Potato and Poached Egg Curry

Thanks to my Mangalorean lineage, I love coconut – in, on, under, over, however! In this recipe, eggs are poached in the curry. I don’t know if we went to Israel or they came to Mangalore for a holiday, but there’s a Shakshuka connection somewhere in the eggs poaching in curry/sauce. Why this is a quick dish for me is that I make the coconut based masala and store it in the fridge way before. It becomes the base for my chicken, mutton and vegetable curry. It’s most convenient when you’re a working person, and all you need to do it cook the vegetables out in the masala. You can then either add any kind of stock or simply use coconut milk for some gravy.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 tsp of the ground coconut masala
1 tbsp ghee or oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 tetrapack coconut milk (200 ml or approx a cup)
1 medium tomato finely chopped
1 tsp tamarind pas
2 large potatoes cooked and diced
4 eggs
Chopped coriander for garnish
Salt to taste

Method:
1. Heat oil/ghee and add onions.
2. Let it turn golden brown and then add the curry paste.
3. It will turn darker in colour (2-3 mins) and then add the tomatoes and salt.
4. Add coconut milk and a cup of water to dilute the curry.
5. Let it come to a bubble before you add the potatoes.
6. Now gently crack each egg open into the curry, at four different spots.
7. Cover and lower the flame. Let it cook further for 5-7 mins or till the yolks are set.
8. Garnish with coriander and serve with rice.

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Coconut Masala Paste For Curries

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This is my safe base as I’d like to call it. After a day’s work, I’d like to get done with cooking for dinner in minimum time so I can unwind and rest well before a good night’s sleep. This masala really helps my cause. For a quick curry I cook vegetables or chicken¬†in this paste along with coconut milk, stock or just water. Sometimes I add chopped tomatoes and tamarind pulp for some sourness while cooking the curry.

Ingredients for the ground masala:
6 Р7 dried red chillies РI used Kashmiri because they give more colour than heat
4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 cup grated coconut or 1/2 cup coconut pieces

Optional: peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds

Method for the masala:
1. Saute all ingredients one at a time in 1 tbsp oil or ghee.
2. Grind to a fine paste with water.
3. Use immediately or store in air tight container in the fridge.

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Mutton Thukpa

Post my McLeod Ganj holiday, thukpa hasn’t left my mind. It seemed reasonably easy and doable. I’m sure that’s the case with most comfort food. With thukpa there’s the broth, veggies and noodles. Get them all together in a bowl and comfort is guaranteed.

Ingredients:
1/2 kilo mutton on the bone, cut into small pieces
1 onion chopped
3 garlic cloves sliced
1 inch ginger finely sliced
4 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 tbsp soy
1 pack hakka noodles cooked
2 cups veggies – I used mushrooms and carrots
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp crushed peppercorns

Method:
1. Heat oil in pressure cooker and add cinnamon and cloves.
2. Add onions, ginger, garlic and saute till fragrant – about 3 mins.
3. Add mutton and 500 ml water (or enough for the broth).
4. Cook till two whistle blows and turn off heat.
5. After pressure drops on its own, turn the flame on.
6. Take out the mutton pieces and bring the broth to a bubble.
7. Add the veggies and let them cook.
8. Add soy and check for saltiness. If you want to, add salt.
9. Add peppercorns and put the mutton pieces back into the broth. Turn off the heat.

To serve: In a bowl, place a handful of cooked hakka noodles at the bottom and pour over the broth with the veggies and mutton pieces. Garnish with chopped spring onions or coriander leaves.

You can replace mutton with chicken, of course. You could use chicken bouillon cubes to the broth for extra flavour.

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Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken is probably my most ordered dish in/from a Chinese restaurant. I didn’t quite bother figuring out the recipe because it was easy to order in, of course. I’ll take this opportunity to shamelessly plug in Zomato Order here. Anyway, I looked a few recipes and made my own version of Kung Pao Chicken. I’ve learned that shallow fried bite sized chicken can be tossed in a concoction of a couple of sauces and it turns into a quick “Chinese” dish. That’s exactly what I did here. I did remember two things from restaurant Kung Pao dishes distinctly – dried red chillies and peanuts.

Ingredients:
2 boneless chicken breasts – bite size cuts
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 dried red chillies
1 onion chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
Handful of peanuts
Spring onions to garnish

Method:
1. Marinate the chicken in the ginger-garlic paste for a couple of hours or overnight.
2. Shallow fry the chicken and keep aside.
3. Heat sesame oil, saute the red chillies, add onions and saute.
4. Add all the sauces and sugar, and bring to a boil.
4. Toss the chicken in and mix well.
5. Add peanuts and garnish with spring onions.

If you want a gravy version, add 2 tbsp corn flour mixed in water and 1/4 cup chicken stock and let it bubble before you add the garnish. I chose not to add vegetables, but you could add bell peppers, mushrooms and broccoli too.

What’s best about Chinese food is that it makes for great leftovers!

What I did with leftover Kung Pao Chicken was – heated some oil and sauted onions and mushrooms in it. Scrambled 4 eggs in there, and mixed leftover rice into it. Then added soy, fish sauce, chilli sauce. Shredded the chicken and tossed it in and garnished with spring onions and peanuts. Kung Pao Fried Rice!

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Sambal Chicken in 10 mins

sambal

As usual I kept snooping around for easy chicken recipes on the internet and came across this. Seemed really simple and it is. I also happen to have a jar of sambal oelek paste. Guess what the ingredients at the back of the jar says? Dried red chilles, water, salt, thickening agents. Well, at least I have a nice jar. If you aren’t stupid enough to buy the paste, just make some and store it in the fridge. It’s just common sense to do so. Next time I’ll add shallots, garlic and ginger to knock some flavour punch to the paste. Anyway, moving on to what I made.

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McLeod Ganj. Food. Skies. Stories.

The long weekend, thanks to Gandhi Jayanti, was spend in McLeod Ganj – a much needed and rightly deserved break. While it took my lungs a few minutes to get used to the clean(er) air, my eyes were getting used to the breathtaking view. I won’t get into details about the place and shall stick to what captured my heart (stomach, rather) – the food. Simplicity at its best and purest.

The day of arrival I walked around the alleys in search of my soul. Couldn’t find it, hence settled for breakfast – Momos stuffed with potatoes and spinach. These were almost like pot stickers. Almost. They weren’t the regular momos you’d get out here in the big cities. These were stuffed and steamed buns, then lined on a hot griddle for that nice char on each side. I’m clearly not good with descriptions, but I hope I was able to paint a mental picture. I don’t have a picture of it, unfortunately.

For lunch I did what the locals do – thukpa. The local restaurants are small, cozy and a joy. We ordered for a pork thukpa, a chicken one and chilli chicken on the cook’s recommendation. He then came back from the kitchen to tell us that there’s no meat, but only pork fat and would that be ok with us. We went ahead with it anyway. I forgot to mention that I was suffering from a cold and temperature. Thukpa was just what the doctor had ordered (or he wishes). I’m no good with adjectives either, so let me just stick with – holy smokes it was bloody good! The thukpa opened up my senses, nostrils in particular. Despite the cold I could tell the broth tasted great. So did the infamous pork fat. The chilli chicken was, well like chilli chicken. Plain good. I’d also got myself some hot lemon tea. It was so good I could hardly contain myself. It was like granny’s lemonade, but hot and with a hint of tea which came with the tea bag of course.

Post lunch I walked by this little kiosk of treats. I got 2 – a slice of baked yak cheese with coconut and cream, and a local chocolate and nuts bar. The yak cheese slice was moist and delicious. I call it the love child of a cheesecake and pound cake. It also came with a disclaimer that it wasn’t going to be as sweet as we thought. Which exactly was the case and yet oh-so-delicious. The chocolate and nut bar was just about alright. Chocolate and nuts. A short and very sweet love story, which I wasn’t too pleased to be a part of.

Continuing the quest for my soul, aka just good food, I found another little place called the Four Seasons Cafe. Food that definitely hit the spot here. We had a good old spinach and cheese omlette and a Chicken Soutsemen – which is a first for me. Pan fried noodles topped with oodles of gravy with vegetables and chicken. Definitely going to replicate this one at home.

In between some walking around and taking random pictures like a wannabe traveler, I got hungry again. Eyes wandered (so did I) and landed on Tibetan Kitchen. Got myself some steamed buns and sliced pork in pickle gravy. It was exactly that. Sliced pork in pickle gravy. It’s like they watered down some mango pickle (salivating as I write pickle) and put a few pork slices in there. No, I’m not complaining. It was sour and spicy – what’s not to like. Mopping up all the ‘pickle gravy’ with the pork bun, we walked back to the hotel.

On the way back I saw the same kiosk full of treats looking back at me. I gave in and got a couple of different treats this time – yak muffin and a local cookie (I don’t remember its name). The muffin was light, soft and had the slightest hint of cheese – assuming it’s from the yak. The cookie, thin coconut biscuit sandwich with jam, was forgettable – like its name.

For dinner I found this place which had a big poster of the show Highway on my plate at their entrance – looked like they gave the restaurant their stamp of approval. Alas, what a disappointment. Ordered the Tibetan Thali and pork chilli. Both were under seasoned and underwhelming. The thukpa was as if over cooked slices of vegetables were just put in hot water with some noodles. The pork chilli had no chilli and I don’t think the pork was happy being a part of that dish either.

The next morning I was up and shining along with the sun to get some breakfast, of course. I didn’t want to make it a morning trek to find a place and settled for a cafe close to the hotel. Carpe Diem Restaurant. Got ourselves a French and an English breakfast – just to make up for the less than impressive dinner the previous night. It was the usual suspect with the English breakfast – eggs, sausages, ham, bacon, the works. The French one came with eggs scrambled with peppers.

For lunch I picked yet another teeny-tiny-hole-in-the-wall kind of a restaurant called Yak. Best Chowmein ever. I don’t know what else to say. It was right in every way. We also got the fried mutton momos. I’d give it a pass the next time around. It’s double fried momos with a bland mutton stuffing. It was so crispy it turned hard and wasn’t pleasant to eat at all. But the Chowmein was bang on the money.

This was the last day here and we had a couple of hours to kill before leaving. I spotted this little cafe on the basement floor (if it’s called that) called Woeser Bakery that still has my heart. The most warm and welcoming owner makes you feel at ease as soon as you walk in. She’ll tell you that the cafe’s menu in on top (horizontal black board) and dessert samples are placed at the window. She advertised about her handmade cappuccino and that no one else in town does it. I quickly get one of those and a paradise bar, which is basically a biscuit base bar with a brown sugar caramel and coconut topping. The coffee was the best cappuccino I’ve ever had. Good strong coffee sweetened with brown sugar and I don’t know what else she does to it that makes it taste so damn good. The paradise bar was a tad too sweet for my liking. I then ordered the Tibetan butter tea. It was a revelation for sure. It was unlike any other tea I’ve ever had. Salty, buttery and comforting.

With a heavy heart and full belly, I left McLeod Ganj promising I’ll be back. But we both know about a tourist’s empty promises. If I were a traveller, she’d have understood.

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