Monday, May 30, 2016

Croquetas de Jamon

Croquetas de Jamon, is a classic tapa available at most bars across Spain. It can be served as a tapa, part of a meal with a salad on the side, and it loved by all. The beauty of it, is that you can fill it with just about anything— use your left over roasted chicken, or heck another way to use leftover Thanksgiving Turkey, chopped hard-boiled eggs, finely minced shrimp or squid, chopped chorizo, mushroom, cheese, or a combination of these. 

The real beauty of these lie in the delicate richness of the bechamel sauce combined with the flavors of your favorite filling. Make it a day ahead, to give the mixture enough time to harden in the refrigerator or freezer. It will then be easier to handle.

After spending two months in Spain, the kids loved Croquetas. It has never been my favorite Spanish tapa, but every time we are out for dinner, it is ordered— and everyone I know simply loves them!

Apparently, the Croquetas at the restaurant Embarcadero in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain are the best ever. So you can imagine my excitement when I found the recipe online.

While we were in Las Palmas (Spain), my aunt gave me a good supply of homemade frozen Chicken Croquetas, which was the best thing to have for quick last minute kid dinners with some corn and veggies on the side, or when friends stopped by.
Back in New York, our freezer is stocked back up with Croquetas de Jamon, and the kids are still loving it!

Recipe courtesy: Restorante Embarcadero  

125 grams / 9 tablespoons butter
1 liter / 4 cups whole milk
125 grams / scant 1 cup onion, minced
200 grams jamon Iberico, minced (or finely minced mushrooms, left over roasted chicken, or a filling of your choice)
125 grams / 1 cup all-purpose flour
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

4 eggs, beaten 
2 cups all-purpose flour
200 grams / 4 cups bread crumbs
  1. Melt the butter in a large pot on medium heat.
  2. In a saucepan warm the milk.
  3. Once the butter has melted, add the onion. Mix and let it cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the jamon, mix. Season with salt and white pepper.
  5. Add the flour, and keep mixing, until very well incorporated. 
  6. Add the milk, little by little, to ensure that the flour dissolves well. It will be a thick consistency. 
  7. Transfer it to a glass baking dish, flatten it out. Let it cool, transfer to the freezer. Let it cool until it is frozen hard enough to work with. Cut into rectangular shapes, about 2-inch x 1-inch. 
  8. Lightly coat in flour, then dip in the egg, generously coat with bread crumbs. At this point you can freeze it again. Or bring it back to room temperature and then deep fry. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Apple Clatoufis

Clafoutis is a French dish that is sort of a cross between a flan and a pancake. Similar to a flan, clafoutis is a very easy dessert that always impresses. It’s hearty enough even to serve for breakfast. It is traditionally made with black cherries but also sometimes with berries, prunes, or other fruits. My girlfriend Mumtaz and I did a French Bistro cooking class at the Brooklyn Kitchen, and when we learnt and ate this dessert, I loved how simple it was to prepare, lovely rustic looking dessert, warm and delicious.

Since we served this to kids tonight, I skipped adding the liquor. It was still divine, and served with Talenti's Sea Salt Caramel ice cream took it way over the top. 

Inspired by Julia Child, recipe courtesy Brooklyn Kitchen
Serves 8

Pancake Batter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

4 large baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (about 3 cups apples) (I used Granny Smith)
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup calvados, dark rum, or cognac
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
Confectioner’s sugar for garnish
Ice cream of your choice, for serving (I used Talenti Sea Salt Caramel ice cream, it is simply divine!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pancake batter: Combine the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Cover and place in the fridge to set for at least 10 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  3. Apples: Meanwhile, prepare the apples. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté the apples until lightly browned. Remove from heat, pour over the liquor, cinnamon, and 1/3 cup sugar, and let stand up to 30 minutes to absorb flavor.
  4. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish and pour the apples into the base with their liquid. Do ahead.
  5. Bring the batter to room temperature. Pour the batter over the top.
  6. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake about 50 minutes. It is done when it a knife inserted to the center comes out clean and the top is light brown.
  7. Garnish with confectioner’s sugar and serve with ice cream.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Changri Tarkari (Bengali Shrimp Curry)

My five-year old son absolutely loves 'Gambas al Ajillo', a Spanish shrimp dish, where the shrimp is cooked in abundant olive oil, with a generous amount of thinly sliced garlic, some dried red chilies, and parsley. We do too. So every time I buy shrimp, we eat 'Gambas al Ajillo'.
But today I craved a Shrimp Curry. Aditya Bals cookbook, Chakh Le India had this recipe which looked delicious— exactly what I wanted— spicy and tangy. 
A chat with my dear Chef Bengali friend Meera, had me sharing her Panch Poran, or Bengali five-spice mixture, and hence a delicious dinner on the table. Meera said that some desire a deeper, more reddish color. That can be achieved by 'bhunaoing' it for longer (steps no. 3 & 4), however, we were happy with this deep-turmeric color.

4 servings

1 lb medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon oil (preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)

1 tablespoon oil (preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

The Curry Base
1 tablespoon oil ((preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon Bengali five-spice mix (equal quantities of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds and fennel seeds)
1/2-inch cinnamon stick
4 green cardamons, split
3 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely minced
3 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tomato, sliced very thin
Salt, to taste
2 cups water, hot

Juice of 1/2 lime
3–4 tablespoons fresh cilantro

  1. Marinate the shrimp. Set aside. Prep the other ingredients.
  2. In a large flat-bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Fry the shrimps, on both sides, until almost cooked through. Remove on a plate. 
  3. In the same pot, heat another tablespoon of oil. Fry the whole spices until fragrant, be careful not to burn, about 30 seconds— 1 minute. Add the onions, salt to taste, and mix well. The salt will help the onions cook faster by letting its water out. Brown the onions, by using the ‘bhuno’* method.
  4. Add the ginger-garlic paste, the powdered spices, and let it cook until the oil separates. This is a clear indicator that the spices have cooked and released its natural oils. Continue to ‘bhuno’ for 5 more minutes, to get a deeper color.
  5. Add the tomatoes, and once the oil separates, pour in the hot water. Stir the curry a few times, till the oil surfaces again and the curry is perfectly cooked. 
  6. Immerse the shrimp along with all their resting juices into the simmering curry. Stir the shrimp gently and poach them to a juicy tenderness for 6–8 minutes. Simmer the curry uncovered to reduce it a little.
  7. Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice, which will amazingly lift the whole curry perfectly. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve over white Basmati rice.

This is a fundamental cooking technique used in Indian cuisine. Spices, herbs, and aromatics are sautéed over high heat, till they are toasted and intensely aromatic. A little liquid is then added to deglaze the pan and blend the ingredients well. Once most of the liquid evaporates, the process is repeated, till the aromatic spice base is homogenous and the oil rises to the top, signifying that the masala is properly cooked.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño

A visit to Nobu in New York or Kabuki in Madrid, always called for us enjoying a perfect modern sashimi, with a delicate play of taste and texture. This Yellowtail Sashimi is inspired by just that. A fine balance of acid-sodium-heat. Thin slices of yellowtail, brushed in garlic, topped with the chili-lime-soy sauce, garnished with the fresh citrus cilantro and crunchy heaty jalapeño.
2.5 ounces sushi-grade yellowtail
1 clove garlic, finely minced or pureed
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon red chili powder
6 very thin slices of jalapeño (less than ¼ of 1 jalapeño)
Cilantro leaves for garnish


  1. Slice yellowtail in six thin slices. This is easiest when the fish is very cold or even slightly frozen — pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes if you’re having trouble).
  2. Spread garlic puree over a small plate, set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine lemon, soy, chili oil, and red chili powder. Set aside.
  4. Dip each slice of yellowtail in the garlic and arrange on serving plate. Don’t try to use all the garlic — there should just be a slight coating on each piece of fish.
  5. Top each slice of fish with a slice of jalapeño. Do ahead. Chill if not serving immediately.
  6. Pour lime-chili-soy sauce over fish, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Chicken Keema, Indian Takeout

It always makes me uncontrollably happy when a kid is open to trying new foods. Even more when they enjoy it! Benjamin, my sons friend, tried chicken curry in our home once, and has ever since been asking his mom for it. Warmed my heart, so today when I made a big pot of Chicken Keema (ground chicken) I saved some for Benjamin to take home for lunch, on this cold and snowy day. His sweet dimpled smile was the icing on the cake for me. 

We grew up on eating all forms of Keemas, or ground meat— Lamb Keema, Turkey Keema, Chicken Keema, and more. The entire process takes an hour, but it makes for a one-pot dinner (well, almost one pot, not counting the rice or naan accompaniment). 

Serves 4 
Time: 1 hour

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamons, crushed

2 large white or red onions, minced 

Chicken Marinade
1 pound ground chicken (preferably dark meat)
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
Sliced green chilies, to taste (optional)
1 heaped teaspoon cumin powder
1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Red chili powder, to taste (optional)

4 large tomatoes, cut in half / pureed in a blender
Salt, to taste

Fresh cilantro, for garnish

  1. In a medium sized pot, or a pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cardamon pods. Let it cook for 20 seconds, until fragrant. Immediately add the minced onions, and a teaspoon of salt. (The salt helps the onions sweat and brown faster). Brown the onions for 45 minutes or so— Every few minutes, stir the onions, and scrape the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add a tablespoon of water if the browned bits do not come off, mix the onions and let them continue to brown. A deep reddish-brown color is desired, not a burnt black-brown color. The browning process is the most important process in achieving the depth of flavor and color, give it the love and time it deserves. The more browned bits you scrape up, the better it is. 
  2. While the onions brown, marinate the chicken in the ginger-garlic paste, green chilies, and dried spices.
  3. Once the onions have browned, add the chicken in its marinade. Mix well with the onions and let it cook for 3–4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cut side down, and a quarter cup of water. Cover and let it cook for 3 whistles if using a pressure cooker, or 15–20 minutes if using a regular pot. Remove the lid, pull the tomato skins off and smash the tomatoes and the chicken until the tomatoes are well broken up.
  4. Taste for salt and season accordingly. Serve with naan or Basmati rice.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chindian Chili Flounder

Growing up in Mumbai, in the '80's, you went out to eat one of the following cuisines: Indian, Continental (all things European clubbed together), or Chinese. And all Chinese restaurants served mainstream food, targeted to the Indian palette— Chindian, or an Indo-Chinese cuisine. And it is absolutely delicious! Ingredients such as chilis were always used, onions were regular onions and not always spring onions, and cilantro was always abundant. Fried rice was always made with the long-grained Indian Basmati rice, and not the shorter-grained Asian Jasmine rice. It was simply delicious.

A commonality between Indian and Chinese foods is that it is often eaten with rice, and a sauce or gravy is needed to soak up the rice with. This is a great example of a dish to serve with rice! 

So, when Saira Malhotra had a class cooking some Chindian (also known as Indo-Chinese) foods, I was the first to sign up! She made Chili Paneer, Chili Shrimp, and Panfried Noodles with a Celery Sauce. This Chili Flounder is inspired from her Chili Paneer recipe. 

Paneer Marinade
2 cups cubed flounder (or any firm fish) / paneer / tofu / chicken / shrimp
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste (preferably freshly ground paste)
1 tablespoon soy sauce 
1 tablespoon kecap manis
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Sauté ingredients
1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
1 large red onion (or spring onions)
3/4 teaspoon black peppers
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
4 green chilis, chopped chunky (try and buy a variety for color)
1/2 teaspoon white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped chunky
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped chunky

1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoons corn flour + 1/4 cup water (make a smooth paste)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Salt, to taste


  1. Marinade the fish. Set aside for 15 minutes. 
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl, set aside.
  3. Heat a large wok over high heat, swirl 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into the wok. Lay the fish out on the wok, and let it cook for 1 minute untouched (this will help give it a good sear). Then gently stir fry it for another 30 seconds, until almost cooked through, but not entirely. Remove from the wok onto a plate. Set aside.
  4. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the hot wok. Sauté the onions, black pepper, chili flakes on high, for one minute. Return the fish to the wok, gently stir fry it, trying not to break the fish pieces. Add the sauce ingredients and allow it to thicken. Serve immediately.
Add some Sweet Corn Chicken Soup to your Chindian repertoire! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kadai Paneer

My first year of college was in the United States, far away from Bombay, where I grew up. As exciting as the experience of leaving home, discovering a new country and culture while studying art, was, I was terribly home sick. The walk to the Indian grocery store was long, so I would stock my pantry up with all the spices and my freezer up with as much as I could carry back home— especially paneer. Paneer is a fresh cheese, made in India, made by curdling heated milk and yogurt, with the help of an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Once the fats of the dairy seperates, it is strained through a cheese cloth and left to set. It can be eaten plain, but is mostly cooked in different gravies or spices. Today it is easily available, even at Whole Foods. 

Kadai is the name of the pot in which the paneer is cooked in. It is similar to a wok, a deep round bottomed pan. Traditionally the kadai is made of cast iron, but I used my stainless steel Al Clad pot. 

One of the first, and most frequent paneer dishes I made in college, was Kadai Paneer— only because the Madhur Jaffrey cookbook I owned then had an easy recipe. Years later I broadened my paneer cooking skills and didn't make Kadai Paneer as often. But last night, that's all I craved. The kids went to bed, and I cooked this for dinner— filled with spices and heat. 

Tone down the heat level if that doesn't appeal to you, but do not skimp on the rest of the aromatics— such as the ginger and garlic, coriander seeds or even the dried fenukgreek (kasuri methi). 

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
7–8 cloves garlic, crushed
1/5-inch piece of ginger, half crushed, and half julienned
5–6 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted
5–6 Kashmiri red chilies
1 large green pepper, julienned
1–2 green chilies, chopped (or more, to taste)
Salt, to taste
250 grams paneer, cubed
1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 teaspoons crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

  1. In a kadai or round bottomed pan, heat the oil. Add the crushed garlic and ginger. Sauté until the raw smell disappears.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes. Sauté till the tomatoes and oil separate, and the tomato thickens.
  3. In a mortar, pound the coriander seeds and red chili peppers to a powder. Add this to the tomato mixture.
  4. Add the green pepper and chopped green chillies, and cook for another 5–7 minutes.
  5. Follow by adding salt and garam masala powder. Mix these with the rest of the tomato mixture until well incorporated.
  6. Add the paneer in the masala and cook for 2–3 minutes. 
  7. Lastly, add the kasuri methi, julienned ginger, and cilantro leaves. Sauté for another 2–3 minutes. Serve hot. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups

I woke up this morning craving Chicken Sung, or Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups. A perfect and filling dinner, without the carbs. Flavor packed, with a kick! 

Grace Young, in her book, Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, says: There are countless versions of this elegant stir-fry, a favorite served at Chinese banquets. Interestingly, the original was made with minced squab. Over time the recipe has ‘modernized’ and now duck, chicken, and pork are often used in place of the squab. The dish is about the enjoyment of the ingredients playing off one another; every bite should burst of contrasting textures and flavors. All of the ingredients, from the mushrooms, to the chicken, have a slightly different level of sweetness and texture, each punctuated by the heat of fresh chili.

Serves 4 as part of a multi course meal. 

8 medium dried shiitake mushrooms

8 ounces ground chicken
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic 
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño chili, with seeds
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

16 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
Hoisin sauce

  1. In a medium shallow bowl soak the mushrooms in 3/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquid for stocks. Cut off the stems and chop the mushrooms to make about 1/2 cup.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, cornstarch, and sugar. Stir to combine. Stir in the sesame oil.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a beat of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil, carefully add the chicken, and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry the chicken, breaking it up, until slightly pink, about 30 seconds. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  4. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into the wok. Add the garlic and chili and stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry 1 minute or until well combined. Add the scallions, sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine, and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until the scallions are bright green. 
  5. Return the chicken with any juices that have accumulated to the wok and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. 
  6. Serve with the lettuce leaves: have diners put 2 or 3 tablespoons of the filling in a lettuce leaf, fold the leaf over, and eat like a taco. Some cooks serve the cups with a small dollop of hoisin sauce.