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Tag Archives: winter warmer

Mexican Hot Pot

It’s been one of those crazy weeks where nothing goes to plan. There’s no particular rhyme or reason but I couldn’t stick to a routine most of the days which makes me feel overwhelmed and uninspired. And its work that often gets affected and when I mean work, it’s often food, cooking and the associated bits and bobs.

I am not one of those people who say, ‘the kitchen is my happy place; when I am upset or stressed I go into my kitchen and cook to make me feel good again.’ Nope, that’s not me at all. I simply can’t cook or to be honest, detest getting into the kitchen when I am down. When I am feeling low, I can mess up even the most basic of dishes. Most people don’t believe me when I say it but that’s the real honest truth. I can burn water if I am not in the right frame of mind.

Today’s recipe was actually prepared last week. It was developed for a client but all of us loved it so much that I decided to post it here too. Especially since it fits the bill as a winter warmer dish.

The Mexican hot pot is one of those dishes that require a bit of prep but then the whole dish comes together in no time at all. It’s warm, comforting, hearty, delicious and perfect for sharing. And it makes the perfect weeknight meal or weekend indulgence.

Mexican Hot Pot - thespiceadventuress.com

This hot pot is all about the broth that has been infused with Mexican flavours. I used chicken as the protein, but it can easily be substituted with any other meat, fish or even vegetables of your choice. To maximize the flavour of the broth, the onions, tomatoes and bell peppers were roasted and then blitzed. Roasting helps to intensify and draw out flavours, a step that’s totally worth it.

Rice is optional, but I wanted this Mexican hot pot to be a complete meal so rice was part of the bowl. A totally customizable dish, it is best served as different components like the broth with chicken, rice, coriander, lime, avocado crema, tortilla strips, pickled onions, jalapenos etc…. Allow everyone to assemble their own bowls, building up the flavours to their preference.

And before we get onto the recipe, here are some of our all time Mexican favourites;

  1. Mexican Prawn Tacos with Mango Salsa
  2. Chicken Tinga Tacos with Roasted Poblano Salsa
  3. Byron Bay Guacamole
  4. Fish Tacos with Pickled Slaw

Ingredients:

For the hot pot:

  1. 1 large Spanish onion; diced
  2. 1 large red tomato; diced
  3. 2 fresh jalapeno; sliced
  4. 1 large red bell pepper; diced
  5. 2 garlic cloves; peel on
  6. 2 tbsp olive oil
  7. 400 ml crushed tomatoes
  8. 2 litre chicken stock
  9. Salt, to season
  10. 1 tsp smoked paprika
  11. ½ tsp cumin powder
  12. 1 tsp dried oregano
  13. 4 chicken thighs (boneless); finely sliced

Avocado Crema:

  1. 1 ripe avocado
  2. ½ cup plain yoghurt
  3. 1 small garlic clove; grated
  4. Juice of ½ lemon
  5. Salt, to season

Toppings: (adapt to individual preferences)

  1. Steamed white rice
  2. Pickled red onions
  3. Fresh jalapenos; finely sliced
  4. Fresh coriander leaves
  5. Lime wedges
  6. Lebanese cucumber; cut into long strips
  7. Fried tortilla strips (cut 1-2 tortillas lengthwise using a scissors and fry in oil till crisp)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. In a roasting/baking tray, add the diced onions, bell pepper, tomatoes, jalapeno and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and mix well to coat. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes till the veggies are lightly roasted and soft. Remove and cool lightly.
  3. Remove the peel of the garlic and add all the roasted veggies to a blender. Add the crushed tomatoes and blend well.
  4. In a large stock, add the blended mixture along with chicken stock. Then add the paprika, cumin and oregano. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Bring to boil and then simmer covered for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken pieces and cook on high heat till the chicken is tender and cooked through. This should take only about 5 minutes as the chicken pieces are finely sliced.
  6. Meanwhile prepare all the toppings.
  7. To make the avocado crema, blend the avocado, yoghurt, garlic, salt and lemon juice till you get a smooth consistency. (Makes an excellent dip with nachos or any other crisps).
  8. To serve, lay out the chicken broth, toppings and avocado cream. Let each person assemble their bowl based on preferences.

Mexican Hot Pot - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

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Chicken Wonton Soup

Anthony Bourdain is no more.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think that this is the way I would pay tribute to him on my blog. I have always wanted to write about Bourdain, his books, travels, shows and the stories of food cultures that he bought into our lives. But somehow I never put those thoughts to paper and now this….

It’s been an incredibly hard one to digest.

I have never been so profoundly distressed about someone’s death, especially someone who has not been a part of my personal or real life. He was not family or a friend, just a celebrity I watched on TV, so I couldn’t even fathom why I experienced that numbing ache, that overwhelming sense of sadness that sits heavy in my chest everytime I think of it.

But the truth is that he was one of those rare souls who had touched my life (and I realise so many others too) at a much deeper level.

Yes, Bourdain was all about the food, travel and culture. At least that’s how I identified with his books and shows initially. All the more, because I have always been an advocate for food…without borders, a belief or philosophy on which my blog has been founded too.

But as I got to read and watch him more, I realised that I connect with him so deeply because of our inherent restless, angry souls. His journey has been so different to mine yet somewhere I felt a sense of ‘this guy gets what I feel’ most of the time.

A restlessness to explore the world through food…..he did it through his travels; I do it through this blog. And sometimes that passion can be a burden too, because you are often misunderstood. I remember reading somewhere that most of his friends couldn’t get his relentless need to talk about food and cultures which made conversations difficult at times. And that’s a feeling I totally relate to; people around who simply can’t get my passion or think I am not doing anything worthwhile with my life.

There’s been much discussion about mental health, depression etc…. in the online world after his death but I am not going to talk about it. Not because I don’t think it’s important; because today I want to remember him again only for his love for travel and respect for food and cultures.

And I know these few lines can never completely convey the respect I have for Bourdain’s work….

Let’s get back to today’s recipe.

Dumplings, dimsims, wontons…we are just crazy about these at home. Steamed, pan fried, deep fried, we love it in all forms. But one of my personal favourites especially during winter is the wonton soup.

Chicken Wonton Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

I order it a lot while eating out at Asian restaurants but this time, I wanted to make it at home. I am not a pro when it comes to shaping wontons so I just followed this video which was really informative.

Not a complicated recipe at all but a tad bit time consuming making the wontons. But it was totally worth it as I made enough to freeze for another comforting weeknight dinner.

Chicken Wonton Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

The broth is light and simple but really flavourful and the only way to get that is to use a really good quality stock, store bought or homemade. I added the long red chillies (less heat), plenty of garlic and ginger along with soy and sesame oil to get a well balanced and moreish broth. I could just drink this broth all day long…..

This chicken wonton soup is like a hug in a bowl. It only takes minutes to prepare the broth and the wontons are boiled in the broth itself. I also added some bok choy at the end to finish off. You can add mushrooms, radish or any vegetables/greens of your choice. I wanted it to be all about the wontons, hence kept it simple.

Chicken Wonton Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

Recipe adapted from Fix Feast Flair

Ingredients:

For the wontons:

(Makes 50 wontons; makes extra which is suitable for freezing)

  1. 50 Wonton wrappers
  2. 500 gms chicken mince
  3. 2 spring onions (only bulb); finely chopped
  4. 2 large garlic cloves; grated
  5. 1 ½ tbsp hoisin sauce
  6. ½ tbsp oyster sauce
  7. 1 tbsp sriracha
  8. ½ tsp black pepper powder
  9. Salt, to season

For the broth:

  1. 1 litre chicken stock
  2. 1 large red chilli (less heat variety)
  3. 5 -6 ginger slices
  4. 2 garlic cloves; finely sliced
  5. 2 tbsp soy sauce
  6. ½ tsp sesame oil
  7. ½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
  8. 1 bunch bok choy (ends trimmed and leaves separated)

Method:

To make the wontons:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the chicken mince, onions, garlic, hoisin, oyster, sriracha, pepper and salt. Mix well to combine and keep aside for 15 minutes.
  2. For making the wontons, check out this video. I made the tortellini shaped ones since it was the easiest and most preferred one for me. To create this, place about 1 ½ tsp chicken mixture in the centre of a wonton wrapper. Wet the tip of your finger in a small bowl of water and run along the edges of one half of the wrapper. Fold the wet edges over to the dry edges to get a triangle shape and press to seal. Next tuck in the two edges towards each other to get the tortellini shape.
  3. Prepare all the wontons and keep stored in an airtight container. The wontons can dry out fast so place in the container as you make each one.
  4. To make the soup broth, add the stock to a large pan. Next add the chillies, sliced ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Bring to boil and add the required number of wontons. Cook for 4 minutes; then add the bok choy and cook for one more minute.
  5. Serve immediately.

Note – The broth is best made fresh, but if you intend to store it, then remove the ginger slices before doing so or it could turn slightly bitter on sitting.

Chicken Wonton Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks (with Srilankan Curry Powder)

There is only one thing I enjoy about winter; and that’s food!

Nothing else gets me excited about 6-8 months of burying myself in a hundred layers.

So every year as late autumn sets in, my meal plan becomes all about hot, nourishing soups, slow cooked meat and vegetarian stews, rich curries and of course the saucy pastas. There’s something so comforting and gratifying that moreish, rich flavours can do to your soul.

And one such dish on repeat is this Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks, taken a notch up in flavour with the rustic and flavourful Srilankan roasted curry powder.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks (with Srilankan Curry Powder) - thespiceadventuress.com

A slow cooked stew is one of the easiest dishes to make. There aren’t many ingredients or steps to follow but you need time on your side. If you have a slow cooker, then time to get it out. Since I don’t have one, I use the traditional stove top method itself.

Ask your butcher to give you tender lamb shanks and get it trimmed at the bone end; easier to fit into standard size pots and also much better  in terms of appearance.

The Srilankan curry powder is what makes this stew so insanely delicious. An extremely versatile spice blend with so much intensity, it instantly adds the something ‘extra’ that makes a dish high on the flavour quotient. Once you start using this spice blend, you might not really miss the Indian garam masala.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks (with Srilankan Curry Powder) - thespiceadventuress.com

This stew can be made using any cut of meat (best with meat on bones though) , not necessarily lamb shanks. But cooking times will need to be adjusted accordingly.

So let’s get cooking these delicious Lamb Shanks with Srilankan curry powder. And if you make it, do tag me #thespiceadventuress in your photographs so that I can see it too.

Ingredients:

  1. 4 lamb shanks (bone shaft end trimmed)
  2. 2 medium red onion; chopped
  3. 4 medium garlic cloves
  4. 2 celery sticks; sliced
  5. 1 large carrot; chopped
  6. 2 large ripe tomato; chopped
  7. 1-2 tbsp tomato paste
  8. 2 dried bay leaf
  9. Olive oil (enough for searing the meat)
  10. 1 ½ tbsp Srilankan curry powder (recipe given below)
  11. Salt, to season
  12. Freshly milled black pepper; to season
  13. 1 litre beef/chicken stock

Method:

  1. In a large, deep bottom vessel, heat enough oil to sear the lamb shanks in batches. Sear 1-2 shanks at a time, remove and keep aside.
  2. In the same oil, add the bay leaf, garlic and onions; sauté till the onions are softened (not browned).
  3. Then add the celery and carrot; sauté for another minute.
  4. Next add the tomatoes and continue to sauté for another minute.
  5. Add the tomato paste, roasted curry powder and mix well to combine. Next add stock; mix and bring to boil.
  6. Add the lamb shanks; season with salt and pepper. Mix and then cook covered on the lowest heat till the shanks are juicy and tender (fall of the bone consistency). Check in between and stir through if necessary.
  7. Serve warm with crusty bread and salad on the side.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks (with Srilankan Curry Powder) - thespiceadventuress.com

Srilankan roasted curry powder:

  1. 3 sprigs curry leaves
  2. 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  3. ½ tbsp fennel seeds
  4. 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  5. 10 dried chillies
  6. ½ tbsp black peppercorns
  7. 5 cloves
  8. 5 green cardamom
  9. 1 stick Ceylon cinnamon (not cassia)
  10. 2 dry bay leaf

Method:

Note – Roasting the spices has to be done in steps as some of the spices need to be roasted longer than the others. Some versions of this blend also use fenugreek, mustard and pandan leaves.

Add the coriander seeds to a pan and allow to roast on low heat for about a minute and then add the peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf and cinnamon. Roast for another 15 seconds and then add the curry leaves. Mix regularly and keep the heat low to avoid burning the spices. Continue to roast for another 30 seconds and then add the chillies. Allow to roast for a minute and finally add the fennel and cumin seeds. Roast for another 15-30 seconds and remove from heat. Allow to cool completely and then grind to a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks (with Srilankan Curry Powder) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

Slow cooked Lamb Shanks (with chilli, garlic and tomatoes)

What’s winter without slow cooked lamb shanks!

Slow cooked Lamb Shanks (with chilli, garlic and tomatoes) - thespiceadventuress.com

We love lamb shanks and it is always one of our top picks when we dine out during the colder months. But this time, I decided to give it a go at home because all that you need for this delicious dish is time and patience.

The recipe is really simple and as I mentioned, these lamb shanks only need time to get tender, juicy and fall-off-the-bone. So slow cook it on your stovetop or braise in the oven, or perhaps put it all into your slowcooker just before heading out for work. And when you return, you will have the most delicious, indulgent lamb shanks that can be served with couscous and a simple green salad. Feeds a crowd!

And if you are a curry lover, you will be mighty pleased with the flavours of these slow cooked lamb shanks. The addition of garlic, chillies, paprika and tomatoes lend rich earthy undertones that make the dish an ultimate comfort.

Slow cooked Lamb Shanks (with chilli, garlic and tomatoes) - thespiceadventuress.com

On the weather front, Melbourne is grappling with the change of seasons. Spring should be here soon but winter does not want to leave us yet. So while some days are warm and sunny, others are bone chilling freezing. So check out the forecast and get these lamb shanks on to enjoy it best before winter fades away….

And do tag me using #thespiceadventuress if you make these slow cooked lamb shanks; it’s always a joy when you share your photographs with me.

Ingredients:

  1. 4 lamb shanks
  2. Salt, to season
  3. Freshly milled black pepper; to season

This recipe was developed, styled and shot for Stuff Mums Like, so find the full recipe here. 

Slow cooked Lamb Shanks (with chilli, garlic and tomatoes) - thespiceadventuress.com

Gosht Durbari (Lamb Curry slow cooked with Yoghurt, Fried Onions and Spices)

Most of my readers are still reeling over the ‘Vegemite Masala’ – a total fusion affair for many. So I decided on something more traditional today.

Gosht Durbari or a wickedly rich, intensely flavourful, deep dark lamb curry. Not sure if the Oz heat can take this curry but my ‘winter wonderland’ friends will thank me for this.

Gosht Durbari (Lamb Curry slow cooked with Yoghurt, Fried Onions and Spices) - a delicious slow cooked lamb curry with fried onions, yoghurt and spices - thespiceadventuress.com

 

The star ingredient of this dish is the fried onions; this makes the curry so intensely rich and flavourful. I would definitely suggest making fried onions from scratch instead of the store bought fried shallots. Way different in flavour….believe me, I have tried both versions. Fried onions may take some time but that’s the only real job in this otherwise simple dish.

Spices are minimal, just there to add layers of flavour without much heat. A dish that works if you have non-Indian friends at your dinner table who love a good curry but can’t handle too much heat.

Fried onions - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Make sure you get lamb or mutton on the bones as it imparts most flavour to the dish. And this curry is best paired with flatbreads or layered rotis with a yoghurt dip/raita on the side to cut through all that richness.

So put on your aprons and let’s get cooking Gosht Durbari or a delicious lamb curry slow cooked with yoghurt, fried onions and spices.

Gosht Durbari (Lamb Curry slow cooked with Yoghurt, Fried Onions and Spices) - a delicious slow cooked lamb curry with fried onions, yoghurt and spices - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Recipe adapted from a similar version by Jaspreet Nirula

Ingredients:

  1. 1 kg lamb (on the bone); cut into medium-sized pieces
  2. 1 cup thick plain yoghurt/curd
  3. 3-4 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
  4. 1 ½ inch ginger; julienned
  5. 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  6. 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  7. Salt, to season
  8. For the spice paste:
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ cinnamon bark
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • A pinch of asafoetida/hing
  • A pinch of nutmeg, grated
  1. 4 medium red onions; finely chopped
  2. Vegetable oil, to fry the onions
  3. Ginger juliennes; for garnish
  4. Fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped for garnish

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a large pan and deep fry the sliced onions in batches. Drain and keep aside.
  2. To prepare the spice paste, dry roast the whole spices till fragrant, cool and grind to a fine powder. Mix with the other spice powders and make a paste with a bit of water.
  3. Now take a heavy, deep bottomed vessel and heat ghee. Add the lamb along with yoghurt, chilli powders, ginger and salt. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Next add the spice paste and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add enough water to slow cook the lamb.
  5. After 20 minutes, add ¾ ths of the fried onions, mix well and continue to cook till the lamb is soft and tender.
  6. Check and adjust seasoning, reduce gravy on high heat if necessary. Garnish with ginger juliennes, fried onions and coriander leaves.
  7. Serve hot with flat breads, parathas or rotis.

Gosht Durbari (Lamb Curry slow cooked with Yoghurt, Fried Onions and Spices) - a delicious slow cooked lamb curry with fried onions, yoghurt and spices - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

Baby Spinach with Mixed Lentils

 

A nourishing and healthy vegetarian dish for Meatless Monday!

Baby Spinach with Mixed Lentils - thespiceadventuress.com

This recipe is a variation of a traditional Kerala-style spinach lentil curry. Usually this dish is prepared using toor dal (yellow pigeon peas) and green spinach leaves. I decided to use a mix of lentils and pulses (often referred to as soup mix) along with baby spinach leaves.

The rationale behind using the soup mix was to ‘up’ the protein quotient of the dish making it a much healthier version. In fact, it can be taken as a lentil soup to boost energy rather than as an accompaniment for white rice. And I prefer using lentils in the boiled and mashed form (my hubby can’t pick up the lentils and throw it away then, rite). It’s a cheat – but I am happy as long as the family stays healthy.

There are usually two types of soup mixes sold; one is a mix of only lentils while the other (as I have used) is a mixture of lentils and pulses. There are atleast 8-10 different lentils and pulses in this mix and forms the base for this warm and nourishing curry/soup.

Baby Spinach with Mixed Lentils - thespiceadventuress.com

You can also replace spinach with other leafy greens; in fact, I have tried this recipe with beet greens, bok choy, drumstick leaves etc. and the result has been great every single time. I like to use baby spinach when I am pressed for time. There is no need for any extra cleaning apart from wash and dry.

So let’s get cooking this protein packed lentil curry with baby spinach leaves….

Baby Spinach with Mixed Lentils - thespiceadventuress.com

(If you can’t get soup mix, just mix equal proportions of the lentils and pulses that you would like to use)

Ingredients:

  1. Soup Mix – 1 cup; soaked overnight
  2. Baby spinach leaves – 2 cups
  3. Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  4. Salt – to season
  5. Grated coconut – ¾th cup
  6. Green chillies – 2 – 3
  7. Garlic – 3 cloves
  8. Jeera/cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  9. Vegetable oil – 1 tbsp
  10. Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
  11. Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  12. Dry red chilli – 3

Method:

  • Soak the soup mix overnight so that the cooking time is reduced. Pressure cook the lentils with a pinch of turmeric powder and salt to season till soft and almost mushy. Open and mash lightly.
  • Blend coconut, green chillies, garlic and cumin seeds to a fine paste with a little water and keep aside.
  • To the mashed lentils, add the baby spinach and cook for 1 minute. Then add the coconut mixture and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add water depending on how thick you prefer the gravy. Taste and season with salt if necessary.
  • In a pan, heat oil and crackle mustard seeds; add curry leaves and dry red chilli. Add this to the prepared lentils and mix well.
  • Serve hot with steamed rice or Indian breads; this can also be enjoyed as a soup with crusty bread.

Baby Spinach with Mixed Lentils - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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