Friday, August 22, 2014

Quick Chicken Tagine with Vegetables, Olives and Preserved Lemons

I finally gave in to my temptation and bought a tagine pot. I had been wanting one since forever now. Well, that tagine pot sat on my kitchen counter tempting me to cook something in it for a few days. But, we were travelling and I had to wait. Well, yesterday was the day I finally had everything that I needed and I just started. Like someone had suggested....... make the cooking pot your canavas and just go about with things
- the end result will always be good if you make something with love, passion and a lot of confidence. So - with that thing in mind I whipped up this quick stuff. Do not know if its authentic or no - but, we loved it and thats all that matters in the end.


For Marination

8 chicken drumsticks or 6 chicken thighs (I used it with the bone and skin on)
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil

For the Tagine

2 onions - roughly chopped
2 carrots - roughly chopped in chunks
2 bell peppers (I used red ones) - roughly cubed
4 potatoes - skins removed and cut in quarters
10 cloves of garlic - grated
1/2 inch ginger piece - grated
1/2 Preserved Lemons - chopped fine
10 black olives - halved
10 green olives - halved
6 pimentos - finely chopped
        I got the olives and pimentos (they were brined) at the olive bar at Wholefoods (a grocery store)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands
           if you do not wish to use saffron - substitute with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 2 to 5 strands of saffron
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (add more or less as per preference)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
salt if needed (I did not add any salt - as the olives and the preserved lemon had enough salt)


Get the tagine pot ready by reading the instructions provided. I had to soak my clay pot in water for 5 hours before I could use it.
Marinate the chicken drumsticks (or thighs) using all the ingredients under the 'For Marination' tab and let it sit for atleast 1 hour. I left it in the refrigerator overnight. 
Heat a frying pan and once its nice and hot sear the chicken drumsticks/thighs on both sides to get the meat brown. You do not need to cook the chicken, just get a nice sear on the outer layer.

Seared Chicken Drumsticks
In the same frying pan, add the 1/2 tablespoon oil. When it gets nice and hot add the chopped onions and saute them till they get a nice golden brown. Then add the garlic and ginger and saute till the raw smell goes away. Add the chopped carrots, chopped bell pepper and the quartered potatoes and mix well. Lower the flame. Make a paste of the saffron, chilli powder and coriander powder with the 1 cup water and add it to the vegetables. Add the chopped parsley and chopped cilantro (keep about 1 tablespoon of each aside for garnish later). Mix well. Get the frying pan off the heat and keep it aside. Its now time to assemble everything into the tagine pot.

Sauteed Vegetables
Chopped Olives, Pimentos and Preserved Lemons
I used a heat diffuser to get the tagine evenly heated and to avoid any direct contact with the heat. Its a delicate piece of equipment (the tagine) and I did not want any cracks on it.
In the tagine pot add 1/2 tablespoon oil and then add the sauteed vegetables. Arrange the chicken evenly over the vegetables. Over this add the chopped olives, pimentos and the preserved lemons.

Arranged in the tagine pot
Cover it with the conical shaped tagine cover. Lower the heat to a medium low. Cook it this way for an hour. The aromas will be like heaven, but do not open the cover. Let it cook on its own in those juices.

The Chicken Tagine being cooked over medium low heat with the use of a diffuser under the tagine pot.
After an hour, open very carefully, the cover will be hot. Check the meat for doneness. If its still a bit undone, cover and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the cooked dish over a bed of couscous or some Pita Bread along with a simple Salad.

The final product
It is not really necessary to own a tagine pot to cook tagines. You can do this slow cooking even in a crock-pot or a dutch oven.

Preserved Lemons

I have always wanted to cook Moroccan and Mediterranean food. I even got a tagine for myself. One of the key ingredients used in the food there is preserved lemons. Firstly it was very very difficult to find them and then when I found the bottle, it was way too expensive.
I thought to myself - preserved lemons is like the simple humble lemon and salt pickle that my grandma (Mom's Mom) used to make - and boy.... it has been preserved for over 50 years now. I remember mom used to get that antique bottle of the lemon and salt pickle to serve with the humble dal and rice when we were sick - as that would give some taste to the the otherwise no taste in the mouth.
So, I made the preserved lemons myself and I can say I am very happy. Now to conquer Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine.


8 yellow lemons
6 tablespoons Himalayan Pink Salt (you can use any coarse salt)
1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
1 tablespoon vinegar (optional - I used it as a preservative)


Wash ans scrub the lemons really really well. wipe them clean and let them dry on a towel for about an hour. Cut the stem or the stub off the lemon. Now cut the lemon into quarters - do not cut through - keep about 1/4 inch intact at the bottom.  Do this for 6 lemons.
The other two lemons get the juice out of them and mix in the vinegar and let it sit.
Open up the lemon gently on the cut area and sprinkle the salt inside it generously. Do the same with the other 5 lemons.
Use a nice and dry jar - big enough to hold six lemons and juice. Add some salt at the bottom and a pinch of the chili powder. Squish one lemon into the jar and really squish till you see the juices coming out. and filling the jar. Add a pinch of chilli powder and squish another lemon in the same way. Layer with chili powder and squish another lemon. Repeat this till all six lemons are packed inside the jar. Add any leftover salt and chili powder and then add the lemon juice with vinegar mixed in it. Note that the lemon juice should cover all the lemons to the very top.
Cover it and let it sit in a dry and dark place for about 2 weeks. Keep turning the bottle upside down atleast 2 time every day during these 2 weeks.
The rind gets softer and thats when the lemons are ready.
You can store this in the refrigerator for 6 months.

You can add spices like cinnamon, bay-leaf, sage, peppercorns, fennel, clove, cardamom etc - alone or in combinations to make these too.

This is traditionally used in Moroccan cooking. But, I like it as a pickle with dal and rice or even curd and rice. I am planning to use it in some Indian curry too in place of tamarind - lets see how that plays.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Adai - my way!

Adai is a healthy meal in itself. Protein packed and with the use of vegetables, it becomes like a welcome home food. Easy to make and filling on the tummy. These savory pancakes from South India are a fun way of eating your lentils along with all the possible veggies.


1/2cup brown rice
1/4 cup white rice
1/4 cup tuvar dal/split pegion peas
1/4 cup moong dal/split moong beans
1/4 cup chana dal/split bengal gram
1/4 cup urad dal/split blag gram
1/4 cup masoor dal/split red lentils
1/4 cup whole moong
1 cup grated carrots
2 cups chopped spinach
1 onion - finely chopped
salt to taste
oil/butter for making adai


Soak all the dals, brown rice, white rice and whole moong in enough water for atleast 8 hours. After 8 hours grind all of it to a very fine paste adding just enough water. The dough should be of thick dosa batter or pancake batter consistency. Add salt to taste and the grated carrot, chopped spinach and shopped onion and mix everything well. This batter does not need fermentation and hence can be used immediately to get adai.
Heat a tava or griddle and grease it with some oil or butter. Use a ladle and pour the adai batter on the greased tava/griddle and gently spread it with the base of the ladle to form a pancake. Adai is not like a crispy dosa, it is a little thicker like a pancake. spread some oil or melted butter on the top of the adai. Use a spatula and gently turn the adai once the lower side is golden brown. Get the same color on both sides. Serve hot with chutney and sambar.
We served our Adai with the coconut coriander chutney with yogurt

The other vegetables you can add are chopped pepper, chopped tomatoes, chopped kale, chopped dill leaves, chopped fenugreek leaves, chopped cabbage
you can even add grated beets to this batter - only it will become pink

Coconut & Coriander Chutney with Yogurt


For Chutney 

1 cup coriander/cilantro - chopped
4 green chilis (add more or less as per spice preference)
1/2 inch ginger root - chopped
1/2 cup grated coconut
10 curry leaves
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

 for tempering/tadka

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon split black gram/udad dal (its white in color)
5 curry leaves
pinch of asafoetida/hing


Add all the ingredients in the 'for chutney' tab into a grinder and grind to a very fine paste. The coconut should be ground very well.
Remove it into a serving bowl.
In a small pan, add the coconut oil. When it gets hot, add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Then lower the heat and all the other ingredients in the 'for tempering/tadka' tab. Mix gently with a spoon till the split black gram becomes a golden color. Add this to the chutney in the bowl. Mix well and serve with dosa, adai, idli, uttapam.

Easy & Quick Baked Doughnuts with a Chocolate Ganache Glaze

My kiddo whom I lovingly refer to as 'Little Miss A' is a huge huge doughnut lover. She has loved those dunkin doughnuts for a long time. Now, she looks at pictures and asks me to make them at home. Guess, shes just like her Dad - ask mom to make something and she will do it types. No complains there. I love to cook food for these two most important people in my life - and it makes me very happy when I see them savoring every bite. Its like 'Mission Accomplished'
Now, traditional doughnuts are fried and then to top it they also have that sugary glaze - too many calories to indulge in on a regular basis. So, I was very fascinated when I saw these doughnut baking pans. I purchased one to make them for her. I saw quite a few recipes that used cake mix to make these baked doughnuts. I do not use cake mix and hence I kinda put baking these aside. Untill this Monday - 'Little Miss A' just sat breathing down my neck - saying doughnut doughnut since she woke up in the morning. So, the evening was spent in making these yummy fluffy treats.
She was happy - and I got the stamp of approval from her dad too.


For Doughnuts

1 cup All Purpose Flour/Maida
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/4 cup oil (I used canola)
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup water
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

For Chocolate Ganache Frosting

1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon butter
colorfull funfetti for added garnish


To make the Ganache

microwave the chocolate chips, milk and butter in a bowl at 30 second intervals 2 times. Mix well till you get a nice and velvety chocolate sauce. Let this sauce/ganache cool down before you frost the doughnuts.

To make the Doughnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add sugar, salt, flour, baking soda in a mixing bowl. Mix well and let it sit aside.
In another mixing bowl add oil, yogurt, water, egg, vanilla essence, vinegar and mix well till everything is combined. Now add this mixture into the dry mixture and combine everything well. Do not overmix.
Grease your doughnut pan with oil. 
You can use an icing bag, a doughnut pouring bottle, those ketchup bottles you get or just a simple ziploc back (cut a small hole in the corner to pour the batter). Add the batter to the doughnut mould/pan - just fill half of it (as shown in the picture) 

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes till the tops turn a nice golden brown. Remove them from the pan and let them cool on a wire rack. The color should be like its in the picture below.

Dip the doughnut in the ganache and then let ti sit on the wire rack. You can sprinkle some funfetti for added color.
Savor with a cup of coffee or with a glass of milk.

We baked a total of 12 doughnuts with these measurements. If you do not have a doughnut pan - you can make them in a mini muffin pan (they will resemble doughnut holes) or even a cupcake pan (here the baking time may vary - just insert a toothpick and see its baked through in 12 to 15 minutes)

Chicken Kosha (A Bengali Take on Chicken Achari)

There was a time I used to be intimated to use mustard oil in cooking. But, over time I have understood how to cook with this humble but pungent ingredient.
If it is cooked properly - this oil can make anything taste divine and the golden hue that the dish gets on completion is a sight sent from heaven...... yes, that how I feel.
People who have disliked mustard oil - did not even know that this stuff was cooked in it and they lapped it up with the parathas that this dish was served with. Well.......... that a big compliment in itself.
In Bengal - they make a dish called 'Kosha Mangsho' which a layman calls as Chicken Kosha. I just gave it a twist by making it with the pickling spices.
It is still very much a Bengali dish I feel - as it has the use of mustard oil.


For Marination

2 pounds chicken - I used boneless skinless thighs cut into 2 inch pieces.
1 teaspoon kalonji/onion seeds
1 tablespoon mustard oil (mustard oil is preferred - but, you can use any oil that you are comfortable with)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1  teaspoon ginger garlic paste

For Achari Masala

5 green cardamoms
5 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf/tejpatta
1 tablespoon fennel seeds/saunf
1 teaspoon cumin seeds/jeera
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seeds/methi seeds
5 to 6 dries kashmiri chili (you can add more or less as per your spice preference)
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida/hing

For Curry

1 tablespoon mustard oil (mustard oil is preferred - but, you can use any oil that you are comfortable with)
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf/tejpatta
2 big oinions - finely chopped
2 big tomatoes - chopped
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
1/2 cup beaten yogurt.
1/2 cup water
salt to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish


Marinate the chicken pieces with all the ingredients mentioned under the 'for marination' tab and let it sit for 1 to 2 hours in a refrigerator.
In the mean time - dry roast the ingredients under the 'for achari masala' tab one by one except the asafoetida. Be careful to roast them on a low medium flame and do not burn the whole masalas. Once they are cooled down, grind it to a coarse powder in a grinder. over and keep it aside.
In a kadahi or saucepan or Pan - add 1 tablespoon of mustard oil and let it come to smoking point. Then lower the heat. To this add 1 cinnamom piece and 1 tejpatta. Now add chopped onions and fry till they turn a golden brown. Now add 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste and mix till the raw smell goes off. Then add chopped tomatoes and saute till the oil leaves the sides of the pan. Now get the pan off the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of yogurt. Mix well. Keep it back on the gas stove and keep mixing - be careful that the yogurt does not curdle. Now add the masala powder and salt as per taste and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of water and the chicken pieces. Cover and let it cook for 20 to 30 minutes on medium flame. Check if the chicken is cooked. Adjust the salt. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with roti or rice.
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