Saturday, October 15, 2011

Roasted pumkin, slow poached prunes, vanilla, banyuls, crisp sage

Fall (Autumn) is synonymous to pumpkins a quintessential delight.

(Picture Courtesy: Caroline Lynch, Cara Hill Larimer, Doug Goettsch)

Working with seasonal ingredients is heart warming. This simple and flavorful recipe will be a great add to your table.

Pumpkin- It is a Vegetable fruit of Mediterranean origin. It is always eaten ripe when it is red in color.

Prunes-The French word for dried plums. It has a intense black color with a easily detached stone. Prunes d' Agen, named after a village in south- west of France is quite popular for its prunes. They lend themselves easily to long cooking and also use in marmalade and sweet meats.

Vanilla - A pod from the vanilla plant, is a spice indigenous to the new world. Vanilla was first used by the Aztecs. It grows well in equatorial and tropical areas parts of Mexico, Madagascar,Comoros and Reunion Islands produce 80% of the worlds Vanilla. Recently India and Indonesia have also started producing Vanilla.

Vanilla pods are pollinated by humming birds and bees, manual pollination is also done in many countries. They are harvested before ripening and plunged into 70C (160F) steam before being allowed to ferment. They are then dried, The supple oxidized pods are packed in bundles and have a long shelf life.

The concentrated frosted sugars that seep out of the pod like dew drops are Vanillin which are highly esteemed.

Banyuls Vinegar - An aged French vinegar prized for its aroma like walnut, vanilla and plums. The Vinegar adds the punch to the pumpkin.


2 kilos pumpkin - peeled and sectioned

6 sprigs thyme

2 teaspoons sea salt

10 gallons pepper -- freshly crushed

50 milliliters olive oil

3 tablespoons Banyuls vinegar or red wine vinegar

Slow poached prunes

100 gm prunes

80 gm sugar

250 milliliters water

1 pod vanilla bean

6 leaves sage


Cut the pumpkin in half remove the seeds and inner layer using a spoon and keep it aside.

Cut the pumpkins into wedges skin on. Season with sea salt and crushed pepper, chopped thyme, drizzle olive oil and marinate for 20-30 minutes.

Place it on a roasting tray lined with parchment paper.

Bake it for 20-30 minutes in a 180C pre heated oven. To check doneness pass a butter knife and it should go in smooth.

Drizzle Banyuls vinegar when the pumpkins are warm and allow it to rest for a few minutes and serve along with poached prunes.

Slow poached

Dissolve the sugar into the water and boil it gently to make a syrup.

split vanilla pod and add it to the syrup along with the prunes,simmer for 50mts to an hour.

Cool and toss along with the pumpkins and serve drizzled with olive oil and crisp fried sage .

Serving Ideas

Great to be served warm as a side or cold as a salad.

Chopped up goes well as a filling for rye bread and cream cheese spread sandwich.

Pairs well along with a glass of Chilean Merlot (Bouquet of spice)

Happy Halloween!

Wishing you all a joyous festive season!!

Happy Cooking...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Grilled Halloumi and Turkish Fig salad with Persian Pomegranates

A beautiful salad to welcome Fall. A perfect flavor balance with salty grilled haloumi, sweet Turkish figs and tangy Persian pomegranates and a splash of fresh lemon.

Haloumi is a goat's milk cheese from Cyprus and is very versatile as it holds its texture on the grill to a beautiful golden brown.  Other similar textured cheeses are Akawi and Baladi which are also popular all over the Middle East.

Figs (Anjeer)are native to Asia Minor and popular all over the world. In hot climates it is a common fruit and adds an exotic value tag in colder countries. Wasps help pollinate figs.The four types of figs are:

Capri or wild figs -  Produces succulent fruits.

Smyrna figs- The light brown fruits have a distinctive nutty flavor.

Mission figs- Also known as common figs are a deep purple black outside and red inside. It has a rather coarse texture with a sweet taste.

San Pedro figs- Is a lesser know variety and has an intermediate flavor between Smyrna and Mission.

Pomegranate (Anar) is native to Persia current day Iran where it grows wild. The bright red seeds are a rich source of Iron. It is used predominantly as a souring agent. Pomegranate Molasses is used in Fatoush salad and in Indian food Anar dhana (Pomegranate seed) powder acts as a souring agent in curries and kebabs.

Grenadine syrup is made from pomegranate which is used in many beverage, adds a bright red color and a distinctive taste.


Haloumi cheese - 100g sliced 1/2 inch thick
Turkish figs - 2 each
pomegranate - 1/2 a fruit
lemon juice -50ml
olive oil - 150ml
salt, black pepper and sugar- to taste


Grill the sliced haloumi on a hot grill till it gets a golden brown color.(1-2 minutes)
Wash, pat dry and slice figs into wedges.


In a mixing bowl place the lemon juice, salt, freshly crushed pepper and sugar and start whisking until it dissolves.

Start adding the olive oil in a steady stream and keep whisking until it forms an emulsion. Check seasoning. Add the pomegranate seeds and whisk for a minute. The color will turn to a beautiful pale pink and as it macerates it will take a dark hue.  Drizzle generously over the grilled halomi and figs and Voila!
Enjoy with a glass of  Australian Shriaz or Rioja Reserva...

Other serving Ideas
Haloumi and Sunchoke bruchetta

Fig and vanilla marmalade on rye bread

Sweet pomegranate raita or just sprinkled on Tadiq (Crisp saffron rice from Iran)

Happy Autumn!
Bonne Appetite

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kozhi Vartha Kari - Kerala style Cornish Hen

A perfect time of the year for this rustic and simple curry from God's Own Country. Kerala's life line the North East Monsoon is coming to an end. Inviting Mahabali to every ones home with an extravagant Sadhya of 16 or more healthful vegetarian dishes laid out on bright green banana leaves during Onam Festival next week.

Kozhi Vartha Kari translates to "Fried Chicken Curry". When I read about the recipe on
Chef K.N Vinod's note my mouth was watering and was determined to try the recipe on my day off. I told my butcher Salim to give me baby chicken legs and invited a few of my friends to share the meal.


Baby Chicken or Cornish Hen- 1kg

Whole Spices
bay leaf- 1 no (Dried)
cassia or cinnamon - 1 inch bark
star anise- 3-4 florets
cloves- 4-5 pieces
green caradamom- 5-6 pieces
black cardamom - 2 pieces

Spice Powders
turmeric- 1 tbsp
red chili- 2 tbsp
coriander - 3tbsp

vegetable - 3 tsp
yogurt- 3tbsp
red onion (small dices)- 3 medium sized
curry leaves
ginger (julienne)- 1 medium piece
garlic- 3-4 pods
Salt- to taste


1. Remove the skin of the chicken and wash it with running cold water. Place it on a paper towel and pat dry.

2. Heat a pan over slow flame and add the powdered spices and toast it moving it constantly with a spatula 2 to 3 minutes till the flavors come out add a few drops of oil and cook for another couple of minutes. This helps to bring out the flavor of the spices.

3.Transfer the spices to the bowl of chicken add dollops of yogurt, a few curry leaves and some salt and mix well. Allow it to marinate for an hour in the refrigerator.

4.In a pan (Kerala style Uruli or kadai) heat vegetable oil and put the whole spices starting from cinnamon, green cardamom,black cardamom, cloves, star anise, bay leaves and allow it to bloom for a few minutes over medium flame, the cumin and saute.

5. Add the ginger julienne and sliced garlic and continue cooking till the turn a slight golden brown and add the red onions continue cooking till it turns a deep golden brown.( a pinch of salt as it helps the onions to cook faster)

6. Continue adding the curry leaves and the marinated chicken and cook over a medium high flame, cover it with a lid and continue cooking till the Chicken is soft and tender. Check for salt and serve hot with soft Kallu Appams (Rice crepes fermented with toddy (Coconut or palm liquor) and fresh grated coconut added in the batter) or Flaky Malabari Parathas.

A glass of Viognier or Shriaz would be a perfect pair.

Happy Cooking!!!
Happy Onam!


You could find Chef Vinod's Recipe and interesting information about Curry leaves and Cardamom from food writers who have been a great source of inspiration to me.

Chef KN Vinod

Ammini Aunty's

Monica Bhide's

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Virudhunagar Pepper Chicken

Viruthunagar a bustling little business town where all the farmers come from the near by villages with their produce such as toordal (Yellow split peas), sesame seeds,dried red chilies and other fresh produce which are then sent to other places country wide and exported to many parts of the world.

The buzz and the activity in the market and the old world charm of this town is really a beauty to watch while you walk through the crowded bazaar enticing aroma wafts through from the sweet stall were little children reach to the sweet vendor to buy their favorite sweet treats

moving on sweet smell of flowers attracts you to a flower vendor who spins his fingers in a fast paced action making beautiful garlands. Love the smell of fragrant roses, jasmine transcends you to a different world, close by the chimes of bell from a temple adds more to the experience.

Moving on to the next few shops which sell banana leaves, most eateries in South India uses banana leaves to serve food. It is customary and also considered auspicious. I met a fourth generation coconut vendor who taught me the nuances about how to check coconut just by hitting it with your thumb and index finger motion(the way we do while playing carom) and how every part of the coconut tree is of use and that's why its called the Kalpavriksha

The next shop was a that of a rice and lentil vendor where you get the best rice and lentil varieties. You get to smell and feel and taste raw kernels of rice and lentils.

A street side shop with a huge array of small utensils was an interesting add.I had picked up a few useful tools including a small sickle which helps in removing hard coconut with great ease.

Heading into what attracted me to this town is the all famous 'Burma Kadai ' ennai parotta , pepper chicken and salna (a fragrant coconut based gravy) .The shop is run by a fourth generation Burmese Immigrant family and all they have done is to provide simple food to hundreds of people who come into town everyday to do business.

The parotta is a bread made with all purpose flour and shallow fried in fragrant ,fresh Gingelly oil, which is readily available in the local oil press. The parotta is then smashed between the palms to make it flaky and a generous ladle of salna along with the pepper chicken is just what you need after a long walk through the crowded bazaar and a grumbling stomach

Pepper Chicken


chicken leg or thighs (skin less)- 1kg (cut in bite size pieces)
tamarind - 1 golf ball size (soaked in warm water)
black peppercorns- 3tbsp
cumin-1 tbsp
fennel seeds- 1tsp
coriander seeds- 2tbsp
gingelly oil- 3tbsp
asofetida- 1 tsp
ginger- 1tsp (chopped)
green chili- 4 nos (cut into pieces)
curry leaves- hand full
onion- 500g (sliced)
fresh coriander(cilantro)- 1/2 bunch (chopped)
salt- to taste

Masala(Spice mix)
Toast the peppercorns on a slow flame till it starts popping and the aroma fills the kitchen continue adding the coriander seeds and keep stirring till it turns golden brown, add the cumin seeds and fennel seeds and cook a further two to three minutes and remove from the flame. Rest the spices and blend it coarse in a spice blender or a mortar and pestle.

Pepper Chicken
1. Soak tamarind warm water and remove the pulp.
2. Marinate the chicken pieces with the tamarind pulp and a touch of salt for a minimum of two hours overnight will be ideal.

3. Heat gingelly oil in a pan and add the sliced onions and sauté it on a slow flame till golden brown add the green chili, asofetida and curry leaves and chopped cilantro, continue cooking.

4. Add the half of the spice powder to the onion mixture and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes. Keep stiring and ensure the flame is low.
S5. Add the chicken marinated in tamarind pulp and continue cooking till the chicken is soft and add the rest of the spice powder and salt continue cooking for another 5 minutes and remove from the flame and enjoy with some parotta or a bowl of steamed rice and sambhar.


Most of my cooking will call for slow toasted spices (masalas) stone ground spices adds a punch to the dish.

Add more black peppercorns if you would like to increase the tingling touch in the chicken.

For vegetarians please go ahead and try it out with your favorite vegetables or paneer.

Gingelly oil is raw sesame oil and has many health benefits.

To know about the goodness behind this spice read The Power of Pepper by my friend Sarah Khan

King's Meal
Till then
Keep Guessing!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Butte ke kebab (Baby corn and roasted red pumpkin kebab)

Here is a simple and easy recipe. My take on Butte ke kebab. I've used summer vegetables to give it a light feel and used subtle spices to make it pair well with whites and bubbly.


babycorn-12 -16 nos(peeled)
red pumpkin- 2 kg
ginger- 20g (thinly sliced)
besan(gram flour)- 80g
shahi jeera (black cumin)- 1tsp
ajwain (bishop seeds)-1tsp
fenugreek seeds- 1tsp
green chili- 2 nos(chopped)
lemon verbana-5 leaves

(Masala- spice mix)
Heat a pan over gentle flame and toast the fenu greek seeds once it starts to turn dark brown add the shahi jeera and continue toasting for a couple of minutes and add the ajwain and remove the pan from the heat. Cool it and blend it to a powder in a spice blender or mortar ad pestle.
(Roasted Pumpkin)
De-seed the pumpkin and poke the skin with fork just like docking pie shell. Sprinkle some salt and a generous splash of vegetable oil and roast it @180C for about 25- 30 minutes. Remove and place thinly sliced ginger and continue baking till soft.

Remove from the oven and chop up the ginger, use a fork or spoon and gently scoop out the pumpkin and place it on a strainer to remove all the liquid and save it.

Heat a pan on slow flame and toast Besan (gram flour) till golden brown. Remove and place it in a bowl. Wipe the pan and dry out the pumpkin and ginger mixture till dry and mix the spice powder, chopped green chilis, toasted besan and salt to taste.Kebab mixture is ready.

Heat a pot of salted water and quickly blanch the baby corn, shock it in ice cold water and pat dry.(This step is optional I personally love the corn to have a snap once baked)

Wet your hands in a bowl of water and take the pumpkin mixture and spread it evenly around the corn using your palm.Just like making shrimp and sugar cane satay.Place it on a greased baking tray and bake it till golden @180C for 15 to 20 mintues. brush the kebab with ghee, butter or vegetable oil 2-3 times during baking and turn the kebab to get even color on all sides.

Reduce the pumpkin juice with a few leaves of chopped lemon verbena ans serve it as a dipping sauce. Enjoy the Baby corn and pumpkin kebab

(I've used fresh cilantro on the pumpkin reduction, lemon verbena will be a great match)

Enjoy the Sunshine!
Next Week
Pepper Chicken (Virudha Nagar style)
Happy Cooking...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Poori Chole - Fluffy Whole wheat bread and Garabanzo simmered with spices.

If Mom made poori's for breakfast I would be awake by 6 a.m sitting on the kitchen table watching her doing small round poori's. The hot fluffy poories would fly on my plate which would dip in with freshly made aloo bajji and I swooshed a dozen of them keeping the Richshaw man waiting at the door. I remember my mom chiding me to finish and get the richshaw before he goes away. On the way to school I would rave about my morning breakfast experience to friends.These were the early memories of Poori and Bajji.

Slowly when I joined hotel school and had friends from different parts of India Poori Chole became a kings feast for us once a week when my friends used to do their version at our Kottur house.

Chole and Bature a close cousin of the poori used to be my favorite breakfast when I used to work in Delhi. Early foggy morning in November through early March, I would wait for the street side vendor to pull his cart(redi)and set up his stall with his big Kadai with oil and lite his wood fired stove. I used to huddle close to the fire to keep warm. While he used to meticulously set up his plates, katori's (bowls),spoons and Heating up a handi of fragrant chole . Mean while chopping fresh red onions with a thin blade on a tiny wooden log which has a slant through years of use,with perfect dexterity. Tiny lime wedges, freshly chopped cilantro cubes of butter was arrange on a little counter on the cart.

He would pray for good business and starts to roll his bature with a wooden rolling pin on a plank and kept it covered in a polythene cover. He would then check the oil with a little drop of water sprinkled on it when it crackles he starts to swirl in the first bature which is fluffed up by sprinkling the oil on to in quick motion to fluff it up turns it around with in a couple of minutes and the first Fluffy bature is laid to drip and He assembles a plate with a katori on top with a pipping hot ladle of chole topped up with chopped onion, cilantro and a tiny wedge of lime golden bature. Makhan or butter on request for a rupee more. The whole plate used to cost rupees five and that used to see me through till 4pm chai(tea) time, now its your time to savor this fluffy and creamy goodness.


dried garbanzo beans- 150g (soaked overnite)
green chili- 2 nos
turmeric powder- 2 tsp
salt- to taste
vegetable oil- 4 tbsp
bayleaf- 2 nos crushed
cassia or cinnamon- 1 pc
ginger- 50g(chopped)
garlic- 5 pods (chopped)
Cardamom- 3 pods
ajwain (bishop seeds)-1 tsp
green chili- 3 nos (chopped)
red onions- 450g (small dice)
tomato- 200g (small dice)
yogurt- 150ml
kashmiri chili powder(Degi mirch)-1 tbsp
turmeric powder- 1 tsp
corriander powder- 3 tbsp
fennel powder- 1 tbsp
channa masala-2 tbsp
kasoori methi(dried fenu greek leaves)- 1tbp
Cilantro- 1 bunch (chopped)
Butter Cubes- 3 pcs 10 g each


1. Pressure cook the soaked garbanzo bean with salt, turmeric and a couple of slit green chili.If you boil boil it till soft.

2. Heat oil in a pan and add whole cardamom,cinnamon, bay leaf and allow it to crackle.(the heat should be gentle while the spice is allowed to bloom), continue adding the ajwain (bishop seeds) and stir.

3. Add the chopped garlic,ginger and green chili and cook till golden brown.

4. Add onions and cook till golden brown then add the chopped tomatoes and cook till soft.

5. Whisk yogurt in a bowl and add the turmeric, kashmiri chili, coriander, fennel and channa masala powders into it. Add a cup of water to achieve a smooth flow and pour the mixture into the pan and allow it to simmer along with the softened onion and tomatoes for 10 to 15 mintues. Keep it covered and open the lid slowly and keep stirring.

6. Add the boiled garbanzo bean and cook for atleast an hour till the raw flavor of the spices fades and there is a waft of mellow fragrant air in the kitchen.
7.Check for seasoning and finish with kasoori methi and generously chopped fresh cilantro.

8.serve hot in a bowl with a lobe of butter, freshly slice onion rings and a wedge of lime.


Whole wheat flour(atta)- 300g
salt- to taste
vegetable oil- 1 tbsp
water- 15- to 170 ml (enough to form a stiff dough)
vegetable or sunflower oil- 1 liter (for deep frying)

1.Measure the flour and add salt, vegetable oil and sprinkle water and start forming the dough. keep adding water until a stiff dough is formed. knead for 15 to 20 minutes using your knuckles, feel the dough getting soft.Cover with a wet towel.

2. Rest for 10 minutes and knead again and form into a long tube. Cut the dough into 50 g pieces and roll it round between your palms.

3.Dip the shaped dough into flour and roll it into thin discs and arrange it in a tray lais with parchments. Keep covered to avoid drying.

4. Heat oil on a medium flame its should reach a gentle smoking point. Try one poori it will sink and come up.

5. Splash oil gently on top to fluff up the poori and trun quickly and cook the other side and place the fluffy pooris on a drian tray layered with paper towel.Make a few at a time and serve hot. Nothing like poking a fluffy poori for the magical steam to warm you.

Next Week
Baby corn and red pumpkin kebab

Until Then,
Enjoy the Sunshine......