Sunday, August 28, 2011

Broccoli Coriander Curry

Last few Sundays have been quite busy for me. I had been cooking something specifically for blogging. Waking up on a Sunday morning, the next thought would be what to cook for the evening (Iftar), what are the things I have at hand and how to get it to blogging. I would keep watch over the sky to see if it is cloudy or sunny. After the usual cleaning works, I would happily start cooking, then arrange the items and shoot... It is all such fun, you know.

If at all I have a little bit of that enthusiasm when it comes to writing the post. Sigh... After all these, I would not have the slightest inclination to write the post on Sunday itself and would tend to procrastinate. Weekdays have never been better. After a tiring day at work, the body and mind just wants to relax rather than sitting up with the laptop. I don't know how many of you feel the same. But, I, the lazy goose, am still learning to be better organized :)

Now, coming to last week's work. I found a few pods of butter beans in the farmer's market. I was more than excited. I absolutely love those creamy crunchy butter beans I have tasted in India. Those I found here had beautiful purple patterns. I thought of trying some different curry with them rather than a stir fry. I had some ideas in my mind and was determined to give a try. I put the butter beans in a pressure cooker and started preparing the curry in parallel.

The curry was developing exactly like I wanted it to be. After some time, I opened the cooker only to find the beans overcooked. Ooooppss... It was a disaster :( They turned out to be so mushy that they would not survive the stirring with the curry. Nevertheless, they tasted good and I just added some ground pepper and saved them aside. Ok, I learnt a lesson. Now, what to do with the curry, it is indeed good!!

An idea sparked suddenly on my mind. I had some frozen broccolis. Just added them to the curry and cooked along. The end result was very tasty and it made up for all the distress I had a little while ago. This is the story behind this curry. Now, let's get straight to the recipe.

Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves: 2 to 3

To grind:
Coriander leaves/Cilantro - a small bunch
Cashew - 10 pieces
Onion - 1 big or a handful of small shallots
Green chillies - 2

Cinnamon - 2 small sticks
Cardamom - 3 pieces
Cloves - 3 pieces
Ginger garlic paste - 2 tsp
Broccoli florets - 400 g
Coconut milk - 3 tbsp

Wash and chop the coriander leaves. Chop the shallots/onion and green chillies finely. Take all these along with the cashews in a blender and blend to a smooth paste adding very little water.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Now, add the ground paste and sauté till the raw smell of onion fades off. Now, add the ginger and garlic paste to it and sauté for a few more minutes.

Add the cut and clean Broccoli florets, stir and cover the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes in medium heat. Give a stir again, add the coconut milk and cook till the florets are cooked, but still crunchy. Give a final stir and switch off the heat.

Garnish with coriander leaves or nuts and/or a dash of cream and serve hot with steamed rice or roti.

  • Instead of coconut milk, you can use about 3 tbs of grated coconut. If so, you can grind it along with the coriander leaves and shallots.
  • In my humble opinion, shallots give a better taste to the dish than onions.

As I said, this curry originated out of the blue in my mind. So, feel free to adapt it to your taste buds with various other veggies and ingredients too. We had this curry with Roti and later with Rice too. It was very creamy, tasty and aromatic. We were glad that we had a simple, tasty yet healthy vegetarian dish. Hope you like it too :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011


A bit relaxation for a few days. And again, the stressful times are back. The project schedules keep me busy with office works. Sometimes, at home too. :( Nevertheless, I do not want to miss my first opportunity to participate in the Blog Hop Wednesday, an exciting event started by Radhika of Tickling Palates. A big thanks to her!! This is a great idea and she is doing a great job organizing things for this. Hats off to Radhika!!

Anxiously, I looked up the chart to find whose blog I should be visiting this week. A sweet surprise!! It was none other than Umm Mymoonah's Taste of Pearl City. Oh, what do I say!! She was one of the two inspirations for me to start a blog in the first place. I fondly call her "my Blog Guru". Whatever doubts I have with blogging, I always look up to her and she patiently explains things to me. With two naughty little kids at home, what she has accomplished in a short time is just admirable!

Well, her blog is the one that I most often visit. I have already tried numerous things out of her treasure box. To name a few, Garlic Rolls (read my post here), Kalakand, Polenta Idli, Prawn Gravy, Ataif bil Ashta and many many more. Besides, I have a few bookmarked pages too. So, for this event, I gladly picked one out of the list which I had been eyeing for quite some time now - Haleem.

I came to know about this Hyderabadi speciality only through her blog for the first time. Before trying, I was not sure if it was a gravy or a soup. I think, it is both. Meat, usually lamb is cooked very slowly for a long time, along with wheat and lentils flavoured by Indian spices. This way, the meat becomes soft and shredded, combined with the spices to give a thick soup like consistency.

I cooked Haleem during the weekend itself, as I knew I wouldn't be able to manage it during the weekdays. See, now it is 11pm and I'm still writing the post with half closed eyes.

The original recipe can be found here. I almost followed the same except for a few changes. We absolutely loved the Haleem. We had it for Iftar along with Turkish bread. And later for Sahr too as a soup. It was very filling and tasty.

My Notes:
  • I used about 750g meat. So, I doubled the quantity of ingredients.
  • Like Umm Mymoonah, I cooked Haleem in pressure cooker only. Seven whistles were enough for the meat to be finely cooked.
  • With time, the Haleem thickened. So, I thinned it a little bit for our second serving.
  • It is best served warm.
On the whole, we loved it so much. It was a welcome change to the normal curry that we usually prepare. I would be definitely making it again. :)

As an ending note, for those who are curious about what my other inspiration for blogging is - it is none other than my husband - the backbone of this blog. :)

I'm sending this entry to Blog Hop Wednesdays, Lubna's Joy from Fasting to Feasting IV Jabeen Corner's Iftar Nights. Signing off now guys. See you next time soon :)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Basil Pesto

It has been one week into Ramadan. On the Almighty's grace, the past week has been really good. Though it ought to be simmering hot in August here, with temperatures soaring as high as 35°C, this year has been very different. Pleasant sunshine keeps alternating with cool showers followed by mild soothing breeze in the evenings. I don't know how long this could last, but as long as it lasts, my spirits are high are bright.

The good thing about the long days here is that, I get enough time. I mean, after returning from office, I'm finding ample time to prepare for Iftar. We didn't have busy plans for the weekend too. It was quite relaxing to be at home. As with most of you, I have a loooong list of things to be tried. One among them is to make Home-made Pesto. Last Sunday proved to be a perfect time to try that.

Basil - hmmm... the name itself smells fresh, unique and exotic. I was introduced to this excellent herb only in Germany, by the name Basilikum. I was so much attracted to this lovely smelling herb that I wanted to put my favorite Mint in the second place. Did I really wanted to? Ohh, I'm not sure myself! Anyways, I wondered why I missed Basil all these years in India. Whenever visiting a tourist place or even in my office canteen, Pasta with Basil Pesto has been my option so many times. I must confess, it saved me from starving, many a times.

Even at home, when preparing Pasta, Basil pesto remained my favourite. But, I had been using store bought Pesto sauce till now, which of course, was good too. Nevertheless, the craving to make Pesto at home lingered for a long time. So, I made it a point to buy lot of Basil leaves this weekend. I got two bunds of fresh Basil leaves from the farmer's market. You know what, the entire kitchen caught the fresh smell in the little time it was exposed to.

Making our own Pesto could be as simple as 'mix and blend'. It could also be as time consuming as preparing a party meal. The trade-off lies in how authentic and flavourful you want your end product to be. I read in several pages over the internet and was convinced, to make something close to the authentic Italian Pesto, it takes patience and commitment!!

Some suggest to chop the Basil leaves sooooo long into tiny tiny pieces, that it resembles a blended one. Some suggest to just grind the Basil leaves little by little in a mortar and pestle. So, I decided to combine the both. Here is a draft of how I prepared my Pesto.

Preparation Time: 30 to 45 mins
Serves: 4

Fresh flat leaf Basil - 2 bunds
Garlic - 2 to 3 cloves
Pine nuts - 50g
Parmesan Cheese - 150g
Extra virgin Olive oil - 150 to 200 ml
Walnuts - a few pieces
Salt and pepper - to taste

Separate the Basil leaves from the stalks. Wash and let them dry. Dry roast the pine nuts very lightly and keep ready.

Take a really sharp knife and a cutting board. Start chopping a little of the Basil leaves. Now, add a garlic piece and chop together. Add more Basil leaves and chop again. Add a few pine nuts and chop together. This way, keep chopping the Basil leaves together with garlic pieces and pine nuts little by little. You can add walnuts in-between. This might take well about 20mins, depending on your chopping talent :p

Grate the parmesan into thin strands. Now, take a mortar and pestle. Add a little of the chopped leaves and about a spoonful of cheese and grind together, just to blend them well. This would infuse the taste of Parmesan into the Basil. Do not press too much, as it might darken the pesto. Collect in a bowl. Repeat the process with the rest of the leaves.

Now, add required amount of olive oil till you get the desired consistency. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Your hand-made pesto is now ready. :)

Mix the required amount of Pesto with your favourite freshly prepared Pasta. You can store the Pesto in a fully sterilized bottle, covered with a layer of oil and keep in the refrigerator.

  • All the measurements I have given above are completely indicative. You can vary the measurements according to your requirements and taste.
  • Original Genovese Basil leaves are flat and young. You can try with any kind of Basil leaves, as per availability and the taste is said to vary accordingly.
  • I used just 2 garlic cloves of the size shown in the picture. If you do not like too much garlic, just go light on it.
  • Try combining with coriander and mint leaves too for a taste pep. Sure, they would taste even better.
  • You can add almonds, cashews too. Walnuts are again optional.
There might be reasons for you to think that this is not for you. Like, you might not have so much time to put into pesto making. Or, you might not possess a mortar and pestle, nor a sharp knife. In that case, just put all the ingredients mentioned in a food processor/blender and blend to the right consistency. Adjust oil to the right consistency. But believe me, the hand-made one is surely worth the try.

I'm sending this delicious Pesto to PJ's Herbs and Flowers: Basil guest hosted by Kaarasaaram. The easy version goes to Taste of Pearl City's Anyone can Cook Series 29.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Zereshk Pulao

Ramadan, the holy month, has arrived. Fasting during the month of Ramadan from dawn until dusk is obligatory for all Muslims who have reached their age. It is a month not only to refrain from food and drinks. It is a month to practice "purity in thought and deed" and to seek the pleasure of the Almighty. So, on this month, may we be kind to our fellow beings and may we be forgiving as to be forgiven.

Ramadan again reminds me of the wonderful times in India. We used to get up on the early morning hours for Sahr(morning food before fasting) and as a family sit together at the dining table and eat something light. Then we recite the Niyyat together followed by prayer. I would then go to school/college. At the evening, when I reach home, mom would be preparing some delicacies and getting ready for Iftar(breaking the fast). Right after sunset, we would break fast, pray and eat afterwards. The menu for Iftar would usually contain some cool drinks, sweets and lots of fruits. It is good to go light on it again. Sometimes, my dad would bring the special Kanji (நோன்பு கஞ்சி), a kind of rice porridge, from the mosque. Ohh!! I can still remember the aroma and flavor of the light but filling Kanji. I am not sure if this practice is followed in other parts of India. Those of you in Tamilnadu, who have tasted this would really relate to what I mean.

For the past three years, I am seeing Ramadan in Germany. I must confess, I'm definitely missing being with the family and all the above things. However, the past Ramadans were quite good. This year, Ramadan has come in peak summer. The day is long leading to longer fasting times. My mother-in-law beautifully said, "More fasting... more blessings!!". So, we are taking this as a great motivation to fast enthusiastically. You know what, today my husband prepared the same Kanji at home. Do I really need to tell you how it tasted? :) I felt like I was back in India!!

Now, coming to the post. This was our lunch last Sunday. This is a Persian rice dish. My husband, when he was studying in Germany, was sharing accommodation with another Iranian guy, who used to prepare this dish often. My husband picked up the recipe from him. It is a simple yet flavorful rice Pilaf prepared with Berberis (also called, Barberries) and Saffron. Zereshk in Persian refers to the dried Berberis fruits. They impart a slightly tart flavor to the Pilaf, traditionally accompanied by chicken. Let me go straight into the recipe now.

Preparation: 15-20 mins
Cooking: 30 mins

Basmati Rice - 500 g
Barberries - 100 g
Onion - 1 medium sized, thinly sliced
Cardamom and Cloves - a few (a little indian touch)
Cumin - 4 tsp
Sugar - 3 tbsp
Milk - 1/2 cup (lukewarm)
Saffron strands
Salt to taste

Clean and wash the basmati rice, drain and keep aside. Add few strands of saffron to the luke warm milk and set aside.

Clean and rinse the barberries in cold water by placing them in a colander and allow barberries to soak for 15-20 minutes. Take the colander out and run cold water over the barberries, drain and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee/oil in a pan, add 2 tsp of cumin, a few cardamom, cloves and leave it to splutter. Then add the sliced onion and sauté until the onions turn golden brown. Now add the barberries and sauté just for a minute over low heat; otherwise the barberries burn easily. Finally, add the sugar, mix well, and set aside.

Now place the drained rice in a rice cooker or a vessel with twice as much of water. Add 2 tsp of cumin, 1 tbsp of oil and enough salt and cook it until its 2/3 done. Drain rice in a fine-mesh colander and set aside.

In a heavy bottomed vessel heat 2 tbsp of ghee/oil. Add a thin layer of rice and a few spoons of the saffron-milk. This will form a tender crust at the bottom of the vessel when the rice is completely done. This tender crust is known as tah dig. Add the rest of the rice in the vessel, sprinkle a few spoons saffron-milk over the rice; cover it with a clean kitchen towel and a tight lid. This will avoid any steam escaping from the vessel. Cook the rice covered like this for 10-15 minutes over medium low heat.

Remove the vessel from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. This will also free crust from the bottom of the vessel.

Take 2-3 scoops of cooked rice and mix it with saffron-milk and set aside for garnishing. Then take 2/3 of the cooked rice and mix it gently with 2/3 of the barberry mixture. Then arrange the plain rice on a serving platter in alternating layers with the barberry mixture. Finally, decorate the top with the saffron-flavored rice, some of the barberry mixture, cashews and pistachios.

Voila! you have great looking platter of Zereshk Pulao. This pulao goes well with Chicken Tandoori and Raita. I personally feel, it would be equally good with tandooored Paneer or Bagara Baingan too. :)

If you don’t like the barberries to be too sweet, adding just about 2-3 tbsp of sugar would be enough,  and that should be good. If you like more you can adjust the measure to your taste.

I'm happily sending this recipe to the following events:
Iftar Moments by Taste of Pearl City, Iftar Nights by Jabeen's Corner and Food Palette Series Black by ToriewToronto and Lubna's Joy from Fasting to Feasting IV.

I'm also sending my Lamb Biryani, Printen and Strawberry Shortcake Cookies to Iftar Nights by Jabeen's Corner.