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This is one of the last recipes I developed in Spain, before we returned to reality on March 12. We’re already talking about two months next year, provided things settle down and the world becomes safe again. JT and I left on the second last plane to Gatwick from Almeria, they cancelled the flights the next day! We are so fortunate in so many ways. We hope everyone is doing well under the circumstances.

I was inspired by Chef David Rocco’s Instagram post but didn’t have some of the spices he used so I improvised, in addition , this was the culmination of my kitchen clean-out. It turned out exceptionally well and can be eaten as breakfast, brunch or lunch. Heck, you can even have it for dinner. It’s quite easy to prep and you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, perfect for veg that may not be at their best.

Eggs in Purgatory Indian-style

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 90 g onions, diced
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 2 g garam masala
  • 2.5 g cumin
  • 1.5 g meat masala
  • 5 g curry powder
  • 250 mL passata
  • 125 mL water
  • 3 g freshly grated ginger
  • 5 mL roasted, puréed garlic
  • 230 g frozen vegetables, defrosted and drained
  • 50 g grilled peppers, diced
  • 2 g fresh Cilantro, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and sauté onions until golden. Add the spices and cook until fragrant. Add the passata and water and mix well. Add the vegetables and cilantro and mix until combined.
  2. Prepare an oven proof dish by rubbing with olive oil or butter. Pour in the vegetables and spread out evenly. Make two large divets in the vegetables and crack on egg into each one.
  3. Bake in a 200C preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your taste.

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AppleChutney_First

There is nothing like the push of having extended stay visitors to open your eyes to see all the deficiencies in your home. Case in point, several years ago I filled a few cracks on one of my kitchen walls and then I painted over the patches but since the rest of the wall was about 4 years old, the paint dried a slightly different colour and the wall looked patchy in certain lights. It was on my to do list f o r e v e r! So a couple of weeks ago, after I filled in a few new cracks, bought a new can of paint (when did paint become SO expensive?) I finally repainted the entire wall. A fresh coat of paint really freshens up a room. Of course, once I started filling in cracks all over the house and painting, there was no stopping me…it turned into a two-day project. But then it’s another thing off the list.

Recently we had James, a long-time college friend of JTs over for an Indian dinner and I made my new favourite Jamie Oliver Chicken Tikka Masala recipe along with Palek Paneer, the best Naan ever and a few condiments, pickled carrot and this delightful Apple Chutney. I am certain that James, who is a renovator, was too polite to say anything about my patchy walls but I kept the lighting low anyway!

What are some of the nagging to do’s on your home maintenance list?

AppleChutney

Sweet, tangy with a little bit of heat.

Apple Chutney

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 Granny Smith apple (about 165 g)
  • 165 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 80 g dates, coarsely chopped
  • 10 g fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 70 mL water
  • 1 tbsp Sweet Apricot Chili Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a heavy bottom sauce pan and cook on medium heat until onions have caramelized and the sauce is thick but still have texture.
  2. Cool. Serve at room temperature.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for 1 week or freeze.

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Flash back to November 2013, please recall our Indian extravaganza thank you dinner I made for our very generous neighbours. As you know, I’m not a huge fan of Indian desserts (remember this one?) so when I planned the dinner party I knew right away that I wanted to make a version of Chai Crème Brûlée. Sadly it’s winter in these parts which means it gets dark anywhere from 4:30, so I wasn’t able to take a decent photo until I was able to remake this tasty dessert and shoot it in daylight!

Chai flavours really come out in this creamy crème brûlée

I served with two spoons so you can have a taste too!

Chai Crème Brûlé

Serves 1 (slightly more than 1/2 cup serving); just multiply by the number of people you need to feed to get your amounts

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of whole milk or cream per person
  • 1.5-2 tsp sugar per person
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 green cardamon pods, smashed gently.
  • 1 egg yolk per person
  • 1-2 tbsp per person of sugar to brûlée

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 135°C or 275°F.
  2. Infuse the milk with the Chai spices: combine milk or cream, sugar, black tea bag, cinnamon stick, star anise and cardamon in a small pot and heat until just under boiling, simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool with a lid on the pot (or refrigerate overnight, which is what I did). Strain to remove all the bits, discard strained pieces.
  3. Once cooled, whisk the infused milk, egg yolks in a vessel with a pouring spout.
  4. Pour this mixture into ramekins. My ramekins were about 2/3 of a cup each. Place ramekins into a roasting pan with 5cm sides, put the pan into the pre-heated oven. Pour enough water around the ramekins to reach up just over half way on the side of the ramekins (it’s much easier to do this once the pan is in the oven so you’re not balancing the custard and the water on your way to the oven).
  5. Bake for 30-45 minutes to an hour or so. You’ll know they’re done when you can stick a knife in one and it comes out clean. Remove the ramekins from the baking pan, set them on the counter allow them cool. (The deeper your custard is the longer it will need to bake).
  6. Sprinkle a thin layer of  sugar on the top of each. Make sure it’s a THIN layer, but also make sure it completely covers the custard. Now torch it! Garnish with Whipped cream if you’d like (for the dinner party, I infused the whipping cream with a hot cinnamon stick which I heated for 1 minute on high in the microwave. I refrigerated the whipping cream and hot cinnamon stick until serving and then I removed the stick and whipped the cream).

Tips:

  • To save some time, just use a prepared Chai teabag.
  • Don’t squeeze the tea bag, it will be bitter.

ChaiCremeBrulee_1923

I know you want to dig in!

ChaiCremeBrulee_1925

The chai flavours really go well with the creamy crème brûlée

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 12.29.17 PM

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I have three Indian cookbooks from which I can usually find something I want to make, perhaps with some additional guidance from a cooking site or blog. The one cookbook I bought because every single recipe had a lovely photograph! It’s relatively small 12 cm x 15 cm (5″ x 6″) which makes it even more adorable! It came with a ribbon book mark attached to the spine so you can mark the recipe you are making or the next one since it has lay-flat binding. With all these things going for it, you would think I would love this cookbook, but sadly I don’t. In fact, I have not enjoyed one of the recipes I’ve made from this book without significant changes! I should just chuck the thing but I can’t because I really like the way it looks. I know it’s silly but it is what it is.

This is a recipe I altered after having acquired a Meyer Lemon from a shoot in November and I wanted to make something with it. I puréed the soup to a smooth velvety consistency and I dressed it with a cumin yogurt drizzle with green onion slices, you could also drizzle with a flavour olive oil. The Papadams are from our trip to Chicago when Chgo John took us to his favourite ethnic stores.

Lemon Lentil Soup_1334

The earthy lentils burst with fresh, lively flavour with the lemon

Lemon Lentil Soup

Serves 2 generously (1 cup portions or 250 mL each)

Ingredients:

  • 100 g dahl or yellow lentils
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, peel and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-4 cups water (depending on how thick you prefer your soup)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Shopped green onions as garnish
  • papadums

Directions:

  1. Rinse the lentils and cook with the ginger, garlic, chill and turmeric and 2 cups water until soft.
  2. Add the salt, lemon juice and rind and blend with an immersion blender until smooth, adding water to achieve the consistency you prefer.
  3. Press through a fine sieve and set aside.
  4. In a small frying pan add the cumin and toast until fragrant. Cool. Once cool add to the yogurt and mix well. Salt to taste. Transfer to a small plastic squeeze bottle.
  5. Reheat soup and pour into rimmed soup bowls. Begin piping the yogurt from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, then 2 to 7 and finally from 9 to 3. Then using a sharp knife beginning in the centre of the bowl, draw a spiral circle culminating at the outer ring (this will make the pattern). Garnish with the chopped green onions and papadums.

Print

Lemon Lentil Soup_1337

It’s super creamy and super filling

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I picked up some tamarind paste when we visited Chgo John (from the Bartolini Kitchens) last summer and he took us to his favourite Asian shops. I’m sure this paste can be purchased in any number of Asian stores in Toronto, but the romance of bringing back an exotic ingredient was just too strong to ignore. Everytime I use this paste (and any number of other amazing ingredients I procured during that visit) I think fondly of our visit with John that day.
If you haven’t tried tamarind, I strongly urge you to do so, it is quite a flavour experience unlike anything else you’ve ever tried.
The tamarind paste was used as a sauce for the onion bhajis I made for the recent Indian feast for our neighbours.

Tangy, sour and sweet all at once.

Tangy, sour and sweet all at once.

Tamarind Chutney for Onion Bhajis

Makes about 1/3 cup

  • 1 teaspoon concentrated tamarind paste
  • 2-4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 3 dried apricots (original recipe called for papaya powder which I did not have)
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. In a small heavy bottom sauce pan, add the tamarind paste, apricot and sugar. Add about 1 cup of hot water to it and heat to a boil until the tamarind paste dissolves and the apricot is mushy. Blend well with an immersion blender. Strain out any hard bits from the tamarind paste.
  2. Add chili powder and mix well. Boil until all of the water evaporates and you are left with a thick rich sauce.

A perfect pairing to the onion bhajis

A perfect pairing to the onion bhajis

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Recently we entertained our lovely neighbours across the street; it was a thank you dinner of sorts because they happened to rescue us on my benchmark birthday party this past summer when we ran out of beer! We asked them what kinds of food they enjoy and Indian was one of the selections. I love cooking Indian food but because there are just the two of us I usually don’t bother but doubling the audience makes it all the more worth-while. It was an extravagant meal so I started cooking a couple of days in advance and it really didn’t seem to be that much trouble; the saucy, stewy dishes of India lend themselves to being made ahead and allowing the flavours to combine over time making them taste so much better than the day they were made. I was very pleased with the results and will definitely make these dishes again in the future.

I also would like to thank Helene DeSouza (Masala Herb) for posting her favourite Palek Paneer recipe this month, if it wasn’t for her I likely would never have made this dish having tasted a restaurant version that was unremarkable. Helene’s recipe has the complex depth of flavours that one expects from Indian food. I urge you to try it.

The menu:

  • Onion Bhajis  (I made this one again and it was extremely tasty) with Tamarind Chutney (recipe to come)
  • Aloo Papri Chat (please click here for the recipe)
  • Carrot Pickle (please click here for the recipe)
  • Beef Bhuna (please click here for the recipe)
  • Butter Chicken (please click here for the recipe) NOTE: I used 1 lb fresh roma tomatoes and 2 cups of home made tomato sauce made from raw tomatoes cooked down and blended until smooth WITH oven roasted tomatoes blended and the whole thing run through a very fine sieve to get rid of the skin and seeds).
  • Palek Paneer (The Palek (spinach) gravy is new from Helene DeSouza who runs Masala Herb in Goya, India; recipe below)
  • Naan (please click here for the recipe) and Papadums (I bought some very special Papadums in Chicago when we visited with Chgo John of From the Bartolini Kitchens)
  • Chai Crême Brûlée (please click here for the recipe)

Paneer

The texture turned out perfectly this time.

The texture turned out perfectly this time.

This firm, unripened Indian cheese makes a rectangle 23 cm x 13 cm x 2 cm (9″ x 5″ x 3/4″).

This is the original recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 liter Fresh whole milk
  • 5 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in a deep and heavy bottom pan at medium heat (this is really important, so the milk doesn’t burn). Allow it come to a gentle boil (around 200 F) and stay there for a minute. Make sure the milk is not vigorously boiling, if it does, immediately reduce the heat and bring the milk back to gentle boil.
  2. Begin by adding the lemon juice a table spoon at a time, stirring gently to incorporate. With each addition you will notice that the milk separating. The final addition of lemon juice will separate the curds from the whey very obviously. Switch off the gas immediately or if you are cooking on electric, remove pan from the element to stop the heat.
  3. Line a sieve with double layered cheesecloth, making sure the cheesecloth is long enough to be bundled up and tied later. Pour the curd and whey through the cheese cloth. Set the whey aside or discard (I tried making ricotta from this whey but there was no more curd to be had. I understand that Whey is healthy so you can search the net to find uses, I did not and trashed it).
  4. Wash the curd in the cheese cloth, by running it through cold water to remove the lemon taste.
  5. Tie up the cheesecloth in a tight bundle and hang it over something to allow it to drain for about 30 minutes.
  6. Line a nice rectangular pan with a double folded cheese cloth making sure you have enough length and width to fold over the top. Add the curd to the pan, pressing it firmly into the pan. I didn’t press my corners and edges well enough and they were a bit crumbly. I used a small glass to help push the curd down and compress it. Place the  wrapped cheese between two cutting boards over a sink or a large pan and put a heavy pot on top for 1-2 hours.You don’t want to add too much weight for too long as it can drain out way too much moisture from the cheese making it hard and crumbly. Your cheese should have a slightly elastic texture so when you lightly press your finger into it, it will bounce back.
  7. Wrap it and store it in the fridge for up to a week or cover well with plastic wrap and freeze. Defrost entirely before use. If you find your cheese still is a bit too wet, you can store it LIGHTLY wrapped in the fridge and the chill will dehydrate it further (I did not have to).
  8. Cut the block into small one bite chunks and add to the Palek sauce to warm up. Be very gentle when stirring as to not crumble the cheese too much.

Paneer_1480

Cubes of firm unripened cheese remind me of firm tofu.

Palek Paneer (Spinach Gravy with Unripened Cheese Cubes)

Saag Paneer_1474

The lemon juice also helps to preserve the lovely green colour of the spinach.

Please click here to see Helene’s lovely recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 250 g baby spinach (or a standard large size bag)
  • 1 green Chili
  • 100 mL water
  • 1 small Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 1 tbsp Garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1 tsp Coriander Powder
  • pinch Cinnamon powder
  • ½ tbsp Garam Masala
  • ½ tbsp red Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • splash of lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 200 grams fresh Paneer bite size cubes (Indian Cottage Cheese)
  • cilantro and green onions to garnish.

Directions:

  1. Wash spinach well and if you’re not using baby spinach, remove all the hard stems.
  2. Blanch the spinach in 100 mL water, set aside.
  3. In 2 tbsp oil, fry the onions until caramelized. Add the garlic paste and stir for a moment. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, Garam Masala and chili powder and allow to develop their aroma. As soon as you smell the herbs, remove from heat. Add the tomato past and combine with the blanched spinach.
  4. Purée with an emersion blender until very smooth, add a splash of lemon juice to brighten the flavours. Press through a fine seive.
  5. At this point you may put the finely puréed spinach mixture into a container and store in the fridge for a day or two.
  6. When you are ready to serve, reheat slowly in a pot, and add the two tablespoons of cream, salt and pepper. Add the Paneer and stir very gently so that the paneer does not break apart. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and green onions.

Saag Paneer_1475

The gravy was rather thick, you can loosen it with water, vegetable stock or more cream.

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I have a confession to make: I’m in love and it’s not JT. It’s really not as bad as it sounds, my love affair is with a certain Indian. OK. I’ll ‘fess up, it’s Naan. There. I’m in love with Naan. The bread, silly! I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve made this recipe but suffice it to say it’s double digits! About the same time that Maria over at a-boleyn live journal made our delicious naan recipe into a gorgeous pizza, I had the same idea (yes, I blog well in advance!). So on the day the world should have ended (again) I made a naan pizza for dinner. What a way to go!

It’s basically whatever you have in the fridge, our ingredients were goats cheese infused with garlic and EVOO, torn prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes in EVOO and chopped spinach topped with shaved parmesan cheese. What more can you want?

Why Naan? I usually like my pizza crust super thin and crispy, what the naan brought to the table (pardon the pun) is a bit more bite and a lot of chewiness. Delicious chewy goodness. Need. I. Say. More. ?.

A slightly chewy crust made delicious by garlic infused goats cheese

A slightly chewy crust made delicious by garlic infused goats cheese

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It’s still blistery cold in these parts and we’re craving hearty foods. This was a recipe created because I wanted to make Naan again and I needed something Indian to go with it (I know, it’s usually the other way around, but I really wanted to eat test my new recipe again). It’s a lovely subtle curry with just enough spice to enhance the flavour and a wonderful creamy texture. I used coconut milk powder and water for the coconut milk in the recipe, but feel free to use the high fat canned stuff, I’m sure it will taste a lot richer. By the way, serve it with this Naan.

A delicicous combination of curry and coconut milk

Coconut Chicken Curry

Serves 4, 100 g servings of chicken each

Ingredients:

  • 400 g boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2.5 cm or 1 inch chunks
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 tbsp coconut milk powder
  • 400 mL or 14 oz warm water
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 red pepper sliced thinly
  • 1/2 green pepper sliced thinly

Directions:

  1. Heat oil and curry powder in a large skillet over medium-high heat for two minutes. Stir in onions and garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add chicken, tossing lightly to coat with curry oil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in center and juices run clear. Reserve chicken.
  2. Combine coconut powder and warm water and mix well.
  3. Pour coconut milk, tomato paste, lemon juice and sugar into the pan and stir to combine. Cover and simmer stirring occasionally for approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until the coconut milk reduces to a nice thick sauce. During the final 15 minutes, add the red and green peppers so they don’t overcook and the chicken to reheat.
  4. Serve with Naan.

The most delicious naan yet

Yes, these are as good as they look. I kid you not.

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The same restaurant that I mentioned in a previous post, Bombay Palace serves a pickled carrot that I just can’t get enough of. It’s sweet, tangy and crunchy and delicious. Their version is very red because they put food colouring into it, I omitted the colouring.

Lightly crunchy and packed full of flavour

Carrot Pickle

Original recipe from here, but I changed it up.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium carrot, about 200 g cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tbsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • a pinch each ground cloves and cardamom
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Blanche the carrots and stop the cooking in an ice bath. Drain well.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients in a seal-able container, add the carrot and refrigerate for 1-2 days.
  3. To serve, drain and rinse.

Sweet Mango Chutney

Ingredients:

  • Mango, not too ripe
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp chili paste
  • water

Directions:

  1. Peel and seed the mangos and chop into 5-10 mm cubes.
  2. Place all ingredients into a non-aluminum saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until fruit and onion is very soft. Lightly mash with a fork. Allow to cool and place in a clean glass jar. Store in the refrigerator

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Indian Dinner Party: Naan

Revised April 23, 2018, added weight measurements.

I have searched high and low for a good Naan recipe and much to my chagrin, I have never found one that was quite what I was looking for. I thought I had found them on occasion, but not quite. That is, until now. I found the Evil Shananigans and it seems that the author Kelly was in the same spot I had been in for so many years. Thank goodness that Kelly did all the work and came up with this fabulous recipe. The only thing I did was reduce the quantity as I didn’t need quite as many and I added 1 level tablespoon of milk powder. Why milk powder you ask? I read somewhere that it adds to the elasticity of the dough and I wanted a chewy dough and it worked wonders! Quite possibly the best Naan ever, I kid you not.

I used an inverted cast iron dutch oven in my gas BBQ to try to replicate the tandoor oven, and by George, I think I got it! The baking method really allowed the dough to bake slowly over indirect heat, maintaining the elasticity and also allowing some parts to crisp up. Dare I say, genius? I hope you’ll bring me down to earth, so I don’t get too comfortable tooting my own horn, even if it is once in a while.

Chewy and crispy at the same time

Chewy and crispy at the same time

Naan

Makes 4 109 g servings

Ingredients:

  • 245 g (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 5 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2 g (1/4 tsp) dry active yeast
  • 3/4 cup milk, heated to 110F
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) sugar
  • 5 g (1 tbsp) milk powder

Directions:

  1. Warm the milk to about 44° C or 110° F and dissolve the yeast and sugar. Allow to bubble up (about 5 minutes).
  2. Combine the flour, milk powder and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer and add the activated yeast. Kneed for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (dough is rather tacky).
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for two hours in a warm place.
  4. Once rested, turn out the dough and divide into four equal portions (I measured mine to be about 109 g each). Make each portion into a ball and allow to rest 30 minutes.
  5. Roll out each ball into thin flat sheets (you’ll need a little flour so it doesn’t stick (15 cm x 30 cm) and then cover with a towel and allow to rest another 30 minutes. You can rub a little olive oil on top so it doesn’t dry out.
  6. Pre-heat your BBQ with an inverted cast iron dutch oven to the highest temperature. (I used an inverted cast pan to replicate the tandoor oven).
  7. One by one, drape each naan sheet over the ‘oven’ and bake until golden and slightly puffy (don’t worry, they will deflate).
  8. Keep warm in parchment wrapped in foil in an oven or serve immediately.

The most delicious naan yet

The most delicious naan yet

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There is another Indian Restaurant in Toronto that we really like, and you’ve probably heard of it because it’s in all the major cities around the world, it’s called Bombay Palace on Jarvis Street. We usually go there for lunch and there are two particular things I love, the carrot pickle and the Aloo Papri Chaat (described as a sweet Medley of crispy wafers chickpeas, potatoes with yogurt-mint chutney dressing). I tried to find as close a recipe as possible to this tangy, sweet and crunchy side, and this one was pretty darn close. I had to make a few changes due to unavailable ingredients, but to be honest, the flavour didn’t suffer for it. I must warn you, it does take a lot of steps.

Aloo Papri Chaat

A delicious mix of sweet and tangy flavours with the crunchy texture of the wafers

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Semolina flour
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 7-8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 dried apricot
  • 1 small cooked potato, cubed
  • 100 g chick peas
  • 1/2 cup low fat yogurt (if using Greek yogurt, you will need to add milk to achieve the right consistency)
  • 1 chopped green chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chaat Masala (see spice mix below)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup peanut oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Make a soft dough with the flour and semolina by adding a little bit of water at a time.
  2. Roll the dough out into a rectangle and cut into bite-sized squares.
  3. Heat the oil to fry the squares and fry them until they puff a little and are golden. Drain oil off and set aside.

Directions for the Tamarind Chutney:

  1. In a small heavy bottom sauce pan, add the tamarind paste and the apricot. Add about 1 cup of hot water to it and heat to a boil until the tamarind paste dissolves and the apricot is mushy. Blend well with an immersion blender. Strain out any hard bits from the tamarind paste.
  2. Add the sugar, chili powder and mix well. Boil until all of the water evaporates and you are left with a thick rich paste.

Ingredients for the Chaat Masala:

Note: the original recipe for Chaat Masala called for Mango Powder which I did not have, and therefore I substituted the apricot into the tamarind mix to replicate the sweet and tangy flavour of the mango powder.

  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black salt

Directions for the Chaat Masala:

  1. Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. If some of the spices are seeds, you will need to grind them well.

Directions for the Yogurt Sauce and assembly:

  1. Whip the yogurt with a whisk until thin and runny (or if it’s Greek Yogurt, add a little milk),
  2. Add  the cubed potatoes, chopped green chili, the chickpeas and a teaspoon or two of the tamarind and mix well (being careful not to break up the potatoes).
  3. Add the bite sized Papri (wafers) and mix gently to coat.
  4. Garnish with Coriander leaves and finely chopped green onions.

A quick shot of the actual serving dish at the dinner party, the lighting sucks as it was already night

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We have an Indian restaurant just north of where we live in BWV called North of Bombay. It’s a lovely place, nicely decorated in a contemporary style, close enough to walk (about 20 minutes) and the food is very good and it’s never crowded and the service has been very good. But for some reason, we ALWAYS order takeout or delivery. Indian is like that for us. And they have a crappy wine list. But they have the most delicious Beef Bhuna that we’ve ever had so that is the recipe I was trying to replicate for our Indian themed dinner party. Their menu describes it as Eye of round cubes cooked with fresh onions,green pepper, ginger, coriander, tomatoes, herbs & spices. So when I was searching the net, those were the key ingredients I was looking for. The recipe below is loosely based on this recipe but I changed it to replicate the flavours of North of Bombay’s Beef Bhuna. I also changed up the technique because I wanted to cook it slow and low as per Bœuff Bourguignon.

Beef Bhuna

Tender beef cubes drenched in a mildly spicy, fragrant, flavourful gravy

Serves 4-6 as part of a bigger menu

Ingredients:

  • 400 g eye of round beef, cut into 2.5 cm or 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Green Pepper, cut into similar size squares as the beef
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of mild curry powder
  • 1 tsp of Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you find this too hot)
  • a pinch of ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1+ cup water
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300° F.
  2. In an oven-proof pan (like Le Creuset’s dutch oven) sear the beef in about 1-2 tbsp high flash point oil (like peanut or canola). Remove from pan. De-glaze with a 1/2 cup of beef stock, pour over the meat.
  3. Add finely chopped onions and cook well (I saw Madhur Jaffrey on Martha Stewart once and she said that Indian cooking doesn’t sweat the onions, but they cook the onions dark, but not burned).
  4. Add the curry, chilli, cayenne, cardamon and coriander and cook JUST until you can smell it. Add the garlic, fresh ginger and garam masala give a quick stir. Now add the water and combine well. Return the beef to the pan and give it a good stir. Cover and bake in the 300° F oven for 2-3 hours or until beef is fork tender. Check frequently and add water as required; you don’t want it soupy, just a nice light gravy. About 30 minutes to serving, add the green pepper — you don’t want the green pepper soft and mushy.
  5. Serve hot garnished with cilantro leaves and green onions with Basmati rice and Naan.


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This is an absolute favourite of our household, but to be honest the gravy is usually laden with butter and ghee which is really bad for you, so I prefer to make my own so that it’s healthier. The Makhani gravy is from this recipe, but as I mentioned in the menu post, I had to add a little sweetness (I used Agave Nectar) to counter the very acidic tomatoes — I suspect that the full butter and cream of the original recipe would do the same, so if you choose to go full fat on this baby, omit the agave. There I said it.

The paneer is a soft unripened cheese made similarly to Ricotta, but instead of leaving it loose, you press it into a rectangular shape to be cut into cubes. Easy.

A delicious, rich tasting tomato gravy with gently firm paneer

Paneer Makhani

This is the original recipe I just doubled the quantity

Serves 4-6 as a part of several dishes

Ingredients:

  • 4 liter Fresh whole milk
  • 4-6 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in the deep and heavy bottom pan at medium heat (this is really important, otherwise you will need to spend at least a half hour trying to clean the burnt milk off the bottom). Allow it come to a gentle boil and stay there for a minute. Make sure the milk is not vigorously boiling (also important, see note above). If it does, immediately reduce the heat and bring the milk back to gentle boil. But if you do burn your enamel pan, I have a great tip at the end.
  2. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice and quickly stir it in (because I had doubled the recipe, it took a bit longer to develop). At this point, you will start to see small curdles in the milk but no whey. Add another tablespoon or two of juice and again stir it in. The curdles will increase and you will slowly begin to see the yellowish whey. Add the last tablespoon of juice and with this, you should be able to see a clear yellowish whey separating from the curdles, switch of the gas immediately at this point. Depending on the acidity of the juice, the amount of juice you require may differ. Start with one tablespoon at a time till you achieve the results.
  3. You could save the whey, and if you do: Line another pan with double layered cheesecloth. Make sure the cheesecloth is long enough to be bundled up and hanged later. Run the whey through the cloth which will collect all the curdles. Set the whey aside.
  4. Wash the curdles in the cheese cloth, by running it through cold water to remove the lemon taste.
  5. Tie up the cheesecloth in a tight bundle and let it drain for about 30 minutes. Then place weight on the cheese to get it to be flatter and drain out extra moisture. I wanted a nice block of cheese so I pressed the contents of the cheese cloth into a square cake pan about 20 cm (8 inch). Then I took the still wrapped cheese and placed it between two cutting boards and put a heavy pot on top for 1-2 hours.You don’t want to add too much weight for too long as it can drain out way too much moisture from the cheese making it hard and crumbly. Your cheese should have a slightly elastic texture so when you lightly press your finger into it, it will bounce back.
  6. Wrap it and store it in the fridge for up to a week.
  7. Reheat very slowly in the microwave for 30 second spurts until too warm to touch. Add to the makhani gravy at the last minute (I didn’t want my paneer to fall apart).

TIP: if you happen to burn the milk to the bottom of your pan, try this handy tip, cover burnt area with a good thick layer of table salt, add a bit of water and heat but don’t hard boil. Using a silicon scraper, see if it comes off. If it doesn’t, do the same but instead of water, use lemon juice and this time bring to a soft boil. Using a silicon scraper, peel away the burnt layer. Voilà!

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I am very excited to tell you that THIS post will tip this blog over the 100,000 views! I can hardly believe it. My humble little blog from Bloor West Village. Go figure. I was going to do some sort of prize, but I have no idea how to measure who my 100,000 visit was. So I’ll have to think of something else. WOOO HOOO!

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Oh Christmas Tree

We decorated the tree a few days after we got it home. Now I know it’s probably a lot larger than many cultures, but for Canadians this tree is small; even by our standards it’s a wee bit puny, we had to put it up on a table to get the height we needed! But I’m OK with that, because that just gives us more room for presents!

These delicious little bites were baked, believe it or not, and you will be surprised at how soft and chewy the centre is and how crispy the exterior becomes when you reheat. I don’t think I will deep fry my bhajis ever again.

Baked Onion Bhajis

Don’t be fooled by their size, they pack a big punch of flavour

original recipe from BBC. Makes about 24 mini bhajis.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Vidalia onion very thinly sliced
  • 120 g/4 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • non stick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Pre-heat a 12 or 24 mini muffin tin.
  2. Beat the eggs and add the finely chopped onion rings, mix well.
  3. Combine the flour, ground coriander and cumin and stir well. Add to the egg, onion mixture and stir well to combine.
  4. Generously spray the mini muffin tin, add about 1 tbsp of the batter per cavity. Bake for 7-10 minutes, then flip each bhaji so that it browns evenly on both sides and bake for another 7-10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. To serve, pre-heat oven to 350°F and place bhajis onto a cookie sheet and heat for about 10-12 minutes, crisping up the exterior.
  6. Serve immediately with some onion chutney or tamarind chutney.

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Dinner Party Menu: India

The other day my new friend Trang nominated me for the Liebster award. Thank you Trang.

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You must be getting a sense that we love themed dinner parties. I love everything about it, researching the food, experimenting, cooking and decorating. We had the “King and Queen” 😉 of themed dinner parties over for dinner recently (remember Titanic Anniversary Dinner and Truman Capotes Black and White?) and as one of only two couples from our group who love Indian food as much as we do, we decided to have Indian night. All the food is home-made, of course, but don’t worry, I didn’t spend all day in the kitchen; what’s great about Indian food is that it’s down-to-earth home-cooking at its best and stews are often better tasting the second day, so I was able to prepare much of the feast in advance. This post will show the menu and the photos but the recipes will come one by one, so that I can find them in the future.

This was staged, we actually had A LOT more food than that!

Hors D’œuvres:

  • Baked Onion Bhajis — I’m excited about this recipe because I did a little experiment and figured out a way to bake them instead of deep frying them and they worked out GREAT!
  • Appetizer: Mulligatawny Soup — I prepared this soup similarly to the link to my original recipe, except that I omitted the proteins as the rest of the meal is rather heavy and I didn’t want to be full after the first course! I also puréed about 1/4 of the soup so that the broth is thicker and creamier, but left the majority as chunks.

Mains:

  • Paneer Makhani — this is a rich and delicious tomato gravy with home made unripened, pressed cheese. I used this Makhani recipe but I had to add about 2 tbsp Agave Nectar as the tomatoes were extremely acidic. I suspect that this acidity would be reduced if I had used full cream and butter of the original recipe, but then that wouldn’t be me, would it now?
  • Beef Bhuna — a tasty beef stew with a deliciously flavourful gravy
  • Basmiti Rice
  • Aloo Papri Chaat — a very flavourful and texture filled cold side dish with a yogurt sauce and chick peas

Condiments:

  • Carrot Pickle — a lightly spicy, crunchy pickle to cleans the palate
  • Mango Chutney — I wanted a mango chutney that wasn’t full of sugar

Bread

  • Naan — a delicious chewy Indian bread, baked on the outside of their tandoori ovens, stay tune for my experiment!

Dessert:

  • Light Lemon Mousse — this is where I skipped Indian and went straight to light and satisfying. I checked with our guests and similar to our tastes they find Indian desserts a little too sweet so I improvised. Plus I wanted to use the gorgeous little cups we bought our yogurt in while in Paris.

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It must be officially fall because the temperatures have plummeted and the rains have set in, the skies are grey and the wind is noisy. Kind’a depressing weather, and it certainly doesn’t inspire so I wasn’t up to menu planning; but paging through a local grocery chain’s fall 2010 issue, JT found a recipe he thought he would like to have to spice up our weekly meal plan. We’re making chickpea and potato curry. Now I don’t usually gravitate toward potato recipes, but I was totally uninspired in making the menu this week and decided to just go for it, potatoes and all. Next time, I would add a handful of sultana raisins to add the sweetness this curry was missing. Or alternatively I think I’ll try this with sweet potatoes or even butternut squash as I think the sweetness of the sweet potato or butternut squash would be heavenly with the curry.
Do you meal plan? I generally plan out the entire week on Sunday and do the groceries Sunday afternoon. I always make enough for lunches for the following day. The planning makes my head want to explode for an hour or so but then I don’t have to think about it! I store the plan on the iCloud in my Reminders app on my iPhone and that way I have it no matter where I am (because if I’m having fish on Thursday I’ll need to pick it up from my fishmonger that day and my Reminders will remind me!)
The dish comes together reasonably quickly and cooks in about 30 minutes. I think it took me 10 minutes to prep everything (mise en place) so 40 minutes tops. And I am sure you can do this in the slow cooker, I would choose low and cook for 4-5 hours (just remember to heat the curry powder in a lightly oiled frying pan before you add it to revive the flavours). The starch in the potato makes a very nice and creamy sauce. In the recipe below I cut the potatoes down to half, as I just didn’t want as many carbs. The method for preparing the onions is a little unconventional, but it worked out very flavourful.

Warm with a touch of heat is nice when it’s blistery cold outside

Chickpea and Potato Curry

Original recipe can be found in Longos Fall 2010 magazine or here.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 vidalia onion, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated finely with a microplane
  • 1 small hot chili pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp mild curry powder or paste
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed small (about 2 potatoes)
  • 1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 cups greens (arugula or spinach) per person

Directions:

  1. In your immersion blender, purée onion, garlic, ginger and chili pepper into a fine paste (you can do this in a mini processor too, but I find the immersion blender does a finer job).
  2. In a large deep skillet, heat oil and cook onion paste for about 5 minutes or until softened.
  3. Stir in curry powder and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add 2 cups of the water and stir to make a gravy consistency (it was actually quite liquid/soupy for me).
  5. Add the potatoes; cover and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender but firm.
  6. Add chickpeas, garam masala and remaining water and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened and potatoes are very tender.
  7. Serve on a bed of greens, sprinkled with chopped cilantro.

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We made this soup for a dinner party about a month or so ago, and tonight we pulled out the left overs and enhanced the already amazing soup!

I call it my kitchen sink soup as you can use any vegetables you have in the refrigerator!

Original recipe has been modified from Recipe Zaar (soup Nazi version!)

Enhanced Mulligatawny Soup

  • 8 cups water
  • 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium potato, peeled &, diced (all vegetables should be diced the same size)
  • 1 carrot, peeled & diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 large eggplant, peeled & diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2/3 cup roasted red pepper, diced
  • 796 mL low sodium stewed tomatoes (I use PC blue menu)
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews (I will often omit this to mitigate calories)
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 3 teaspoons garam masala (this is an indian spice mix which I have modified from an old cookbook – here is a link, but use spices that you like to make it your own)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dash marjoram
  • 1 dash nutmeg
  • 1 dash of cayenne (or to taste)
  1. Heat oil in a very large pot. Add onion and cook until golden brown.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 4-5 hours or until soup has reduced by more than half.
  3. Stir occasionally for the first few hours, but stir often in the last hour to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. The edges of the potatoes should become more rounded, and the nuts will soften.

This will freeze very well. To enhance the soup, just before serving, add:

  • 3 shrimps per serving
  • 1 cup sliced smoked chorizo sausage
  • 1 cup cooked diced chicken
  1. Defrost and reheat.
  2. Add Shrimp and Chorizo and cook for about 4 minutes.

Note: You may also purée this soup (without the chicken, sausage or shrimp) to make it a creamed version, but always run it through a fine sieve, it is worth the extra effort and makes an amazingly smooth and silky soup!

  1. Add cooked chicken and stir until reheated.
  2. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt! Enjoy!

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Gulab Jamun

For one of my trio of desserts for Barb and Kevin’s dinner party this evening I decided to make Gulab Jamun which are deep fried milk powder fritters flavoured with Indian spices and drenched in Rose Water Simple Syrup.

Gulab Jamun

I found the recipe on line, but I altered it, as indicated below. For the real recipe, click here.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 4 drops rose water
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 7 tbsp powdered milk
  • 3 tsp self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp semolina (Sooji)
  • 3 tsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp orange rind
  • pinch of saffron
  • milk to mix
  • 1 L oil for deep frying
  1. Put the sugar and water in a heavy base or nonstick pan and heat to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat and boil for 10 minutes to make a simple syrup. Mix in the rose water and orange zest and set aside.
  2. Combine powdered milk, flour, semolina, melted butter, ground cardamom, and saffron in a bowl. Mix well with a little milk to make a soft dough.
  3. Using a teaspoon, make and roll balls until all of the dough is used.
  4. Heat the oil to 375° F and gently deep-fry the balls until golden brown.
  5. Remove with slotted spoon and put into the syrup.
  6. Bring the syrup to a boil, then remove from the heat.
  7. Transfer two to three balls to a small shallow dish, serve warm.

Orange Infused Gulab Jamun on Foodista

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Onion Bhaji (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Blog)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1 fresh Green Chilli, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp Ginger (grated on microplane)
  • 1 tsp Garlic (grated on microplane)
  • 200g Gram flour (Chickpea Flour) (I used semolina flour for the November 2013 dinner party)
  • 100g Rice Flour (I used regular wheat flour for the November 2013 dinner party)
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne (or to taste)
  • 2 tsps Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground Coriander
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Water

Instructions:

  1. Add onion, finely chopped green chilli, grated ginger and garlic into a food processor and process until onion is finely chopped.
  2. Sieve the Gram and Rice Flour into a large bowl and add the Cayenne, Ground Cumin, Coriander, Salt and Pepper. Now add the finely chopped Onion and Chilli and mix thoroughly.
  3. Slowly add water, while stirring the mixture, until you get a thick batter (should resemble pancake mix).
  4. Mix well, and leave to stand for 10-minutes.
  5. Heat a Deep Fat Fryer to 190°C – using a very small ice cream scoop (about the size of a melon baller, drop 3-4 balls of onion mix into the hot batter. Remove when crisp and brown.
  6. Serve with a ready made tamarind sauce or mango sauce. YUM!
  7. These freeze well. To reheat, preheat oven to 300°F and bake bhajis for about 12-15 minutes until heated through. May be reheated from frozen, in which case it will take a bit longer.

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