Tag Archives: spices

Mulled Wine

26 Nov

I grew up in Mumbai’s moderate (often hot) temperatures and extremely humid climate. Despite having lived for 12 years on the East Coast of America, I fancy going into hibernation each winter. I am a prime example of that over-bundled person you spot on 65-70 degree F day. Considering our winters are a lot colder, I am usually missing in action or devising ludicrous plans to stay warm. On my extensive list of tricks to stay warm, the realistic plan of “consuming copious amounts of hot beverages” ranks right below the unfeasible plan of “staying indoors”. During the day I imbibe abundant cups of hot tea and coffee and in the nights I indulge in my love for red wine.

Last winter, I was at a holiday party where the hostess served Mulled Wine and it took just a sip to conclude that it would become my favorite (alcoholic) winter drink. Mulled wine (also known as Glögg or Gløgg) is a traditional winter drink in Europe. It is usually made with red wine along with various winter spices and served hot or warm. “Mulled” in this context implies heated and spiced. Similar to Sangria in the summer, mulled wine with its combination of spices and honey augments the fruit of the vine.

I found Ina Garten’s recipe online and after a few attempts of adding and subtracting ingredients, this derived recipe is my favorite version. This is also a great way to give new life to a day-old opened bottle of wine. This drink guarantees to warm you and your friends up, while adding to the holiday cheer.

Mulled Wine Recipe
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s Mulled Wine
Servings:  14
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
2 (750-ml) bottles red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
5 cups apple cider (See note)
3 cinnamon sticks
1 large orange, zested and juiced
6-7 whole cloves
3 star anise
5-6 whole allspice berries
2-3 tablespoons of honey
Garnish: Orange peels or cinnamon sticks (optional)

Note:

  • Fresh apple cider can be found in the refrigerated juice section of all major grocery stores during apple season (Fall/Winter). If you are making this at another time of a year, use shelf-stable apple juice or shelf-stable apple cider.

Method:
1) In a large pot combine the wine, apple cider, cinnamon sticks, orange zest, orange juice, cloves, star anise, allspice berries and honey (per taste). Bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
2) Once it reaches a boil reduce the heat to low and heat for 10 minutes. Taste and add more honey if you want to make it sweeter.
3) Strain and pour into mugs or other hot beverage safe glasses. Add an orange peel or cinnamon stick to each mug to garnish. Serve warm.

Mac & Cheese with an Indian Flair

19 Nov

Photo credit: Sneha (www.prettyinpic.com)

While the turkey is the superstar of a Thanksgiving dinner, guests also gather around the holiday table eager to load up on its supporting cast members – the side dishes. So if you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, remember while these side dishes may seem slightly less import than the Turkey they are still an integral part of a Thanksgiving meal. These are also the dishes that can showcase your creativity and ingenuity as a cook. Take comfort classics and classic Thanksgiving side dishes and brighten them up with some exotic flavors or unexpected textures to add a little extra panache to your holiday table.

Macaroni and Cheese is a comfort classic side dish of cheesy goodness that satiates the appetites of all age groups. While the base is always macaroni (or another pasta), cheese, milk and flour, people all over the world add different ingredients to their Mac and Cheese to personalize it.  A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Reem Rizvi’s (of Simply Reem) “Mac & Cheese – An Indian Touch” guest blog post on Life of Spice. Just reading the recipe I could imagine the flavors and aroma’s that the Indian spices added to this Mac and Cheese. My recipe is an adaptation of Reem’s with a few minor changes (specifically reducing the fat content a bit without reducing the flavor at all).

Photo credit: Sneha

Photo credit: Sneha

The warm and aromatic spices and the cilantro-scallion cheese crust in this Mac and Cheese add a layer of flamboyance to a familiar classic. So why not surprise your friends and family this Thanksgiving by treating their taste buds to a quick trip to the Indian sub-continent?

Mac & Cheese with an Indian flair
Recipe adapted from Reem Rizvi’sIndian style Mac and Cheese” on a Life of Spice
Serves: 6-8 people
Time: Active: 15 -20 minutes; Inactive: 30-35minutes

Ingredients:
3 slices of bread
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped.
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
1 ½  tablespoons of butter, divided
3 cups cheddar cheese (grated)
2 cups dried macaroni
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup, finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 jalapeno seeded and diced (optional).
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne powder (or to taste).
½ teaspoon Garam Masala powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric powder
2 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups 1 % or 2% milk, warmed up
Salt & pepper per taste

Note:
This is a great do-ahead recipe.  Prepare and set aside everything till step 7 (including step 7) a day before. Just before you are ready to serve, top the macaroni and cheese mixture with the bread crumb mixture and bake everything together.

Method:
1) Pre-heat the oven to 350F and grease a 9” by 13” baking dish or 8, 5oz ramekins with little butter or cooking spray.
2) In a food processor, add the bread, cilantro and scallions with 3/4 tablespoon of the butter. Give it a quick pulse, till it starts to look like crumbs. Do not over pulse it as a little texture taste great. Add 1 cup of cheese and mix everything well. Set it aside.
3) Cook the macaroni according to the direction on the packet and set it aside.
4) In a large non-stick saucepan, heat the olive oil with the remaining 3/4 tablespoon of butter on medium heat. Once the oil is heated add the chopped onions, stir and cook until the onions soften and are just beginning to change color. Now add the ginger and garlic paste along with the jalapeno and cook for another minute. Keep stirring.
5) Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric and chili powder, stir for about a minute.
6) Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the warm milk and continue to stir as the milk mixture starts to thicken about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 2 cups of the cheddar cheese. Stir well till the cheese melts into the sauce. Set the cheese sauce aside.
7) Stir the drained macaroni into the cheese sauce and give it a nice mix.  Taste the salt and pepper at this stage and adjust it accordingly.
8) Pour everything in the greased baking dish or ramekins, top with the bread and cheese mixture that was prepared earlier.  Bake in 350F oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly on the top. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving it.

Dinner for Two: Skillet Chicken and Rice

26 Oct

Ever faced a conundrum where you need 2 chicken breasts for dinner and have a package of three chicken breasts? I have had more than my share of these nights when I have a package of three chicken breasts and only need to grill or bake two for our dinner. The third is usually saved for a salad or a soup except per chance I stumble upon a great dinner idea.

I recently purchased Monica Bhide’s latest cook book – Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen and have a running list of all its recipes that I have to try. Earlier this year, I also took a food writing course with Monica. She has been a great source of inspiration for me and was the final push I needed to start writing this blog.

The Sunday Night Skillet Chicken and Rice recipe from the book was one of the top recipes on my list. It so turned out that I recently found myself with one chicken breast in the fridge and had the ingenious idea to use that recipe to create a hearty meal for two. I scaled down Modern Spice’s recipe to feed two, and made only a few minor modifications. This is really a heartwarming meal with big, bold flavors and is easy enough to make on any night of the week.

Skillet Chicken and Rice Recipe
Recipe adapted for Modern Spice’s Sunday Night Skillet Chicken and Rice
Yields: 2 servings
Time: Active 20 minutes Inactive 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil
1-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
½ large red onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 green chili, seeded and diced (optional)
1 medium-large Roma tomato, diced
½ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
Salt to taste
½ pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces (See note)
½ cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of water
Cilantro, chopped for garnish

Notes:

  • Depending on the size of the chicken breasts ½ pound is either one large chicken breast or 2 smaller ones. You can also use boneless skinless thighs.
  • This recipe is very easy to scale up. Just double all the ingredients and use 2 cups of water. Cooking times will vary very minimally.

Method:
1) In a 10-12 inch deep lidded skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Within 1-2 minutes when you get the aroma of these spices, add the onion, ginger paste and garlic paste. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, until the onions soften and change color. Add the green chili (if using it) and cook for 1 minute.
2) Add the tomatoes along with a pinch of salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and the oil separates from the side of the mixture. Adding a pinch of salt at this stage speeds up the process of breaking down the tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to mash the tomatoes as they cook. Make sure you stir this mixture occasionally to ensure it does not stick to the skillet.
3) Add the chili powder, turmeric, coriander and salt to taste. Cook stirring constantly for another minute.
4) Add the chicken pieces and cook for 3-4 minutes, until all the pieces are white on the outside and almost cooked through.
5) Add the rice and water and bring to a rolling boil. Once is has reached a rolling boil, reduce the heat cover and cook for about 16-18 minutes on low heat, until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is fully cooked. The final dish will be barely moist.
6) Fluff the rice with a fork, garnish with cilantro and serve.

Kerala Beef Fry

13 Oct

“Holy Cow! Do Indians eat Beef?”

The answer to that is yes, just not all of them. Cows are considered sacred in Hinduism and the majority of Hindus in India do not eat beef. When people think of India they immediately associate it with Indians not eating beef. While Hinduism is the major religion (80.5% of the population), India also has 13.4% Muslims and 2.3% Christians. That seems like a rather small percentage until you realize we are talking about a population of over a billion people.  There are also a growing number of expatriates and repatriates in India who are beef eaters.

Eating beef is not illegal in India, though cow slaughtering is prohibited in some states.  Then there is also the controversy over cows and buffaloes – cows are considered holy but their cousins the buffaloes are frequently used to process beef in India. In fact, USDA has projected that India will become the largest beef exporter in 2012. 

In short, beef in served at several restaurants across India and is also cooked in several households. One of my favorite Indian beef recipes is Beef Ularthiyathu better known as Spicy Kerala Beef Fry. Bite size pieces of beef are marinated in freshly ground aromatic spices, then pressure cooked till tender and finally fried with fragrant curry leaves and slivers of coconut. Kerala beef fry is usually served with flaky Kerala parathas or fluffy appams, but regular chapatis or basmati rice works just fine as this dish will be the real star of the meal.

Kerala Beef Fry Recipe:
Adapted from Petrina Verma Sarkar’s Kerala Beef Fry Recipe
Time: In Active time:  1.5hrs   Active time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

Marinade Ingredients:
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 teaspoons fennel seeds
8 cloves
16 whole black peppercorns
5 green cardamom pods, seeds only
1 ½ tablespoons coriander powder
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon vinegar
½ peeled and thinly sliced medium red onion
2 green chilies, sliced

Cooking Ingredients:
Boneless Beef 1.5 lbs, cleaned and cut up into 1.5 inch chunks (I used stew meat)
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 peeled and thinly sliced medium red onion
10 curry leaves
2 green chilies
3 tablespoons dried, grated coconut (See note)
½ teaspoon red chili powder (See note)
Salt to taste

Note:

  • Traditionally this is made with slices of fresh coconut, so if you have access to fresh coconut of sliced frozen coconut, you can use that instead of the dried, grated coconut.
  • Feel free to add more chili powder after tasting it and deciding how spicy you want it to be.

Method:
1) In a spice grinder or coffee grinder, grind together the cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, cloves, peppercorns and cardamom.
2) Put the beef into a large bowl and mix it with the ground up spice mixture and all other marinade ingredients. Plastic wrap this bowl and place the beef in the refrigerator, and let it marinate for 1-2 hours.
3) Put the marinated beef along with ½ a cup of water into a pressure cooker and let it cook till you hear two whistles. You want the meat to be cooked through and tender. Simmer out most of the remaining water, leaving behind only 2-3 tablespoons of liquid.
4) In a large skillet heat the oil on medium high heat. When the oil is hot add 1 thinly sliced onion to it and sauté till golden brown. Stir the onions occasionally to ensure they do not burn.
5) Add the curry leaves and green chilies fry them for 1-2 minutes.
6) Then add the coconut and cook it for about 2 minutes or till is toasty.
7) Now add the beef with the 2-3 tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid (from the pressure cooker) and cook everything together till the beef turns a deep, dark color.
8) Serve hot with basmati rice, rotis, parathas, dosas or appams.

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