The Big Diwali Reveal

Posted on 18. Oct, 2014 by .

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coconut fudge (1)I am obviously excited about Diwali and I hope you are counting down to it as well!  I am planning the menu for my Diwali party next week and like every year, it will feature my special coconut fudge. It is such a big hit among both adults and kids that I have not been able to keep it off the menu! Since the recipe has also been much in demand, I decided to include this in my upcoming cookbook that is due to be released later this year by Tuttle publishing. I have included the first look to the recipe here as a Diwali gift for all of you. After all, it’s the season of giving! I hope you and your family and friends enjoy this dish as much as mine do. If you decide to give the recipe a try, do post some pictures!

In the meantime, don’t forget to take a look that everything Verizon has to offer here this Diwali.

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OUT for a DUCK in the West Indies!

Posted on 13. Oct, 2014 by .

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IMG_5634IMG_5682 IMG_5700 Growing up in India where cricket is somewhat a religion, the image that would come to my mind if you mentioned West Indies was that of Kallicharan, Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall, Brian Lara and several other Gods of cricket. Little did I know back then that I would someday visit this beautiful country so far from home and learn about its history, roots and culture while licking the last traces of a delicious home- made duck curry off my fingers!

My two day trip to Trinidad & Tobago was a culinary adventure right from the time I set foot on the island. I landed in Port of Spain as the sun was rising over the blue Caribbean sea and my first stop was at a ‘Roti Shop’ which was already bustling with people that early in the morning. I had my first taste of the ‘Doubles’ here which is a popular street food usually eaten for breakfast. Very similar to poori, it is two pieces of fried bread packed with Chana (curried chickpeas) and wrapped in newspaper. If you are Indian, you would ask what’s so special about it? The answer to that, my friend, is the hot Trinidadian pepper sauce- grown and made in Trinidad which has an undeniable addictive quality to it. I assure you, Indian or not…you cannot stop at one bite!

The food in Trinidad is a melting pot in its true sense, with a mix of Indian, African, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and French.  My obvious interest was to learn more about the strong Indian roots that were so abundantly present amongst the people, the culture, the food, the last names and the keen interest in Bollywood cinema! The Indians in Trinidad came from small villages in Northern regions (particularly from the states of Bihar & Uttarpradesh), in the early 19th century mostly to work in the sugar plantations as farm help.  Despite the alien conditions they kept their traditions alive specially in the form of their cuisine. They used local ingredients, produce and spices as substitutes to make their familiar home-cooked meals which has now evolved to a distinct cuisine of its own. The flavors are unique and zesty- just the kind of excitement you look for to fall in love! The Chana, for example – which is the local favorite, has a flavorfdoublesul mix of fresh thyme, chives , curry leaves and parsley; the spicy kick of habanero mixed with the local curry powder and a very special garam masala known to Trinidadians as Amchar Masala! If you are visiting my home in Jersey and cannot trace a particular taste in a dish to something you know, this spice mix is probably the secret! I could not leave Trinidad without buying a few packets of it.

Apart from the fantastic food, one of my favorite experiences was also the warm and welcoming hospitality of the Trinidadians. I was there just for a weekend and by the end of the trip the people I met there seemed very familiar from very long ago. One of them invited me home in the first few minutes of us meeting to experience traditional home cooked Trinidadian food over lunch. How many of us do that in these days of terror and caution? No way was I going to pass on that! And I have to say that it was the most interesting and educational lunches I ever had outside my culinary schools! I came back full…not just with a fantastically tasty meal, but lessons on cooking methods and spices, stories behind the evolution of the dishes, a tour of the local herb garden and even a firsthand experience of learning to cook a spicy duck curry from a Trinidadian local- right from scratch!

Other dishes that I got to cook and taste were some popular and staple vegetarian dishes in Trinidadian Indian cuisine like Baingan Choka (roasted and seasoned mashed eggplant) and Tomato Choka (roasted and seasoned tomato dip). As I stirred the ingredients in the pan, I wondered if the term choka is derived from the hindi word “chhownk” or tadka, which is tempering a dish with hot seasoned oil. Dal Poori – a flatbread stuffed with Indian peas- was the main accompaniment of the meal which is the Trinidadian version of Indian paratha. Interesting to note that Bengal too has a similar bread in its cuisine. It blows your mind to think a bread with the same name and similar stuffing has traveled 15000 miles and few hundred years of history to find its place in the Trinidadian mainstream cuisine today!IMG_5669

Coming back to the duck curry which was the obvious highlight of my meal and cooking class that warm Sunday afternoon- I really would never have been able to trace half the flavor if I had not learnt to cook it myself. Made with a mixture of lemon grass, curry leaves, amchaar masala, a spice paste made with garlic and habanero and chief brand curry powder (can be found in West Indian markets)- it is slow cooked in coconut milk that gives a subtle sweet balance to the zesty heat of the spices. With the duck simmering away on the stove and with yet another round of coconut water and vodka over ice, I made sure to pen down the ingredients with every intention of recreating the dish a few times in my kitchen..

To make Curry Duck - Marinate bone-in duck pieces with chief brand curry powder, garlic paste, lime juice, amchaar masal, minced herbs (cilantro, parsley, thyme) hot pepper sauce, salt & pepper. Sauté lemon grass, curry leaves, pimento peppers, hot pepper, sliced onion, curry leaves, curry powder, saffron (turmeric) , amchar masala and duck. Add coconut milk & simmer for an hour until tender.IMG_5813  

 

 

 

 

 

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Complete Menu of My Grand Trinidadian Indian Feast

  • Raw Mango Curry
  • Local Duck Curry with Lemon Grass
  • Amchar Masala Chicken
  • Shrimp & Peas
  • Chana Dal
  • Tomato Choka
  • Baingan Choka
  • Dal Poori
  • “Buss up shut “ Flaky roti
  • Trini Coconut Ice Cream

 

 

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Cooking, Not Shopping, for Diwali!

Posted on 11. Oct, 2014 by .

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cardamom brownies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I could have one wish for Diwali, it would be to spend the holiday with everyone I love around the world. Since that’s not physically possible, the second best thing would be to spend lots of time preparing my favorite traditional dishes or the Indian-inspired goodies that I’ve created with my signature twist. For example, these cardamom-flavored brownies will surely make an appearance on my Diwali tabl . You can get the full recipe here!

Food is one of the most important aspects of Diwali as is the tradition of giving gifts, which I enjoy! But if you’re pressed for time like me, you don’t have much of a chance to think about what to get for your loved ones, let alone go shopping.

I recently discovered that Verizon’s website is an excellent place to shop…from my house! They’re offering some specials and latest devices just in time for Diwali. I’ve got my eye on something in particular for my mom and something else for my wife. And I can buy those devices in just a few minutes—while I’m waiting for my butter to melt and my cardamom to toast!

Wish you all happy days ahead!

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GRILLED NAAN PIZZA

Posted on 24. May, 2013 by .

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Firing up the grill this weekend to celebrate Memorial Day? Try a new recipe, be creative and impress your friends and family with my spiced up grilled naan pizza flavored with topped with tandoori chicken. Make a vegetarian version by replacing the chicken with tandoori spiced grilled veggies. Below is the recipe and stay spicy!

 

Tandoori Chicken Grilled Naan Pizza

6 ounces Naan Pizza Dough, recipe follows

¼ cup ghee (optional) or virgin olive oil, for brushing and drizzling

½ teaspoon minced fresh garlic

½ cup loosely packed shredded mozzarella

2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano

6 tablespoons chopped canned tomatoes, in heavy puree

4 breasts of cooked tandoori chicken, thinly sliced

8 mint leaves

 

Prepare a hot charcoal fire, setting the grill rack 3 to 4 inches above the coals.

On a large, oiled, inverted baking sheet, spread and flatten the pizza dough  with your hands into a 10 to 12-inch free-form oval shape, 1/8-inch thick. Do not make a lip; the shape is unimportant, but do take care to maintain an even thickness.

When the fire is hot (when you can hold your hand over the coals for 3 to 4 seconds at a distance of 5 inches), use your fingertips to lift the dough gently by the 2 corners closest to you, and drape in onto the grill. Catch the loose edge on the grill first and slide the remaining dough into place over the fire. Within a minute the dough will puff slightly, the underside will stiffen, and grill marks will appear. Using tongs, immediately flip the crust over, onto the coolest part of the grill. Quickly brush the grilled surface with ghee or olive oil. Scatter the garlic and cheeses over the dough, and spoon dollops of tomatoes and sliced chicken over the cheese . Do not cover the entire surface of the pizza with tomatoes. Finally, drizzle the pizza with 1 to 2 tablespoons of ghee or olive oil. Slide the pizza back toward the hot coals, but not directly over them. Using tongs rotate the pizza frequently so that different sections receive high heat; check the underside often to see that it is not burning. The pizza is done when the top is bubbly and the cheese melted, about 6 to 8 minutes. Serve at once, topped with the mint leaves and additional olive oil, if desired.

 

Naan Pizza Dough:

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

2 tablespoons yogurt

6 cups high-gluten flour

2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

Ghee or oil

Sprinkle the yeast over ½ cup warm (105 to 110 degrees F) water and allow it to dissolve and activate, about 5 minutes. Combine the flour and salt and mound it onto a cool work surface creating a high walled well in the center. Combine the yeast mixture with 1 ½ cups of cool water and yogurt and pour into the well. Slowly begin to mix the water and flour, a little at a time, moving your fingers in short, counter clockwise circles around the border of the water. When the dough is firm enough to hold its shape, scrape the remaining flour over it and knead until the mass is smooth and shiny, approximately 7 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. Brush the top of the dough with ghee to prevent a skin from forming, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place away from drafts until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Punch down the dough and knead once more. Let the dough rise again for about 40 minutes, punch down again and form dough into 4 balls

 

 

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Butter Nut Squash & Apple Soup with Indian Spices

Posted on 08. Oct, 2012 by .

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Butter Nut Squash & Apple Soup with Indian Spices

2 lbs (1 kg) butternut squash, peeled and diced

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, chopped

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

2 garlic cloves smashed

1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish

¼ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon garam masala powder

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups vegetable broth or water

1 1/4 cups chunky apple sauce

1 green apple, diced

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Peel and dice butternut squash. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel seeds and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, cumin, coriander garam masala, and salt and pepper to taste and cook until toasted, 1 more minute.

Add the diced butternut squash, broth and 2 cups water to the pot, cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the applesauce. Simmer, covered, until the squash is soft, about 20 minutes. Puree the soup with a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper; keep warm.

Peel , core and dice the apple, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, stirring, until browned; remove from the heat and add the vinegar. Top with the cilantro. Fold the mixture into the soup and serve hot.

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