouring barbecues, meat skewers etc…apart from of course, Indian dishes. Do take the effort to make the spice blend from scratch, it’s not a difficult one and you can store the extra in an airtight container for a few weeks.

I used mushrooms only because I found some great ones at the market but you can use just about any vegetable or meat for this one. I have tried it with chicken and the result was delicious.

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Achari mushrooms would make a great starter. The fragrant and delicious spice blend flirts with the onions, aromatics and tomatoes to coat the mushrooms lovingly in a flavourful thick sauce. A squirt of lemon, the freshness of chopped coriander and a pinch of dry fenugreek leaves, all add to the delicious drama unfolding….

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Adapted from a similar dish by Meera Jayaram.

Ingredients:

Achari spice blend:

1. 2 tbsp mustard seeds
2. 2 tbsp cumin seeds
3. 2 tbsp nigella seeds (kalonji)
4. 2 tbsp fennel seeds
5. 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
6. 1 tsp carrom seeds (ajwain)
7. 75 gms dry red chilli
8. 2 tsp dry mango powder (amchoor)

For the dish:

9. 500gms white button mushrooms; washed, dried and halved
10. 3 tbsp mustard oil
11. 1 red onion, chopped finely
12. 3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
13. 1 inch ginger, chopped finely
14. 1 large red tomato, blanched and pureed
15. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
16. 2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
17. 1 tsp achari spice blend
18. ¼ tsp dry fenugreek leaves
19. Salt, to season
20. juice of ½ lemon
21. ½ cup chopped coriander leaves

Method:

• Dry roast all the spices except the red chillies and dry mango powder. Keep aside to cool. Roast the chillies separately taking care not to burn it. Cool and grind all the spices together. Mix in the dry mango powder and you have the achari spice blend.
• In a pan, heat oil and sauté the chopped onions. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté till the onions are softened and turn light brown.
• Meanwhile blanch and puree one tomato.
• To the onions, add turmeric, Kashmiri chilli and achari spice blend. Saute on low flame for a minute and add the tomato puree. Continue to cook on low flame till the puree thickens and the gravy comes together.
• Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes on high heat; season with salt. The mushrooms release a bit of water which helps to bring the dish together. Taste at this stage and adjust seasoning accordingly. Do not cook the mushrooms for too long; it should still have a bit to it when finished.
• Take off flame and add the fenugreek leaves, lemon and coriander leaves.
• Serve hot.

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Indian Style Fried Snapper

Fried fish has always been my favourite way of eating seafood. My family was always divided when it came to cooking fish; me and my dad in the fried fish camp and my mum and sis in the curried fish camp with my brother not bothered what you do with the fish as long as he gets to eat it.

I grew up with the impression that this was a unique scenario to my home but post-marriage realized that this was the case with every seafood loving home. But the lucky part was getting married to a guy who loves fried fish as much as I do.

Back home, the fish fry recipe was fixed; there was no fusion, no experimentations. I stuck to the basic two recipes that I had learnt from my mother. But my current obsession with spices and marinades has suddenly thrown open so many different flavour combinations to dress up the fish.

Today’s recipe, Indian style fried snapper, is an adaptation from Paul Mercurio’s cookbook ‘Mercurio’s Menu’. Red snapper is a beautiful fish for frying, grilling purposes and being locally sourced, I know I get a fresh catch all the time which really reflects in the taste.

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Though the name is Indian style fried snapper, it has more of pan-Asian flavours with a medley of classic Indian spices and Asian ingredients like fresh turmeric and lemongrass. The marinade is a fragrant and flavourful combination of shallots, garlic, turmeric, lemongrass and chillies.

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But the most beautiful thing about this recipe is infusing the flavours of mustard, cumin and curry leaves in the oil (a sort of tadka) and then frying the snapper in it. You can incorporate this step with whichever recipe of fish fry you use; it adds so much more flavour to the fish.

So, here’s how you make Indian style fried snapper with a medley of pan-Asian aromatics and spices.


Ingredients:

1. 1 whole red snapper, cleaned and washed
2. Salt, to season
3. 1 tsp cumin seeds
4. ½ tsp mustard seeds
5. 3 sprigs curry leaves
6. Vegetable oil, for shallow frying the fish

For the marinade:

7. 2 shallots
8. 4 garlic cloves
9. 2 lemongrass stems
10. 1 tsp fresh turmeric, chopped
11. 2 big red chillies (the big ones have less heat so adjust depending on type of chilli you are using)

Method:

1. Prepare the marinade by pounding all the ingredients together in a mortar and pestle. It has to be a coarse paste.
2. Clean, wash and pat dry the fish.
3. Season the fish with salt and then apply the marinade. Keep for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
4. In a pan, heat oil, crackle mustard seeds and add the cumin seeds. Slide the fish in and cook for 5-6 minutes on one side.
5. Gently turn over and add the curry leaves on top. Cook covered for another 5-6 minutes or till the fish is done.
6. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

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Burnt Garlic and Ancho Chili Rice

I first met Liz at the Melbourne bloggers meet which took place a couple of months ago. We had interacted a couple of times on social media and through my blog and I came to know that Liz is an entrepreneur and runs ‘The Spice People’.

The very mention of the name excited me – that’s the effect the word ‘spice’ has on me these days. And to top it all, Liz is an Aussie who runs a spice company and is as obsessive about spices as me. Two peas in a pod!

We could talk for hours and we did too! Liz is primarily an entrepreneur turned blogger and I am a blogger and wannabe entrepreneur. And with our common passion for spices, the chats were endless.

Liz developed a love for spices after extensively travelling around the world after marriage. Settling down back in Melbourne, she decided to take her love for spices a step forward and opened the retail venture, The Spice People. You need to drop by her site just to catch a glimpse of the variety of spices she stocks. And you can find her spices and blends stocked at several retailers across Australia too.

Quite generously, Liz bought along a variety of her spices and blends for me to try out especially ones I have never used before. And very thoughtfully, she had included a pack of ancho chilies because I had mentioned that I hardly find good quality ones in the nearby supermarkets.

The first thing I did on opening the pack of ancho chilies is take a smell. Oh! the smokey fiery earthy smell of these dry beauties – its seriously addictive guys.

Ancho chili is the dried version of Poblano pepper and both are extensively used in Mexican cooking. It is mild to medium-hot and tastes sweet and smokey at the same time. Anchos can be used in different ways, softened in water and used whole, powdered to be a part of spice rubs or softened and pureed to add to sauces and stews.

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Though I have plenty of recipes noted down using ancho chilies, I wanted to try something simple and yet unique with these. And that’s how the idea for this dish came into my mind.

Burnt garlic rice is a popular Asian rice preparation. Though I had never made it before, I have had it plenty of times in Asian restaurants. An extremely simple rich dish with an indulging flavour of burnt garlic, this dish goes well with Asian style stir-fries. But I would totally recommend this burnt garlic and ancho chili rice with this Schezuan chicken dish.

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In this recipe, I added sliced ancho chilies to the garlic and gently sautéed both in oil which imparted a beautiful flavour to the final dish. With every spoonful of rice, you could experience the smokey aromatic flavours from the burnt garlic interspersed with the sweetness from the anchos.

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Ingredients:

1. 2 cups medium-grained white rice; washed and soaked
2. 7 large garlic cloves, sliced finely
3. ½ ancho chili, broken into small pieces or sliced
4. Salt, to season
5. 3 tbsp vegetable oil
6. Roasted garlic flakes, to garnish

Method:

1. Cook the rice in salted boiling water till just done, drain and keep aside.
2. In a wok, heat the oil and add the garlic. Saute on low heat to release the flavours; the browning should be slow so that all the flavour from the garlic is imparted. (on high heat, the garlic browns quickly without imparting much flavour).
3. When the garlic is half done, add the ancho chilies and sauté on low heat till the garlic has browned well.
4. Then add the cooked rice and mix thoroughly to combine. Season with salt if necessary.
5. Garnish with roasted garlic flakes.
6. Serve hot.

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Shepherd’s Pie/Cottage Pie – Keeping Food Traditions Alive

The cottage pie is a British classic; often referred to as the poor man’s food, it is essentially a meat pie with a mashed potato crust.

Believed to have originated in Scotland, the cottage pie has gone down the annals of food history as a British or Irish classic. Initially referred to as cottage pie, the dish began to be called shepherd’s pie when lamb mince began to be used instead of beef.

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A no-fuss, simple, hearty meat dish which was exclusively eaten by the working class. I love to cook such classic dishes, not just for the sake of keeping the tradition alive but for the fact that these dishes have a story to tell reminiscent of a bygone era.

Potatoes were the only source of carbohydrates affordable to the rural workers and hence were used liberally in those days. There are historical suggestions that this type of meat pie was common in many other countries, especially with a pastry crust.

Today, you would find the shepherd’s pie/cottage pie on the menu of most pubs in the UK. A popular dish in Australia and New Zealand too, but the NZ calls this dish a ‘potato top pie.’ Though a classic meat dish, you can do a vegetarian version too using lentils, soya or chickpeas instead of the meat.

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In fact, there is no dearth to the variations these days but I wanted to keep it simple and experience it like how the cottage pie would have been made centuries earlier.

I must admit that I did use more black pepper. In those days, pepper was black gold and was unknown the working class of Britian but today, we have it in plenty and take it so much for granted. And a bit of heat in the form of garam masala, to lift up all the flavours.

Like mentioned, you can use beef or lamb mince to create this shepherd’s pie and here is how you should make it;

Recipe Courtesy – Coles Magazine

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Ingredients:

1. 500 gm lamb mince
2. 750 gm potatoes; peeled and quartered
3. 50 gm butter
4. 1/3 cup full cream milk
5. 2 tbsp olive oil
6. 250 gm pumpkin; peeled and diced
7. 1 medium onion, diced
8. 1 carrot, diced
9. 1 stick celery, diced
10. 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
11. 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
12. 1½ tbsp plain flour
13. 1 cup stock
14. Black pepper, to season
15. Salt, to season
16. 1 tsp garam masala

Method:

1. Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water till tender. Peel the skin and drain excess water.
2. Return the potatoes to the saucepan, break down into small pieces with the ladle, add two-thirds of the butter and mash well till almost smooth. Next whisk in the milk and season with salt and pepper. Keep aside.
3. To prepare the lamb mixture, heat oil in a heavy pan, add the onions, carrot, celery and pumpkin for about 8 minutes on medium heat.
4. Add the garlic and garam masala and cook for a further 2 minutes.
5. Add the lamb mince and stir it in on high heat for about 2-3 minutes. Reduce to medium heat and cook till the lamb is almost done.
6. Add vinegar and cook till the liquid in the pan has reduced completely.
7. Next, stir in the remaining butter; and slowly add flour while stirring continuously.
8. Add the beef stock and stir well scraping all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
9. If the mixture feels too dry, add a little water. Season with salt and pepper.
10. While this is cooking, preheat the oven to 180°C (fan-forced).
11. Once the lamb has cooked, transfer it to an over proof dish and spoon the mashed potatoes on top; spread to cover the pan. Drizzle the surface slightly with oil, season with salt and pepper.
12. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or till the potato mash has nicely browned to form a crust.
13. Cool slightly before serving.
14. The best accompaniment is a beautiful, fresh salad and you can find plenty of ideas here.

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And before you leave, have you taken part in the $75 Menulog voucher giveaway? If no, you need to check out this.

Menulog – How to Order on this Online Food Delivery Service + a Giveaway

We lead such crazy, fast paced and busy schedules during the weekdays which have made online food delivery services much more important than the dine-in restaurants. Not too long ago, I was cribbing about the lack of such delivery services in Australia; but that was because I was ignorant of Menulog.

So, what is Menulog?

It is an online take-away and food delivery service operating across Australia. The website features 4200+ restaurants, extensive specials and deals along with 100,000+ restaurant reviews to enable you make the best choice when it comes to takeaway food.

Ever since I heard of Menulog, I have been thinking of putting it to the test. So, I got very excited when I was approached by Menulog to try out their service. I was provided with a voucher to order a meal of our choice which would be home-delivered from any of the local restaurants in my area, participating in the Menulog online community.

Menulog-logo-combined

There were two things that stood out immediately while going through the Menulog website. The first was that it was an extremely simple and easy to use site which is very important for me. I thoroughly dislike websites which have confusing layouts and information but Menulog is extremely simple to use and navigate.

The second was that I was spoilt for choice when it came to the number of restaurants I could choose from in my suburb. To find out the restaurants in my local area, all that I had to do was enter in my post code on the Menulog site. There were so many cuisines to choose from and it did take me and my family some time to reach a conclusion, which is a process that we actually enjoyed!

I live in Dandenong and was pleasantly surprised to see that there were close to 20 restaurants on the Menulog community in my local area; here are the options I had. Finally, we agreed to order from the Pakwan Indian Restaurant as it had quite a high rating and some great reviews.

Pakwan has an extensive menu with some of my family’s favourites but we decided to go for dishes that we usually do not make at home. Along with a selection of flat breads, saffron rice and condiments, we also got the Lamb chops and Chicken Chataniwala.

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I am usually a little disappointed when it comes to the quality of Indian food in Australia. There are some great restaurants but most often, you find tasteless curries being sold in the name of Indian food. But Pakwan was a totally different and exciting experience.

All the dishes were very delicious; I couldn’t find a fault with any. I would totally suggest this place to everybody, including those who want to try Indian cuisine for the first time. The flavours are perfect without being extra spicy or fiery.

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The whole process of ordering through Menulog was an extremely positive experience. In a gist;

• Visit the Menulog site.
• Enter in your post code and choose your suburb.
• Scroll through the list of restaurants in your local area that are part of the Menulog community.
• Make a selection of the place you want to order from. To make this task easier, against each restaurant, you can also find information regarding the cuisine type, speed of service, discounts and promotions, minimum purchase amount, ratings and reviews.
• Choose from the menu; additional options like spice levels, food allergies etc… can also be selected through the various pop-ups when you select a dish.
• Decide the time when you would like the order delivered. You can even order a few days in advance or opt for collecting the meal in-person instead of home delivery.
• A safe and secure checkout and pay.
• SMS confirmation with order details and time of delivery.
• Get ready to enjoy your meal!

And now let’s head to the giveaway!

Menulog has very generously offered a $75 voucher to giveaway to one lucky subscriber of The Spice Adventuress, to be redeemed for a special Menulog dining experience.

To be in the running for the giveaway, you need to do the following;

• Subscribe to The Spice Adventuress blog using your email id.
• Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest (at least one necessary).

(And if you have already done the above two, just drop me a comment below, so that I can record your participation.)
• Leave a comment below stating which cuisine you would like to order if you win the $75 Menulog voucher.

Terms and Conditions:

• Entry is open to only Australian residents.
• The giveaway will run for one week and the winner will be chosen on 12th November, 2014
• The winner will be notified via email and given 48 hours to respond. If no response, a new winner will be chosen.
• The winner’s details will be forwarded to Menulog and the voucher code will be emailed to the winner as supplied by Menulog.
• Judge’s decision will be final.

Good luck! And be generous; invite your friends over too for the giveaway.

This giveaway is now closed and the winner is Shruti J.

Puli Inji/Tamarind Ginger Chutney

A classic, traditional chutney of Kerala, Puli Inji which means tamarind ginger chutney is unheard of in other parts of India and of course, rest of the world.

While the sweet tamarind chutney of the Northern regions of India achieved a cult status because of its use in the chaats (Indian street food), Puli Inji remains virtually unknown.

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Puli Inji/tamarind ginger chutney is a common feature in most Kerala households, but especially prepared during the festival of Onam; it has a very important place on the banana leaf feast sitting right next to the pickles.

This tamarind ginger chutney is my absolute favourite and I would request my mom to prepare a bottle for me every time I came home for vacation. She would make two, fully knowing that I would like to carry a bottle back to the hostel (it made the hostel grub much more edible).

I always thought that making this chutney involved a lot of expertise which is why till now, I refused to learn how to prepare it. But this Onam (which went by in September and yes, this post was due long ago), I decided to give it a go and called up my mom for the recipe. She was surprised to hear that I thought it’s a complicated chutney to prepare. After reassuring me that it was indeed very simple, she gave me a detailed recipe with instructions; you know how moms are – even if they know u can cook, they will start from switching on the gas stove.

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I was delightfully surprised that this tamarind ginger chutney was indeed an easy affair. I got it right in the very first attempt – a taste of my childhood perfectly captured.

Traditionally, puli inji is served as an accompaniment with rice and other curries but you can use in any way your taste buds desire.

If I had to describe puli inji to anyone, it would go like this…..a tangy chutney with the freshness of aromatic ginger, fiery green chillies balanced by the sweetness of jaggery. Lipsmacking!

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Ingredients:

1. 300 gm seedless brown tamarind (or remove seeds before use)
2. ½ tsp turmeric powder
3. 1 tsp red chilli powder
4. 200 gm ginger, finely chopped
5. 6 green chillies, finely chopped
6. 3 sprigs curry leaves
7. 80 gm jaggery
8. ½ tsp roasted fenugreek powder
9. 2 tbsp rice flour
10. ½ tsp mustard seeds
11. ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
12. 3 dry red chilli
13. 2 sprigs curry leaves
14. Salt, to season
15. 2 tbsp coconut oil

Method:

1. Soak the tamarind in one litre of lukewarm water for 15 minutes. Then grind it into a paste. Strain into another bowl.
2. Place on low heat and add turmeric and red chilli powder.
3. Add the chopped ginger, chillies and curry leaves; continue to cook on low heat till bubbles appear at the edges.
4. Add the jaggery and season with salt.
5. At this stage, it is important to taste and adjust the flavours; it should be a perfect balance of tanginess, heat, aromatic ginger and sweet. If you feel any of the flavours are out of proportion, adjust accordingly.
6. Add the roasted fenugreek powder and mix well.
7. Lightly roast the rice flour and add to above, to thicken the chutney.
8. Once the chutney has thickened, remove from heat.
9. Add a tempering with oil, mustard seeds, fenugreek, dry red chilli and curry leaves.
10. Cool and store in air tight bottles or containers. This chutney can be stored for upto a month when refrigerated; i.e. if it lasts so long!

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Louisiana Chicken Pasta

I got introduced to pastas very late in life, somewhere in my late-20s but when I did, I was hooked for life.

At that time, the pasta dishes used to be quite rudimentary in the Indian culinary scene. Apart from a handful of five star speciality restaurants, most places sold either pasta in white sauce or red tomato sauce. While it was comforting, there wasn’t much variety to choose from.

I learnt my first basic white sauce recipe from a colleague and I still remember vividly the thrill it gave me when I had mastered it at home. After that, pastas became a pretty common feature in our household especially after my little one was born. Children love pasta, don’t they!

But once I started making pasta dishes at home, I wanted to venture out beyond these two sauces. I started reading and researching more on Italian cuisine and it was a surprise to discover the sheer variety of pasta dishes available.

The real experimentation with pasta recipes happened after arriving in Australia especially with the abundance of ingredients and produce here. I have learnt many classic ones and also experimented and created some wacky ones; you can find it all here.

Today’s pasta dish, Louisiana chicken pasta, is not my creation but one I found on a fellow blogger’s site. Apparently, this is an Americanized version made famous by The Cheesecake Factory. What instantly captured my attention was the versatility of this recipe. You can use the Cajun sauce and come up with other pasta recipes of your own or you can use the fried chicken in many other ways; as a starter, in subs etc….

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Louisiana chicken pasta incorporates all the flavours we enjoy as a family – creamy, luscious, rich sauce with the aroma and flavours of the Cajun seasoning wafting through tossed through perfectly cooked penne and topped with succulent, fried Cajun spiced chicken pieces. And yes, a generous grating of Parmesan to transport you to culinary heaven.

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And before we head over to the recipe, I want to share with all of you that I have been nominated for the Indian Food Blogger Awards under the General Food Blog Category. To proceed to the next step, I need to garner as much as votes as possible. So if you think I deserve this chance, then please visit this page, to vote for me (check my blog name under General food blog category). Thank you.

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Recipe Courtesy – Savory and Sweet Food


Ingredients:

1. Cajun Sauce

• 1 Tbsp butter
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 small bell pepper, chopped ( you can mix red green and yellow)
• ½ small onion, chopped
• 3 whole garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 ½ cups heavy cream
• 1 ½ tsp Cajun spice or Creole seasoning
• ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
2. 2 Tbsp fresh basil or parsley
3. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
4. Salt, to season
5. freshly ground black pepper, to season
6. 250g Fusili
7. Chilli flakes (optional), for garnish
8. Chicken

• 300 gm or 2 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into big cubes
• 1 ½ tsp Cajun spice
• ¾ cup breadcrumbs
• 1 Tbsp flour
• ½ cup parmesan cheese (grated)
• ½ cup milk
• 4 Tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

For Cajun Sauce:

• Melt butter and olive oil in large pan over medium heat.
• Add the peppers, and onion to same pan, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
• Add garlic and crushed red pepper to pan and sauté 3 minutes.
• Add cream and chicken stock and mix in the Cajun spice blend.
• Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
• Add basil and Parmesan cheese to sauce, stirring to incorporate.
• Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and simmer till the sauce thickens.


For the chicken:

• Marinate chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning and leave for 30 minutes.
• Mix breadcrumbs, flour, and Parmesan cheese together.
• Place milk in dish for dipping.
• Dip chicken in breadcrumb mixture and then in milk and then back in breadcrumbs.
• Heat oil in a pan, fry the chicken pieces till golden brown and keep aside.


For the final dish:

• Cook the fusili in large pot of boiling salted water and drain.
• Add sauce and toss to coat.
• Place pasta with sauce on plate, sprinkle chilli flakes and top with chicken breast.
• Serve hot and tuck in!

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Bengali Chicken Chaap/Chanp

It is a well-known fact that India has a highly varied culinary scene which means that a lifetime might not be enough to experience and understand all the different cuisines that make up this vast country.

My knowledge of Bengali cuisine is very rudimentary; it would be right to say that this is my first serious Bengali dish where I have tried to understand the building blocks of this cuisine. Typical to every other Indian cuisine, the Bengali style of cooking is very distinct with a lot of variations from region to region.

I started looking up the various blogs that showcased Bengali cuisine and one of the interesting finds was Scratching Canvas. The simple, yet colourful photography, honest writing and easy to follow recipes got me started and this Bengali chicken chaap is the first one I tried from Rimli’s blog. She always gives a bit of insight into the tradition or culture behind a dish which helps me gets an inside view to the fundamentals of Bengali cooking.

Bengali chicken chaap or chanp is a very common and revered dish, especially as an accompaniment to biryani. It is a very classic chicken preparation found in many regions of Kolkata (or Calcutta for many of you) and is prepared during all festivals or special occasions. The dish is believed to be a result of the Mughal influence on Bengali cooking due to the gloriously creamy texture and the use of saffron and mace.

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Though I will not prefer this with a biryani (guess, that’s for the puritans), I would totally recommend this chicken dish with flat breads or steamed white rice or even the South Indian appams (fermented rice pancakes).

You will find plenty of variations to the chaap recipe from region to region and household to household. I followed the recipe given on the blog religiously except for the fact that I used boneless chicken pieces though traditionally, this dish is made using chicken drumsticks or the whole leg pieces. In fact, the name chaap comes from this cut of meat; but I leave it to you to decide which cut of meat you want to use.

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The Bengali chicken chaap is a luxuriously creamy dish where the succulent pieces of chicken are coated with the richness of hung curd and the quirky pungency of poppy seeds indulged with saffron, mace, black pepper and red chillies. A truly divine dish to start your culinary journey into the heart of Bengali cuisine.

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Ingredients:

1. 500gm boneless chicken (use leg pieces for a traditional preparation)
2. ½ cup hung curd (you can find hung curd preparation here)
3. 1 tsp grated ginger
4. 1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
5. 1 tsp mace powder
6. 1 tsp black pepper powder
7. 1 tbsp red chilli powder
8. 8-10 strand saffron soaked in 3 tbsp warm milk
9. 2 tsp lime juice
10. ¼ cup poppy seeds, soaked in warm water
11. Salt, to taste
12. 1 tsp sugar
13. 4 tbsp mustard oil

Method:

1. Soak the poppy seeds in warm water for at least 30 minutes; grind to a fine paste and keep aside.
2. In a bowl, beat the hung curd to soften and add ginger, garlic, mace, black pepper and red chilli powder; mix to make a marinade.
3. Marinate the chicken pieces in this and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or longer if time permits.
4. Bring the chicken to room temperature.
5. Heat oil in a wok or deep pan and add the chicken pieces without the excess marinade. Lightly fry the chicken pieces on both sides for about 2 minutes.
6. Add the rest of the marinade along with sugar and mix well to combine. Cook uncovered on low to medium heat till you can see the oil bubbling at the sides. Do not add any water.
7. Add the poppy seed paste along with saffron milk; stir well and continue cooking till the chicken is done.
8. Once the chicken is almost cooked, adjust the consistency of the gravy to suit your preferences. If dry, add a bit of water to loosen up and if too watery, yank up the flame to thicken up the gravy.
9. Serve hot.

collage

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Do you prepare Bengali dishes at home? Which is your favourite recipe?

Arbi/ Baby Taro in Spicy Yoghurt Curry (Chembu Moru Curry)

Food spells memories, for all of us. But there are some dishes, the very thought of which opens an overwhelming floodgate of memories. This dish does that to me!

I have eaten this baby taro in spicy yogurt curry, (otherwise known as chembu moru curry in my native language) as long as I can remember. Though I am a great veggie lover, there are a few which are my strong favourites of which taro or arbi features at the top.

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All through my childhood, my mum used to prepare this traditional Kerala curry which goes perfectly with steamed white rice; add a side of fried fish and it is bliss on a plate. (I am sure the ‘Mallus’ are drooling at this stage).

But once I left home for higher studies, this dish became a rarity in my life. I used to crave like crazy for this chembu moru curry but to no avail. I still remember distinctly the first vacation when I went home and my mum had made this for lunch. I sat there with an overwhelming feeling looking at my plate, not wanting to finish the meal wondering when I will get to eat it next. Even though I was so grateful to my mum for understanding my hidden desires, I never even thought of thanking her on that day. A simple thanks would have made her so happy, but it took me years to learn the art of saying ‘thanks’ to my parents.

And every vacation, this dish would be a feature on the day I arrived home or at least the next one. Even after marriage and learning to cook this dish, my dad would source these for my mum when he knew I was visiting saying ‘she likes it so much, make it for lunch’ much to the chagrin of my siblings (they do not share my enthusiasm for this taro in spicy yoghurt curry).

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It’s a little hard to find the same variety of baby taro as used in Kerala, and I have to rely on the frozen ones. I have tried this dish with the locally available taro which tastes delicious too but whenever the memory strikes, I have to make the same using the frozen ones.

And every single time, I make it today and feed my son, I say a silent thanks inside to my parents for showing their love in such simple ways.

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Ingredients:

1. 200 gm Baby Taro/Arbi /Chembu; peeled and diced
2. 2 cups yoghurt/curd(thick curd which is not too tart is best)
3. 4 tbsp grated coconut
4. ¾ tsp Red chilli powder
5. ¼ tsp Turmeric powder
6. 3 sprigs Curry leaves
7. 2 cloves Garlic
8. ½ tsp Jeera/cumin seeds
9. ½ tsp Mustard seeds
10. 3 Dry red chilli
11. 2 tbsp Coconut/vegetable oil
12. Salt, to season

Method:

• Cook the chembu/arbi pieces along with red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and half of the curry leaves in a deep pan or pressure cooker.
• Blend curd, coconut, jeera and garlic with a little water (the consistency has to be creamy and slightly thick, not runny)
• Once the arbi/chembu has cooked, add the curd mixture and bring to boil; remove from heat.
• Meanwhile, make a tadka using mustard seeds, curry leaves and dry red chilli and add this to the above.
• Serve hot with steamed rice.

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Do you have a special dish like this in your life? Which one would it be?

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