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Monday, 30 November 2020


There is nothing like the heat of a vindaloo to take you straight to the beaches of Goa. One of my favourite memories of Goa is heading down there with all my friends and eating deliciously spicy food right on the beach. The heat of the food, with spiced rum and port wines that Goa is known for, along with the cool breezes off the beaches were always a sensation to be savoured. Vindaloo is probably one of the more popular Indian dishes known in the West, but it can also be one of the more misunderstood ones. In the West, a vindaloo is pretty much known for straight heat and spice, but in truth, a vindaloo is probably one of the most nuanced Indian dishes that I know of. 

 


Of Portuguese - Goan origin, just like me, I like to joke, a vindaloo is an Indian adaptation of the classic Portuguese 'Carne de Vinha d' Alhos' (meat with wine and garlic), and known as a traveller's dish. Traditionally made with pork, it has been adapted to be made with pretty much all kinds of meats. When Canadian Turkey (check out more of their fantastic recipes here) gave me the brief for this post, South Asian flavours, I knew almost immediately that I'd be making a turkey vindaloo. Turkey, after all, is a meat that absorbs flavours perfectly, and is just the right texture for this dish. 

 

What I love about turkey for this particular recipe, is it's versatility. For example, I have used turkey breast fillet in this recipe, but it is actually amazing with turkey thighs, or even turkey stir-fried strips. Turkey is lean and nutrient-rich, which is excellent for me right now, seeing as I have put on a few pounds (my Covid curve is definitely not flat, let me tell you that!), and we are all trying to eat a lot healthier here as a family.  It works well for batch cooking, and in terms of value for money. I recently started a new job, and have been trying to rely less on pizza and takeout and make fresh healthy meals for the family. This recipe, for example, is perfect for bulk cooking and freezing, and when you're strapped for time, it is worth every penny.

 

To add a fusion element to this classic dish, I decided to make a pulled turkey vindaloo, a deliciously comforting fall dish, piled on soft rolls with a calming yogurt sauce on the side. This recipe is actually a bit of a combination of a traditional Goan vindaloo, and a Mangalorean indad. I didn't want too much of the sharp vinegar flavour - rather a spicy, tangy taste with a hint of sweet, and a warm hint of boozy rum flavour at the end. The rum is taken more from the indad, as it was used as a preservative for making meats for travellers. For me, it is a rather comforting taste of home. 

 


Pulled Turkey Vindaloo


Spice Mix and Marinade:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

8 – 10 dried mild long red Kashmiri chilies

½ teaspoon whole cloves

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

1 – 2 sticks cassia bark or cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon or to taste, salt

500g turkey breast filet or turkey thighs

  

Sauce:

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 inch piece of ginger chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed
50 ml of turkey stock + an extra 1/2 cup turkey stock or water
1 tablespoon dark rum
Salt and sugar to taste

 

Yogurt sauce:

¼ cup plain yogurt

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt to taste

 

To serve:

Dinner rolls or hamburger buns

 

Method:

In a heavy pan, dry roast the chillies, cumin, pepper, cinnamon and cloves, one by one, for about 30 second to a minute, until fragrant. Blend until finely powdered.

 

Place the turkey breast in a bowl. Add half of the spice mix (the remainder can be stored in an airtight container for future use), the vinegar and salt and rub well. Marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

 

Place the oil in a pan. Fry the onion for a few minutes until the raw smell has disappeared and the onions are very lightly toasted. Add the ginger and garlic, and fry for another minute. Remove to a blender, add the turkey stock and process to a fine paste. Keep aside.

 

Place the onion mixture in a pot, and add the turkey and marinade. Fry for a few minutes until the turkey is sealed, then turn the heat down low, and cook for about an hour, adding more turkey stock, if necessary. When the turkey is just falling apart when pierced by a fork, gently pull out the turkey, and shred it.

 

Add the rum to the sauce along with a splash of red wine vinegar, and cook down until reduced by half. Season to taste with salt and a teaspoon of sugar, until the sauce is spicy,  and tangy, with a hint of sweetness. Pour over the turkey and gently mix together until the turkey is coated with the sauce.

 

To make the yogurt sauce, whisk the yogurt with the cumin and lemon juice, then season to taste with the salt.

 

Serve the turkey piled on rolls, topped with the yogurt sauce. 

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post with Canadian Turkey. The recipe and stories are all mine, as you’d expect from this website. 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 19 August 2020


Tehari Kofta biriyani
Last week as I was browsing through Facebook, I came across my old school friend Heena's picture and post about this delicious Bangladeshi-style tehari biriyani. Being a biriyani fiend myself, I had to beg Heena for a recipe, and she shared a YouTube video on the making of the recipe, and I was intrigued, as well as suddenly very nostalgic and hungry. 
 
Tehari style, in Bangladesh refers to rice and meat (mutton, beef, lamb, or chicken) cooked on a low heat, and them mixed together to make a flavourful rice dish. It's a cross between and pulao,  in which all ingredients are cooked together, and a biriyani, in which ingredients are cooked separately and then layered. In India and Pakistan, tehari refers pretty much to a spicy rice and meat dish. 

I have called my dish a tehari-style dish, as I use the tehari technique of cooking the meat in a flavourful sauce (and this can be pretty much a separate dish in itself), and then layering half-cooked rice on top, and finishing in the oven. So strictly, this is an adaptation of the method. I also substituted cream for yogurt, as I didn't have any, and made a few tweaks, to adjust to my family's spice tolerance. i had homemade biriyani spice mix, so I didn't need any additional mixes, other than some extra nutmeg to give the dish its characteristic fragrance, but a traditional tehari style biriyani will have more spices. 
 
As the dish travels from country to country, people have added and modified the technique to suit their conveniences. For example, I use an oven for the final cooking step of this biriyani, as it offers even heat that surrounds the pot, but traditionally the pot would have sat in banked coals to finish the cooking. People also use an indirect heat to cook the biriyani, by placing it on a cast iron pan over heat, so the heat is diffused and the steam cooks the rice.

I also made kofte for this dish. I had some ground beef that needed to be used up, so I made these meatballs and used them instead of using cuts of meat instead. Even with all the modifications, the dish was delicious, and very close to the traditional tehari, so I was really happy with the way it turned out. It was also surprisingly easy to make, despite the long recipe and many steps. Many of the components can be made ahead of time, and it is a simple job to assemble on the day and pop into the oven, making this the perfect dinner party dish. 

Serve with a side of cool raita, a few sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, and some sliced raw onions.
 
Recipe:

For the kofte 

2 lbs ground lamb or beef 
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg, beaten 
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs 
Salt, to taste
Oil, to shallow fry

For the biriyani

4 tablespoons neutral oil, or ghee, divided
1 inch piece of cinnamon
4 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns  
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 hot green bird’s eye chilies, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons biriyani spice mix, * see note
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 cups chicken stock
Large handful chopped fresh cilantro and mint
1/2 cup whipping cream 
Salt, to taste
1 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup raisins
3 cups rice
Water, as required for the rice

Method: 

Make the kofte - mix all the ingredients, except the oil, in a bowl, and shape into meatballs slightly smaller than a golf ball. Season to taste with salt. 

Add the oil to a shallow pan, and fry the meatballs, until golden on all sides. Drain and keep aside.

To make the biriyani, heat 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee in a heavy based pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and black pepper and fry for a minute. Add the chopped onions, and fry for 10 minutes, until soft. Add the ginger and garlic, and chilies, and fry for an additional minute. Add the tomatoes and the biriyani spice mix, and cook until the mixture is thick, around 10 minutes. 

Add the chicken stock, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste, the stir in the cilantro, mint and whipping cream. 

Add the meatballs to the sauce, and gently stir till coated. 

In the meantime, caramelize the sliced onions in the remaining ghee or oil, for about 30 minutes, until sweet. Add the raisins and keep aside. 

Place the rice in a large pot, and cook with plenty of water, on a high heat, for 10 minutes. Drain. 

Preheat oven to 250 F/ 120 C. 

Distribute the rice evenly on top of the meatballs and sauce, covering the sauce completely. Scatter the caramelized onions and raisins on top, then cover with a tight fitting lid (or aluminium foil) and place in the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked. Take out, and mix together the rice into the sauce, and serve hot.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Before we get to the sharbat part, the stories need to be told.I've always spoken fondly about our summer vacations in our grandparents' home in the village. The village is about a couple hours give or take from my home town, and used to be a quiet, sleepy place that only came alive during it's annual church festival. Every summer though, after the report cards were delivered to the house, and the usual congratulations/ recriminations were doled out, mother packed us up that weekend, and off we went to the crowded, dusty bust stand. Various drivers and conductors added to the cacophony of the stand, yelling out destinations and times, and fares, honking their horns to indicate a determination to depart, whether or not you got on board. There is no rhyme or reason to the bus stand. You just have to catch a bus, and hope it takes you to where you want to go. My mom, of course, being the expert, bundled us into the best (and fastest, shudder) bus, and off we went, my sister and I fighting over who would get the window seat. An hour and half later, the bus screeched to an almost halt, dumping us off on the side of a deserted village road, from where we we found our way to our grandparents' home.

It was about an hour's dusty, hot walk there, or joy of joys, we found an autorickshaw who would consent to taking us till the churchyard close to the house. On the non-rickshaw days, we trudged along the road, hot and annoyed and bugging my mom no end, covering ourselves in copious amounts of red dust along the way. If my mother was feeling generous, we cut our journey in half, as she led us through the cooler forest way, as opposed to the road.

The forest way was certainly an adventure. You had to know the right place to leave the road and climb the hills that blanketed the side of the road. Then follow a faint trail, that led to a larger trail. once we hit the larger trail, a few minutes later, we had to find the right place to turn into the forest again, and this was always my favourite part. The trees were scrubby, but dense, cashew trees, mango and eucalyptus, playing in the faint breeze, canopied and so much cooler. We knew our way through the trees, following the right shaped ones though the forest floor.

Every so often, if the time was right, there was a brilliant flowering tree, right at the edge of where we turned off to head into the path that would take us to the house. This tree, it had a veritable waterfall of bright yellow flowers. We gazed longingly at it, until my mom gave us permission to climb it, and gather handfuls of the flowers. I remember my mother one time, that cynically ruthless, practical woman, turning back to look wistfully at the tree. When I asked her why she looked back, her face softened, as she muttered, "it's such a beautiful tree"... this look of my mom's made her so much more human than the superhuman mother we were used to, that I still remember that moment, thirty odd years later.

When we finally made it to the house, all hot and sweaty and so thirsty, we plopped down on the cool stone verandah, fans blowing air all around us, and listened for my grandmother, whose voice told us to get into the kitchen and drink the sharbat waiting for us. Oh that cold, tangy, sweet drink that soothed our parched throats and gave us the energy to start exploring.

Now I am not going to handing out recipes for sharbat. Every Indian worth their garam masalas knows that sharbat is a form of long, cold, non-fizzy drink. Ideally, made with some sort of home made or shop bought concentrate, not fruit juice, mind - though, there have been mutterings about lime juice being a sharbat - but otherwise, anything goes. In our grandparents' house it was made with bindan concentrate. Bindan, a fruit similar to the rambutan, but without the spiky exterior, grew wild in the woods behind the house. Every so often, an enterprising cousin would knock down a load of fruit with a stick and a hook. We ate the creamy interior fruit, and kept the smooth, plum coloured shells. Grandmother would dry the shells with sugar, then boil them down to a thick, sweet/ tangy syrup, which then became bindan sharbat, when mixed with sugar and the cold spring water that fed the house. When the bindan syrup was not available, we had cold, sweet lime juice instead. Served in cold steel tumblers, every sharbat was a delight to all the senses, as we slowly got used to the cool, dark interior of the house we would spend summer in.

Roohafza, on the other hand, is the more well known shop bought version of a sharbat, though, families had their own recipes for this drink, debates to be had on whether or not you should add lemon to it. My mom never did, but I have, and I find that the citrus cuts through the almost overwhelming floral nature of this syrup.

The other popular addition to sharbat, was basil seeds. We had basil seeds growing wild on the roadsides, and every so often, we would go and shake out a bunch of dried seeds that we could plop into the sharbats, watchins, as they grew fat and fuzzy, similar to chia seeds. They were considered fairly cooling and healthy, so a handful was almost always kept on hand to add to cold drinks.

I debated whether to add a recipe to this post, honestly, I did. I mean, how hard is it to add concentrate to water and make a sharbat? Not hard, right? So, sorry, no recipe, but more of instructions.

Recipes: 

Add lime juice to water. Sweeten with sugar and drink cold.
If you can find it, add bindan syrup and sugar to water, to taste. Stir and drink cold.
Add a teaspoon of Roohafza to cold water. Stir in a teaspoon of lime juice and drink chilled.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

One of the few regrets in my life is that I never had the opportunity to cook with my grandparents. My paternal grandfather passed away before I was born. My paternal grandmother was in the USA for a lot of my life, and though she is still alive today, she is not good shape right now, being all of a 105 years. Both my maternal grandparents were alive for a long time, but it was mostly in my teens and early twenties, when I was naive enough to believe that they would live forever. Or at least I would get to see them often enough, that I could get recipes and instructions from them, and cook with them. But this was the arrogance of youth, to think that they would wait forever for me. 

My grandfather died when I was in the UK, in the first three months. My grandmother survived a lot longer, and I was lucky enough to talk to her and get some of her recipes over the phone and through my mother and aunts. She got too old and too sick very soon after though, and I never really got to cook with her. When I went searching for her 'samadde', her hand carved wooden spice box, it had already been given away. I was still lucky enough to have a little of her jewellery, but let's face it, no one really wears that much jewellery here in Canada. They're still my heirlooms though, so I keep them, in the hope of passing them on my daughter sometime. 

I am luckier than most though, because after all said and done, I do have some recipes and a lot of memories of my folks' cooking, and those are memories I treasure. Whether it is making boti, or climbing mango trees, or spending summers at my grandparents' house, they are there, and they will be there with me.

The reason I went down memory lane with my grandparents though, is that my recipe today is inspired by another grandmother, my friend Rohan's Nana Betty. This is her, in the below photograph.

Nana Betty, photo courtesy Rohan Gonsalves

Rohan, an old school and college friend of mine, is a lucky man. He has been quarantining with his grandmother in Mangalore, and one of the things he started doing was posting photo recipes of his grandmother cooking. You can imagine that went down rather well with the grandparent-parched generation all over the world. Not just mine, but strangely, also the generation before and after mine. The request for recipes became so numerous, that Rohan had to actually create a Facebook page for Nana's Recipes (you have to be a Facebook member to access, sorry), where he posts picture journeys of the recipe with his grandmother, and collection of aunts and uncles. 

I call Rohan a lucky man, because, had I had the opportunity, this is exactly what I should have done with my own grandparents. Granted, recording recipes is very different today, with our camera phones, and social media, as opposed to frantically writing everything down as fast as the spices would go in. But even then, what he has with his nana, is a dream a lot of us have had, I would imagine. To cook with our parents, or aunties, and relatives, it is a dream that is not always possible in today's world where a lot of us are away from our families and building our own families. It is a familiar pain, but then Nana Betty (or rather, Rohan) would post a new recipe, and for a while Nana Betty stands in for our own grandparents and everything is okay for a while. And in today's world, we need it.

This recipe is a result of inspiration from Nana's Clam Sukka, or spicy clams with coconut. I wasn't able to go out for clams, but I did have a bag of raw prawns that were perfect for this version of prawn sukka. These prawns can be served as a side dish with rice and vegetables, or as a finger food with toothpicks stuck in them. Either way, they are delicious, just as I imagine Nana's clams were.

Recipe: 

250g shelled prawns
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon neutral oil (I use grapeseed) 
1 small onion, finely diced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon (or to taste) bafat spice mix
Salt to taste
1/4 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut

For the seasoning: 

1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 sprig (5 - 6) curry leaves
1 clove of garlic, bruised, but left whole

Method: 

Place the shelled prawns in a bowl, and sprinkle over the turmeric. Keep aside.

In a shallow pan, over a medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions. When the onions are golden around the edges, about 5 minutes, add the ginger and garlic. Saute for a minute, then add the tomatoes and the bafat spice mix.

Cook this mixture for about 5 - 7 minutes, until the raw smell of spices disappears. Add the prawns to the pan, and cook together for about 5 minutes, until the prawns have cooked through.

Season with salt to taste, then stir in the dessicated coconut. Taste and adjust seasoning.

In a small pan, heat the tablespoon of oil, then add the curry leaves and garlic. Sizzle everything together for a minute, then pour the fragrant oil and seasonings into the cooked prawns, and stir in.


Tuesday, 7 April 2020

baingan dal
I will not talk about isolation. I will not talk about isolation. I will not talk about isolation. I will not talk about isolation. I will not talk about isolation.

Dang it, I did. 

And it's all because of them lentils. Other people hoard toilet paper. Apparently, I hoard lentils. It's the Indian in me. If everything else fails, there is always rice and dal. So it is a good thing that the family likes dal, because lately it's been dal with everything. 

I never really had dal when I was growing up, per se. We tended to have the much lighter version of lentils, a soupy concoction called 'saar', which was a much tangier, watery version of the thick lentil dal that was usual in the North of India. It was either saar or rasam, which was a much spicier and brothier version that was traditional to Tamil Nadu and the South Eastern coast of India. 

My taste for thick, creamy masala dal developed from my university days in Delhi, where a version was served with every meal in the hostel mess, as well as from my dad, who preferred this version from his army days. He described those days with a hint of nostalgia - the terribly cold nights when they staggered into camps at the very end (dad was an electrician in the army), carrying their heavy packs, huddled under thin blankets that barely kept out the biting mountain cold, the hard, snowy ground  under which they made camp, the tents that did nothing to shield them from the cutting wind, the army days were not a good memory for my father - but he did describe the dal, straight from steaming cauldrons, eaten with rotis, a taste my dad has kept to this day.