Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Focaccia - Onion & Oregano flavored

Focaccia (pronounced as Fokashia by some and Fokachia by some others) is a flat Oven baked Italian Bread, which may be topped with herbs or other ingredients (Definition from Wikipedia). I baked this last Saturday when once again, ‘A’ was out playing his Cricket (a tournament which his team won .. YAY!!) & it turned out to be pretty good.  I was really glad after baking this one, it was so flavorful, just like those Breads from the Italian joints, my home smelled heavenly when I baked this.

I did not take pictures at all the stages while baking this. The Yeast proofing is done exactly the same way just like in Challah - Braided Bread; only the quantities differed this time.  

Here is what you will need to make my Onion and Oregano flavored Focaccia:

This recipe is adapted from www.showmethecurry.com recipe of Focaccia – Easy Bread Recipe

My Recipe is here:

Active Dry Yeast – 2 tsp
Warm Water - 1 2/3 Cups  (I Microwave the water for Yeast Proofing at high for 30 seconds, it definitely feels higher than 60c/140F but it gives fantastic results, DO NOT use boiling Water, that would kill the Yeast)
Sugar – 1 tsp
All Purpose Flour – 5 cups
Salt – 2 tsp
EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) – ¼ th Cup + 5 tbsps
Onion – ½ of a large – thinly sliced
Oregano – 2 tsp
Italian Seasoning – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

How to make Onion & Oregano flavored Focaccia:

Yeast Proofing: In a large bowl, add 2 tsps of Active Dry Yeast in 1 2/3 Cups of Luke Warm water & 1 tsp of Sugar, mix and let it rest for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, a foamy mix will form of the Yeast, Water & Sugar indicating that Yeast has been proofed

Add Salt, ¼ th Cup of EVOO, 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning & 5 Cups of All-purpose Flour, add the Flour 1 cup at a time and keep mixing with a Spatula till a gooey dough is formed, adding more and more flour will result in the dough becoming stable in consistency; once it becomes manageable, put it on a working surface dusted with dry flour and start kneading it, knead it will for about 5-7 minutes, add extra flour when needed till it forms a smooth dough

In the same large bowl, grease the surface with a little bit of EVOO, tuck in the sides of the dough into a tight round, oil the upper surface of the dough, cover with a Kitchen towel and let it rest for 2 hours, neat

After 2 hours, the dough would have doubled in size, punch down the dough, grease the baking tray with 1 tbsp of EVOO and put the dough in, stretch the dough on all the sides so that it fits well into the baking tray, cover with a Kitchen towel and let it rise a second time for another hour

While it rises for the second time, thinly slice the Onion and dip into 3 tbsp of EVOO, add the Oregano and mix. Pre heat your Oven to 250C

Once the dough has risen the second time, dip the index finger of your working hand into a tbsp of EVOO and make small indentions about an inch apart on the risen dough, you have to dip your finger a few times before achieving all the indention's

Once done, with a brush spread the EVOO-Onion-Oregano mix onto the dough, make sure you cover all the edges so that they do not dry out while baking. The Onion slices will not stay at the bottom of the bowl you mixed it in and not come out with a brush, use a spoon to layer the Onions & whatever little liquid is left in the bowl onto the dough

I changed the Microwave mode to Convection and baked the Bread for 25 minutes at 220C (All Ovens are different so keep an eye on it after it crosses the 18-20 minute mark, we do not want a dark brown color on the surface, we want a soft brown crust on our Focaccia

Once done, please it on a cooling Rack and give it 30 minutes to cool down
Even after 30 minutes it will be nice and warm inside, eat by dipping the bread into EVOO or some Hummus

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Kashundi Chicken

Chicken has been my stable diet since I was a kid. If you include just 1 tiny piece of Chicken in my meal, I will eat anything that you serve to me with it without any complaints; I know that quite sounds like our four legged companions, but I am totally lame when it comes to eating vegetables, so even 1 teeny-weeny bit of Chicken makes me smile.

A couple of days back my Sis In Law back in the City of Joy made this scrumptious Kashundi Chicken and shared the photo. Kashundi means a  very Bengali Mustard Dip / Sauce made with Black Mustard Seeds, Green Chilies, Ginger & Garlic which tastes out of this World – mostly to be eaten with Chops & Cutlets.  When you add Raw Mango to it, it is called ‘Aam Kashundi’ (Aam meaning Mangoes in Bengali) which tastes even better in my view; & I am again going weak on my knees thinking about the Aam Kashundi Chingri I once had at Oh! Calcutta – it was indescribable. I sure will post a photo of that dish in my blog if I can find one.

& I found it, that's Aam Kashundi Chingri from Oh! Calcutta, highly recommended!

Coming back to the recipe, my Sis In Law made this following BongMom’s recipe. She added her special touch to it by adding a bit of Curd to this dish – it tasted wonderful. I made it her way and made minor changes to the original recipe.

Here is the recipe for Kashundi Chicken with the minor changes

Chicken – 750 gms, cleaned and skinned it comes to about 500-550 gms
Grated Ginger – 1tsp
Grated Garlic – 1 tsp
Lemon Juice – 1.5 tsp
Salt to taste
Mustard Oil – 1 tbsp – use any other cooking Oil if you do not have Mustard

Put all this together and marinate the Chicken for an hour, covered

Kalonji  / Onion Seeds – ½ tsp
Green Chilies – broken from middle – 10
Turmeric Powder  –  1 tsp
Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp
Kashundi - 3 tbsp
Coconut Milk – 1 Cup (I used Maggi Coconut Milk Powder and mixed the same into 1 Cup of Luke warm water)
Curd – 2 tbsp – beaten with a pinch of Salt (I used homemade Curd)
Mustard Oil – 2 tbsp


Heat 2 tbsp of Mustard Oil in a Pan

Add the Onion Seeds / Kalonji  and let it splutter

Add  5 broken Green Chilies and let them sizzle

Add the Chicken pieces and not the marinade, in case there is anything watery left in there

Cook the Chicken pieces till they change color

Add Turmeric Powder & Red Chili Powder and stir them in – cook for 2-3 mins

Add 3 tbsps of Kashundi and mix well, give it about 2 minutes to settle in

Add the Coconut Milk and Curd and any marinade that was left

Cover and let the Chicken Cook thoroughly, keep the Gas Stove on Simmer

Once the dish is done, garnish with the other 5 broken Green chilies, the gravy will be thick in consistency and not runny

Eat with steaming White Rice

Friday, March 22, 2013

Maach-er Matha diye Moog-er Dal / Yellow Lentil Soup with Fish Head

A Heady Lentil Soup is what this dish is. It is so heavy and yummy at the same time, I can eat steamed Rice only with this Lentil Soup without any sides. Yes, we Bengalis, do not throw away any part of our Sacred Fish, especially when it comes to a Fish as tasty as the Katla; the preparation can be made with Rohu Fish Head too, but nothing beats the juicy head of a Katla. This is mostly prepared during Aiburo-Bhaat (last Bachelor Meal before the Wedding), Poite (Sacred Thread Ceremonies), Griho-Probesh (House Warming) & various other functions, mad Bongs like ‘A’ & Me even make this for dinner for their Anniversary Celebration and serve to their non Bong guests and surprise them :D

Here is what you will need to make Maach-er Matha diye Moog-er Dal / Yellow Lentil Soup with Fish Head:

A fairly large Fish Head – 1, cleaned and sliced into two halves – My Katla weighed 1.7 KG, hence the head was the size I was looking for
Moog-er Dal / Yellow Lentil – 1 Cup
Mustard Oil (Use any other cooking Oil if you do not have Mustard, but tradition says, it tastes best with Mustard) - 2 tbsp + 1 tsp
Ghee/ Clarified Butter – 1 tsp
Bay Leaf – 2
Whole Cumin Seeds – 1tsp
Whole Dry Red Chilies - 2
Cinnamon – 1“long stick
Green Cardamoms - 3
Cloves – 3
Turmeric Powder – 1tsp + ½ tsp + 1 tsp
Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala Powder – 1 tsp
Ginger – grated – 1 tsp
Green Chili - 2 - broken from between
Salt to taste
Sugar to balance

How to make Maach-er Matha diye Moog-er Dal / Yellow Lentil Soup with Fish Head:

In a Pan, dry roast the Yellow Lentil till you get the lovely aroma of roasted Moog, be careful not to burn them, once the color changes to light golden, turn off the stove, wash the Lentil under running water, Pressure Cook the Lentil in 1 Cup of Water ½ tsp of Turmeric, let the pressure go down on it own an set aside

Smear  Salt and 1 tsp of Turmeric on the Fish Head pieces, heat 2 tbsps of Mustard Oil in a Pan till smoking, sprinkle a little salt into the Pan (so that the hot Oil does not splash when you slide the Fish pieces in), slide the Fish heads in, fry well, 3-4 minutes on each side, break them down to smaller pieces with the help of a Spatula if you can, not into very small parts though, say about 5 small chunks from each half of the head, set aside on Paper Towels to get rid of the excess Oil

In the same Pan, add 1 tsp of Oil as most of the Oil must have been absorbed by the Fish Head already, add the Cumin Seeds and let them splutter, add the Whole Dry Red Chilies, Bay Leaves, Cinnamon, Cardamoms and Cloves and sauté for a minute

Add the grated Ginger and cook for another minute

Add the cooked Lentil into this and mix well

Add the Turmeric Powder, Red Chili Powder, Cumin Powder, Coriander Powder, Salt and Sugar to taste and stir around till the dry spices are cooked

Add the chunks of Fish head into this and mix well

Add desired quantity of luke warm water and bring it to boil, keep in mind both the Lentil and the Fish head are cooked already, we are just trying to bring the dish together and let the flavors intermingle into each other, hence do not add too much water, also this lentil soup will be thick unlike Bengali Red Lentil Soup, so add just as much water as you would like in your dish

Once done, add 1 tsp f clarified Butter to this and give it one final mix, sprinkle the 1 tsp of Garam Masala Powder & broken Green Chilies as well

Serve with steamed Rice

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lau Chingri - Bottle Gourd with Prawns

Memories of this dish goes back to the days when back in our home in Calcutta, Maa (My Mother) would prepare a huge bowl of ‘Lau Chingri’ (Lau = Bottle Gourd, Chingri = Prawns) and I would sneak into the Kitchen before Lunch time to eat the ‘Chingri’s’ (Prawns) out of this dish. I never liked Bottle Gourd and would never eat the dish with Rice, only finished all the Prawns from this preparation before it was served to everyone for Lunch :P

Living away from home makes you realize and appreciate many things which you never approved of when they were close to you. Many of the eternal Bengali dishes made by my Mother are the biggest example of ‘these things’ in my life. Yesterday when we went out to shop for Meat, Fish and Vegetables to stock up for the week, I walked up to a Vegetable vendor and bought a Bottle Gourd, I also bought the small Prawns without which this dish is incomplete.  Maa was indeed very happy when I told her I was making ‘Lau Chingri’ as she cannot imagine her daughter  eating anything which remotely resembles a Vegetable .. Yes, that’s the impression I have given everyone in my growing up years :P What she told me was this dish will have the special Bengali touch and be ‘Mishti-Mishti’ (with a hint of sweetness) in taste. So while making this dish, one needs to keep in mind, that the Sugar is a must in this dish, if not it will be anything but ‘Bengali Lau Chingri’ :D

Here is what you will need to make Lau Chingri (Bottle Gourd with Prawns):

Bottle Gourd - 1 thinly sliced like shown in the Picture, mine weighed 500 gms

Prawns – I used small ones – 250 gms
Tomato – 1 medium – chopped
Green Chilies – 3 / to taste – chopped
Ginger – ½ “ - grated
Bay Leaf – 1
Cinnamon – 1” stick
Green Cardamoms – 2-3
Cloves – 2
Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp
Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp
Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar to balance (a little more than in normal dishes)
Cooking Oil – 2 tbsp

How to prepare ‘Lau Chingri’ (Bottle Gourd with Prawns):

De-vein, clean and wash the Prawns

Smear Salt, Turmeric Powder and Red Chili Powder on the Prawns and fry them in hot Oil for 3 minutes and set aside

Use the same Oil as it has become flavorful from frying the Prawns in them, add the Cumin Seeds and let them sizzle

Add the Bay Leaf, Cinnamon, Green Cardamoms and Cloves and let them splutter

Add the Tomatoes and the Green Chilies and cook till the Tomatoes become mushy

Add the Sugar and stir it in (Adding Sugar while adding Tomatoes enhances the color of the dish)

Add the grated Ginger and cook for a minute or two

Add the Bottle Gourd in, there is no need to add any additional Water to this dish for the Bottle Gourd to cook as it will release a lot of Water itself and cook in its own liquid

Add Turmeric Powder, Red Chili Powder, Cumin Powder and Salt and mix

The Bottle Gourd will release a lot of liquid and get cooked at the same time, it will also reduce in quantity in the process

This will be a dry dish hence make sure all the liquid has dried up in the end

The Bottle Gourd will be done by the time the liquid evaporates, add the fried Prawns in, mix it one final time and turn off the Stove

Serve with Steamed Rice

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Coal Miners' Style Spaghetti

When the Coal Miners’ of Yesteryear’s returned home from a hard day at work, they used to buy all the ingredients on their way back rather they bought what they found on their way and made a delicious Spaghetti with the ingredients for Supper hence the name Coal Miner’s Spaghetti.

The weekend arrived a little early this time and we were at home on Friday hence I made Coal Miners Spaghetti for Lunch and we both were happily contended with this wholesome dish. I did make my adjustments, the original recipe used Pancetta (Italian, Croatian and Slovenian Bacon) which I replaced with diced Chicken and used whole Red Peppers & Button Mushrooms too. Hopefully the Coal Miners of today will even find these on their way home and will not mind my going out of the way!

Here is what you need to make Coal Miners Spaghetti:
(This recipe will server 2 people)

Spaghetti : 200 gms – I have tried with 250 gms before, but it becomes too much for the 2 of us, depends on your appetite, I think 200 should be good enough.
Chicken Stock Cube : 1
Chicken Breast : 1 – diced
Button Mushrooms : 3-4, cleaned and thinly sliced
Red Pepper : 2 – chopped
Eggs : 2
Red Chili Sauce – 1 tsp
Green Chili Sauce – 1 tsp (If you do not have this then use 1.5-2 tsps of Red Chilli Sauce)
EVOO : 2 tsps
Salt to taste
Black Pepper : 1 tsp
Parsley : a handful – chopped
Italian Seasoning : 1 tbsp
Cheese of your choice : grated

How to make Coal Miners’ Spaghetti:

Heat a Pan with rapidly boiling water with the Chicken Stock cube in it, break 200 gms from Spaghetti from the middle and add it in, cook as per instructions on the pack – once done – drain into a colander, wash with Cold water to stop the cooking process and keep

Heat 2 tbsp of EVOO in a Non Stick Pan

Stir fry the diced Chicken pieces till they change color, if you insert a toothpick, if it comes out clean, the Chicken is done

Add the sliced Button Mushrooms and the chopped Red Peppers and keep stir frying

Add the Chili Sauces and keep stirring

Create a cooking surface to scramble the Eggs on the same Pan – scramble 2 Eggs with a little Oil and Salt and Pepper; mix with the rest of the ingredients in the Pan

Add Salt, Pepper and Italian Seasoning and mix well

Add the Spaghetti win and toss around so that the sauces and the spices coat the Spaghetti nicely

Add chopped Parsley and mix well. Do a taste test and if you need more of anything, go ahead

Once turn off the Stove, garnish with shredded Cheese and Serve

My other homemade Spaghetti (with Shrimps) recipe is here

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Challah, well almost! Jeweish Braided Bread

Okay, I have finally baked my first Bread ever. This has been a dream till yesterday.  Crossing one small huddle at a time has been a funny journey, first I did not know where to buy Yeast .. Yes, I did not! Some said go to a Bakery and ask them to give you some, some said you will find it at the local stores, where it was never found, some said go to the Supermarket, but most of the Supermarkets in this part of India did not have Yeast. When I finally found Yeast, it was at Dorabjee’s  where again I found water based Baker’s Yeast and a pack of Active Dry Yeast, the same confusion once more, I had no clue which one to buy.

The weekend before last I bought a pack of the Active Dry Yeast I found rather than the pack of water based Yeast, which was close to its expiration date; Since then I have been thinking of baking a Bread when I get time. Once I bought the Yeast, I wasted one more week as some told me that the temperature at which Yeast is proofed is 60C / 140F – I had no clue how to achieve that, I do not have a Meat Thermometer in my Kitchen neither does my Microwave Oven have 60C / 140F, finally I came across a video which told me the water can be Microwave’d for 15 seconds, but when I touched it I did not find it warm after 10, hence I Micorwave’d it for 20 seconds. Oh Yes, and the final and the most difficult huddle to cross was I do not have a Conventional Oven! Believe me you! I have a fully loaded Microwave from Samsung with all the possible features but not an OTG. To make your own self believe that your hard work will not go down the drain is a difficult deal indeed! I made this bread in my Microwave Oven Convection mode and it came out perfect.

I wanted to make Focaccia as my first bread but somehow that did not work, though it is going to my second Bread for sure. Yesterday ‘A’ went for his Cricket match and I had a full morning and a part of the afternoon to myself, hence it was the best time to bake this Bread.  Don’t think that you actually need an entire morning and afternoon to make this bread, I had many other household chores as well. It does take time to make a bread at home but most of the time is needed for the dough of your bread to rise, during that time the dough can be absolutely left on its own and one can continue running other errands all through that time. This Bread needs 2.5 hours of rising. 2 hours first, punched down, kneaded and braided and 30 minutes after that. This Braided Bread is called 'Challah', a Jewish bread prepared during the Holidays; only I used lesser number of Eggs and regular Salt.

Here is what you will need to make Braided Bread:
(This Recipe is from Great Bread Every time Cookbook adapted by The Little White Kitchen and measures modified by Color & Spices – I followed Color & Spices’s measurements to make this Bread, though I modified it a teeny-weeny bit)

Active Dry Yeast : 1 tbsp
Warm Water : ¼ th Cup (I Microwave’d mine for 30 seconds, I think it was higher than 60C/140F when I used it, but it still gave me fantastic results)
Sugar : 1 tsp
All Purpose Flour : 4 Cups (3.5 Cups into the dough & ½ Cup for Dusting) – (The recipe says Bread Flour, I am not sure if it is any different from All Purpose Flour, but I used All Purpose Flour & the result was good)
Warm Milk : 1 Cup (Mine was cold, hence I Microwave’d it for 1 minute)
Eggs : 2 (1 to go in the dough + 1 for Egg wash)
Sugar : 4 tbsp
Butter : 2 tbsp
Salt to taste (I used Salted Butter, hence used very little Salt)
Cooking Oil for greasing
Sesame Seeds

How to make Braided Bread:

Yeast Proofing : Add 1 tbsp of Yeast to 1/4th Cup of Warm Water and 1 tsp of Sugar, mix and let it rest for 10 minutes. Yeast was in the dormant state, the warm water wakes it up and the Sugar feeds it. After 10 minutes a foamy mix will form from the Yeast, Water and Sugar indicating that is has been proofed

To this foamy mix, add 1 Egg (beaten), 2 tbsps melted Butter, 4 tbsp Sugar, Salt to taste and 1 Cup of Warm Milk and mix. Use a Spatula

Start adding the Flour to this mix 1 cup at a time and mixing it in with the Spatula

Once it is well incorporated, dust a clean working surface with Flour and take the dough out to knead

After kneading for about 4 minutes

After 7 minutes

After 10 minutes

Once done, grease a large bowl and let the dough rest here for 2 hours, cover

After  2 hours the dough would have risen to double its size

Punch down the dough and give it one final knead. Cut the down into 3 equal portions

Make long rolls out of these portions using your hands, dust lightly with flour during the process

Lay the rolls on a floured surface, hold one end of all the three ropes and pinch in together, braid and pinch the other end in the same way

Grease a baking tray and let the braid rise for another 30 minutes, I made an arch out of the Bread simple because my baking dish was not long enough, it can made into a round too

Preheat the Oven to 200C / 400 F

After 30 minutes, beat 1 Egg and 1 tsp of Water together; this is called Egg Wash, it does not let your Bread become dry and gives a glossy finish to the Bread. Apply this Egg wash with a brush onto the surface of the Bread, cover as much as you can.

Sprinkle generous amount of Sesame Seeds on top of the Bread

I changed the Microwave mode to Convection and baked the Bread for 25 minutes, if you think it is not done in 25 minutes, bake it for another 5 minutes

Once done, place it on a Cooling Rack and give it 10 minutes before savoring it

I cut it out into 2 huge chunks, wrapped them in Cling Wraps & stocked it up for the coming week

Make slices and eat as you wish with Jam, Butter, Cheese or any other Spread of your choice.
Chitrangada from Color & Spices say in her blog that these make great French Toasts 

I made some Sandwiches for Dinner with this Bread which tasted excellent as well

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