Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Individual Bolognese Pot Pies

What do you do when you have some lovely leftover meat ragu from a Spaghetti Bolognese dinner? Why you bake them into dainty little pot pies!

Spaghetti Bolognese is a favourite at home but doesn't get made often because we don't eat mutton that often and plus its best to have during the winter when you don't mind a slightly heavier meal. I usually make use my tried and tested Bolognese recipe, but this time I tried Emeril Lagasse's recipe with a few changes and it was really delicious!

I then had quite a bit of the ragu leftover so a couple of evenings later, I reduced it down to a thicker consistency and add some peas as well. Portioned it out into small ramekins (use bigger ones for single potions) and then rolled out some puff pastry to cover it. Baked it for about 15 minutes and voila! dinner was ready. I made some small cut out shapes of the pastry to decorate, but its really not necessary.


For the Ragu Sauce 

Olive oil - 2 tsp

Mutton mince - 300gm

Bacon - 4 strips chopped

4 chorizo sausages - chopped finely or crumbled

Onions - 2 medium, chopped

Carrots - 1 medium, diced

Tomatoes - 5 pureed 

Tomato puree - 1/4 cup

1 stock cube (chicken or beef) dissolved in 300ml of water

Red wine - 3/4 cup

Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped finely

 Bay leaves - 2

Freshly crushed black pepper - 1/2 tsp

Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp

Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp

Dried oregano - 1 tsp

Cinnamon powder - 1/2 tsp

Sugar - 1 tsp

Milk - 1/4 cup 

Cooked Spaghetti - 300gms

Parmesan powder - to serve

1. Take a pan and heat the olive oil in it. Add the bacon and cook till browned and fat is rendered - about 3-4 minutes.
2. Stir in the onions and carrots and cook for 4 minutes till soft. 
3. Next add the bay leaves, garlic, salt, pepper, red chilli powder, cumin powder, cinnamon powder and oregano and saute for a minute.
4. Add the mutton mince and finely chopped sausages and fry for 5 minutes till they are browned.
5. Add the red wine and cook for 3 minutes breaking up any browned bits sticking to the pan.
6. Add both the purees, the stock and sugar and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer covered till the sauce is thickened - about an hour and fifteen minutes. 
7. Add the milk and check the salt. Stir well and remove from heat and keep warm. Serve over cooked spaghetti sprinkled with parmesan powder for Spaghetti Bolognese.
For the pot pies:
Peas - 1/4 cup
Puff pastry - one sheet for the entire quantity or 1/2 or 1/4 if only working with leftover sauce
Egg - 1, beaten with 1 tbsp water
- add the peas and continue cooking for another half hour till the sauce is much thicker in consistency.
- Spoon into individual ramekins leaving about half an inch at the top for the pastry
- Roll out puff pastry on a floured surface and cut out circles which will fit inside the ramekins (I didn't tuck the pastry inside which I will do next time)
- Brush the pastry with the egg wash and cover the ramekins tucking in the edges.
- Make slits on top of the pastry to vent. You can decorate by cutting small shapes with cookie cutters from the pastry bits left over and then just pressing down lightly over the top of the pastry cover.
- Bake in a pre heated oven at 200C for 15 minutes or till the top is golden brown and flaky.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spicy Punjabi Winter Vegetable (Gobi,Shalgam,Gajar ka Achaar)

Finally - yes, finally - managed to make these two wonderful winter pickles so typical of North India. I have had this Punjabi winter pickle quite a few times after coming to Delhi and loved the crunch of the vegetables in that piquant sweet and spicy mixture. I have been eyeing Anita's recipe for it for some time now and as soon as the fresh winter vegetables started flooding the market and the prices hit rock bottom, I made sure to buy a couple of kilos and get down to pickling before it was too late.

We don't normally enjoy sweet pickles but Anita's recipe is really, really good - not overwhelmingly sweet but just the subtle touch which is needed to offset the warm spices of cardamom and cinnamom added to it. Its almost like a vegetable you can have on the side with practically everything rather than an actual pickle!.
For step by step instructions and the complete recipe - look here in A Mad Tea Party. I used the same proportions but halved the quantities of all ingredients.

In addition to the slightly sweet one, I also made a spicy one based on my neighbour's mother's traditional pickle - Aunty is not doing too well and this is probably the first year she wasn't able to make her pickle and kanji - get well soon Aunty, we are all rooting for you!


 The important thing to remember is to make sure the vegetables are cut into roughly the same sizes and are easy to eat rather than in huge chunks. Also, they should be dried thoroughly before pickling. The spoons you use should be clean and dry and the bottles as well. Moisture can make pickles spoil very soon. The vegetables are usually left out in the winter sun during the dayfor a week or so but since they are anyway enjoyed crunchy it doesn't matter if they don't get "sun cooked". I think the sunning may have been more to ensure that there is no spoilage?

I am sending to this Indrani's event - Spotlight - Winter Vegetables

Spicy Punjabi Winter Vegetable (Gobi,Shalgam,Gajar ka Achaar)

An authentic Punjabi recipe given by Aunty K

Cauliflower, Radish and Carrot - 1 kg totally - about 300gm each of the radish and carrot - 500gms for the cauliflower because the stems will come off.
Red chilli powder - 10gms (about 1 tbsp)
Salt - 30gms (about 2 tbsp)
Mustard Powder - 1 tbsp
Mustard Oil - 2 ladlefuls (about 200ml)

(I also added a tbsp of freshly crushed ginger and garlic which I fried for a minute in a tbsp of the mustard oil before adding to the vegetables)

1.Wash the vegetables thoroughly. Cut the stalks off the cauliflowers. Lightly peel the radish and carrots after chopping off the tops and tails.
2. Cut the carrots into 2" long batons, separate the cauliflower into medium sized florets and cut the radish into slices roughly the size of the carrots.
3. In a large vessel, bring to boil a litre of water and then blanch the cut vegetables for 3 minutes.
4. Drain and then spread on a clean cloth and dry in the sun completely.
5. Combine the mustard powder, salt and chilli powder in a large bowl and then rub onto the dried vegetables. Spoon into a large, clean glass jar.
6. Heat the mustard oil till smoking point and then turn off the flame. Cool slightly and pour into the jar over the vegetables.
7. Close the jar (or cover with muslin cloth) and keep in the sun for 2 days.Shake and mix well.

These are best eaten in a couple of months when the vegetables are still crunchy - serve with paranthas, khichdi, curd rice, dal chawal - actual anything!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Herbed Dinner Rolls

Its been a long time since I baked bread - what with all the cookies and cakes which happened in the last couple of months, bread baking took a backseat. Woke up one morning last week, with a yen to bake and when I asked my daughter what she would like to bake, she said bread. I was immediately excited , though felt it might be completely mistimed considering how cold it is right now. I wasn't even sure whether the bread would rise with such a cold wind blowing outside.


But K hauled out the Bread Book by Sara Lewis (from which I have previously made an Olive and Feta Cheese bread, Carrot & Mustard Bread, Stuffed Mushroom and Garlic Baguette and Rapid Light Wholemeal Loaf) and we pored over the recipes on each page - she finally picked the Fancy Dinner Rolls, "because of the shapes". So dinner rolls it was then. She was thrilled to be kneading the dough for the first time and considering how fussy she is otherwise about getting icky stuff on her hands, didn't seem to mind the mess at all sticking to her fingers!  I finished up with the rest of the kneading and we set out the bowl of dough in the balcony to double. And it rose beautifully!

She then shaped half the dough into pull apart rolls - basically , you make small balls of the dough and arrange them in the baking tray or dish in a kind of circle so that they touch each other. They stick together when they prove for the second time so that after they bake, you have to "pull them apart". The remaining dough I shaped into a simple coil and a knot.

The shaped rolls rose for second time and after brushing them with a simple egg wash, I sprinkled the round rolls with sesame seeds and fennel seeds while the coiled ones were topped with some fresh basil from my potted plant. The rolls baked for about 10-15 minutes each and the baking bread filled the house with that heavenly, yeasty aroma which makes you want to grab the freshly baked bread and slather it with some butter and eat it just like that!

Herbed Dinner Rolls
All purpose flour (maida) - 475g (4 1/2 cups)
Butter - 2 tbsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Salt -1 tsp
Fast action dried yeast - 1.5 tsp
Warm Water - 275ml

Egg yolk - 1 to glaze
water - 1 tbsp
sesame seeds, fennel seeds, fresh basil (one can also use poppy seeds, paprika and fresh rosemary)

1. Put the flour into the bowl and rub the butter into it till it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Add the sugar, salt and yeast and then slowly incorporate as much warm water as is needed to make a soft dough.
3. Knead well for 5 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic but not too sticky. Put the dough into the bowl and cover loosely with an oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise till doubled in size - about an hour
4. Knead the dough again on a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 pieces. Grease a baking sheet or 2 trays
For pull apart rolls: - take 2 pieces of dough and divide each into 3 small balls. Arrange into a circle or 2 triangles so that they touch each other.
For coils - take 2 pieces of dough and shape each one into a rope 10 inches long and then coil each rope into a spiral.
For knots - take 2 pieces of dough and shape each one into a rope about 9 inches long. Loop one end of one rope and then thread the other end through the loop to make the knot. Repeat
5. Cover the shaped rolls with loosely oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for 20 minutes to half an hour.
6. Brush the tops of the rolls with egg yolks mixed with 1 tbsp of water and sprinkle with the seeds or herbs.
7. Bake in a pre heated oven at 200C for 10 -15 minutes until the tops are golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped with the fingertips. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Broccoli, Bell Pepper and Lettuce Salad with Fried Almonds

This is a beautiful salad with a silky Asian flavoured dressing which makes it a great accompaniment to most meals. I usually don't like using mayonnaise in salads but it did work in this one and since I just used a little more than a couple of tablespoons, it didn't overwhelm the other flavours. In summer, I would replace the mayonnaise with feta cheese and a couple of more spoons of sesame oil.
You can see cherry tomatoes in the picture because my daughter insisted on putting them in, but I don't include it usually since it gets a bit pulpy as compared to the other crisp vegetables. The almonds could also be toasted instead of being fried. The broccoli almond combination was inspired by this recipe from Kalyn's blog though the dressing is somewhat different from the one she has used.

 Broccoli, Bell Pepper and Lettuce Salad with Fried Almonds

Broccoli - 1 medium separated into florets
Red Bell Pepper - 1
Green Bell pepper - 1
Yellow Bell Pepper - 1
peppers to be deseeded and sliced thinly
Lettuce leave s-4-5 torn
Olive oil - 1 tsp
Almonds - 1/2 cup, peeled and sliced thinly

Garlic - 2 minced
Ginger - 1" minced
Rice wine vinegar - 1 tsp
Soya sauce - 1 tsp
Chilli sauce - 1 tsp
Sesame oil - 4 tsp
Mayonnaise - 3 tbsp

1. Bring water to boil in a big vessel and blanch broccoli florets for 3 minutes, remove and cool
2. In the same boiling water, blanch the slices of pepper for a minute.
3. Crush the garlic and ginger along with the salt. In a bowl, mix the crushed ginger, garlic with vinegar, soya, chilli sauce and sesame oil.
4. Mix in the mayonnaise and beat; keep aside for 15 minutes.
5. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a small pan and fry the sliced almonds for 3-4 minutes till it is just changing colour and a bit crisp = it burns easily, so take care. Cool and toss with a pinch of salt.
6. In a salad bowl, Mix the blanched broccoli florets, sliced pepper, lettuce leaves and half of the fried almonds.
7. Toss with a little more than half of the dressing and then if needed, add the remaining dressing.
8. Garnish with the remaining fried almonds and serve immediately. 
This salad was my only contribution to a barbeque evening one of our friends had arranged at our place in early December - he is a good cook and had marinated the mutton mince for the seeksh kababs and chicken tikkas perfectly with just the right amount of spices. The kababs were great with that distinctive smoky flavour and the warmth from the grill was comforting against the chill of that evening outside.

A beautiful baby spinach, cottage cheese and walnut salad made by my friend A who lives upstairs - never fails to please. The dressing is simple - olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crushed pepper - and the cottage cheese is marinated in it as well before being tossed with the other ingredients. Some wine and cheese completed the evening.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Jam Sandwich Cookies (Jim Jams)

 My niece and nephew are visiting from Mumbai for the Christmas hols and its been great fun having them here. The lil' one at 3 is a complete delight and my 6 year old daughter is thrilled to have someone younger than her. My niece is now 12 and she has grown into such a poised, mature girl :) Its always nice catching up with SIL as well. \

The kids were asking for cream biscuits (which is what we call cookies in India) the other evening so I asked them whether they wanted to bake jam biscuits. My niece was especially thrilled at the idea since she wants to learn to bake. So, I gave her the ingredients and she measured them out, kneaded and rolled and very painstakingly applied the jam gently on the cooled cookies before sandwiching them. She was so pleased with the biscuits, she couldn't stop beaming. K was suitable adoring of her elder cousin and even forgot to even ask to taste the batter at every stage.

I divided the dough into two parts, one part went into making the jam cookies and the other we mixed in candied fruit (Tutti Frutti) into the dough and made cookies from it. I had rolled out the jam cookie dough a tad too thin than needed so it was a bit crisper than needed. You could also cut out the cookies after making a roll of the dough - but the dough might be a bit too soft for that. I did cut out the dough for the Tutti Frutti cookies and they were thicker.

The Jam cookies were a hit with the kids - which one of us didn't like those jam filled biscuits!!And they did exactly what I used to = first took apart the biscuits, licked the jam from both sides and then ate the biscuits! Somethings never change :)

 Jam Sandwich Cookies

Flour - 1 1/2 cups plus more for dusting and kneading
Salt -  a pinch
Egg - 1 (can omit, use 2 tbsp milk and 1 tsp baking powder)
Butter - 1/2 cup
Castor Sugar - 1/2 cup
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Milk - 1 -2 tbsp (as required)

Jam - any jam, I used pineapple - about 1/4 cup

1. Cream butter and sugar together till shiny. Add and egg and then beat till fluffy.
2. Sieve flour and salt together and then gently fold into the egg mixture.
3. Add vanilla extract and gently mix together to form soft dough, If too dry, add about a tbsp or two of milk. If too sticky, add flour one tbsp at a time till you are just able to form a rough ball of dough.
4. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour till firm.
5. Sprinkle flour on the work platform and roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/2" inch high.
6. Cut with a cookie cutter, remove the uncut versions, form into ball and roll out again. Repeat till the dough is exhausted.
7. This step is optional, if you have a small cookie cutter or a tiny bottle top, you could cut out holes in half of the cookies to form a window for the jam to be seen on top.
8. Pre heat the oven to 180C, arrange the cookies in batches on a greased baking tray, leaving some space in between.
9. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cookies and number of cookies on the tray - start checking after 6 minutes to ensure they are just cooked and don't get burnt. Remove when tops are firm and just starting to change colour.
10. Remove. cool and bake next batch. Once all the cookies are baked and cooled, spread jam on the the flat side of the cookies without holes on top and cover with the cookies with holes. Press gently and store in piles in an airtight container.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sarson Ka Saag (Steamed Mustard Greens simmered with Spices)

Ever since we moved to Delhi, Sarson ka Saag (Mustard Leaves) has become such a regular at our table during the winter that I hardly pay any attention - especially since I can eat only tiny portions because of the high fibre content. It was made the other day when A (my friend from Upstairs) had come over for a mid week lunch and she remarked that it was quite different. Tara (my girl Friday) has been making this for so long now that I couldn't even remember the exact recipe.

When I checked with Tara, she promptly showed me her book where I had written down a recipe 3 years back! It's simplicity personified - I now remembered that I had told her I didn't want any heavy garam masalas masking the flavours of the mustard leaves so there's only ginger, garlic and green chillies. There's spinach mixed in to mellow the pungency of the mustard and a little wholemeal cornflour (makki atta is Indian cornflour which has been ground to a fine consistency) to give it some consistency (though much lesser than the traditional version which is creamier because of more makki atta). I also didn't want the leaves to be pureed so it is just mashed roughly after being cooked and tempered with the  spices and simmered briefly. I would say this is on the lines of the keerai masiyal which we make and I love the flavours of the greens bursting through instead of being drowned in heavy spices and cream.

Serve this with makki ki roti (flatbreads made out of Indian wholemeal cornflour) or just plain rotis and it makes for a beautiful meal!

Sarson ka Saag
1 bunch mustard greens (about 600)
Half a binch of spinach (200-300gms)
2 tbsp makki atta (Indian wholemeal cornflour, not refined cornflour)
2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
2-3 green chillies, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1" ginger - chopped
salt to taste

1. Soak the greens in water and wash well in several changes of water till you get rid of all the dirt. I include the stalks if they are not too woody and tough.
2. Chop roughly and pressure cook for just 5 minutes (one whistle)- you can also cook on the stove top - Indian mustard greens are not very tender and I find the pressure cooker helpful.
3. Remove from cooker and mash with a wooden "mathu" (masher) or the back of a wooden ladle for a consistency which is not s fine puree but a coarse mash.
4. Heat 1 tbsp Ghee in a pan and add the garlic, ginger and green chillies and saute for a minute. Add the mashed greens and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the makki atta and simmer for another 5 minutes.
5. Drizzle the remaining Ghee over the saag and turn off flame. Serve with rotis.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Asian Style Baked Basa with Crispy Noodles

Basa is the name some marketing dude has coined for Vietnamese Catfish (like the Patagonian Toothfish became popular on menus around the world as Chilean Sea Bass). This fish has become very popular in India in recent years - the restaurants were the first to begin and now it is available in most metros at neighbourhood frozen food outlets. In just a few years, the annual import of basa has crossed 1,500 tonnes with Kolkata alone consuming 500 to 600 tonnes - that local seafood loving city!

With its firm, white flesh which lends itself to almost any kind of dish, and lack of "fishy" smell, it has become much favoured by the local palate especially for grilled and Oriental dishes.  The supply chain supports this demand by making perfectly frozen fillets available at competitive prices. My neighbourhood guy sells it at Rs. 450 /kg - I got 6 servings out of it, enough for 2 meals for 3 people. Compare this with Rs. 600-Rs. 700/kg for sole or even local fish like surmai or pomfret which are between Rs 350 - Rs 400 per kg. 

Of course, I would never use basa to replace local fish in Indian curries - but it seems perfect for appetizers and grilled mains. This time I used Asian flavours to marinate the fish and then baked it and served it over stir fried noodles. Delicious.

 Asian Style Baked Basa with Crispy Noodles
Serves 2

Basa Fillet - 1 large - about 350gms
Marinade/Dipping Sauce
Fish Sauce - 1 tbsp
Soy Sauce - 1 tbsp
Sriracha Sauce (or any Hot sauce) - 1 tbsp
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
Garlic - 1tbsp, finely chopped
Ginger - 1 tbsp, thinly shredded

For the baking process
Rice wine vinegar - 1 tbsp
Lime juice - 1 tbsp
Coriander - 2 tbsp chopped
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
Freshly crushed black pepper
salt to taste

Spring Onions - 2 sliced (reserve the green tops)

Green chilli - 2 slit

Noodles - 200gms (I was out of noodles and used spaghetti)

Olive oil  - 1 tbsp
salt to taste
Garlic - 2 cloves chopped finely

1.  Mix all ingredients for the marinade, lightly whisk and keep aside.
2. Divide the Basa fillet into two portions and marinate in the prepared marinade for about half an hour to an hour
3. Pre heat oven to 180C. Mix the rice wine vinegar, Olive oil, lime juice, chopped coriander, salt and pepper.
4. Pour the prepared vinegar mixture into a baking tray, remove the fish fillets from the marinade (reserve the marinade for the spaghetti) and place on the baking tray. Top each fillet with half of the chopped spring onions and one green chilli
5. Bake in the pre heated oven at 180C for 15 minutes, till the fish is just flaky.
6. While the fish is baking, bring a pot of water to boil, add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cool till just done (al dente). Takes about 6-8 minutes.
7. In a wok or heavy bottomed pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil, add the finely chopped garlic cloves and saute for half a minute. Add the reserved marinade mixture and boil 2 minutes.
8. Add the spaghetti to the wok and stir fry for 3-5 minutes till slightly crispy, season with a little salt if needed, usually the marinade mixture has ennough salt in it from the sauces.
9. To serve, divide the noodles between two plates and place one fillet of fish on top of each pile. Garnish with chopped spring onion greens and a wedge of lime.